Why Am I Doing Mass Made Simple?

One week ago, I completed the first training session of Dan John‘s Mass Made Simple program.

For those who are familiar with this program, it is no joke: some days include up to three sets of thirty back squats… at the very end of already very demanding training sessions. These people may wonder why I’d subject myself to such a thing.

Even those of you who are not familiar with the program but who are familiar with me and my training philosophy may wonder why I’m doing this— after all, aren’t I more invested in performance-related goals than aesthetic ones? So why undertake a program that is focused on creating physical changes?

And none of you would be wrong to wonder. In the months since I dedicated myself to this plan to do Mass Made Simple after receiving my SFG kettlebell instructor certification and completing my move back home to Rochester, NY, I’ve explored that question from many angles to check and double-check my motivations.

The Whys and Wherefores

Here, then, are my three main performance-related reasons for beginning such an intense undertaking:

  • I am a tall, long-limbed individual.

fd8e4baed74e81191b7c3c7a2400fe8a03ec8e7c0ed99497e8db48b942ad99a8This, as you may imagine, is not optimal for a powerlifter. After all, if work equals force times distance (W=Fd)—and it does—then clearly someone who needs to move a given weight a further distance will have to do more work than someone who has to move the same weight for a shorter distance… and we all know that doing more work is harder than doing less work.

I remember reading somewhere that, in strength sports, your weight class is really your height class. In other words, for taller, long-limbed lifters more torque is necessary to lift a certain weight over the greater distance, and putting on some additional muscle mass (and therefore some additional weight) will help with that. So, there’s a good chance that I could become more competitive in my next competition cycle by putting on some extra muscle to optimize my leverage points.

It’s worth a try anyway, and I’m up for the adventure.

  • My squat needs work.

I love to deadlift. If I could meet all of  my health, strength, fitness, movement, and competition goals by doing nothing but deadlifting, I would. It’s my strongest lift out of the three competition powerlifts, and I really, really enjoy deadlift days.

Benching? Yeah, that’s also pretty fun. I’m not quite as strong at it as I am at deadlifting, but I have put a lot of work into exploring the technical aspects of this deceptively simple-looking lift, and have come to love it by virtue of this ongoing attention and honing.

The squat has continued to be my Achilles’ heel, though. Oh, sure, I have a better-than-average squat, but it lags behind my deadlift and bench in terms of consistency and technique. In my own training, I’m not going for better than average: I’m going for a polished, consistent, technically as-close-to-perfect-as-humanly-perfect form, and my squat is not there.

Guess which one of the three lifts doesn’t appear in the Mass Made Simple program?

The deadlift.

Guess which one requires the highest overall volume?

The squat.

And the bench is there in the middle: it is a part of every heavy training session, but with a lesser volume than that of the squat.

In other words, this program is perfect for helping me develop greater technical expertise on the lifts I need to work on the most. It’s not tailored for what I like the most—in fact, I won’t be deadlifting at all for the whole six weeks! Instead, it’s tailored for what I need most as an athlete, and I choose to approach my training with the willingness to prioritize what I need the most over what I want the most.

  • I work with a wide range of people with a vast array of goals, and I want to be able to know how to best help them.

Okay, so this is more about performance as a coach than performance as an athlete, but as far as I’m concerned that definitely counts.

I work with people of different ages and gender identities with different health, fitness, and strength-related goals. I use tried-and-true approaches to help them that are grounded in enduring principles of safety and efficacy, and I work hard to make sure that I am able to speak from direct experience whenever possible when I recommend a certain approach to training.

As such, having personal experience with this classic, well-respected program is going to equip me with an additional tool in my toolbox of ways to help others, from strength athletes to those who are losing muscle mass due to the aging process to transmen who are interested in finding programming that will help their bodies reflect who they are more accurately. And this level of personal experience is certainly not a bad thing.

Is That the Whole Story?

Okay, so there’s all of that… but can I honestly say that I don’t have any thoughts regarding the possibilities of physical changes that I will experience over the course of this program?

No. I can’t say that honestly. I’ll admit that at the onset.

What I can say is that I’m curious about what will happen, rather than dedicated to trying to force a certain change.

After all, I am physically and hormonally female and I have never taken any supplements or performance-enhancing drugs that would alter my hormone levels, and I am unaware of any other female-bodied individuals who have dedicated themselves to the Mass Made Simple program. I’m not saying that I’m the absolute first… I just don’t know of any others. As such, I truly do not know what to expect.

I can say that, one week into following the program exactly as it is written, I have gained 4.5 pounds. Perhaps my muscles look a bit bigger, but I see myself in the mirror every day, so it’s hard to say. But, yeah… 4.5 pounds in one week is pretty significant, and I’m guessing that the changes that occur over the next five weeks will become increasingly more obvious to myself and others.

71732701I can also say that there’s something that feels very different about intentionally following a program designed to create physical changes towards being bigger and more muscular versus a program that attempts to make someone get smaller and to weigh less. The training sessions feel empowering, and I enjoy how it feels to be not only willing, but also enthusiastic, about gaining weight.

If I get bigger, I get bigger, and if I don’t, I don’t. One thing I already know for sure: my squat form is getting better, I’m working hard in a way that is proving to be both fun and inspiring, and I’m getting first-hand experience about a well-respected program.

Over the next several weeks, I will be making a few more posts regarding my experiences on this program, including any challenges and insights that it brings forth. If you have any specific questions for me, please feel free to send them my way!

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