Overcoming the Pressure of a Six-Pack: How I Gained 100 lbs in High School

TAGS: weight gain, six pack, pressure, high school, football, athlete, strength, powerlifting, training

As a personal trainer and strength coach, young athletes often ask me how to put on muscle and size. I guess they’re expecting some exotic dietary plan or an advanced supplement as the answer to all of their muscular hopes and dreams. When I tell them that they simply need to eat high protein, calorie dense foods often, it bursts their bubble. They almost always answer, “But I want to get a six-pack and not gain any fat!” Yet, they also want to run faster, get stronger, get bigger, and be better athletes. In other words, they want it all and don’t realize that form and function are two different things.

Society has always given women an unrealistic body image that they are expected to attain. The result is the emaciated models found on TV and in magazines. Now, young men are seeing the same thing. They read some crappy bodybuilding magazine with some ripped up guy on the cover with a six-pack, and they think that is how they need to look if they want to be a successful athlete. Little do they know, the male model on the cover is either as weak as a fart in the wind or so uncoordinated that he couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time.

So back to the concept of form and function—to function well as an athlete, it isn’t necessary to look physically perfect. Athletes who are serious about getting bigger, faster, and stronger need to put these goals on top and forget about aesthetics. That is what I did to gain 100 lbs in high school and pave my way toward a successful college football and powerlifting career.

As a freshman in high school, I was the same height as I am now (6’3) and weighed 155 lbs. Yeah, I was 6.5 percent body fat with a six-pack, but I was so damn skinny that my football pants were baggy on me. Because my high school team was horrible at the time, I was an offensive and defensive lineman. Being my size, that was obviously a problem. I got some help from a former powerlifter who, for free, taught me how to train properly. He told me to eat all the time. I took this to heart and began my transformation.

I tried to minimize the junk food in my diet, but I wasn’t a health nut either with my food choices. Basically, I tried to regularly consume high protein, high calorie foods. I brought to school a large quantity of food consisting of a bag of peanuts, a peanut butter sandwich, beef jerky, a banana, and three, hard-boiled eggs. I also brought a weight gain shake, which was a mixture of some weight gain powder, milk powder, milk, a banana, and heavy whipping cream.  I consumed all of these items between every class, and then ate lunch on top of it. I always ate breakfast, and in the evenings, I would eat as much as possible for dinner. Then an hour or two later, I had my final meal, which consisted of a bowl of cereal, ice cream, and a weight gain shake. I went to bed every night feeling like I was going to puke. My plan was working though. I started off freshman year at 155 lbs benching 135 for two or three reps max, and by the end of the year, I was 170 lbs and benching 200 for a double. Not too bad for a young, lanky kid.

As a sophomore, I started out weighing a solid 180 lbs. Because my team was so hard up, my tiny ass got the starting job for varsity on the offensive and defensive line. I was actually not bad. I blocked three extra points that year, averaged around two sacks a game, and was blocking big guys pretty well. I was also much faster and more coordinated due to my new strength and size.  It went well until the last game of the season when a big country boy on the other team, who outweighed me by 100 lbs, totally kicked my skinny ass all over the field. After that, I was even more resolved to get bigger and stronger.

I continued training seriously and eating more consistently than ever. By the time I was a junior, I weighed 220 lbs. I also had a nice, little gut on me, but I didn’t care because I finally had the size I needed to dominate the field. That year, no one really challenged me anymore. Not only was I stronger than them, but I was heavier too. And I was just as fast as I was at 180 lbs. I made first team all conference on offense and defense that year. After that season, I thought about playing college ball, but I would need to get even bigger and even stronger. I decided that powerlifting in the off season would help, and I had my first competition junior year. Using an old Z suit for the squat, no bench shirt, and no belt on the deadlift, I squatted 525, benched 270, and deadlifted 500 for a total of 1295 at 239 lbs.

By my senior year of football, I was 250 lbs running a 4.9 forty and looking like a schoolyard bully on the football field. I could drop a kid off the line of scrimmage just coming out of my stance. As a guard in a wing T offense, I pulled constantly, averaging four or more pancakes a game and taking out pencil necks in the secondary. That season, I made all conference on both sides of the ball, and all region and all state as a guard.

Later that year, I had another meet where I squatted 600, benched 325 (no shirt), and deadlifted 575 for a total of 1500 at 260 lbs., which was the winning total in the regional high school powerlifting meet that year. I was recruited heavily by Division II and III schools and ended up signing with Division II powerhouse, Bloomsburg University. I graduated at 260 lbs, and I was hairy with a gut and a T-Rex physique with massive legs and tiny arms. However, I had the satisfaction of knowing that I had achieved my goals through training smart and heavy and eating with discipline without using drugs. I could care less that my body was not the male ideal. I knew I had attained a physique that functioned well for my sport, and I was off to play college ball. As a college football player, many girls don’t care what your body looks like anyways.

The moral of this story is that in order to become a better athlete, form—looking pretty, being ripped, or having a six-pack—cannot be a priority. Function is paramount!  More functional muscle leads to greater speed, strength, explosiveness, and coordination, or, in other words, greater athleticism. So if there is a kid who has some athletic potential but could get knocked over by a slight breeze, they need to start training properly. They need to forget the six-pack and bicep work, and eat at much as possible as often as possible with minimal junk food. And they too can achieve their goals and maximize their athletic potential.

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