Updated: Jun 3
What does it take to put on a dramatic amount of muscle on someone who is not genetically gifted? Let's first define "dramatic amount" because this can mean so many things depending on the person you are talking to. Personally, I set it as the following: if you have not seen an individual for an extended period, it would be the necessary amount of muscle to make that person appear unrecognizable.
With that definition explained, let's look at we consider "not genetically gifted." Take me, for example. My sophomore year in high school, I grew from 5'8'' to over 6'3'' in less than a year. When I was playing football my junior year, I weighed 150 lbs. Additionally, I was slow, weak, and lacked agility. I would not consider myself an athlete, and one could safely say, "I was not genetically gifted."
Continuing to use myself as a reference point for the "not gifted," it took me a decade to achieve the appearance that I described in the first paragraph of being unrecognizable. What did this amount to in weight difference? For me, it was over 100 lbs. This goal of extreme size is considered abnormal by most, but I always had a valid reason in accomplishing it: if the non-gifted can achieve a high level of strength and size, the knowledge can be passed onto others.
I cannot EMPHASIZE ENOUGH how important it was to me that I obtain this level of size and strength because I wanted to instruct others who decided to pursue the size game. I personally felt it was wrong for a coach to expect their athletes to perform feats they never achieved. I'm currently working on an article about this topic, and I feel it is essential to mention it here briefly.
I am incredibly annoyed with parents and their lack of effort in finding a suitable instructor for their child. If a coach is overweight, undersized, or has never accomplished a high level in his field of expertise, why would you send your child to him? Add in the cookie cutter whiteboard workouts teenage boys are performing at these facilities, you can't help but wonder what happened to common sense.
Teenagers are much like the rest of the fitness industry. They will jump on the bandwagon with supplements, coaches, and nutrition. It is your job as their protectors to stop this from happening. I am by no means a helicopter parent, but I make sure my children are in the proper environment when it comes to anything outside of our home. My apologies for going off on a tangent, but it drives me insane, knowing this is so wide-spread.
First, I would like to discuss what I did with my nutrition throughout the years. In the second series of this article, I will go into detail about how I trained and then discuss what approach needs to implemented for young athletes.. Both subject matters are essential, and they have to be adequately synced for maximum results. However, today's nutrition among teenagers is atrocious, so I feel it is necessary to discuss before anything else.
During my high school years, I was known for several things: being very thin, continually eating, and throwing up. Yes, the latter part sounds disgusting, but I was notorious for doing this. I instinctively knew I had to push food to get bigger, so I would eat to the point of nausea and beyond regularly.
Breakfast was by far the most difficult of meals though. Most mornings, I had to eat twice. I usually threw up the first meal, and then I had a second meal to cover the loss of food from vomiting. This process continued for years up until my early 20's. It was a personal accomplishment when I got to the age where I could wake up hungry, eat, and not throw up.
This part of my story is being mentioned explicitly because the majority of boys do not eat until they are hungry. Or they will have one big meal and not eat for hours. Both of these approaches are wrong. The truth is you have to eat regularly throughout the day. This means having breakfast and continue eating, regardless of how hungry you are every few hours. As with training, the same applies to nutrition. You have to get a little uncomfortable and push meal frequency and quantity while paying attention to food quality.
It does not matter what the goal is, this rule of eating applies to every young athlete. Meal frequency is probably the most overlooked aspect of nutrition. Obviously, the quality of what you're eating is critical, too. Lean proteins, quality carbohydrate sources, and healthy fats are necessary for muscle production. If you would like specifics or a meal plan, please contact me, and I'll explain in more detail.
I made a point to eat consistently throughout the day during my high school and college years. Not every meal was perfect, but I made sure to eat a minimum of four to five meals a day. I did this for years, and I'll be honest. I did not see the progress I wanted. It brings up an essential part of what I would like to discuss for those who experience the same frustration.
The rate you put on muscle and strength is dependent on your level of physical maturity. Even though I grew in height during my teenage years, I was still years behind in developing into a man. My theory is that some males take time to reach the ability to hold and put on muscle until they are hormonally ready to so.
In some cases, no matter how hard a teenager pushes and even with some young adult males, their bodies will not respond to the stimuli provided. This might sound deterring for some, but in all reality, it isn't. You don't know when things will start clicking physically and waiting around until your body is ready will definitely not help your situation.
Also, as with anything in life, there has to be some discomfort and suffering in whatever attempts you to decide to follow. It is the goal in mind that keeps you going regardless of the outcome. Mental toughness and perseverance can be taught through training, and this the very reason I love the gym as much as I do.
It was not until my mid-20's that I was able to bring everything together. My body had finally reached a level where I could accomplish the goal I was set out to do. Training under Dante Trudel, using his DC techniques and eating philosophies, I rapidly gained a substantial amount of muscle. I modified the DC training style to my personal needs and continued to use it for several years, along with tweaking Dante's nutrition program.
By the time I was 29, I had weighed more than 290 lbs. The outline of my abdominals was always visible even at this size. I refused to be part of that delusional group, which associates excessive body fat as muscle gain. To further emphasize this point, as I approached my mid 30's, I was very lean, weighing more 250 lbs or more.
There is a delicate balance of gaining size and strength while keeping body fat in check. Linemen in high school are notoriously ignoring this keynote. Eating excessively and not monitoring food quality is not only ineffective for adding lean mass but also extremely unhealthy. This has so gotten out of hand, some teenage athletes are taking blood pressure medication to counter the side effects of improper nutrition.
If you are a parent or athlete reading this article, please understand the muscle building process takes time. It can be painfully slow for a lot of young people. The time frame involves years, not months. Understanding this will play in your favor, especially if you have dreams of playing in college. The recruiting aspect of football and other contact sports is huge size dependent, and boys can be easily overlooked. I have heard college recruiters often say: "You can't coach size."
Even if the goal is to play on varsity, there has to be a sense of urgency. Lacking in physical size, not only affects time on the field but can be a direct route to getting hurt. Adding muscle through proper training and nutrition is the first line of defense against injury. The typical excuses of "I don't have time" and "I don't like eating that" have to be put aside. Time is not in your favor when it comes to the size game. Working with thousands of young athletes, I know this truth better than anyone else.
Strange eating habits have become the norm for the majority of young people. It is recommended you get a professional involved to teach your child the importance of nutrition. Again, if his coach is overweight or doesn't carry an ounce of muscle, do you really believe the take-home message will be delivered properly? Be mindful and protective, as a parent should be. Provide your child with the knowledge and environment that sets him apart from everyone else. Sending him to the wrong coach is no different than seeking a life coach who has done nothing with their life.