Lifestyle Prior To Change
What was your lifestyle prior to your transformation?
Previously to my change, I was no different than your average kid with the exception of being somewhat gifted with strength. I ate relatively healthy for a 15 year old, I didn’t drink much soda, but I did enjoy my sweets. I had a high metabolism and I ran track in the 100m, 200m and 1500m races. However, I didn’t really do any weight training until my sister’s boyfriend invited me to tag along.
What was your low point or turning point?
My low point was in 2007, after one month of being in high school I was bullied by a grade 10 student who was a well-known scrapper between the three high schools in the area. This went on for a whole month before I had to either fight him one on one or get attacked by a dozen others as well. I got beat up, and I just couldn’t take it anymore. I vowed that I would always be able to defend myself from that point on.
Were there any unique challenges or circumstances that made your transformation particularly difficult?
In December of 2009, I was training in Muay Thai for a fight in competition and I blew out my knee. As a result I was unable to train legs for an entire year; even walking down stairs was very painful. I continued to train my upper body and have been trying to fix the proportions since then, as my legs are technically a full year in development behind my upper body.
What was your transformation timeline?
- Transformation Start: March 2008, I went to the gym with my sister’s boyfriend on invite and never looked back. 150 lbs and a well proportioned teen without training for muscular hypertrophy. I didn’t know what I was doing, I basically just went to the gym and worked out the muscles that I thought were important. You know, the chest, the arms, and then a few sets of leg extensions, leg curls, and calf raises. I built up my arms quite significantly in such a small time frame, they blew up to 16 inches from 14 in 7 months.
- Milestone: October 2008, found www.muscleandstrength.com and learned how to train properly. I found the forum while searching for training tips after trying another forum to no avail. I saw the “critique my physique” section and jumped at the opportunity to show off my impressive arms. The comments on my arms were great, but the other comments regarding the lack of development in my other body parts made me realize the importance of training every muscle equally. My back was underdeveloped compared to my chest and it really messed up my posture.
- Milestone: August 2009, after one year of proper training I had developed my other muscles. I visited my friend in California and got a new insight on training. My legs had become a growing area of strength as well as the thickness of my back.
- Milestone: December 2009, I just hit my highest point in terms of muscle strength and growth and I blew out my left knee in Muay Thai training for my first fight. The club that I trained at was teaching the Superman punch as a way to open up the fight and possibly get a quick victory. I landed the punch with my left foot at an awkward position and it twisted my knee out of place. I was unable to walk properly, let alone train legs. This was difficult as they were my strongest point.
- Milestone: January 2011, after losing much muscle mass as a result of being unable to train legs for the previous year without incredible pain I had finally recovered to a point where I could fit in some exercises and just “man-up” without causing greater damage. Muscle memory and 5500 calories a day got my up to my biggest point ever at 205 pounds at about 13% body fat. I had a lunch bag that I brought to school with 2000 calories worth of food that I ate periodically through the day. I actually had an understanding with my professor that he would allow me to eat during lessons.
- Transformation End: July 2011, a few minor cut and bulk phases transformed my physique into something that I never thought was possible. I reached my ideal physique with the help of www.muscleandstrength.com members, knowledgeable friends, and my own research. A special thanks to my friend Michael Rollins who showed me the ropes of serious training. He was killed in a plane crash on October 10th, 2010 with his girlfriend and her parents on their way home from a Canadian Thanksgiving dinner. R.I.P My friend.
Graeme's Training And Cardio Approach
What was your weight training approach and split during your transformation?
On recommendation of my friend Michael Rollins, I split my week into 4 workouts. Back, Chest/Biceps, Shoulders/Triceps, and Legs. I would do 3-4 sets of 3-6 exercises depending on the size of the muscle group with increasing weight. I had my first taste of high intensity training in the summer of 2010, and I found that it was just way too much to handle at the time so I went back to my previous training style.
In March of 2011, I re-attempted the high intensity training style and had great results. I followed the template used in Dorian Yates’ Blood and Guts instructional videos found on Youtube.
- Monday - Back.
- Tuesday - Chest and Biceps.
- Wednesday - Rest and eat to failure. High protein, avoid sugar, enjoy.
- Thursday - Shoulders and Triceps.
- Friday - Legs.
- Saturday - Rest and eat.
- Sunday - Rest and eat. Carb up!
|Pull Up *||3-4||30 Total|
|Underhand Lat Pull Down||3||**|
|Seated Cable Row||3||**|
* You can get 30 reps over 3 sets, try adding some weight!
** 2 sets of 12 reps, 1 set x 6-8 to failure. 1st set is 50% of 3rd set weight, 2nd is 75%, 3rd is 100% all out set.
|Incline Dumbbell Press *||3-4||6-12|
|Incline Smith Machine Press **||3-4||6-12|
|Cable Crossover ***||3-4||6-12|
|Dumbbell Flye ****||3-4||6-12|
All sets, increase the weight.
* Make sure to bring the dumbbells together gradually throughout the press rather than straight up and down.
** Be sure to set the bench at the right place to avoid injury. Trial and error with an empty bar is key. Full extension.
*** Press the weight until your wrists cross if possible.
**** Make sure to get a stretch at the bottom of the movement before returning the weight to starting position.
|Shoulders and Triceps|
|Dumbbell Shoulder Press *||4||6-15|
|Front Dumbbell Raise||3||8-12|
|Dumbbell Side Lateral||3||8-12|
|Dumbbell Bent Over Reverse Flye||3||8-12|
|Shrug (Alternate DB/BB) **||4||1x20, 3x6-10|
|Close Grip Bench Press ***||3||2x12, 1x6-8|
|Overhead Extension||2||1x12, 1x8|
* Very light weight first set 15 reps, increase weight until you reach failure at 6 reps.
