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I'm a web developer. I spend 5 days a week, 8-10 hours per day in front of my PC in a chair.

I want to get in insanely good shape. I don't mean I want to be a little stronger than the average person, or able to run a little further. I don't care what I look like vs the average person. I want to be that guy that stands out in a crowd of 100's of people as being in amazing shape.

I'm pretty sure this isn't possible. I feel like if I wanted to be serious about this goal that I would have to change my career to something that is physically demanding; like a ranger or a labourer. I have even considered, being barely 21, the thought of going to university and using my time there as the time in my life where I will have this ultimate body.

With this amount of time being used up sitting down, should I abandon the idea of getting to that level of physique? Is it impossible to achieve unless I am a full time athlete, or can I push myself before and after work, over the weekend and anywhere in-between to reach my goal of a muscular, ripped body?

If it makes it any easier, I am much more interested in appearance than brutal strength or being able to run 100's of kilometres.

I want to know if it's possible to get here with the amount of sitting I need to do during the week:

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Or if I'm going to find it impossible to get past this type of level unless I find a way to get active during the day too:

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Are you asking us what you'll be able to accomplish? Or how hard you'll be able to push yourself? I can't really tell what your question is. We can't tell you if you should abandon a goal of yours. I think if you pick a goal, you can get there, especially if you have some control over the constraints that may get in the way (your job, hours, etc.) You're 21. You aren't locked into a 50 hour a week web developer job for life. –  Kate Feb 28 '13 at 8:26
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@Kate I see. I suppose the question could be stripped down to something like; if I am sitting down 8 hours per day, am I able to change my physique to the way I want, or will that much sitting be a definite restriction. Or; if the average person (in terms of build / genetics) sits for 8 hours per day and does everything they can (train as hard as possible without overtraining, eat perfectly, get good sleep), will they be able to get a great body or will they need to reduce or eliminate the sitting to move past reasonable shape? –  Marty Feb 28 '13 at 8:32
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You can. We are a small IT firm in Canada, and I do back-end development 40-50 hours a week, same as you. A few of my co-workers, and a few of our bosses, are extremely health/fitness conscious. If we were out to lunch, and you were to see our table, you would NEVER say "those are a bunch of programmers". Like you just said in your comment though, it takes hard work and dedication. We share recipes and supplements that have worked for us, we train together at lunch, while some of us go early in the morning before work as well. We have office activities, softball team, etc. It is possible –  user4963 Feb 28 '13 at 13:15
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you don't need to be a full time athlete, and your job certainly won't prevent you from reaching your goal. In order to give you a detailed answer, i have to know first what level are you on: do you already have muscle mass and just want to cut fat and get shredded? or you don't have muscle mass at all and want to get bigger and shredded? –  shadesco Feb 28 '13 at 14:27
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Here is a inspirational story for you, but first some background: I am a web developer who works 40-50 hour days, I have a son, and I go to college. My entire life I have been scrawny (90lbs middle school, 110 lbs high school, 130 lbs college). After less than 2 years of working out (1-3 days/wk, sometimes less) I have jumped to 170 lbs and gone down from 20 to 10%bf. I have six pack abs, amazing definition, and I had to change my wardrobe because of my larger arm size. If I can do it, I am sure you can; just put the effort in and don't give up. –  Moses Mar 1 '13 at 6:11

7 Answers 7

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Sure it's possible, but it depends on what you are personally willing to sacrifice.

There are 168 hours in a week. Even if you work 60 hours in a week and sleep 56, that leaves 52 hours of the week available. If you are single without kids, it is plenty of time to get in the workouts needed to shape your physique the way you want.

However, it will require intense attention to the details and time management. You have to figure when you will sleep/recover, when you have time available for working out, strict diet attention and planning, things like that. As a programmer, you have an advantage, since you are used to working within program specification requirements and language constrictions (I'm a programmer as well.)

Things you can do include preparing healthy meals/snacks for the week on the weekend or whatever your days off are. Grill 5-6 chicken breasts, a few steaks and you've got lunches for a week. Throw a chicken breast on top of spinach with some mushrooms and dried fruit, a little vinaigrette and you've got a power lunch. Avoid the temptation to munch while at your desk unless it's a planned snack/meal.

If possible, you can get some workouts in on your lunch hour if you have a convenient gym, work split shifts, see if you can work some hours from home.

