In my mid-twenties, I thought that I should bulk up, not necessarily to be stronger but to look stronger. I did not have any serious weight training up until that point, relying mostly on organic muscle development from ice skating and simple body weight resistance training.
I approached Kim Goss who was a strength coach at the Air Force Academy for help. Coach Goss designed a comprehensive weight program for me that incorporated exercises used by Bulgarian Olympic weightlifters and NCAA athletes.
Together with Coach Goss, we experimented with different weights, intensity and exercises to come up with a workout that addressed specific needs of ice skaters. By trial and error, we came up with a number of innovative exercises that I would do three-four times a week in addition to my regular on ice training. One particular variation of one foot lunges Coach Goss called the Gorsha Lunge to credit for my contribution to the process.
The program proved to be very effective. After a few months, I could clean and jerk 50 pounds over my body weight. It turned out that my muscles absolutely loved resistance training, embracing all of the weight I was throwing at it, and rewarding me with a nicely shaped profile. Mentally, it was also addictive to push through an extra set of squats, or to add an extra 10 pound weight to the barbell bar.
Over time, however, I began noticing that weight training came at a cost. As my muscles grew bigger, my body began losing its flexibility. Despite regular stretches, I could no longer bend my torso or raise my arms and legs the way I used to. I was getting slower and less agile. And it was also the aesthetics. I was losing a distinctive ice dancer look to become a bodybuilder-in-the-making. With great sadness, the Hulk had to go.
The only way to regain flexibility with the gained bulk was by doing regular yoga. It was difficult and unpleasant at times. My body is built for strengthening and conditioning, but not for stretching. My joints are naturally tight, and even without the extra muscle a serious effort is required to get them loose. But I was persistent, and months later I was finally able to regain a level of flexibility where I no longer felt constrained by the increased muscle size. I continued light-weight resistance training to stay in shape, but I no longer needed — or wanted — to add bulk.
Finally, I felt happy with how I looked. My perfect body type turned out to be the one that is balanced and strong, more on a lean side of neutral.
But that is only my preference. You are the architect of your own body. With time and effort, you can create a body that you are happy and comfortable with, that is more beefy, slender, agile or flexible than it is right now. Decide what it’s going to be and follow throught. I promise that you will love the journey of self exploration, and be amazed with the transformation.