Here’s the situation, and it’s going to sound very familiar. I’m not unfit, I can run an easy 5km -ish, I can scale a mountain, -ish, and swim for miles, -ish. But there’s one thing I don’t have: strength. Seriously, I have none of it. I buckle out after a couple of push-ups, ropey arms collapse under the pressure of anything heavier than a box of books. I look at the weight room at the gym with a mixture of suspicion and dread.
But here’s the kicker: I do want to be strong. I don’t want to be a cover model, but I want to feel that power of holding my own, just like most guys. To be able to jump at the chance to go rock climbing, or tackling a triathlon, or hitting the gym for stress-relief and not spike my anxiety. To be a fucking superhero. But right now, I’m inhibited. I look at these opportunities and think: “Damn, I probably can’t cut it.”
Now I’m turning it around. The quickest way to skyrocket my strength will be nailing the big lifts. I’m talking squats, deadlifts and bench press. Right now? I’m sitting at zero. My technique is off and my legs shake under the bar. My strength coach David Cross says in 12 weeks you can gain sweet KGs of lean muscle mass and take every one of your lifts from zero to hero. The ultimate goal: break triple digits. The consolation prize: easily lifting your own bodyweight in the form of metal bars and loaded plates. All you have to do? Put in the work.
Not only is it possible, but it’s a small investment of time. You’ll train between 3 to 5 times a week, and have enough rest days to enjoy time with the kids, the SO or your videogames. The first two weeks will be your biggest hurdle – this is where most guys sink or swim. Know that you will grapple with technique and drop weights as your grip strength fails you.
But it wouldn’t be a challenge if there wasn’t a learning curve.
The trick to nailing this? Stick it out and reap the rewards.
Cape Town strength coach David Cross will be guiding me through this rollercoaster process and helping forge a guy who isn’t all skin, bones and bad backs. He says your body composition comes down to two things: “The time you spend in the gym and the food you tuck into every day”.
I’m doing this whole thing vegan, and it would be awesome if I had a few brothers-in-arms to take up the cause. But you don’t have to ditch the meat, eggs and dairy to rise to the challenge (check out our fool-proof protein-packed meal plan). Pro tip: mixing up your protein sources will make things easier on your gut – try occasionally swapping out the chicken breasts for a protein-powdered bean dish or pea protein shake.
To work out what you’ll need to knocking back everyday, hit up this calculator, input your goals, and your dietary requirements to get the down-low on your macros. Your new body, and strength, will be forged on the back of the ability to stick to this plan. Nailing this part of the process is often more important than the time spent under the bar. So get it right.
Your meals? Sorted. Now it’s time for your warm up. We recommend limbering up with this programme which will help stave off injury and loosen up your muscles to tackle any new technique. Do this everyday, before your workouts and before settling into the “resting” part of your rest day.
All warmed up? Here’s your Week 1 plan. Spread your sessions over the week. My schedule? I put in the time in the gym on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, using my off-days to dial up my mobility and nail technique.
Follow along and share your results with me on Twitter @kieranthesequel. I’m eager to field your questions and have a few comrades jump in on this journey. It’s time to go from zero to hero.