As an example, I am at my desk from 6am until 4pm 5 days a week. I regularly put in 15-20 hours a week of triathlon training, including 1/2 hour swims or runs at lunch, and working out immediately when I get home, with long workouts on the weekends. I am down 42 lbs from the heaviest I ever got (208 lbs at 5'10") when I first started working as a programmer.

It's absolutely doable, but it all depends on your own motivation and how religious you want to be about pursuing what you want.

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Your work absolutely does NOT have to involve physical activity.

The cool thing about such a job is having as sort-of workout and being paid for it. The only difference for you is having to work out in your own free time. Now working very hard, being a family man and all could make that troublesome, since you wouldnt have much free time. But a typical 8h working day should be no problem.

Getting an athletic physique is not about training 24h/7. Actually, a workout session usually should take an hour. HIIT tainings can be done in minutes! And your body needs to rest after each workout too, so its not like you will be training daily.

One of the most important factors will be your diet, your attitude, consistency. Your job is not one of those factors.

Youre asking us if it is possible to get the looks youre after while having a sitting job. Read some magazines for men, like Mens Health. Each issue you can read a story of an average man getting a heroic physique. Those arent only lumberjacks and construction site workers! Ive seen programmers, drivers and others being heroes of those stories. If they could make it, so can you!

The question you have asked looks like you want to give up on getting in shape on account of it being "impossible" because of something. Well, we wont give you the green light to give up. To really achieve your goal, your attitude should be quite the contrary - if we told you its impossible, you should strive to prove us wrong!

To get you in the fighting mood, one of the best inspirational speeches in the history of cinematics:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Z5OookwOoY

If you will take up the challenge, just remember to work hard, but smart, too. Make your research, try to expand your knowledge. Whenever you hit a plateau, try to search for the resons. Experiment, adapt and learn. And dont give up!

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Things get in the way

Constraints are obstacles, no doubt. But you can mitigate them, and you can smash them, and you can punch your office job right in its sedentary face. Several of the Golden-Age bodybuilders and weightlifters worked around day jobs (see some stories at Rippetoe's site).

Do what you can

The job description is "work at a computer", not "work sitting down". Get a standing desk. Be diligent about proper posture; eliminate hunching over your desk. Take stretch breaks, go for walks instead of coffee breaks, and occasionally do some push-ups at work. Try to work from home once in a while. Convince your boss to let you take a siesta. Optimize your office/computer life to your goal.

But yes, fundamentally, everything that isn't a part of your goal is an obstacle to your goal. That includes drinking--ever--as well as dating and traveling to see your family for Christmas. That's why people go professional: to do their thing all the time. Even then, they still have lifestyle factors in their way. But that doesn't mean you have to go professional to achieve your goals. It just means you'll have to work around it. Is it harder than if you were a billionaire with servants and everything about your life revolved around bodybuilding? Sure. Is it possible despite the obstacles? No one can say but you.

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The short answer is: You don't need to be a full time athlete, and being a web developer won't prevent you from reaching what you want to reach.

I (and many of my friends) are software engineers/programmers and we are all in good shape and so you can be.

What you need to know:

  • All you need is 40 minutes a day, 4 times a week
  • Working out (which i will explain later on) constitute 20% of your progress, and what you do in the kitchen 80% (what you eat plays the biggest role).

There are 2 phases in the body sculpting field:

  • bulking up (usually done in winter but you can chose whenever you want, takes between 4-6 months depending your level)
  • cutting (comes after bulking up to shred fat and build definition using the muscle layers built during the bulk up phase).

Now, in details i will explain both phases. All the info i am about to give you are based on several familiar bodybuilding facts i have read and tried through years and personal experience
==> you do NOT have to follow it, but i can assure you this works and most bodybuilders do it

BULK UP PHASE:

a) Workout (40 minutes, 4 times a week. You don't need more)

The concept in a nutshell is: lift heavy with rest in between sets. Lifting heavy will help you build power and mass, and resting in between sets will help you recover and recharge the glycogen store (energy) of the muscle to keep lifting.
You should aim for heavy weights and low reps (between 8-12). Heavy weight will challenge you muscles, build the fibers and give you mass. However do not harm yourself, go gradually, start with weights you can lift without injuries and with time you will build resistance and strength and you will be able to lift more.
Now as i said, working out is 20% of progress and food is 80%. So i discuss nutrition next.

