Morphing From Blobby Bodybuilder to Bad Assby Jackson Yee
For 20 years I was obsessed with getting big.
I was a bag of bones when I graduated from high school and didn't even break 100 pounds. I was tired of looking like a skeleton, so I put all my effort into developing as much muscle mass as possible. I was fully dedicated to transferring my skinny five-foot-four frame into a meathead.
With hard work, I was able to gain seventy-five pounds by my mid-twenties. My success was due in part to training at World Gym and Gold's Gym in the early 80's, where I was inspired daily by watching the routines of bodybuilders like Arnold, Franco, Tom Platz, and other greats.
My 20 years of training at these great gyms enabled me to try every bodybuilding technique and method ever invented, even though I never thought of actually entering a bodybuilding competition. I was horrified at the thought of wearing Speedos on stage. Still, bodybuilding training and packing on muscle was my passion.
I continued to do single-body part training into my 30's with some major changes. I pretty much stopped squatting, doing deadlifts, or picking up anything heavy from the ground. My only leg and back work was on machines. Also, I rarely trained my abs. In my mind I was still that skinny runt that couldn't break 100 pounds, so being chiseled wasn't first and foremost in my mind.
Biceps work and lots of benching dominated my workouts. Having big arms and a huge chest was pretty much my focus for a whole decade Having big arms and a huge chest was my identity.
By the time I turned 40, my training had stagnated. I wasn't bored; I still loved going to the gym, but I'd reached a plateau. I stopped getting big and the only thing that was growing was my gut.
I was fat, soft, terribly out of shape and suddenly on hypertension medication. When I finally was ready to face my denial, I knew I had to change. Bodybuilding was my life, but now I knew I'd run my course with this type of training.
I didn't jump into strength and conditioning work immediately. I was too afraid and skeptical of anything other than the old-fashioned bodybuilding split routines. Over time, I experimented and tried out different training protocols. I struggled, but I persevered. The new methods I discovered now define who I am.
The transition from bodybuilder to a conditioning athlete was never easy. I wrote the following tips because I know how isolated your journey is going to be, IF you decide to make the switch.
I made the transformation and can't conceive of ever going back to the way I used to train. With the growing popularity of MMA, the shift is changing from wanting to look big like Arnold to training to look like Georges St. Pierre. For those of you ready to make the great leap or if you're just conditioning-curious, here are some ideas to help you make the change.
1. Change your aesthetic goals
Accept the fact you'll never win the Mr. Olympia competition. Be grateful for all those years of bodybuilding and that you got as huge as you possibly could. Be realistic with yourself and possibly assess that you're overweight, a little flabby, and probably might have some heath issues to address.
You need a change. Pick an ideal physique that you want to attain. So instead of looking like Arnold, pick an athlete that looks like a bad ass, such as GSP. And most importantly, remember that chicks dig guys with abs. You can get in the best shape of your life if you work your ass for it. It won't be easy, but it's definitely attainable with hard work and a different training regimen. Being open-minded is a must.
2. Full body workouts
After reading about the alternative to single-body part workouts, I wasn't convinced. For 20 years, single-body part training was the belief system that I never, ever, questioned or doubted. I stubbornly refused to believe that full-body workouts would be effective in packing on massive muscles.
There are many arguments to train the whole body in one session, but what convinced me to give it a shot was my need to learn how to move my body as one unit. Not only was I out of shape, but I also wasn't athletic.
I don't want to use overplayed words like 'non-functional,' but I was definitely borderline clumsy. Playing a softball game with friends at the park on a Sunday afternoon had the potential to be a very embarrassing situation for me. Going on a hike with one of my Matchmaker.com dates was never a good idea, unless my date had an oxygen tank in her picnic basket.
But reality finally hit me when I had to help a neighbor move a heavy sofa and I struggled until it landed on my foot. For a guy with a lot of muscle, I sure wasn't very strong.
For twenty years I'd hid behind my muscles, posing as an "athlete," but now I'd been exposed. Too many years of isolation muscle work and not working my muscles together as one powerful kinetic chain had finally caught up with me. My big muscle groups, like my back and glutes, were dormant.
As result, I was weak as shit.
So the change of pace to a full-body strength program now seemed more appealing to me. I focused on compound movements and for the first month I didn't know if I was getting much out of the workouts. I hadn't done any deadlifts, squats, or heavy rows in years, so I wasn't sure how my form was or, for that matter, what the hell central nervous system training was all about.
However, I persisted and the once in a blue moon full-body workout turned into a twice a week workout and eventually a three times a week workout. I was soon motivated by how much weight I was able to move. The quick improvements fascinated me.
I went from trying to build bulky muscles to learning how to get my CNS to recruit as much muscle as possible during each lift. I was getting stronger and my body composition started to change. To my surprise, I was getting bigger overall.
For those of you who want to incorporate a strength training protocol to your regimen, I suggest you pick basic compound movements like a deadlift, a front or back squat, military press, barbell row, barbell hip thrusts, pull-ups, pushups, or good mornings. Stick to the basic multi-joint movements.
Remember you're now on a strength program so you've got to go heavy. A simple protocol is to pick 4 movements, do 5 sets for each movement, and keep the reps low from 4 to 6 reps (except for pull ups and pushups which you train until near failure).
Notice I said near failure and not to complete exhaustion. When I was bodybuilding it just seemed logical to lift until I couldn't budge the load for even an inch. With this new plan, you want to hold back some and learn to leave some extra fuel in your reserve tank.
How do you train hard when you can't go all out? It's a fine line, I know. So I did my research and found that all the C & S coaches that I respected were vehemently against training to failure. It's the direct opposite to what I used to do with my bodybuilding training where I usually extended the exhaustion with half reps and drop sets.
I just felt I wasn't doing enough unless I trained to complete failure. It was a hard concept to give up until I started to see my PR's go up. Once you see your strength numbers going through the roof, you'll understand how training to failure is a detriment to your strength development.
It took a while, but I finally saw the correlation between getting strong and building muscle. Even now I could kick myself in the head for all those thousands of training sessions using relatively light weights for high reps or screaming in pain while doing concentration curls.