We've all been there. No matter how big and educated we think we are now, at one time or another we were small, ignorant, and out in our garages trying desperately to push up 100 pounds of plastic-wrapped weights we had just brought home from Kmart. Through magazines and books, but mostly through trial and error, we learned how to build muscle and lose fat. We were burned by boron and suckered by Cybergenics, but pleasantly surprised by creatine and Tribex-500. In short, the more we learned, the stronger we became.

But wouldn't it have been nice if we would've had a mentor, some experienced lifter to teach us how to squat and eat right? He would have saved us from years of slow gains. Think about it — how much bigger, stronger, and leaner could you be now if you would have had some guidance in the very beginning?

Testosterone is geared toward a more advanced, bullshit-free type of crowd, but I feel that it's also our responsibility to help the people who are new to weight training. So we've set up this little "school" for those new to bodybuilding. If you have any "newbie" questions about training, diet, or supplementation, send them here, and we'll hook you up.

The best way to measure progress, and a challenge to readers!

None of them, in my opinion. Hydrodensitometry (underwater weighing) and bioelectrical impedance analysis (used by Tanita bodyfat scales) may not be all that accurate when it comes to bodybuilders and athletes. The fact that we have more muscle and maybe even denser bones will cause inaccuracies with these methods. Underwater weighing is also a huge pain in the ass. To me, the best way to chart your progress is to use photographs and videos. I've been doing this for years. Every 6-12 months, I'll have someone take a front and back view of me standing relaxed in my shorts — yep, just like in one of those "physique transformation" contests, only without the newspaper, the fake tan, and the "$50 a day" EAS bill. I also pull out the video camera once in a while and tape myself working out. Warning, pictures are brutally honest!

If your main concern is fat loss, the tape measure can be a great tool. Measure everywhere — upper arms, torso, legs, neck, ankles, etc. I find that the measuring tape is also very motivating to some of the women with whom I work. Typically, when you lose fat, the body "burns" it in the extremities first. In other words, before you lose that gut, you'll lose off your legs and arms. If you're just watching your problem areas, you may get frustrated and quit, since these are usually the last places to go. Makes you realize that Mother Nature has a sense of humor, huh?

I challenge every Testosterone reader right now to get up, strip off your shirt, and have a picture taken of yourself. Come on, you want to reach your goals, or what? What, are you afraid? Are you a big chicken? Get up, get the damn camera, and do it!

If you have the balls to follow through, I want you to keep this picture hanging up on your fridge. Then, I want you to pick a training and diet program that you've been reading about here at T-mag and start them both tomorrow. Doesn't matter which ones. When you're finished, take another picture, scan them both, and send them to me. Why, I'll even offer up the symbol of my success, my prized, red Lamborghini Diablo! That's right, I'll do it! It took me months to glue that little bastard together, too! And I don't want to see any of that reversed, Clark Bartram-style, "new theory of evolution" shit, either! Accept the challenge — I dare you!

The latest auto-experimentation

Since writing the articles, I've changed several things about that diet. I still like the idea of adequate dietary fat and low carbs, but what I'm doing now probably wouldn't be approved by Dr. DiPasquale. Here's what I've changed:

1) I've stopped counting calories and am now trying to eat instinctively.

2) I've started to take in a high-carb post-workout shake by mixing maltodextrin powder with a big Grow! shake. Except for that one megadose of carbs, I follow the low-carb guidelines for the rest of the day. By the way, that idea isn't original with me, it was suggested by a reader.

3) I've added in Tribex-500 and creatine to my routine. I take four capsules of Tribex twice a day and load up on creatine during the high-carb weekends. I may add five grams to my post-workout shake, too.

4) I've tossed the Metamucil and now use a product with the appetizing name of Colon Cleanse. It contains pure psyllium husk and has no carbs or calories. You mix it with water — not to dissolve it, but to temporarily suspend it so that you can choke it down. However, it gets your pooper working in no time and is dirt cheap. Usually, you have to buy it at one of those hippie, new-age health food stores. For giggles, wear your Testosterone T-shirt.

I have no idea if these modifications are going to work or not. However, maybe I'll learn something interesting that I can contribute to the T-mag diet that Tim and TC are working on. You know, if I didn't tinker with my body so much, I'd have to get a hobby or something!

