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Last year I was badly underweight at 50kgs at 5"4 due to a surgery and health complications.

I starting working out on a good strength program (deadlift, squats, presses) and while I saw some results, I'm still underweight at 58kgs.

My thinking is, if I had gone from x kgs to x + 6 by just healthy bulking and then started working out, my overall progress would probably result in a weight of x + 6 + <gains from strength training>, which would be relatively far more impressive.

I'm asking because it's my understanding is that the gains I made in a year have somewhat peaked, and progress from now on will be much slower because I started out at such a weak, frail standard. In other words, I have gained some weight and strength, but I'm only a little less weak and frail.

I have relatives facing the same issue as I did one year back (it's a genetic thing) and they're looking to get in shape. What would be the best way to optimize results? Focus on eating big with light exercises, or go full on with simultaneously strength training and eating big?

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    I don't see why you think your gains have peaked. Apr 20 at 17:54
  • For your height, 58kg doesn't sound too under weight to make gains. Granted BMI isn't necessarily the best way to measure health etc, but yours is in the normal range
    – E.Aigle
    Apr 21 at 5:45
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I'm asking because it's my understanding is that the gains I made in a year have somewhat peaked, and progress from now on will be much slower because I started out at such a weak, frail, pathetic standard.

That wouldn't have changed. You're a year ahead of where you would be if you started now. Everyone gets their noob gains in the first year or two and then it stops. If you had started now, then a year from now you'd slow down like you are today.

Looking back, I'm wondering if I should have just focused on eating enough to gain to where I am now and then start working out.

If you had done that, then you'd have more body fat than you have now. Instead you're at a healthier weight with more muscle and less fat. That overall makes you a healthier person.

What would be the best way to optimize results? Focus on eating big with light exercises, or go full on with strength training and eating big at the same time?

There's no advantage to gaining a lot of fat unless you're bodyfat percentage is already at an extraordinarily low levels which you most likely are not (if you were at that point then medical intervention may be more necessary which we're not qualified to give advice on). So you shouldn't focus on eating massive quantities of food for eating's sake. You should eat just enough to gain a little bit of weight. If your weight is slowly trending up over time (<1kg a month), then you're in a sweet spot. If your weight just jumps 5kg in a month, then pull back.

I would say there's no disadvantage to full strength training. It takes time to learn, practice, and grow so starting now is better than starting tomorrow. My only regret in starting strength training was I didn't start sooner. Had I started sooner, I would have regretted not starting sooner than that.

My thinking is, if I had gone from x kgs to x+6 by just healthy bulking and then started working out, my overall progress would probably result in a weight of x+6 + , which would be relatively far more impressive.

Right now you're x+8. A year from now, you'll be x + 8 + <gains from another year's worth of strength training>. That's far more impressive than this example.

An 8kg increase in a year is good. You should be proud.

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  • Thanks for the comprehensive reply. Just wondering though, in terms of increasing strength, is it not better to increase fat levels by eating a lot? (also I don't mean eating pizzas all day long - I'm talking about gaining the fat from eating clean) I've noticed that generally heavier people have much stronger starting strengths at lifts, especially benchpress. Just seems to me like it's a much better path forward if you gain a little above healthy amount of body fat and then start increasing strength, followed by a cut.
    – nz_21
    Apr 20 at 15:58
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    @nz_21 I addressed that in this answer. Short answer, no. Fat doesn't make you stronger by existing.
    – DeeV
    Apr 20 at 20:01
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Of course you should do physical training even if you are underweight.

Keep your body and heart healthy by doing physical training, and bulk according to a strength/size programme. The nutrients you are eating, especially protein, will be delivered straight to making you grow. Any fat you gain will be distributed around your body in healthier and more aesthetically pleasing ways (subcutaneously instead of viscerally, reducing risk to organs).

go full on with simultaneously strength training and eating big

this is the way to gain healthy mass very quickly. Putting your body under the shock of strength and hypertrophy training will make it realise it needs to grow, and kickstart and accelerate all of its growth processes. Working out while bulking generally nets even faster results than just eating oneself into obesity.

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