When Stephen Buckley became the father to twin girls, he decided he wanted to become as fit as possible. “Having them has been a huge motivator for me to continue to work hard and be an inspiration for them,” says the 35-year-old from Edinburgh, Scotland, who’s now a personal trainer.
It’s been a journey for Buckley. Even though he had never been overweight—he was 6’1” and 150 pounds—he decided to try to optimize his eating with the keto diet after seeing a documentary about it. It didn’t work for him. By cutting carbs, he dropped his weight down to 145, and “I felt extremely ill and lethargic, I actually ended up passing out and hitting my head on the bathroom sink.”
Putting keto behind him, he focused on a more sustainable overhaul of his diet. He balanced protein, carbs, and fats, and started tracking his calories to make sure he was eating enough. He planned to run a small surplus of about 300 calories, training hard to put on muscle and get back to a healthy weight.
He started with calisthenics and dumbbell exercises in his house. He’d do pull-ups, press-ups, shoulder presses, and curls three or four times a week. After about a year of that, he started to plateau.
So he joined a local gym, doing free weight exercises to push through the plateaus. He began with three full-body days while he looked to increase volume. Then he moved to an upper-lower split. Now he does mainly a push-pull-legs program. He’s flexible but doesn’t laud any one approach over another. “I don’t believe it matters as long as you’re training correctly and following proper progressive overload in the gym,” he says.
He settled into a diet of 80 percent whole unprocessed foods and “20 percent whatever I wanted.” That simple rule made for an easy-to-follow routine. He could stay consistent without worrying about too many rules.
In six months of following his plan, Buckley added 50 pounds to his frame. He’d also gone from working as a restaurant manager to pursuing a career in physical training, so he got to work alongside a great trainer who taught him a lot about workouts and nutrition. And, he knows, he has pretty good genes. “I have always had really good muscle symmetry,” he says, “and found it quite easy to grow my pecs, arms, and shoulders while staying relatively lean.” He never had to alternate between bulking and cutting; he just trained hard over a long time. He’s planning to keep pushing on, seeing just how far he can go with muscle and strength.
As someone with a tried-and-true, long-term method, he says being consistent is the key. And what works for one person may not work for everyone; don’t be afraid to find your own rhythm. “The best piece of advice I can give someone who’s just starting,” he says, “is to structure a routine which suits you.”
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