The Contrast

The Contrast
Lift Big, Sing Big, Look Great Doing It.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Ask The Opera Bro 1. New York City Muscle Building Budget

I've decided to add a part to this blog that I shall call "Ask The Opera Bro." I can usually answer questions quickly and accurately, but every once in a while a question will come up that needs a little more thorough explanation or can help a multitude of people. This one fits both criteria! He probably wouldn't mind me sharing his identify, but I'm going to keep him anonymous just so he isn't bothered. Here is his message:

"I had a question for you that I'm sure you could help me answer:

As for someone my size, I'm trying to get good muscle, great abs, and be able to look good for any audition I go to. My problem is that with my NYC budget and schedule, I can't always afford to eat all the things that workout programs (P90X in this case) require you to. Sometimes they ask you to make food that takes an hour to cook and costs probably around $10-15 a make EVERY DAY. So my question is, how can someone with my budget/time restraints maximize my results?

Thanks man! Keep up the good work!"

Let's call him Joe. I've known Joe for a while and he's always been a lean guy with not a great deal of muscle mass. He currently lives in New York where he's auditioning. The kinds of roles he plays and will continue to play are leading guys. Joe is already a good looking dude, but the competition is always fierce and even 5lbs of extra muscle on him will go a long way.

Let's look at someone else who's a similar body type and has made great strides into creating a fantastic physique.

Hugh Jackman.

When Hugh Jackman first entered into the hollywood scene as Wolverine, he did not have the ideal physique (His words) but after years of hard work that has been both progressed and stalled by other movie projects, Hugh Jackman has emerged a BEAST!

First X-Men Movie on the left, The Wolverine on the right.

Hugh Jackman talks about his big change in this interview and talks about some of his "Secrets."

4,000 calories of clean food and lots of training. What do you know, pretty much what Ol' Yeargain does...except for the clean food part (whoops!)

I think Joe can accomplish his goals in a few steps.

Warning: The Following is specifically made for Joe and his circumstances, if your circumstances mimic Joe's, feel free to try this out, but if yours do not, you will probably not do well with the following suggestions.

Alright, now for more specific suggestions. 

1.) Don't do p90x

I've already written before about how p90x isn't optimal for building muscles, and can actually continue to make you lean, which is important for Joe and his career, but it's something he shouldn't be worried about for now. I'll give you some good substitute workouts/a program you can do in its place, Joe at the bottom of the blog.

2.) Eat clean but eat big

Joe is a classic hard gainer. For him to gain weight he is going to have to increase his calories. Hugh Jackman has a similar body type and for him to gain weight in the form of muscle, he had to eat 4000 calories. 

For Joe to gain weight, I think he's going to have to eat around 2800 - 3000. Get a myfitnesspal app on your phone and start keeping track of your daily food intake, if you're easily hitting this number, increase it until you start seeing the weight on the scale progressively go up, you start seeing results in the mirror, or until you run out of money for food. The specifics of his calorie increase should come from pure carb and protein sources.

For you, Joe, I recommend you get at least 170 grams of protein a day. It's tough to do, and frankly your budget may not allow for it. At the very least try to get 100 grams. You can get it through the following sources:

Meat of any kind
Liquid egg whites
Cottage cheese
Greek Yogurt
Protein powder (anything that fits your budget and has over 20 grams of protein in it.)

Carbs will be a great way for you to be in a calorie surplus. If you find it's hard to eat a lot of food or you're not a very hungry person, I recommend you don't fill up on veggies. Get your veggies in for health, but your primary carbs should be fruits, potatoes and grains depending on how your stomach tolerates it. I personally can't eat a lot of grains without feeling exhausted, so I eat a lot of fruit to compensate. Carbs are much cheaper than proteins, and some carbs even contain lots of protein like quinoa, brown rice or some fiber 1 cereals.

I know you don't have much time to cook, and it's super lame to do so, but you may consider cooking all of your chicken/meat at one time. Cutting it up and putting it in Tupperware. It sucks, but it's cheap, it's efficient and it saves you time during the week and makes sure you get your calories and protein in.

Joe is also in the predicament of trying to gain weight while being required to walk quite a bit every day just from the daily demands of New York living. As a naturally larger dude, I would relish in this fat loss opportunity, but for Joe it is directly affecting his potential to gain muscle. The solution: More Food.

You should get into the habit of snacking. Get a box of the fiber 1 protein cereal or kashi go lean with the highest protein content, put it in several small baggies and munch away. Lots of carbs fats and proteins. It's easier and cheaper than buying chicken breast, and probably fits your needs more. 

Another snack that will help you get you results is an 8oz glass filled with half orange juice and half liquid egg whites. That's a big boost in your carbs and proteins in an easy to digest drink. No fat. Try it out.

