Muscle Gain Challenge – Progress Report

I started CrossFit in July 2011 when a friend encouraged me to walk four blocks down the street from my apartment and meet with the owner of a local box. Up until that point, I was running 5ks and little else.

I had no clue what do around the weights or nautilus machines at the gym. After meeting with the owner, I figured it had to be better and decided to give it a try.

If you have followed my journey at all, you will know that starting CrossFit was transformative.

However, five years later just simply going to CrossFit classes no longer felt like enough. This past year I saw the benefits of dialing in my nutrition.

I was previously undereating and being inconsistent with eating “clean” and then indulging. It was hard to see the benefits of going 5-6 times per week to CrossFit.

Getting smart on the nutrition helped, but I knew by the end of this summer that I needed to couple it with smarter training.

Despite thousands of burpees, pull-ups, squats and more, my body did not reflect both the strength and the aesthetic that I wanted.

Having worked with personal trainers and having followed specific weight training programs, such as Starting Strength and the Texas Method, I knew that dialed-in training and nutrition could result in positive change.

With that in mind, I decided to sign-up for the Barbell Shrugged Muscle Gain Challenge, a structured six-month program that hopefully will help me meet my goals.

I have listened to countless hours of the Barbell Shrugged podcasts, read their blog posts and watched their videos.

I believe they know their stuff and that opinion has been echoed by a devoted following of athletes around the world and even my coaches – two of whom did the program two years ago to much success. Stories like this were also motivating:

The challenge is broken into meso-cycles. Each workout involves a 10-15 minute warm-up, then two to three different lifts and concludes with a conditioning met-con that takes anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes.

As the focus is putting on muscle mass and gaining strength, there is a definitely a lack of cardio (at least for now). I haven’t run more than 400 meters this past month.

I train on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and resting on Wednesdays and Sundays. During the work week I go at 5:15am and on the weekend I go at 10:00am.

I am doing the program at CrossFit Kingfield, which has all the equipment and space needed. It is the ideal setting when you read the following from the introduction materials:

“You’ll definitely need a barbell, weights, a squat rack, a pull-up bar and a space to #dropeverythingandtrain. Bumper plates are really nice to have because you can drop them. If you don’t have bumper plates, and you have to lower the weights to the ground, invest in a good pair of lifting straps to help control the lowering.Kettlebells or dumbells, med-balls, plyo boxes, a set of rings, a GHD machine, lifting/jerk blocks, resistance bands and a climbing rope are nice to have but not absolutely required.”

Another component of the program is that every two weeks they introduce a new daily habit. The first was to weigh myself everyday. On day 1, I weighed 170.4 lbs and this morning I weighed 172.8 lbs.

I learned quickly to keep a pen and paper next to the scale in my bathroom to make sure I don’t miss a day. Following the recommended training and nutrition, Barbell Shrugged states that they can help you put on 26 lbs. in 26 weeks.

For my purposes I am just glad to be keeping my weight above 170 for now. The second habit introduced was to have a protein shake during the workout – a mix of whey, creatine and dextrose.

It is to provide more energy while you train and improve recovery time.  All the daily habits are to be maintained throughout the program.

Since I am paying for the program and have immense respect for the Barbell Shrugged coaches, I am not going to go into detail about how the sausage is made and share the programming. However, I will share with you my results so far:

Front Squat175 lbs. (3 rep max)185 lbs. (5 rep max)
Back Squat (5 rep max)215 lbs.225 lbs.
Strict Press (5 rep max)100 lbs.110 lbs.
Push Press (5 rep max)125 lbs135 lbs.

Improvement across the board in all the lifts has been very exciting and motivating. From what I gather, I will be retesting 1 rep maxes in most of the lifts in another month, which will be another useful metric.

I’ m guessing in this first month that the increases are due to a mix of gaining strength but also getting more comfortable under the bar due to the high amount of reps.

Unlike the 21-day sugar detox, Whole30, or 60-day challenges, I am in this for the long haul and committed to see where I stand after 26 weeks of focused training.  So far I feel like I am off to a good start.

Feel free to leave any questions about the program in the comment section below or on my Facebook page.

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