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Sunday, January 29, 2012

My Story - By Efraín Vázquez

Ever since I was a kid in elementary and junior high I was your typical skinny-nerdy type. The textbook definition of hardgainer. I was very tall but packed little to no muscle, and all the time I was either picked on by the bullies at school or I was the last person to be chosen by any team when we played sports.

At 16 years of age I decided it was time to change, and entered a gym with three of my buddies. We went first at night time, when it’s packed with people, and we tried to talk to the pretty girls, have a good time, and so on. Eventually, all three of my friends stopped going to the gym, so I decided to go in the morning, so I wouldn’t be distracted by lots of people.

My first day of morning training (which was not really early, it was at about 7 or 8 am) I was greeted by the gym trainer, and he put me on a scale (I weighed 176 lbs. at around 6’1”) and literally told me that I had good starting weight, and with a “couple of shots” I would be bulking up in no time. I didn’t get it at first, but now I realize that without even seeing me train, or putting me in a training an eating program, he was already offering me steroids!!!

I declined the offer, but I did buy a can of protein powder, and started my 5-day/week training schedule, doing plenty of exercises and reps per “bodypart” and so on. This change in me took place during high school, and my confidence started to grow. (If you’re training for the first time, practically any method of training will get your body to grow)

When I entered college, I was looked upon differently by my friends. My look and my confidence soared! I enjoyed my college days very much, especially since the gym was dark, with old equipment, and a couple of guys did actually train pretty hard. We all inspired each other to work our asses off. At that time I started taking my training more seriously, so I started searching the web for info on weight training. I came up with a really cool website which I loved, called The Brotherhood of Iron, hosted by Sam DeLucia. I was hooked, reading page after page on this training method called “HIT” in which you trained to failure, using compound exercises, squatting, deadlifting and so on (Deadlift? What’s that?). In the “Links” section of that website, I finally saw the light by clicking on NaturalStrength.com.

I was introduced to names such as Bob Whelan, Drew Israel, Dr. Ken Leistner, Stuart McRobert and many others. I loved reading the training stories of Sean Toohey, especially the one about the squat lesson. I also changed my view on training, doing now shorter, infrequent, more brutal workouts using compound exercises.

At that time the college gym was being remodeled, so they moved all the equipment to the old “arts” building. There were paintings on the walls, huge columns, and it was built like the inside of a monastery or something of the sort. Since I started working part-time and going to school afterwards, I asked permission to train at 10 pm, after school. They let me in, so I bought my radio and my attitude and started hitting it hard. (My brother trained with me most of the occasions, so it was a great time in which we bonded together and became good friends in the process, but that’s another story)

We made great gains, started gaining strength, and all my friends started telling me “What are you taking man? Creatine?” I just laughed and said “tuna cans”. Still, I had no notion of progression, and I just added weight when I felt like it, and took it out when I felt kind of lazy. So my strength levels practically stayed the same.

After college I trained on and off for a few years (more “off” than “on”), until one day I looked in the mirror with 250 lbs. of weight (read: FAT) and said “What the heck happened to me?”. So I decided to do some cardio (spinning) for a month and lost around 12 lbs. of fat and I guess a little muscle. I didn’t care, I just wanted to lose all that fat which I had wrongly let in my body by not training at all and eating the wrong foods.

I had not trained for a while so I started going to a local gym, but again, training on and off because work was taking most of my time.

Last December the gym I was going to announced that it would be the last month of operations, and they would close for good. I spoke with the owner and bought a squat rack, a bar, a bench, an EZ bar and a few plates (adding up to about 260 lbs.). I also got a wrist roller.

As of January this year, I decided it was enough. I wanted to train seriously. So I took my copy of the Arnold Encyclopedia…. sorry, I mean, my copy of Brawn by Stuart McRobert, and designed a training program for me following his guidelines. I had lost a lot of strength so I needed to take it slow, cycling and adding small weight increments week after week.

I’m proud to say that, even though I have been training on and off for many years, I started my first real cycle of training this January, with a three day schedule as follows:

Tuesday
Deadlift 1x15, 1x10 (after two months drop the second set)
Pulldowns 2x8
Skull-crushers 1x10

Thursday
Bench press 1x10
Seated press 1x10
Barbell curl 1x8

Saturday
Squat 1x20
One-leg calf raise 1x20, 1x15

Ab and grip work take place on Tuesdays and Saturdays, although most Tuesdays I have a hard time with the wrist roller since my forearms are already fried by deadlifts and pulldowns.

I now weight 242 lbs. at 6’3”, but I want to trim down to around 220 lbs. After training with correct cycling and progression, I can say that I started deadlifting 135 lbs. for 15 reps, and now it’s April and I can deadlift 253 lbs. for 15 reps.

I started squatting 135 lbs. for 20 reps (never did 20-rep squats before in my life) and now I squat 225 lbs. for 20 reps.

I started benching 135 lbs. for 10 reps and now I bench 215 lbs. for 10 reps.

This after 3 and a half months of training hard, eating well (I could do better, though) and sleeping just enough (7 hours). I can only imagine the results I will get when I eat the right foods and sleep 8 or 9 hours per day, and this motivates me to train and live correctly.

Sure, these weights may seem small considering my size and build, but I have come to realize that I’m not really an extreme hard gainer. Maybe it’s my mind or maybe I have the genetic potential (or maybe both), but it’s my goal to reach a 300-400-500 by the end of the year, if I put my heart into it, and by next year I will be way stronger!

I started with very little strength, but I have reached levels of strength now which I never had before. I am squatting 20 reps and love it! I am training solo, at home, and I am more motivated than ever! No distractions, no talking with friends, just myself and the bar.

They guy who sold me the squat rack and the weights told me in December “don’t worry, you won’t need more plates in many months”. I’m calling him this week “I need another 250 lbs., bro! When can I pick them up?”.

I just wanted to share my story to motivate everyone to forget about being a hardgainer or an easy gainer. Forget of going to the gym for its “great social experience”. Forget about bioavailability of this and that protein powder.

Sure, those things may have their place, and some are more important than others, but my advice is to just develop yourself a balanced training program consisting of 5 compound exercises (upper/lower body, push/pull), maybe 2 or 3 assistant exercises (barbell curls are not forbidden), divide them in 2 or 3 days of training, start with low weights and add a little bit to the bar every single time you train. Keep a training log, eat lots of tuna cans and milk, turn off the TV and get some quality sleep, and you might just convince yourself, like me, that you’re not a hardgainer at all!

Eat like an animal, train like a horse, sleep like a baby and grow like a weed.

Live strong!


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