Naomi’s Recovery Experiment; Her Version Of “Bulking”

DXA scans are used primarily to evaluate bone mineral density. DXA scans can also be used to measure total body composition and fat content with a high degree of accuracy comparable to hydrostatic weighing with a few important caveats.

Naomi used a DEXA or DXA scan to measure her results. DXA scans are used primarily to evaluate bone mineral density.

Last time I shared that I had some health setbacks; I started 2012 in the best shape of my life and ended it in much worse shape.  In December I had a DEXA scan which showed my lean body mass (LBM) as 114 pounds and 20% body fat.

I had a second DEXA done to check progress after four months of doing the Venus Index Workout.  My goals were to have increased LBM and to maintain body fat.

Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA, previously DEXA) is a means of measuring bone mineral density (BMD).  DXA scans can also be used to measure total body composition and fat content with a high degree of accuracy comparable to hydrostatic weighing with a few important caveats.

What is Bulking?

In body building circles, people throw around the term “bulking“.  It’s generally accepted to be part of a bulk and cut process whereby one eats in excess, lifts heavy at the gym, makes huge LBM gains, and then strips away excess body fat to reveal larger muscles.  Men in particular pile on a lot of fat all in the name of bulking.

The truth of what is possible with bulking varies depending upon a variety of factors including gender, training age, genetic potential.

In my case, I am a 48 year old woman with a long history of training who simply needed to regain lost strength.  So right there, it is somewhat misleading to even be talking about bulking, and yet many people would claim my results indicated a successful bulk.

The truth about gaining muscle is that once muscle tissue has been built, it is a much faster process to get back to previous levels of strength.  I still pushed myself very hard.  For example, I could barely do a body weight squat in early December and now I am back to being able to squat 135 pounds and on track to increased loads over time.

How I “Bulked”

You have likely figured out by now that I did not “bulk” in the traditional sense of the term in body building circles.

Instead, I used the tools as laid out to carefully eat enough to allow my strength increases to continue to unfold and I constantly monitored my waist and belly button measurements.  Every time the waist or the belly button increased, I increased my caloric deficit via the principles in Eat Stop Eat until I saw my baseline numbers.  I tend to loosen up a bit more on weekends.  While undergoing this experiment, I carried slightly more body fat than I am comfortable with, but not much.

The Scale Scared Me!

I admit it! The entire four months I trusted John Barban and Brad Pilon on this little experiment, I watched with horror as the scale bounced around.  Admittedly, it never strayed more than about 10-12 pounds higher than my contest photos, so not at all a traditional bulking cycle, but it was a little scary to see bigger numbers when I am trusting that I am living the Venus lifestyle.

My Successful Bulk Results

This is not the ripped levels you see in my contest photos but rather a very livable, maintainable, every day level that still keeps me on my toes.

Naomi after her experiment at 20% body fat.  On the left fasted, on the right fully fed and hydrated.

Naomi after her experiment at 20% body fat. On the left fasted, on the right fully fed and hydrated.

My LBM last December was shockingly low.  In fact, it came in well below the levels predicted for my height. I am 5’11” and with a LBM of just under 114 pounds, I was possibly a genetic outlier on the low end of the scale.  Venus Index predicts my LBM could go as high as 126 pounds.

Fear not, I thought. I had just lost all my strength so presumably bulking would bring my LBM right back up to within a predicted Venus Index Ideal range.

Sure enough, my DEXA scan showed my LBM at 118 pounds, 7 oz which was a gain of just over 4 pounds.  That averages out to about 1 pound per month.

Not bad, right?  Remember that I was actually getting back what I’d lost after illness; this is not a realistic rate of gain for a trained woman my age.

So What’s Next?

While I am not expecting realistically to gain much more LBM in my lifetime, I do expect to see a little more growth before I get older and as more decline sets in.  Going forward I expect to see some more improvement.  I would also like to get leaner.  Perhaps not as lean as I was in the 4th Venus Transformation Contest, but possibly similar to the 1st Venus Transformation Contest.

Changing body composition

I was surprised to see my android (above the belt) vs gynoid (below the belt) fat ratio slightly improved.  Considering how much time I’d spent sedentary before the last DEXA scan, I was carrying 20.1% android fat as compared to 19.7% this time around while gynoid fat went from 29.5% to 29.4%.  While these numbers seem quite similar, it is worth noting that since the total percentage remained the same at 20.2%, clearly there was a change in body composition.

This is solid proof that a well-designed weight lifting program like Venus Index positively affects both physique and health.

Other reasons to have a DEXA

As John realized in his DEXA scan, it is possible to have muscle imbalances.  I was surprised to note that on both of my DEXA scans the entire left side of my body is stronger.  I will be tailoring my workouts to address this issue according to the guidelines John talked about.  For example I will do fewer reps or sets on the left to allow the lagging right side to catch up.

My bone density actually went up in the last 4 months!  I can only guess that weight lifting caused this happy result.

Ladies, pick up those weights if you want to maintain or increase your bone density!  Bone density is the most common reason most women my age have a DEXA scan done.   It can also be used to monitor body composition and is a useful tool when choosing goals and designing your workout.

If you’ve had a DEXA, what did you learn and how did it affect your training program and goals?

DEXA Results from Slow Bulking and Muscle Imbalance Correction Training

Here’s the next episode of the UNCENSORED Podcasts Season 2.