Peanut Butter Sandwiches. Peanut butter has a lot of fat in it, and it's not the best thing for you. However, it is calorically dense, packed full of macro nutrients and will put weight and size on a person. And, frankly, it's not that expense for the amount of calories you are getting with a spoonful. Which brings me to my last point:

Don't be afraid to eat dirty.

 I have confidence that you can throw in some not super nutritional food into the mix on an everyday basis, and as long as it agrees with your stomach and you're not allergic to it, it will translate to more muscle. Even if you do gain a little bit of fat, that will strip off fairly easily because of your required daily cardio (walking around the city.)

3.) Train hard, lift heavy even at home.

A gym is ideal. I'm not gonna sit here and act like it's not necessary, because there is equipment at the gym that you can't afford nor will ever be able to afford. However, desperation breeds ingenuity, and I have personally done lots of home workouts with just my Pull Up Bar, my dumbbells and even incorporated random cardio crap off of the internet. I also wrote this Beginner Strength Workout sometime in January, too that might be helpful.

Things to purchase when you have money in order of necessity:
1.) A pull up bar: 30-40$
2.) Adjustable dumbbell set: 30-40$

The dumbbells will help you whenever you stagnate. However, just do body weight and pullups for now.

Pull ups:

Invest in a pull up bar. There is no better way to build up your back muscles than a wide grip pull up and you can develop some incredible biceps with chin ups alone.

Dips: take two chairs and put their backs facing each other. Stand in between them and dip your body. Like so...

Yeah, sometimes I do dips in jeans.

Push ups:
There are a million different ways to do push ups, you should do them all and become incredible at them.

Weighted Crunches:
If you want abs that pop off of your body and are visible, you need to be doing exercises that build up the size of the muscle. Doing 1,000 body weight crunches will help you burn calories but won't do a great deal for building the size of the muscle. Take a weight, or something heavy, hold it behind your head and do a crunch with your feet tucked underneath a couch.

It's like 1am in this photo.

4.) Volume and Frequency will become your best friends.

The one thing that is going to be difficult to do without a gym is applying progressive overload. You can wear a back pack while doing your push-ups and pull ups and throw in a book or two, but eventually you'll get tired of that or run out of books. So, what you're going to have to do is make up for lack of weight with increased volume and frequency. Anytime you have an extra few minutes, drop to the floor and do as many push ups as you can physically muster. There is a hanging bar that can support your weight, grab onto it and pull yourself up. Do wall sits when you're waiting for the subway. You may feel like a dumbass in the moment, and frankly you will look like one too. However, nobody cares what stupid shit you have to do to get your physique, they just wanna look at it.

Working out doesn't have to be organized, but it definitely helps keeping track of your lifts. I reccomend that you do extra random push-ups, pull ups and crunches on top of a regular workout. The added wear and tear will just contribute to your goals. 

Typical Full Body workout
Do this 4 times a week.

Wide Grip Pull ups 
with a phone book in a back pack

Push ups (Your Choice of Which One)
with a phone book in a back pack
4x12 (Or 4 sets to failure if you cannot complete 12)

Chin ups
Body Weight
3x12 (Or three sets to failure if you cannot complete 12)

Body Weight

As Long as you can physically hold it.

with a book behind your head.
4x12 (Or till failure)

Once you have dumbbells Add the following:

Bicep Curls:

Dumbbell Skull Crushers

Take as much time as you need in between sets of the Pull Ups, but try to only rest between 30-60 seconds on everything else.

Things to remember:
Always strive for progressive overload and to build your strength. You do this by increasing the weight, increasing the amount of reps on a weight, or moving the same weight at a faster speed. This is how you build muscle.

Well, Joe, I hope this has been helpful.

Things to remember:
1.) You have to eat above your calorie maintenance to build muscle. Basically, you gotta eat to grow. Eat till you're more than than full for every meal.

2.) Don't do P90x to build muscle, throw it in every once in a while to help out your cardio health and burn some additional fat, but focus on lifting your body with extra weight attached to it with Pull Ups, Push-Ups, Dips, Squats and Ab crunches. Try to add weight, a rep or speed to each lift every workout.

3.) Try to eat a 90% clean diet, but feel free to indulge in random junk food on top of basic nutrition.

4.) Throw in random push ups and pull ups throughout the day!

Hope all is well! See you on the other side of the tracks. 


  1. I am appreciative to the essayist for composing this.

  2. Let's discuss two reasons why a muscle or certain group of muscles may become "weak" and why exercising will not help in these scenarios:
    phenq gnc

  3. Hugh is certainly cool, I remember his fight with cancer, a strong man. On equal terms with training, don't forget about the disease caused by a low testosterone level,

    I discovered how to prepare for test for myself and the special importance of hormones in building muscles, and maintaining a good health.

    This information became decisive in my fat burning workouts.