John Christy, ‘Mid-Year Checkup’, Hardgainer Magazine, July/August (1999)


By the time you receive this issue of HARDGAINER we will be about half way through the year. So it’s a good idea to take stock as to how your training is going so far, so that you make the rest of the year as productive as possible.

Question #1
Are you stronger now than you were at the beginning of the year?

This will always be my number one question. If you’ve been training consistently for the past six months, you should be stronger now than you were in January. If you aren’t – why? If you’re a beginning or intermediate weight trainee you should have increased your strength on the big basic movements by at least 10%. An advanced trainee should be up at least 5%. For instance, if you were training under my. guidance and were capable of completing six reps with 200 pounds on the bench at the start of the year, you would be handling at least 220 pounds by now. By the end of the year it would be at least 240 pounds for six. If you’re not making this kind of progress (and your goals are to get bigger and stronger), your training isn’t working. There may be many reasons for this. The following questions should help you realize the answers.

Question #2
Are you breaking the rules of sensible weight training?

If you’re using a single progression format, are you adding weight at a rate that the body can adapt to, or are you letting greed run the show – making weight increases that are forcing poor form and stagnation, and possibly injuries? If you’re using a double progression approach, did you really make the “goal rep” in good form? Or did you cheat a little so that you could add weight? If you want to get results, you need to follow the rules. If you’ve been a regular reader of HARDGAINER you know what I’m talking about. If you’re new I suggest that you purchase some back issues or, more importantly, buy BRAWN. This masterpiece will get you up to speed fast.

Question #3
If your goal is to get bigger, how much weight have you gained since January?

You should be at least 12 pounds heavier by now. That’s 2 pounds per month. At my facility, if someone wants to seriously gain some weight, we would be pushing for 3-4 pounds per month. How would you feel right now if, for example, you weighed 180 pounds instead of the 160 pounds you started the year at? I can tell you from witnessing this that you would feel great! So, why haven’t you gained the weight? I can probably tell you. You haven’t dedicated yourself to getting your six “feedings” in every day for six months. Tell me – why not? And don’t make excuses because making excuses won’t help you to correct the problem.

One of the major reasons for not getting your six feedings in every day is the lack of preparation. Think of how many times you knew that you should be eating and you only had a 15-minute break at work, and you had no food prepared. I’ve heard this scenario before – you have to plan and you have to prepare!

As I’ve stated before, use Sunday as your food preparation day. Make a bunch of pasta or rice, put it in a container so that it can be flavored quickly, heated up or even eaten cold. Make 10-15 sandwiches and stick them in the fridge so that you don’t have to make them in the morning before work (when you should be preparing and eating breakfast). Mix up enough protein drink so that it will last you at least a couple of days. Prepare a dozen hard boiled eggs – talk about protein to go! Like anything else, if you want to succeed bad enough, you will do it. Do this so that you can make the most out of the rest of the year and be 10-20 pounds bigger.

Question #4
How many different programs have you tried over the past six months?

Four or five? You tried a particular program for several weeks but it just wasn’t bringing home the results. Then you read a great article about 20-rep squats, and you were sure that they would give you the results you desired. After about three weeks you tired of them, and you’ve a buddy who tells you that high-intensity training is the way to go. Of course, after a couple of weeks you’re off looking for something else. On and on and on. If this is you, you better make a decision to stick with a tried and true program for at least six months, and follow the “rules” of the program to the letter! If you don’t, you’re in for a long haul of frustration and unproductive training.

Question #5
Do you have a lingering ache or pain that’s coming from a particular exercise that’s not severe enough (yet) to make you stop doing it?

If you’re getting pain, something is wrong. For instance, if dips are hurting your shoulder, you’re going to have to stop doing them for a while, till the pain subsides. “But,” you say, “I love dips and the pain really isn’t that bad.” I’m not saying you have to stop doing them forever, but you better let the pain disappear and then reapproach the exercise slowly, making sure your form is perfect. If you’re getting pain, you’re doing damage and some day the pain will get severe. So, address it now and clean up your form so that you can enjoy doing the exercise for a lifetime.

Question #6
Have you been performing aerobic work two times a week for at least 20 minutes, and stretching before and after workouts?

