We Welcome Shane on Aim Workout to share his transformation story with us.
Shane and his colleagues experimented with various programs and went through considerable hardships before they were able to successfully put on muscle and shed the dreaded “Skinny nerd” tag. Check out their full interview here.
What motivated you to transform your body and your life?
In university, I weighed 130 pounds at a height of 6’2—a BMI of 16.7. My mom told me that I looked sick, and my doctor advised me to gain weight, but the biggest thing for me was how unhappy I was with how people saw me. My friends would push me around and playfully tease me as if I were their little brother, and if someone asked, “Which one was Shane again?” the answer would invariably be, “The skinny one.” I didn’t want to be that guy anymore. It’s not that I was trying to look like a bodybuilder or anything, I just didn’t want to be so incredibly skinny that it dominated people’s perception of me.
The same summer that I started up our graphic design business, I also decided to build muscle once and for all. Being the nerdy introvert that I was, I decided to blog about it on our new business’ blog. I gained over 50 pounds, eventually teamed up with strength and conditioning coach with a degree in healthy sciences—Marco.
What workout routine has worked the best for you?
As a skinny guy, I was hesitant to start lifting weights. Going to a gym as a skinny beginner can feel as intimidating as playing a pick-up game of basketball with a group of strangers as a 4′ tall guy who doesn’t know the rules.
So I started with swimming, then P90X, then martial arts, then calisthenics. None of that worked, so I finally bought some secondhand weights. A couple of dumbbells, a barbell and a bench. (Heavy adjustable dumbbells and a bench would have been better.) That’s when I finally saw results, gaining 20 pounds over the course of four months. At that point, I felt more confident and started going to the gym, but I could have just as easily kept lifting at home.
What works best for skinny guys is combining full-body strength lifts, bodybuilding lifts, and some strongman / athletic stuff. This is the approach Arnold Schwarzenegger used when he was first bulking up; it’s also the approach that most of the top natural bodybuilders use now, and it resembles what an athlete would use to bulk up (which is Marco’s background—helping athletes bulk up during their offseason).
So you’d start your workout with, for example, a bench press and squat, then rows and triceps extensions, then maybe some ab and posture work. Meat and potatoes stuff, then dessert.
The next workout might begin with chin-ups and deadlifts, then push-ups and curls, and then some shoulder and ab work.
These workouts will hit every muscle in your body with a variety of movement patterns, rep ranges, and quite a lot of volume—exactly what we need to grow as quickly as possible.
What was the biggest challenge in your journey?
The eating. Oh, the eating. That was hard, especially since I was trying to brute force my way through it. The theoretical side of it wasn’t the problem. I knew how much I needed to eat, and tracking weight gain is quite simple—all you need is a scale. I would weigh myself each week to see if I had eaten enough to gain weight. Didn’t gain a pound? Add 300 calories to my daily calorie goal.
Eating enough though? Whew. It was pretty rough.
It was only once I started researching appetite manipulation, learning about habits, learning about digestion—that’s when things began to come together.
This is something that not a lot of people understand. When you bulk up, your whole body adapts. You don’t just build muscle, everythinginvolved in that process adapts. Your bones grow denser; your tendons become more durable; your central nervous system learns how to exert itself more forcefully, your coordination improves. We hear about those adaptations a lot. But your stomach also grows bigger, and your digestive system becomes more powerful. Most guys are already in that place. After a lifetime of overeating they already have stomachs that are big enough and digestive systems that are strong enough.
That’s not the case as a skinny guy just starting out, though. I think that’s why only the true skinny guys understand the overwhelming challenge of those first few weeks of trying to eat a bulking diet.
What does your daily diet look like today?
I eat like a rabbit during the day, since I’m not all that interested in food yet. By the nighttime time rolls around, my appetite has built up, and I’m ready for some heartier eating. That keeps my energy levels higher during the day and helps me relax and indulge at night.
Today, for example:
- Coffee and a Quest bar.
- Mango lassi (Greek yogurt, lime juice, orange juice, frozen mangoes, honey).
- A bowl of cherries. (I love cherries, and they’re on sale at the grocery store.)
- A little bowl of leftover stew. (Or chili, curry, etc.)
- Second-dinner.Today I’m making some homemade chicken wings and fries; then I’ll have a huge bowl of vanilla frozen yogurt with frozen raspberries on top for dessert, then maybe some dark chocolate.
Not saying this is the optimal way for everyone to eat, but I love it, and it serves me well.
Some key points:
- I try to have lots of fruits and veggies.
- I get 20+ grams of protein in my main meals (4x per day).
- I try to get around 80% of my calories from whole foods.
- I try to eat in a way that has me feeling good and enjoying my food.
- Dinner is often social, second-dinner is often with my girlfriend as we watch something or chat.
How has your life changed during your transformation?
Oo so much has changed! Before I was awkward, clumsy, hunched over and self-conscious. Now I feel healthy, athletic, confident and capable.
I mean, when watching movies, I was the comic relief or awkward nerd. I was like Reese on Criminal Minds, Seth on the OC, McLovin in Superbad, Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory. The character would do something hilariously awkward, and people would say “Hah, that’s like you!”
I started to identify with that. As being the smart but socially awkward one. The guy with the incapable body but the nice brain.
Now it’s super weird. If I watch an action movie with someone they might come up to me afterward and say, “Hey Shane, so, Hugh Jackman was doing 400-pound deadlifts to get in shape for his role as Wolverine. You can do that, right? Can you teach me?”
It’s such a weird shift in people’s perception of me—of my perception of myself—that it still stuns me sometimes.
I met my girlfriend after gaining all this weight too. She’s a naturally sporty person who likes physical activities. She sees me as that guy who can pick her up no problem, or do a calisthenics trick on his first try. As if I have really good genetics or something. Crazy.
Perhaps best of all, I went from being desperate about my skinny situation to being able to help other guys get through it. I hated it so bad, so helping other guys get out of that place is meaningful to me.