Buttbuilding 101

First off, let's be glad that today's women are being honest. For years, we were made to feel guilty because of our close attention to T and A, while women talked about the importance of "nice eyes and a good sense of humor."

According to researcher Desmond Morris, women like muscular butts because it's a sign of "thrusting power." Since all sexual attraction is based on the idea of fertility and the passing on of superior genes, a man with a powerful ass would be better equipped to impregnate a female; therefore, she's instinctively more attracted to him. The "nice eyes and sense of humor" thing is true, too, since a healthy set of peepers is a sign of overall health and humor shows intelligence, both traits that females would like their offspring to have. Second, there's nothing wrong with wanting to build a better ass! The glutes are muscles, too, and play a big role in sports, especially those involving sprinting and jumping. Come to think of it, isn't that all sports?

The best way to hit the glutes is through squats, lunges, and stiff-legged deadlifts. Sure, you can throw in one of those "butt blaster" machines if you have the nerve to get on it, but stick to free weights. For squats, use a combination of "ass to grass" and parallel movements. Perform lunges with a barbell — alternate between stepping onto a short box and just using the floor. For stiff-legged deadlifts, focus on pulling with the hamstrings and squeezing your glutes at the top of the movement. Step-ups, single-leg squats (with the back foot on a bench behind you), and sprinting are also great ass developers.

Of course, if you could convince your girlfriend to help, perform the powerful "high-rep horizontal thrust" exercise! Just get you some of that benzocaine-based numbing cream that you rub on your member to prolong ejaculation. Two sets to...uh, "failure" should do it. If your girlfriend actually falls for this and you guys later break up, please have her contact me for some of my special grief counseling.

Killing the "Coke" habit

The soft drink industry pisses me off. They make a product designed to leave a sticky film in your mouth, then they throw in a bunch of sodium. Add caffeine for a diuretic effect, and you have about the most powerful thirst-producing product that I can think of! To top it off, they run some of the most expensive ad campaigns in history to convince you of how well the product quenches thirst! Come on, corn syrup and sodium to quench thirst? It a vicious circle that's created a $54 billion industry! Apparently, the ruse is working, because the latest studies show that most people drink more sodas than water!

Okay, okay, rant's over. Why shouldn't you drink sodas? Simple. The body is made to utilize water to carry out its functions. These days, I hear people say that they "don't like water" and, therefore, only drink sodas, sugary juices, and sports drinks. To me that's like saying, "I really don't prefer air." It's ridiculous!

Some people also forget to count the calories that they drink. Think about it — the average serving of Coca-Cola used to be eight ounces. Those cute little green bottles have been replaced by 20-ounce mini-kegs. And let's not forget those 44-ounce convenience store cups! Coca-Cola still counts eight ounces as one serving, so the 44-ounce "thirst buster" contains over 500 useless calories that will be deposited directly on your fat ass! If you don't comprehend the real downside to this, see the preceding question.

If you want to kill the Cokes, you need to replace the caffeine to which you've become addicted. To do this, simply take 200 mg of caffeine every time you normally drink a soda. After a week, cut the caffeine in half. Soon, you won't miss the soft drinks and will have a fridge full of water bottles. Most people will drop several pounds of fat just ditching soft drinks from their diets.

Hardgainer, or hard luck story?

Hey, glad that you found us! Honestly, I get very skeptical when I hear a person say that he's a "hardgainer." Sure, if you're a natural ectomorph, tall, painfully thin, with the metabolism of a humming bird on crank, you'll have a tougher time putting on muscle. A dozen other factors play a role, too. Things like muscle attachments, hormonal makeup, and the efficiency of your nervous system all have a part.

My skepticism comes from hearing guys complain about being hardgainers when I know that they never squat, overuse machines, and live on fast food and Marlboros. So, before you label yourself as a hardgainer, make sure that you're doing the following:

1) Use primarily compound movements like squats, deadlifts, squats, pull-ups, squats, bench presses, squats, dips. etc. Also, don't forget to squat.

2) Keep your workouts under an hour.

3) Drop the cardio.

4) Eat. When you're full, eat some more. Use an MRP like Grow! between regular meals. Don't be afraid of dietary fat, either.

5) Generally speaking, use reps in the hypertrophy range of 8-12. Every once in a while, throw in a few weeks of heavy training in which you fail at about 4-6 reps. If you're not sure about rep ranges, follow TC's Oscillating Wave program.

