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Old 07-03-2014, 05:44 AM   #1
Joshua Fiebig
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Default Mass Gain program results / progress

I have been living in a developing country for the last 2 years. But last month, I returned to Canada for a few months, to work and visit family. Now, I have access to bumper plates, and a nice oly bar, so I figure it is a really good opportunity to work on strength and oly technique.

My strength has never been remarkable, and I have never really worked on oly-lifting, although I did hire an oly-specific coach for several months when I first got into CrossFit. Nonetheless, I have noticed a drop in strength recently, as I have (out of necessity) focused more on endurance and Search and Rescue (SAR) oriented fitness. (I wrote about these in another post.)

I purchased the Performance Journal articles on Mass Gain and Mass (A)Gain, so I will be following them sequentially over the next few months. Hopefully, they will provide an increase in absolute strength, so I will be writing about my results, progress, and observations along the way. If anyone else in interested in running either of these programs in the future, hopefully this will help them out.
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Old 07-03-2014, 05:59 AM   #2
Joshua Fiebig
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Default Initial testing

I tested four different lifts (as per the article), and my results were less than remarkable. Actually, I was very surprised by my Back squat results. The weight was extremely low, despite the fact that I Front squat 5x5 every week, first thing on Monday.

Clean - 205 lbs - 1 RM
Strict press - 115 lbs - 2 RM
Weighted Pull-up - 70 lbs (plus bodyweight of 187.5 lbs)
Back squat - 265 lbs - 1.5 RM

The BS was a 1.5 RM, because I got the weight up, but lost it as I was locking out. It slipped off my shoulders, perhaps because I was very sweaty, or perhaps because I have only been Front squatting for the past few months. Either way, I used Coach Rutherford's formula (WEIGHTxREPSx0.0333+WEIGHT=MAX) to calculate my theoretical max for Strict press and BS. That gives me working amounts of:

Clean - 205 lbs
Strict press - 122 lbs
Weighted Pull-up - 70 lbs
Back squat - 277 lbs
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Old 07-03-2014, 06:07 AM   #3
Joshua Fiebig
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Default Mass Gain - Hypertrophy cycle - Week 1

Back squats at 6x6 are brutal! They were tough to complete (more of a mental battle than a physical one), but I got through while only resting 1 min between sets (as per the article).
All of the other exercises were easier, but I actually performed the Upper body pairs as an alternating set, instead of sequential. With exactly 1 min between sets, I found the volume easy, and solid form was maintained.
Since the volume was significantly higher than I'm used to handling, my legs were extremely sore for the entire week. It has been a long time since I felt muscle-soreness like that.
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Old 07-03-2014, 06:28 AM   #4
Joshua Fiebig
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Default Mass Gain - Hypertrophy cycle - Week 2

This week was significantly easier than last. I added 2% to nearly every movement (Shoulder press and Push press being kept the same), and kept the same strict rest times and strict form. Also, the Back squat did not leave me nearly as sore. I stretched out well afterward, and felt remarkably refreshed for the rest of the week.

As a note about the "Abs-Back Circuit", I have been doing these at a very relaxed pace; not metcon-like at all. There have been a good variety of movements, mostly bodyweight, but also KB Swings for the P-chain, and Ab Wheels for the front. Most of these are significantly shorter than 10 min, as I will stop once I've done 5 rounds. More volume is not necessarily better.
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Old 07-03-2014, 06:37 AM   #5
Joshua Fiebig
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Default Mass Gain - Hypertrophy cycle - Week 3

Progress was a little up-and-down this week. I added more weight to most exercises, but felt like I was right at the limit for most of the Upper Body movements. Strict press had only 5 more pounds, and I came real close to failure. Same for the Weighted Pull-up. Actually, I had to reduce the weight on the last 2 sets to make all of the reps.
Push press was the only exercise that I failed at all. It actually surprised me, because the last set became impossible after 3 reps. I guess the volume for the whole week just took too much out of me. Next week's deload will be really nice.
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Old 07-03-2014, 06:54 AM   #6
Joshua Fiebig
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Default Mass Gain - Hypertrophy cycle - Deload week

My prayers have been answered!

This week feels really good. After pushing so hard, and battling all of the volume, I really looked forward to the deload and testing this week. The regular workouts were great. I had to do Day 1 and Day 2 back-to-back, however, as I was travelling on Wednesday. Once I returned, it was testing time. This would be the first time I've oly-lifted in nearly 2 years, so I was very interested in how I would fare.

Testing was done over 2 days, Thursday and Friday. I tested Snatch, Strict press, and Clean first. Then Front squat and Weight Pull-up the next day. My results were very surprising!