In my opinion, aerobic work should be performed by everyone – period. Even a trainee who is extremely skinny should do aerobic work. The aerobic work is not going to prevent you from putting on muscle as long as you implement it correctly and are getting a caloric overload. As a matter of fact, it will actually help you in your weight- training efforts by increasing the rate of recovery between workouts, and help to limit the fat that you gain. Most of all, aerobic work will keep your most important muscle in shape – your heart.

You need to stretch. Yes, I’ve read the various “reports” that stretching is not necessary. My opinion? There are more studies supporting stretching than against it. As a matter of fact I don’t really care what some report says. I know that stretching is important – from working with a thousand trainees over the last 14 years! You don’t have to devote an hour to stretching and try to become some kind of human pretzel. Our basic stretching program takes approximately seven minutes. Seven minutes! We do this before and after every weight workout and aerobic session. I promise you that a basic stretching program performed consistently will help to prevent injuries, and. may relieve some of the joint aches and pains that you have.

Miscellaneous thoughts

Be careful whose advice you listen to, but be respectful of someone trying to help you. Many people are giving advice that – in my opinion – is ridiculous. I don’t just mean in mainstream “muscle magazines” either. The internet is full of it. Even our own HARDGAINER Round Table has its share. Now don’t get me wrong, I think TRT is great! I really believe that these people mean well. Many of them are giving advice based on many years of their own experience in the gym. Some of this advice is good, but only if you’re put together (physically and lifestyle wise) the same as they are. And that’s the key point.

In my opinion, an authority in the Iron Game is someone who has logged many hours in the gym “under the bar” and has helped many, many other trainees (with various physical and lifestyle differences) to achieve their goals. I know that what has given me my understanding of this “game” is not so much my 25 years “under the bar,” but logging (in training log books) over 35,000 hours of training, hands on, on a very diverse cross section of the population. And let me tell you that I still don’t have all the answers! There are many fellow trainees out there that you can learn from – just be careful who you listen to.


My purpose in telling you this is that I’ve been hearing from readers who are not selective enough in the advice they listen to. Not only are they not getting anywhere, but they are getting hurt. Some of the time, the advice that was given wasn’t that bad, just not applicable to that particular trainee’s physical and lifestyle “makeup.” I want you to be successful and not waste years of your training life doing things wrong. Stay with the basics of sound exercise programs and good nutritional practices.

Curl challenge update

If everything always went as planned, I’d have 25-inch arms by now. About a month ago my curls were “rolling along” at a pound a week, and then I came down sick with an upper-respiratory infection. When I was in my teens or twenties this would have thrown me for a loop, but being an experienced trainee I knew that this was just a temporary set back. I was forced to miss a couple of curl workouts. So, what did I do after missing two weeks of curls? I put my old weight back on and being the “bad ass” that I am, I hammered out the reps – only to cause an injury to my elbow! Just kidding. I took 90% of my last curl weight and started over by using that. The next week 95%; and the third week 100%. So, four weeks after getting over the infection I’m into “new territory” again. No big deal. Listen, this sort of thing is going to happen from time to time – don’t let it throw you.

To update the scoreboard I’ll be up 27 pounds for 6 reps (instead of the 32 pounds if I hadn’t been sick). Not bad progress for 32 weeks of training. I expect that all of you are up 32 pounds if nothing has side-tracked you. For the next issue I should be up another 8 pounds (as well as another notch or two on my arm size), along with many of my students; and so should you be if you’ve accepted this challenge.

Recommended reading

Leafing through some back issues of HARDGAINER I ran across one of my favorite articles. It’s Stuart’s article entitled ” All-Time #1 Article.” It’s in issue #28. If you have it, I suggest you study it. If you don’t, you should get your hands on it. It’s great. I would like to leave you with an excerpt from this article:

“I’d be experiencing the most important motivating input of all for my unrelenting efforts on the mighty fivesome [ squat, deadlift, bench press, pulldown or row, and press ] – bigger muscles from month to month. How many of those who go through scores of different exercises over each year can say the same? Results are what count, remember, not hours in the gym, not exercise variety and approach according to the current commercial angle, and not keeping up with supplement fashions. Results! And they come from focus and progression.”

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