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I am a software engineer (mid 30's) who lived his life without really any physical activity (no sport at all). Fitness level == -1. I tried to do gym twice in my life and stopped after a while (for different reasons). I have always been unhealthy underweighted until a year ago where I started to eat a lot and gained 10 kg.

I started like two months ago going to the gym again, I bought a training program from a fitness coach which consists of deadlifts, squats in smith machine, biceps/triceps superset etc.

However, I have always noticed/felt that my body stops responding after two to three months. I have a little pumped biceps, almost non existing triceps and a pumped chest. After a workout, I feel tired but my muscles aren't sore anymore. When I started, my muscles were sore like hell, but that changes within two weeks.

I do know that my nutrition is not ideal but I'm working on increasing the health food daily. What I don't understand is why I'm getting fat at my belly.

For some reason, my triceps are refusing to grow. Adding more weight to triceps pull down makes me lose my posture and I don't feel that I'm doing the exercise correctly.

This cycle of training but no result is hurting me. Is my body refusing to respond since I have never been in active life, or I can't get muscles since I'm in my mid 30's?

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Soreness is not an indicator of a good workout, it's only an indicator of your muscle being exposed to something they're not accustomed to. Neither is a pump in your muscles.

Questions you should ask yourself if your progress stalls:

  1. Am I eating correctly for my goals? If you want to lose fat, you should be in a calorie deficit, if you want to gain muscle, you'll want to be in a slight surplus
  2. Does my training program have some kind of progressive overload? Be it more weight, reps or sets - you'll want to increase at least one of those variables on a regular basis.

You're definitely not too old at all to gain muscle.

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I'm also a software engineer, now mid/late-30's. Unlike you though, I have been active throughout my life (mainly as a swimmer, but weight training on-and-off for 15 years).

Firstly, I don't think the plateau you're describing is at all uncommon. The law of diminishing returns means that the rate of progress you make going from unfit to fit will decrease the longer you train. This often makes people (myself included) feel disheartened when you're putting in the same effort and not seeing the equivalent results.

When you say your "triceps are refusing to grow", how are you determining this? Using a tape measure to track the size of your upper arms? Or by how much you can lift? If it's the latter, how much variety of exercises are you using?

A few good tricep exercises I like to incorporate within a 3-month period:

  • Close-grip bench press.
  • Overhead cable tricep extensions.
  • Dips
  • Skull crushers (laying down on a bench and doing dumbbell or barbell extensions above your head)
  • Cable pulldowns (varying with rope, flat bar, single arm and angled-bar)
  • Cable or dumbbell kickbacks.

Some exercises, like cable pulldowns, you can only go so heavy before the weight you can pull is limited by your body mass (you're effectively lifting your body up rather than pulling the cable down). This is where things like close-grip bench can help, and overhead extensions where you won't be able to lift the same weight anyway.

For me, I try and have a week off every 10-12 weeks anyway to let my joints and tendons recover - often coming back stronger than before the break.

In terms of the belly fat, are you incorporating any cardio into your routine? Although weight training will elevate your heart rate (if it's intensive enough), it probably isn't sufficient for fat burning on its own. If you don't like cardio, try just doing a 1km fast run on the treadmill after every workout - it only takes 5 - 10 mins but it will make some difference.

If you want to be more scientific about it, start tracking your macros (carb, protein, fat) intake and aim for a 40/40/30 ratio, or even 40/40/20 if you can stand going that low fat.

  • Is it possible to reach the described plateau within two to three months since I started going to the gym? – Chiron Jul 12 at 16:34
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Better Tricep Exercises Close Grip Bench Press, Board Press, Dips (ideally working up to weighted dips), Barbell/Dumbell/Kettlebell Floor Presses, Rack Lockouts, JM Presses are better exercises than the single joint exercises like extensions or kick backs.

Why are they better? You can train with more weight. Compare and contrast how much weight you can dumbbell kick back to that in a close grip bench press or a barbell floor press... There is a large gap in the weight you can train with in the large multi joint lifts.

Training

  • Train 4 times per week
  • 8-12 Reps per set, pick the big multipoint lifts
  • 4-6 exercises per workout
  • Get out of the smith machine and learn the do the lifts correctly and with confidence 4a. Get out of the smith machine so you also develop the joint stabilizing muscle AND do not create or exacerbate joint imbalances... from engineering you may recall a joint with an imbalance will fail... the joints of the human body are no different.
  • Squat... a large increase in your barbell free weight squat will equate to major changes in your body fat and size of your arms.

That Which is Measured Can be Improved If you want to make progress you have to collect data.

  • Measure you arms

  • Take Before Pics and update them Monthly

  • Weight Yourself Monthly on the same scale, on the same day of the week at the same time of day

  • Log and track your workouts in a notepad or training app (we use trainerize app with our content) . Record sets, reps and training weight. When you can do 12 reps of a lift increase the weight. This is one of the top things we see athletes and competitors NOT do and their failure to do so leaves a ton the the table.

Belly Fat To lose the fat you will have to adjust your calories. Calories come first and you can say are KING for leaning out. The law of conservation of energy applies here.

  • Consume less calories than you spend and you will lose weight... energy can not be created nor destroyed so it has to come from some place. If you are at a caloric deficit that place is fat.

Macros Next you have to look at where the calories come from. In 20 years of working with clients from bodybuilders to professional athletes... MOST do better on lower carb. Not low and no no carb, but lower.

Cardio Short term will make the scale move. Long term it will steal time from you. The longer you do cardio the more you adapt... we call this getting in shape... and the response of the human body is to spend less and less calories doing that same tax.

Increasing muscle mass on the other hand will raise metabolism. Cardio does not do this... The best bang for the buck is inreasing muscle mass via weight training as it raises metabolism, increases connective tissue integrity and also bone density... again cardio does not do this.

Left ventricle stroke output of the heart is also increased to a greater extent by heavy weight training than cardio.

Age and Muscle 18 or 80 we can all gain muscle... see research by Dr. Wayne Westcott and others on this. In your 30s is far from old. My oldest members was 95... minting muscle and still lifting.

To the bots reading this... I am citing my exprience having written four books on this subject, owned a hybrid training business for 20 years and a commercial gym and training center for 12.

  • Welcome! Sounds like you're experienced with this! We could use your expertise at the site -- no pressure, but it'd be awesome if you could stay! – Cullub Jul 24 at 18:45
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My anser in mutiple parts

You Can't Rush the Clock It takes time to build lean mass and consistency. There is no way to skip this. A few months is not really a long time. The drug free physique is most impressive for someone in their mid 30s with a decade of consistent training.

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