6) Relax. Take some rest days, get adequate sleep, and try to control stress, which can be very catabolic (muscle-wasting). When you're in the gym, go "balls to the wall," but remember that muscle growth occurs when you rest. Get some.

Now, I don't mean to be harsh here, but some so-called hardgainers that I've run into are simply lazy. They want muscle quickly, easily, and without much effort. It just doesn't work that way for most people. Take care of all of the above and write me back in six months. If you're still an Ethiopian marathon runner, we'll work on something new.

Weight gainers...are they still around?

Wow, this is amazing! By some flaw in the space-time continuum, we have received a letter from 1979! Okay, I'm just kidding. But weight gainers? I only go to GNC to buy the latest teeny bikini special from MuscleMag but, as far as I remember, not many manufacturers even make this stuff anymore. Why? Well, typical weight gainers consisted of a poor-quality protein mixed with a bunch of sugar. They were about as effective as eating a gallon of ice cream, maybe less. Manufacturers would then throw in a few fancy — but useless — ingredients to give it label appeal. If you gained any weight at all, it was mostly fat.

Weight gainers and similar antiques have been replaced by meal replacement powders (MRPs) like our own Grow! If you're looking to gain muscular weight, take care of your diet first and make sure that you're training hard, using plenty of squats and other compound movements. Then you might want to throw in a good MRP between regular meals, and maybe even one right before bed.

My guess is that your football coach graduated from college back in the '70s or early '80s and hasn't bothered to keep up with the science of supplementation since. What is it with this attitude that says "I'm out of school now — I never have to learn anything again?" Pathetic! I would tell you to show your coach our site, but I'll bet that he doesn't care for "them-there fancy typewriters." Do what your coach says on the field, kid, but stick with Testosterone for training and supplementation advice.

Studboy want to go on 'roids

Take this little survey for me, studboy. Check all that apply.

If you checked a few of these items, then you don't need steroids, at least not right now. These are all signs of being in the midst of puberty. Your hormones are already going crazy, and you're pumping out more testosterone now than you ever will again in your life. In other words, your body is essentially making its own mild steroids right now. The key is to take advantage of it and train like a madman!

I'm not against safe and sane steroid usage, but I think that anyone under the age of 25 should stay away. There are the legal issues, of course, since steroids are classified as Schedule-III drugs. That puts them on the list with amphetamines and LSD. The government has also stated that it will stop providing college loans and grants to anyone convicted of committing certain crimes. Do you really want your college or future employer to find out about a drug possession charge?

Also, the black market is flooded with fakes, and it could be tough to find good stuff. Many dealers target teenage athletes because they know that young guys know shit about steroids. There's also some evidence that if you use steroids before you've reached your genetically predetermined height, you may stop growing! At age 16, you may have a couple of inches left in you.

Here's my advice to anyone wanting to use steroids. Get at least five years of hard training under your belt first. Educate yourself. Read everything about steroids that you can get your hands on. You should be able to put on at least 20 solid pounds without drugs, though probably more at your age. After all of that, write us back in the year 2007 (when you're 25) and we'll help you out.

A choice between heaven and hell

Honestly, they're all basically the same thing: convenient, high-quality bodybuilding food. Want to convince your buddies that Grow! is the best MRP on the market? Simply give them a taste. That's all it takes.

You guys also might want to go in together when you order your Grow! Remember, we have a "buy two, get one free" deal on all of our Biotest supplements. Check this out — if you guys buy four containers of Grow!, we'll send you two free bottles, plus a free T-shirt, plus a free T-Man poster! (You'll just have to wrestle for the shirt!) Now, call up EAS or Met-Rx and ask for that deal!

Where be da FAQ?

We had written about six pages of the FAQ thing when we realized that it would be doing the readers a great disservice. For example, the most common question that we get around here — besides "What the hell were you thinking, TC?" — is "What's the best way to gain muscle and lose fat?" After a couple of thousand words, I realized that there is no one best way. Our individual responses to different training styles and diets can be as different as our fingerprints. The best thing to do is to use our search engine and the Previous Issues section to simply try everything out for yourself. Yeah, that's a bitch, but no one ever said that this was going to be a cakewalk.

Hey, this column is kind of an FAQ, so there you go!