b) Nutrition for bulk up

To add mass, you MUST eat a lot. Remember, when you bulk up you will add muscle mass AND a bit of fat (there is no way to not add some fat while bulking up). Now, you want to do what they call "clean bulk", means add maximum muscle mass with minimum fat. So you should Calculate your maintenance(BMR) calories, which is how much your body needs to survive at rest and add to it around 700 to max 800 calories (if you add more you will be adding more fat, but you can try if you want genetics play a big role too).
So for example you are:
6'2, 200 pounds and 28 years old ==>Your BMR is: 2061 calories, eat 2061 +700 = 2761 calories to eat per day. Eat real non processed food, with the following (my personal recommendations):

  • 1 to 1.3 g protein per pound of bodyweight (my personal recommendation, most bodybuilding sites will say 1.5 g/lb body weight).
  • The remaining calories divide them between carbohydrates and fat (i personally prefer the remaining to be 70% carbs and 30% fat).

For example as we said: 200 pounds and must eat 2761 calories or more.

  ==> 1.3 g/pound protein --> you should eat: 260 grams protein (which yields 260 *4= 1040 calories)
  ==> 2761 - 1040 = 1721 calories left
  ==> 70% carbs = 1204 calories or 301g
  ==> 514 calories for fat or 57.44g

that's about it in a nutshell, of course with time you will see what your body needs( if you need to eat a bit more/less).

CUTTING PHASE:

Here it is similar to bulking up with some important modifications (in brief at first):

  • a)You have to eat less
  • b)You have to incorporate 2 days of cardio only (30-40 mins)
  • c)You can use an extremely efficient technique called cardio acceleration

a) How much should you eat:

There are several recommendations by bodybuilders on how much to eat and what to eat, but this site summarizes it all. Taking the same example as above:
you are 200 pounds ==> An estimated maintenance calorie intake of 12 cal/lb on training days (on cardio days eat less) ==> 2400 calories/day.

  • make a 20% deficit of calories ==> 2400 * 0.20 = 480 calories. 2400– 480 = 1920 calories /day
  • For protein: 1.5 g/lb lean body mass (i prefer 1-1.3 g/lb) = around 1000 calories /day
  • Fat will be 25% of total calories ==> 2400 * 0.25 = 600 calories or 67 grams
  • Carbohydrates will be the remaining 2400 calories – 1000 – 600 calories from fat = 800 calories or 200 grams.

b) 2 days cardio

lift weight 2 days in a row then one day only cardio (30 to 40 minutes MAX). i recommend skip rope and biking

c)CardioAcceleration

It is a technique by Dr jim stoppani.
Read more here i explained it on my page. This is very simple and efficient: do not rest between set, do 1 minute of any cardio you want.

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I have two suggestions for you.
One: would your company consider allowing you to install either a standing desk or a treadmill desk. Although you couldn't run while you work, you could keep more active than just sitting. Another alternative is to replace your chair with an exercise ballor a chair that requires that you exercise your core muscles to keep from falling over. Two: Check out the book, You aAre Your Own Gym by Mark Lauren. He shows lots of ways to exercise without fancy equipment. You could take a break every hour and do a few reps. You might be surprised how consistent work yields results. Good luck.

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Get a treadmill desk. It solves your problem of sitting down too much.

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

Right now it's pretty popular to focus on the downsides of office work. But the reality is that there are downsides of using your body to make a living too...

I spent the past few months recovering from an elbow injury from rock climbing and general overtraining. There was a period there when I was seeing a PT, and not able to lift anything remotely heavy. Because I'm also a web developer, I work in an office and have good insurance, which meant I could rest as long as i needed to let my elbow heal, and choose which doctors and physical therapists I dealt with. If I had a job where I had to use my body, I might not have been able to to work for up to a month or so.

More than just making me able to (literally) afford to get injured, because of my office job, I don't have to worry about strenuous labor's wear and tear on my body (or it even interfering with recovery).

If you choose to walk away from a web developer job you already have, there might be definitely downsides down the road, including ones that might interfere with your physical goals. The older you get, the more acute the downsides can become. Lots of people complain about the downsides of sitting at a desk, but I really think we web developers have it lucky. My $0.02

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