Today’s topics: Body Composition Analysis – DEXA Results

You can use DEXA scan to track down effectiveness of your training and diet.

From season one of uncensored podcasts you already know how you can use DEXA to track your progress.

But did you know that it’s also a very useful tool for experimenting with your body?

Check out how John and Brad used DEXA scan to measure effectiveness of the things they were trying in the last couple of weeks. Each of them tried a different thing.

John’s Experiment – Muscle Imbalance Correction Training

As you may already know know John can’t do barbell bench press, because off his shoulder issue. The last time he got his DEXA the results were astonishing, on his right side there was almost 2 pounds less lean mass (shoulder and arm). That’s a pretty big difference, it was obvious that the right side was significantly weaker and less developed.

Because of this, he decided to try to bring the right side back to normal, so both of his shoulders and arms would be balanced.

Now this is tricky, because if you just do barbell based exercises, one arm will work harder than the other and you will only make the problem worse.

So how would you go about it?

And how do you track such is small difference?

You can’t even go just by feeling and strength, you need to get another DEXA done to confirm the results.

John decided to create a specialized plan for himself and get another DEXA scan done at the end of this test to see what he could do about this.

As it turned out, you really can affect one side of your body and bring your lagging part back to normal to balance them out.

Surprisingly the answer wasn’t more weight, but more work and better muscle activation – as John shares in today’s episode, he had to take more time to warm up the right side to achieve the same activation throughout his regular workout.

Listen to the podcast for more information on this experiment.

Brad’s Experiment – Slow Bulking

As Brad confesses in today’s episode, he really wanted for bulking to work and I mean who doesn’t, eating more for more muscles? Sounds like a bodybuilder’s dream.

Well, the reality is different and rather boring.

In the past Brad has tried every way you could think of (and more) to make bulking work. He tried the standard 6 meals a day, 300 grams of protein, cheat days and even cheat weeks with 10 000 calorie intake and no result at all…well he did gain fat, but that’s not what he was really after.

So, it’s safe to say that bulking doesn’t work.

Then a couple months ago he thought about another way of trying bulking. He realized that each time he would try it, it would be a very quick process, never slow. So he decided to go about bulking up slowly, just a couple hundred calories here and there, he didn’t change his workouts, recorded everything and did a DEXA scan after the experiment was after.

If you wanna find out about the whole process and more importantly the results, go down and listen to the podcast.

In today’s UNCENSORED training, you will also discover:

  • How to prepare the muscles that you have hard time activating for the workout
  • How can you bring up a lagging part back up to balance it with the rest of the body if lifting heavier doesn’t help
  • What is slow bulking  and whether it can work for you
  • How you can get your goals hijacked with focusing on strength gains
  • Why it’s important to stop chasing weight at some point and what’s more important when the goal is muscle growth
  • How if you are not careful “body building” can turn into weight lifting and power lifting and why this is dangerous to your physique goals
  • Is there a relationship between being well trained at a certain movement/exercise and looking good? (The answer to this might surprise you)
  • How DEXA can help you see clearly through fitness disbeliefs and help you discover what truly works for your body and what’s just BS you should avoid


Body Composition Testing Results

Understanding what makes up the look and shape of your body can help you determine what your focus should be with your diet and training program. There are multiple tools you can use to learn about your body including simple items like a scale, camera, mirror, measuring tape, and fat callipers. These tools are cheap and give you some quick metrics to help guide you towards your fitness goals. I’m biased towards the measuring tape and mirror as I believe the Venus Index measurements and the look you have in the mirror the most useful metrics you can possibly get. The combination of your VI measurements and your visual look should be the final say however there are other more sophisticated measurements that can also be of benefit if you want to learn more about your body. The two we will be talking about today are called DEXA and BodPod.


DEXA – Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry

This is Brad getting instructions prepping him for his DEXA scan (at the Bone Wellness Centre, Toronto On)

Me in the DEXA scanner (at the Bone Wellness Centre, Toronto On)

[Special thanks to Salima and Sarah at the Bone Wellness Centre for their service and expertise with the DEXA procedure…if you live in the Southern Ontario area and are interested in getting a DEXA done I encourage you to go to the Bone Wellness Centre)

Both of the measurements techniques require an appointment at a clinicians office as well as a small fee for use. Both devices provide very accurate measurements of fat mass vs lean body mass and will give results within 1-2% of each other. The DEXA specifically gives very detailed data on where your body holds it’s fat mass as well as showing your bone density and if you have any imbalances from one side of your body to the other in lean mass.


BODPOD – Air Displacement

Brad in the "bodpod"

If you’ve got the time and cash I recommend getting a DEXA scan to find out what your true body fat % is and where that fat is stored on your body. No other device can give you this level of detailed information. If you really want to know how your body is built, the DEXA is the new gold standard for finding out.

Combining the information from the DEXA with your mirror look and your Venus Index measurements will be the most informative set of data you can possibly get about your body composition.

Here are some pictures of Brad and I after we got our DEXA scans done.

I’m 10.6% bodyfat in these pictures (as measured by DEXA).


March 1st 2012 approx 10.6% bodyfat

Another shot from the same photoshoot on March 1st

Brad is 12.3% bodyfat in his pictures (as measured by DEXA).


Brads front double bicep shot

Brads side triceps shot, awesome pic


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