One of the biggest lessons, in my opinion the most revelatory, that I ever gleaned from my extensive studies of physical culture lore, past and present, is the difference between size for the sheer sake of it, and muscularity. It marks the line between the fat ass at your local gym that has "18 inch arms" resembling uncooked hot dogs, and a 300 plus bench, albeit with a severely limited ROM and liberal assistance from a myriad of spotters, yet carries a curious case of gynecomastia, and the smaller, leaner guy with visible muscular delineation, above average size and a dense, Spartan look.
|Body by Handstands.|
Now, make no mistake, I am in no way bashing the larger men, particularly Powerlifters or Strongmen, that may boast a somewhat remarkable gut yet easily total over 1000 in competition or lift stones overhead that it would take 3 of me to budge. These men are remarkable athletes and are obviously capable of astonishing feats of athleticism and awesome strength. While somanotypes are indeed bullshit, a modern idea that grew from ancient pseudoscience, taken as concrete gospel by sadly misinformed trainers, the fact remains that certain body types are palpably inclines towards certain sports and variations in physical development.
|Call Eddie Hall, Britain's Strongest Man, "fat" to his face, and be rewarded with a hospital bill as large as your balls and a bank account as fucked as your jaw.|
Speaking from my own life, I knew I was destined for calisthenics, gymnastics, and martial arts from an early age. I'm compact, thick, strong and lean, with robust shoulders and arms. Still, no matter how long I train or even if I made the choice to embrace the dark side and began injecting anabolics, I doubt I'll ever bench 450. I have the feet of a foot binding Chinese woman, and my ex's adorable 6 year old niece had larger hands than me. Ive always had a great muscular structure due to genetically favorable muscle belly insertions, but its taken years of dedicated training to break the 180 pound mark with any consistency. You have to know your body intimately and instinctually, and although you can indeed surpass and exceed limits, you can't deny your nature, physical or otherwise.
|Behold, the powerful, imposingly titanic right hand of Justin Razor. This picture positively radiates strength.|
We've all been there. Whether you train alone or with a devoted group of likeminded idiots, which is really an invaluable asset to the budding warrior, the ideation of the best, most efficient way to bulk will inevitably rear its swollen head and jiggling chins. The issue is complex and the results are various. And, as expected, everyone's approaches will be drastically distinct and personally unique. I myself have endured GOMAD, the infamous Gallon Of Milk A Day "diet", where you simply do as the name commands. When included with the calories normally taken in daily, you are easily looking at 4-5k a day. It's responsible for making me break 150 pounds for the first time, but also came with a bevy of hidden gems like fatal indigestion, incapacitating stomach pains, apocalyptic acne and explosive diarrhea.
Another favorite was the bestial See Food Diet, where, unshackled by such ridiculous notions as minimum daily protein allowance and basic macronutrient ratios, you shove any and all digestible goods within arms reach down your greedy, gluttonous gullet. Although Ive done some stupid shit, thankfully this wasn't on my list, as my Father and Uncle put an end to it when they caught me chugging Sprite until I vomited because I was desperately attempting to "hit my target calories". I did know what guy who did it though, who's name I will gracefully refuse to apply to this page. What I will admit is that he used to superset sets of Incline Bench Presses with intense excursions targeted at eating several spoonfuls of peanut butter, all before stomping his way back to his station with a methhead's unnerving energetic insanity. Suffice to say, when I last seen him while home on leave in December of 2015, he had developed a set of tits that would make 90's Pam Anderson blush. Don't do this.
|Tommy Lee was one lucky bastard.|
As always, the old school does all of this way more proficiently and magnificently than we could ever hope to, so it would behoove us to follow their examples in untouchability. Otto Arco, a turn of the century Strongman, Wrestler, Gymnast, Weightlifter, and Muscle Control Specialist, performed exhibitions daily that covered several athletic disciplines, from hoisting ponderous, ridiculously loaded barbells overhead to executing incredible feats of Calisthenics strength that would make the Bar Brothers blush, finishing off by displaying his supernatural ability to make his muscles writhe and rhythmically dance underneath his taut skin like a snake charmer. He had 17 inch arms at a height of 5'2" and a bodyweight of 137. This was a man who, like all of his contemporaries that eventually ascended to Godhood in our eyes, cared only for muscularity, not the blind pursuit of size prepackaged and prefaced with a rise in unsightly bodyfat.
|Otto Arco. This legend would likely be insulted and maligned by the hilarious term "manlet" in today's gym culture, in spite of being leaner, stronger, and having better arms and shoulders than 99% of his detractors.|
JM Blakely was well known for his assertation that, "To beat the man, you have to out eat the man!". He would regularly bulk from 220 pounds to over 300, all in the pursuit of powerlifting glory, engorging himself on McDonald's, cheap Chinese buffets, and, the Lord's most glorious blessing and Italy's greatest contribution to the world since Monica Belluci, pizza, laden with every topping imaginable, even the accursed anchovie, the place kicker of fish. Many adherents of permabulking cite his example of the importance of gaining weight and remaining at a set point, regardless of a surplus of fat gained. What they neglected to notice was that Blakely, one of the largest men to ever compete in the sport, routinely DIETED BACK DOWN TO SOLIDIFY HIS GAINS. As passionate about bulking as he was, he effusively espoused the need to incrementally shred after remaining heavy for half a year on average, to refine the body, alleviate the load on the heart, and prime the physique for another period of anabolic explosion. Bulking has it's place, but to gain size at the expense of a judicious rise in bodyfat is lunacy.
|J.M. Blakely was one massive fucking dude.|
By this point I pray that Ive made my stance painfully clear. In the articles to come I will discuss the importance of focusing on relative strength vs absolute strength, the two major paths one can take when seeking to gain weight, and give examples of athletes that have succeeded, and failed, in their quest for girthier measurements and a larger number rolling up on the scale.
Stay tuned and train hard.