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I began lifting in 1995 after being quite obese for almost my entire life. I'd reached 275 lbs. at age 22 (I'm now just short of 30) and had a bodyfat percentage that was incredibly high at nearly 50 percent - the only thing that kept me from getting even larger was that I'd been an avid skateboarder and that kept some of the weight down. My sizes and weights after starting lifting have been all over the place. When I first began, I was 225 and around 32% bodyfat with as little muscle as possible on me. Sure, I looked big, but that was as good as it got. 1 year later and I was 192 at around 8-9% bodyfat, but I looked bad, definitely far too small for my frame. So, almost 8 years later and lots of time playing with various programs (not to mention going vegan around 4 years ago) and I'm currently coming in at 249 at around 18% bodyfat, give or take a few percentages from month to month. Not that I wouldn't mind being leaner, but I value strength over appearance and I hate dieting and doing lots of aerobic work. Instead, I strive to build strength and do it as I feel works best for me - by listening to my body and following what has worked in the past.

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Unlike many who follow strict programs and do a lot of scientific study on lifting theory and what is supposed to work, I go primarily on instinct. For the most part, my lifting is focused on compound movements with little to no assistance work done most of the time. Same goes for free weights vs. machines - there are a few machines I do like, though these few rarely make it into my program as I believe that you can do 100 times better for yourself with a barbell than you can with using every piece of machinery available.

Basically, I do 1 or 2 major body parts in a workout depending on my energy level and time frame I have to work with, and what I do will depend on how I feel for the day. I'm not going to foolishly go for a new PR if I don't feel up to it, so rather than walk away from a workout disappointed I'll salvage it by still doing what I feel makes it good. Here's a sample for what I might do in a week's time:

Monday - Deadlift, Shoulder and Wrist Work

-Barbell clean and push press - 3x3 or 3x5 depending on how I feel that day

-Deadlift from floor - progressive heavy singles working to 95-100% of max or 10 sets of 5 reps @ 65% of max

-1 arm barbell clean and press - 2 or 3 singles @ 90-95% of max

-Sledgehammer levering or nail bending

Wednesday - Back, Chest and Crushing Grip Work

-Thick handled dumbbell row - 3x5

-DB Bench Press - 3x3 or 3x5 depending on energy levels

-Eagle Loop cable rows - 2 or 3 sets of 5 reps

-Ironmind, Baraban or Beefbuilder grippers work

Friday - Legs and Pinch Grip Work

-Squats - 3x5 or 1 all-out set of 20 moderately heavy reps

-Lying Leg Curls or Heels-Only Leg Presses

-Pinch Grip work with plates or Ironmind block

Sunday - Odd Lift Work

-Variety of 3-4 different lifts, such as snatch grip high pulls, bent presses, dumbbell swings, barbell yoke walks or other things I don't normally get in during the week.

As can be seen, I get better results from a "less is more" way of training. I don't do much in the way of cardio work for half of the year, but when it is warm out I do a lot of walking, hiking, carrying a sandbag in my backpack or taking a pair of 45 lb. weight plates for a stroll for a mile or two. Anything where I'm not kept in one place is what I enjoy when it comes to cardio work.

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My diet definitely needs work. I spend 10-15 hours/day at work, 6 days/week so I end up eating a lot of vegan convenience foods. Not to mention I hate dieting, so I don't always pay close attention to what I eat. I'll go for a week or two being careful with eating clean, followed by a week of stuffing myself with anything that's not nailed down. I eat far too many Tofurky sausages and tons of vegan food bars from our store, and this makes up a lot of my food supply. I plan to work on my eating habits as they really need help. As of this being posted, I've actually managed a full week of eating cleanly and doing some aerobic work, which is around 6 days longer than most attempts last!

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Since I'm working for strength over all else, I have one mission - get stronger! A few lifts that I hope to make in 2004 are as follows:

- 550 lb. deadlift (currently at 500)

- 400 lb. squat (currently at 365)

- 280 lb. overhead press (currently at 260)

- 900 lb. quarter deadlift (currently at 810)

- 300 lb. bench (I bench around 4 weeks out of the year, so it doesn't improve much, last PR being 275x3 almost a year ago)

- Close Ironmind #3 gripper and the other in-between models I have that are above the IM #2

There's a ton of other goals I'd like to accomplish, but these are the ones I'm after the most for the rest of this year.

I'll be posting workouts on the VeganFitness board, and I'll look to get some new pics here every few months to monitor progress as well!

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