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.

Body-For-Life Contest

I was thinking of entering the Body-For-Life contest and was wondering what you thought of it. I'm a 32-year-old female who needs to lose about ten pounds of fat and hopefully add a little muscle. Is Myoplex any good?

I'll bet you think Davin is one of those Body-For-Lifers and only through Bill Phillips's teachings and drinking lots of Myoplex was he able to make such fantastic progress. Guess what? It didn't take Davin 12 weeks to get into shape. In fact, this physique transformation took only two minutes!

That's right, Davin changed his shorts, his posture, tweaked the lighting a bit, and took his "after" pics just two minutes after he took his "before" pics! He wasn't trying to cheat or anything (he wasn't in any sort of contest). Davin just wanted to prove a point:

Those amazing before and after pics in magazines aren't always what they seem.

Now, if Davin can work this kind of magic at home, what do you think a professional photographer and a computer graphics artist could do? Just something to think about. (If you'd like to see more of Davin's pics, check out his website devoted to natural bodybuilding.)

Now, readers may be expecting me to insult you for wanting to enter this contest, but I'm not going to. I think you should enter the Body-For-Life contest or something similar. Yep, you heard that right. You should enter a contest like this for several reasons. First, some people can't impose deadlines on themselves or get motivated enough on their own to do something about their bodies. If it takes a contest and someone else's deadline to get you in shape, then I can't see anything wrong with it. As several of our readers have pointed out (usually after we poke fun at Bill Phillips), these types of contests often get new people into weight training, diet and supplementation.

In a sense, the Body-For-Life contest is the "gateway drug." If that's true, then Bill's contest is like a little skank weed and T-mag is pure Colombian white. So sure, enter it, but when you're ready for the hard stuff, come on over to our pad.

Second, if you're a newbie and relatively untrained and inexperienced with serious dieting, then you'll learn a hell of a lot during that 12 weeks. I'm warning you, though, some of what you'll learn won't be pleasant. For example, you may find that getting down to single-digit bodyfat makes you look good, but feel like shit warmed over. You may also lose weight too quickly and sacrifice muscle. You could get dehydrated if you're manipulating your fluid levels in the last few days of the contest. You might even get constipated or you could get the runs. But you'll also learn about macronutrients, metabolic rate, caloric intake, and dozens of other tidbits you'll use for the rest of your life. First-time competitive bodybuilders experience the same thing when they enter a contest. They might screw up a lot, but they'll learn plenty along the way.

As for Myoplex, it's just food, nothing magical. Most quality MRPs are all about the same; some just taste better than others.

Good luck in the contest. Remember to get lots of salt in the days before your "before" picture (so you'll retain water and look fat), don't bathe or wear make-up, and stand with your shoulders forward in a slouched position. Get a good tan and look your best for the "after" pics.

Home School

I love T-mag and read it every week religiously. The only problem is I train at home, not in a big fancy gym with a wide variety of equipment. Understandably, I can't always perform some of the routines you guys suggest. Can you give me a basic home workout that hits all the muscle groups? Are there any good home gyms out there? Thanks!

The real advantage of training at a commercial gym is the view, not the fancy equipment. I go to one of those rather lame "ferns and chrome" gyms. However, it's near three colleges. That's right, coed babes everywhere! Once a 21-year-old exercise science major wearing an Everlast sports bra and spandex shorts performs one-arm rows in front of you, you'll never again use that "don't feel like going to the gym" excuse.

Once TC and I were training together when Miss Everlast was doing her thing. Sure enough, TC's favorite muscle reared its ugly head. He wasn't really embarrassed until the above-mentioned exercise science major mistook him for a weight tree and stacked four 25-pound plates onto the unfortunate protrusion. I laughed and laughed until TC bet me I couldn't handle four plates. Not one to be outdone, I headed for the 35-pound plates and ... well, let's just say we're not allowed in that particular establishment again. However, the exercise science major did give us her phone number, so it turned out okay in the end.

Seriously, I suppose there are some advantages of training at home. First, you don't need to buy an expensive home gym. Most of these overpriced gadgets only do a poor job of simulating free weights. One of the worst examples ever was the Nordiflex machine, made by the same company that sold those Norditrack skiers and other such garage-sale fodder. The infomercial at the time bragged that the Nordiflex was superior to free weights because you didn't get sore from using it! This was because the machine didn't allow for any negative, or eccentric resistance, which leads to soreness and that other nasty side effect – muscle growth!