Snatch - 155 lbs - tied my all-time PR (weak, I know)
Strict press - 115 lbs - 2 RM (same as I began the cycle)
Clean - 215 lbs - tied my all-time PR

Front squat - 260 lbs - new PR - almost as high as my BS
Weighted Pull-up - 100 lbs - plus bodyweight of 191.2 - new PR!


I was very happy with the oly-lifts, considering I haven't tried them at all in 2 years. Obviously, they were never great, but I have been maintaining my numbers through bodyweight-training, dumbbells, and cardio.
The Front squat was most incredible for me. I could only Back squat 265 for 2 reps just 4 weeks ago. Now I've done 260 for an easy Front squat!? That was amazing.
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Old 07-04-2014, 11:19 AM   #7
Joshua Fiebig
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Default Mass Gain - Strength cycle - Week 1

Honestly, I was a little afraid of the weights to be used this week. With 10x2 on most of the core exercises, I thought things would be very draining, but any fear was quickly dismissed. With only 2 minutes of rest between sets, I handled all of the main strength movements. Whenever there was a couple of Upper body movements, I would perform these as alternating sets. These I did with only 1 minute rest between, and the rest and volume were both manageable.

Since there are 2 movements that require working up to a max (Snatch balance, and Rack jerk), I took my time on both of these, and hit new PRs on both. The Rack jerk was especially pleasing.

There are still questions that I have about the Weighted rope climb. How high is it supposed to be? If it is traditional CrossFit height (15'), doesn't that seem like a lot of volume (10 sets of 2 reps)? With these unresolved, I decided to substitute Weighted inverted rows, as a complement to the Weighted Pull-ups from earlier in the week.

The Max session on Day 5 was incredible! I hit new maxes on absolutely every movement. After only 5 weeks of strength-specific training, I was able to surpass my numbers from 2 years ago. This was very exciting! I really look forward to what the next week holds.

Snatch - 170 lbs - 15 lb PR!
Clean & Jerk - 210 lbs - 15 lb PR!
Clean - 225 lbs - 10 lb PR!
Front squat - 270 lbs - 10 lb PR!


Actually, the Front squat was 5 lbs higher than the Back squat I performed just 6 weeks ago to begin the program. This really jump-starts your olympic-lifting, or gets you back in form after a long layoff!
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Old 07-11-2014, 06:47 PM   #8
Joshua Fiebig
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Default Mass Gain - Strength mesocycle - Week 2

This week was a mixed bag. I felt really strong on the Front and Back squats, despite the 10x2 at a higher weight than last week. Again, I rested only 2 min between sets, and kept solid form. But all of the overhead movements were extremely tough to get through. In fact, I had lower amounts on the "Work up to a max" exercises than I did last week.

Then, the Max Effort Day proved to be the most frustrating. I actually un-PR'ed every single movement from just last week. I think that the volume is at an ultra-high this week, so it really beats you down. Nonetheless, I have been thoroughly pleased with everything else on this program, so I am just going to trust the system.

Snatch - 160 lbs
Clean - 215 lbs
Jerk - 200 lbs
Front squat - 265 lbs


Again, every movement was 5-10 lbs lower than last week. I felt especially weak overhead, but I just think that the volume and load added up to really fatigue the CNS. Maybe I was also a little tired this week, and I tweaked my back after last Max session (and didn't get to the chiro), but I was still disappointed that I didn't do better.
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Old 07-18-2014, 06:35 AM   #9
Joshua Fiebig
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Default Mass Gain - Strength cycle - Deload Week

This week was great. The weights are challenging, and the movements are varied, but the volume is nice and low. I really felt refreshed after the entire Strength cycle, and knew I would hit some honest numbers on the Max day.

Since I will not be repeating this program immediately, I did not test out the movements from the Hypertrophy cycle again. Instead, I tested movements for the Mass (A)Gain program, which I will be running next. As before, even movements that I have not worked in some time were as high, or higher than my all-time PRs.

As far as actual mass gain was concerned, I went from 187.5 lbs to 191.2 during the Hypertrophy cycle, and then up to 192 lbs during the Strength cycle. A gain of 4.5 pounds in 7 weeks is not bad at all, especially since I was not really concerned with gaining mass. I was only hoping to use this to increase my strength, or at least kick-start my strength progress after a long absence from oly-lifting.

I would say the program was a complete success, and would recommend it to anyone interested in a quick-start, oly-focused strength program. It would probably lead to a great deal more mass gain, if you intentionally ate for it, as outlined in the PMJournal article. That was not my goal specifically, but mass-gain was certainly not un-welcomed. I will most likely run this program again in the future, especially if I need another quick, oly-centric strength program.
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Old 10-02-2014, 11:08 AM   #10
Christopher Young
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Default Thank you for sharing!

Good info - thanks for being so diligent about posting updates - I appreciate it.
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