Happy Monday to all the #YardHard faithful… we’ve got a special edition of TRANSFORMATIONS today, featuring none other than Yard Athletics coach Sam Shaw. Sam took part in the “Yard vs. The People” challenge, hoping to gain as much weight as he could in one month to beat Ilan Cumberbirch’s loss.

That’s right folks, some of us out there can afford to gain weight as a fun challenge…! If only we were all as lucky as Shaw-Zo.

Without any further introduction it’s over to Sam to walk us through his journey.


I will try to keep it short and sweet (literally). This was by far the hardest aspect of the challenge for me. Not simply from the amount of calories that were increasing but the timing of intake as well. I came into the challenge with the goal of adding 1-2lbs a week which meant about a 500 to 800 caloric increase to my regular diet. What I soon realized was that this approach wasn’t going to work for me from a ‘whole’ foods approach as it became difficult to reach my surplus
on a day-to-day. I just couldn’t handle it ya know?!

I tried to keep it purely clean in terms of macronutrient intake during my first week (Whole foods – high quality protein, loads of vegetables, quality fats). Following that first week I began supplementing with a “Quick Mass” weight gainer consisting of a 3:1 CARB:PROTEIN ration (1500 calories daily serving) simply for easy access calories. This was consumed throughout the day but most importantly during and directly following my training. The idea being that carb feeding during/following training increases the rate of its oxidation and storage as glycogen thus leading to a potential decrease in storage as fat and providing a readily available energy source for training.

The Yard Athletics - Group Training

I believe this dietary timing change had a dramatic impact on my endurance capacity during the 4 week program. I was hitting high repetitions on my core lifts (deadlift/squat/bench) that previously had never attained. I was surprised how much and how long (sets) I could maintain some of the weights I was getting to. It was quite savage during the last 3 weeks, and I definitely took some luxuries. I didn’t relent to a complete ‘dirty’ bulk standard, but there was nothing clean about the after work pizza specials that were happening. I basically let loose – no restrictions or concerns but I tried to keep in mind my macros along the way while tracking my total caloric consumption. Life was good. Except I felt terrible.


Strength gain and endurance was the goal for me that month. I followed a standard 10×10 German Volume Training (GVT) model three times a week and supplemented each day with accessory complexes to maintain/increase muscle mass. GVT work was monitored with rest periods of 60 to 90 seconds. Accessory work was structured in relation to the primary GVT movement pattern worked that day (Squat, Bench, Row). In addition, I added a purely strength focused training day once a week based around a hinge pattern (Deadlift Variation).

The Yard Athletics - Sam Shaw

Monday – Barbell Club (Olympic Lifting) and accessory arm work
Tuesday – GVT Training (Back Squat) and accessory unilateral lower body complexes
Wednesday – GVT Training (Bench/Row) and accessory unilateral/bilateral upper body
Thursday – 5×5 Strength Day (Deadlift) and accessory unilateral/bilateral full body complexes
Friday/Saturday – GVT Training (Front Squat) and accessory unilateral/bilateral lower body


Overall I am glad I went through this process as it is something I’ve never truly committed to. As Ilan has mentioned in his process – each individual is unique and you need to find what works for you in a way that is sustainable and enjoyable. For me, I have not continued in the same fashion as that challenge month (in terms of nutrient intake) mostly because my body was in a constant state of bloating. However, the process has enlightened me on the nutrient guidelines that work specifically for me and I have / will continue to implement them in a more realistic fashion moving forward. Since the challenge month I have maintained my weight and increased my strength substantially, so I guess I just have to trust the process. For anyone embarking on a similar journey I would simply recommend making sure you have an idea of your current caloric intake. Track you calories for a few days and you may realize that having a true surplus is a lot more difficult than you might have thought. Be realistic with your goals, find out what works for you and stick to a plan!!

The Yard Athletics - Sam Shaw

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