So why not just get yourself some free weights? You'll get better results at a fourth of the cost. I equipped my spare garage with a basic setup that allows me to a get a great workout when I can't otherwise make it to coed land. Here's my setup:

  • A straight bar, EZ-curl bar, and dumbbell handles – all Olympic size
  • 400 pounds of Olympic weights and a few racks
  • A flat bench
  • Adjustable uprights that can be used for squatting or benching
  • A variety of accessories such as a Swiss ball, a hip squat belt, medicine balls, an ab wheel, and a pair of EZ-grips
  • A heavy bag for cardio

Throw in some rubber mats or old carpet, and you'll be good to go. Ideally, a squat rack with some sort of pull-up attachment would complete your home gym, but most people don't make that investment. The main problem with home training is that beginners tend to leave out muscle groups. Some don't train legs at all, either out of laziness or because they just don't know any good leg exercises they can perform in the garage. Here's a two-day split routine that hits all the muscle groups and uses only the basic equipment:

Day 1, upper body

  • Chest) Dumbbell bench presses
  • Back) One-armed rows or barbell rows
  • Shoulders) Standing overhead presses with dumbbells or a bar
  • Biceps) Standing curls, using a straight bar or dumbbells
  • Triceps) Skull crushers (triceps extensions)

Day 2, lower body

  • Quads, hams, and glutes) Single-legged squats using dumbbells or a bar (with your back foot up on a bench)
  • Hams, glutes, and lower back) Stiff-legged deadlifts
  • Calves) Standing calf raises (you'll need some sort of sturdy box for this)
  • Abs) Crunches and leg raises

You can adjust the sets and reps as you see fit. For variety, you can also throw in deadlifts, lunges, flyes, and lateral raises. The point is that you can get a complete workout with only the most basic equipment. In fact, by using only these time-proven compound movements, a newbie is likely to make better progress at home than if he or she went to a gym and relied on less efficient machines. You should be able to get set up for three to five hundred bucks, coeds optional.

Tired of Being Skinny

No matter what I do, I just can't seem to gain weight. I'm tired of being skinny. Tell me what drugs I need to take, and I'll do it. I'm tired if this toothpick-looking shit!

Yes, drugs may be your last hope. (Bet you didn't expect that response, did you?) I believe we all reach a point when training, diet and supplementation lose the battle with genetics and we simply stop putting in muscle. The thing is, I'll bet you a date with Cori Nadine that 99.9% of people who train with weights have yet to reach their genetic limitations.

Just last week, I heard a guy in the gym talk about heading to Mexico to score some roids. A few minutes later, he told me about how sore his legs were because he had squatted the day before and it was the first time he had trained his legs – ever! That lazy attitude has obviously permeated his life and I doubt seriously he'll ever build a great body, even with pharmaceutical help. Here's some tips for you frustrated skinny guys out there:

  1. Begin keeping a daily log of your caloric intake. Most skinny guys I train claim they eat a lot, but I soon find out they skip breakfast and eat junk food for lunch. Examining their food logs, it's easy to see they don't get enough protein or overall calories. Figure out exactly how much you consume daily and begin adding a couple of hundred calories to that number every week. Weigh every Saturday morning before eating.
  2. The following herbs are supposed to help stimulate the appetite, if that's your problem: chamomile, gentian, and blessed thistle. Try them out if you suffer from poor appetite.
  3. A better method of getting in extra calories is to drink them. Use an MRP mixed with whole milk between meals. Drink one right after training and before bed. If you can't afford an MRP, just use milk. It's not perfect, but it's cheap and readily available, much like my ex-girlfriend.
  4. For training, stick to compound "big" lifts such as squats, deadlift variations, chin-ups, military presses, and bench presses. Too many skinny guys concentrate on small lifts like curls and neglect the big mass builders. Make this mistake and you'll be a toothpick forever.
  5. Try not to train for over an hour at a time. Naturally thin guys with fast metabolisms often think that more is better in the gym, but they're wrong. Hit it hard and go home.
  6. Drop the cardio. Given your fast metabolism, you probably burn more calories sitting at the computer than most of us do running.
  7. For the most part, keep your reps in the hypertrophy (growth) range of 8-12 reps. Sure, you can throw in some heavy stuff occasionally, but for most people, heavy reps in the 1-4 range help to build strength, but not much muscle.
  8. Train each bodypart about once every five days, and never train a bodypart that's still sore from a previous workout.
  9. As for supplements, use basic stuff, including MRPs like Grow! and creatine. If you're over the age of 18 and male, you might want to try Biotest Androsol. Avoid fat-burners. The last thing you need to do is speed up your already Speedy Gonzolas-like metabolism!