** Control the weight and hold it at the top for a 1 second count.
|Leg Extension **||3||15, 12, 8-10|
|Leg Press||3||2x12, 1x6-8|
|Hack Machine||3||2x12, 1x6-8|
|Leg Curl||2||1x12, 1x6-8|
|Romanian Deadlift||2||1x12, 1x6-8|
|Calf Press/Standing Calf Raise||3||2x12, 1x10*|
|Seated Calf Raise||2||12, 8|
* 1x10 rest/paused 3 times for 15 seconds.
** Do leg extension first if doing HIT style (50%/75%/100%). You will not be squatting on this day. If squatting, increase weight up to 6-8 rep max.
Be sure to use strict form on all exercises!
Please detail your cardio approach during your transformation?
Please list 3 things you learned about exercise, weight training and/or cardio during your transformation that helped you succeed:
- Proper form not only helps prevent injury, you also you allow your muscles to grow more effectively by going through the correct full range of motion.
- If you have an ache or pain in a certain area that feels like an injury waiting to happen, take as much time off as you need to recover. The weights will always be there but you only have one set of joints.
- Flexing your muscles by going through the different exercises without weight allows you to learn how to feel the muscle working and gain a better mind to muscle connection.
How are you currently training, and has your training changed since the completion of your transformation?
I am currently training with a mix of progressive loading and High Intensity Training. I have tried both of these separately and I have made peace between training styles and allowed them to work their benefits in the same routine.
Graeme's Diet And Nutrition Approach
What was your diet and nutrition approach during your transformation?
I just ate when I was hungry. If I was not hungry but felt that I should have some nutrients I would just boil some vegetables and have a protein shake with milk. To be more specific, I limited carbohydrates on non training days, I ate roughly 1.5g of protein per pound of bodyweight, and all of the fat I ate was through my protein sources and nuts to make up the rest. I did not follow a specific ratio of protein, carbs, and fat.
Sample eating plan:
- Breakfast: On a perfect day that involves training, I would eat one cup of oatmeal in the morning with peanut butter and milk for hydration, as well as a scoop of whey with water.
- Snack: As a snack, I would eat 3-4 pepperettes (mini-sausages) and an apple.
- Lunch: For lunch, I would have about 200g fried potatoes with 250g lean fish (tuna or sole).
- Pre-Workout: I would have two bananas, ½ cup oatmeal with water, and a scoop of whey with 250mL of 2% milk, or a can of tuna (150g) if I was not in a hurry.
- Post-Workout (supper): I would have 300g lean ground beef in the form of two hamburger patties, with the bun, and lots of mustard. I would also have as many green vegetables as I could handle mentally.
- Snack: Before bed, I would have about 500mL of 2% milk and some nacho chips.
Were there any diet/nutrition mistakes you made that you learned from?
Going too high on the carbohydrates makes you look awful, especially when you are already lean. I have made the mistake of letting this get to my head and forgetting that carbs are needed for energy when trying to put on serious size.
Please list 3 things you learned about diet & nutrition during your transformation that helped you succeed:
- Aim high, and if you come close then you have succeeded.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. Take your time to reach your goals and make it fun instead of a grueling task.
- Although the ketosis style diets are effective, they really make you feel awful. Eat your carbs and be patient, most people are not trying to be bodybuilders.
Did you allow yourself cheat meals?
Yes. Sometimes on a daily basis even. I’m not saying that it’s the right thing to do, but I made sure that it fit into my calorie limit.
What supplements did you use during your transformation?
Whey Protein (Optimum Nutrition, Muscle & Strength IsoFuel), Xtend (Scivation), and periodically I would use a pre workout supplement at random choice. I do not recommend NO Xplode, NaNO Vapour. I really enjoyed Jack3d and Quake 10.0 however.
Advice For Others
What are your best tips for someone looking to make their own transformation?
- Find a physique that you wish you had, think about the stats (BF%/Weight) that you think you would need to achieve it. For example, Zyzz was 205 lbs at 6 foot 2 and roughly 7% body fat. I am shorter than he is, but I have a different body structure so I would only need to be about 195 lbs at 7% to have the same muscular size as him.
- Never disregard advice, but always take it with a grain of salt. It is your job to educate yourself further on what you are told.
- Take your time to create a meticulous plan of action rather than jumping into a program without the knowledge required. You can save a (few) year(s) worth of gym sessions by taking a month to plan.
How do you stay motivated? What advice would you give to someone who’s having trouble staying on track?
I stay motivated by taking a look at myself at my best, and thinking of how I can improve to be even better. If somebody is having trouble with commitment then I would suggest to them that they take another look at their reason for wanting change. Some people may just lose the spark that set them off in the first place over time and need a reminder.
More From Graeme McKillop
What is your life like now that you’ve made a transformation?
People look at me differently now. I am no longer the person that is seen as a potential victim in physical situations. I am more involved with the mediation of such physical confrontations and stand to defend those are smaller, weaker, or are just in need of help. In that regard I have achieved my original goal. People come to me for advice on how to get into shape, and I feel satisfaction knowing that my hard work in and out of the gym has separated me from the average person in social situations. Having a nice physique really does make life more enjoyable, and I think that everybody can do it if they put forth their best effort.
What motivates you currently to keep improving yourself?
Since I have reached my ideal physique, I have a new bar to leap over in terms of goals. Always setting a higher goal once the previous one is the best way to stay on track, it pretty much ensures that you will not go backwards in your progress. I also have a girlfriend that I wish to look good for, and less importantly, a reputation among my circle of friends to keep. I don’t want to be the jacked guy who turned into the fat guy.
Anything else you'd like to share?
Always believe in your ability, it’s the only thing you have.
How can people contact you?
People can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org via email. Be sure to include “Muscle and Strength” in the topic name.