The last thing I'd recommend is perhaps the toughest thing to follow. I suggest that you follow the above guidelines for several years before you give up on what nature gave you and turn to steroids. I say five years of consistent, proper training and eating is the minimal amount of time. Getting in a hurry just leads to frustration and disappointment.

Slim-Fast Diet Plan

My girlfriend wants to lose weight and is going to try Slim-Fast against my advice. What do you think of this stuff?

If you want your gal pal to be utterly miserable and end up getting fatter than ever, sure, let her try the Slim-Fast diet. It's basically an antiquated low-calorie, low-protein, low-fat, high-carb plan.

Let's break down this prototypical fat housewife diet. On the Slim-Fast plan, you're supposed to drink a shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch and then have a "sensible" dinner. First off, not many people can eat sensibly after having nothing but 24 ounces of liquid "food" all day. More than likely, the sensible dinner will resemble Louie Anderson attacking a $4.99 all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. Also, given the high-carb Slim-Fast shakes and recommended snacks, your girlfriend is going to be wracked with cravings.

Let's assume for a minute that she does stick with the plan. Here's the skinny (or rather, the chubby): each Slim-Fast shake has 220 calories, ten grams of poor-quality protein, 42 grams of carbs, and three grams of fat. Throw in the sensible dinner, which is usually something like chicken, a baked potato, and a couple of vegetable side dishes. Total all that up, and you'll get around 900-1,000 calories per day. Will a person lose weight on this plan? Yes, but the weight lost will include several pounds of muscle.

In fact, if you lose 20 pounds on this diet, almost half will be from lost muscle tissue. According to a recent study, 25-50% of weight lost on reduced-calorie diets comes from muscle (especially if you drop below the 800-calorie mark). In case you didn't know, muscle tissue is largely responsible for how many calories you naturally burn each day (and, of course, how good you look.) Since extremely low-calorie diets like the Slim-Fast plan will slowly destroy her metabolism, your girlfriend might lose ten pounds, then gain back 12, lose 12, gain back 15, etc. It's a miserable winding road that leads straight to Lardass City.

I'd suggest you let your girlfriend read this and then get her to try something like the T-Dawg Diet or the Zone Diet. If she really wants to go with something simple, which is the appeal of the Slim-Fast plan, have her try the MRP Diet, which addresses all the shortcoming of a primarily liquid diet.

Gains Slowing Down

I've been lifting almost a year and have made great gains so far, due largely to the advice of T-mag. Recently, however, my muscle and strength gains have been slowing down, and I'm afraid they're coming to a stop. What's going on, and what can I do to kick things off again? Help!

What you're experiencing is very common. Most beginners will gain muscle quickly for a certain amount of time. Even if their diets and training programs aren't perfect, newbies who go from being sedentary to active usually make great progress (the "couch to gym" phenomenon). However, these gains will begin to slow down the more experienced you become. The same thing happens with fat loss. The more you have to lose, the faster the weight will fall off. Once you only have five pounds to go, however, things begin to slow down and fat loss becomes more difficult. Remember, most peoples' bodies don't "want" to be at 6% body fat.

There are several things you can do to keep the gains (or losses) coming, just don't expect to make the kind of progress you did in the early stages, especially gains made as a teenager. Here are some tips:

  1. It's all going to come down to diet sooner or later. Muscle gain and fat loss in the post-newbie stage are more dependent on diet than anything else. You may have been able to get away with eating just about anything in the beginning, but sooner or later you're going to have to really pay attention to macronutrient ratios and calories.
  2. Change your program every three to six weeks. If you've been using reps in the 10 to 12 range for several weeks, switch to a program that involves heavier weight and fewer reps, like the 1-6 Principle. Change tempo and exercises, as well. Switch from regular squats to front squats, leg presses to lunges, and flat barbell bench presses to incline dumbbell bench presses. You get the idea.
  3. Add in supplements to your program. Newbies can do fine without supplements in the beginning if their diets are adequate, but once they start to plateau, they'll find supplements can really help. If your fat loss is slowing down use an EC (ephedra/caffeine) stack or, better yet, MD6. Tweak your mass program by throwing in extra MRPs between regular meals, or stack Tribex-500 and Androsol (men over the age of 18 only).

If you need some additional ideas for training programs and/or diets, check out our Previous Issues section. Shoot us an e-mail if you have any questions or need help.


Why are you guys always ragging on HMB? Probably because you don't produce it and can't make any money off of it, huh?

Bitchy, bitchy! Here's the 411 on HMB. HMB looked great on paper and most of us gave it a whirl in the beginning. HMB is now considered a dying supplement because it's been wounded horribly by word of mouth. In other words, it just didn't do much for most people and word got 'round. Granted, some athletes who used 12 grams a day of this stuff saw some results. To get 12 grams, however, you'd have to take 48 pills at the cost of around $14 a day! Are "some" gains really worth almost 100 clams a week?

Most companies that sell HMB recommend only three grams a day, which isn't an efficacious dosage. However, they knew they couldn't list the real dosage because no one would spend that much on a supplement that doesn't work that great to begin with. The final nail in the coffin came when one of biggest distributors of HMB said it "feels like Deca," which is a steroid. It didn't and the company's reputation took a big hit, at least from the hardcore crowd.

Please Make My Girlfriend a Hottie!

My girlfriend wants to get in better shape, and I'm trying to convince her to use weight training to get that way. She keeps telling me she's afraid that she'll get too big and only does aerobics. I know she's wrong, but I can't convince her. Any ideas?

Yep, it sounds like those ugly-ass pro female bodybuilders have struck again! Unfortunately, too many women have channel surfed past a few bodybuilding contests on ESPN2 and assume if they lift weights they'll automatically turn into a man in bad drag. I run into this wall all the time with women. Here's what I do:

  1. Find some pictures of some great-looking fitness models. (Don't use the pics of them when they're in competition shape because even this is "too big" for most women.) Show the pics to your gal pal and tell her how hard these women train with weights.
  2. Explain to her that professional female bodybuilders are full of drugs and other illegal substances and that it's impossible to look this way without them. I usually put a serious expression on my face and ask them what kinds of steroids they'll be using. Of course, they say they won't be using any, and I reply, "Oh, then you don't have to worry about looking like a man, do you?"
  3. Unless she has some freaky genetics, weight training will only make her look leaner, harder, and more defined (combined with proper diet, of course.) Make sure that she knows this. If you have to, use the dreaded "toned" word so she can relate.
  4. The next stumbling block you'll hit is when she only wants to use light weights. Explain to her that using heavy weight won't make her big. Many women are also under the impression that they're going to wake up "too big" one morning. Explain to her that if she does start to get too bulky (which isn't likely), she can always change her program or cut back.

If all else fails, bust out the picture of Mariam Power, Canadian National powerlifting champion.

Tell your girlfriend that you'd like to jump in the sack with Mariam and do the horizontal mambo all night. Inform her that Mariam benches 250 and has squatted 400 pounds. Is she "too big" or "bulky"? I think not! Here's a link to Mariam's website if you guys out there need any more detailed info about her lovely assets.

Hope this helps. And if there's anything else that we can do to make the world's female population more attractive, just let us know.

"Clean" Living

What exactly do people mean when they say they're eating "clean?" Is this some sort of specific diet?

Eating clean can mean different things to different people. For example, to Ian King, eating clean means he only eats things he's able to kill himself in the Outback. Sometimes Ian waits for hours for an MRP (mammalian running protein) to pass by. Then, with lightning-fast reflexes, Ian leaps from the bush and flings 45-pound Eleiko plates at the terrified creature until it stops twitching.

For most normal people, however, eating clean usually means no junk food, no fast food, very few processed carbs, and very few foods high in saturated fats. I'm working with an amateur bodybuilder now who's getting great results eating what he calls "big and clean." Basically, he gorges himself four or five times a day with as much "clean" food as he can stand. He eats chicken, turkey, tuna, fruits, vegetables, oatmeal, skim milk, nuts, and MRPs. Throw in awesome genetics and the fact that he squats like a beast, and I can see him doing great on the amateur bodybuilding scene.

Chris Shugart is T Nation's Chief Content Officer and the creator of the Velocity Diet. As part of his investigative journalism for T Nation, Chris was featured on HBO’s "Real Sports with Bryant Gumble." Follow on Instagram