College Student Packs on 35 Pounds of Muscle After Being Called ‘Skinny’

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If you, like so many of us, find yourself making excuses to skip workouts, we think this impressive transformation might be just the motivation you need to get back into the gym. 

Liem Pham, a 19-year-old college student from California, was no stranger to light-hearted banter about his slender build while growing up.

As a 6-foot competitive swimmer, exposing his body around teammates was par for the course, and though he shrugged off his friends’ jokes at first, they began to take their toll over time.

“I was always called ‘skinny’ and ‘Mr. Skeleton’ and stuff like that,” Pham said to Men’s Health. “I didn’t mind it at first, but it slowly wore on me.”

Pham soon discovered the weight room as a solution to his problem. But like most beginning gym-goers, a lack of expertise left the biotech student floundering with little to show for his efforts.

It wasn’t until Pham started really doing his research on the internet that he found something that worked: the famous PPL routine, or “push, pull, legs.” Thanks to the program — as well as finding a lifting partner to keep each other accountable, and, of course, hard work and dedication — Pham packed on a whopping 35 lbs. 

“I feel like this is the body I should have had my entire life,” he said.

Despite his ridiculous physique transformation, Pham noticed that his strength levels hadn’t quite kept up with his massive change in musculature.

“I realize that I only used my beginner gains to get bigger,” Pham told NextShark. I’m still not happy with my current strength so I figured I’d try out a powerlifting program.”

These days, Pham’s workout routine consists of a four-day split, where each session focuses on one of the four compound lifts: squat, bench press, deadlift, and overhead press (OHP). Each lift is meticulously programmed as a percentage of his one-rep max, with set and rep schemes varying week by week until he maxes out at the end of a four-week cycle.

His goals?

“Trying to get into the 1000 lb club, but 315 squat in particular and 185 OHP.”

As someone who began his fitness journey due to personal insecurity, Pham is more than understanding of the fear many people have about stepping into a gym for the first time, and offered some wisdom for beginners.

“I know everyone who starts out feels like they’re being judged in some way,” Pham acknowledged. “This couldn’t be further from the truth. People who lift regularly are there for one thing only: self improvement. Just focus on you and ignore everything else.”

Having evidently followed his own advice, Pham’s transformation did much more than just change his physical appearance; it did wonders for his confidence.

“I feel so much more comfortable and capable. It’s nice to look in the mirror and see what I like (but narcissism is a real thing I need to keep in check) and to know that I achieved all of this all by myself,” he said. “No one can take this away from me because no [one] else lifted that weight for me or ate all those meals. I went all out in pursuing a better physique and I was rewarded for it.”

Displaying maturity beyond his years, Pham went on to caution that although his decision to take control and make a drastic change was the right move for him, it might not be for everyone.

“I just wanna say that there’s nothing wrong with being a skinny guy,” he said. “It’s just that I [personally] didn’t like seeing myself in the mirror and being able to count all of my ribs easily. I’m not going to impose my idea of the perfect body on others because you all are entitled to your own body image.”

“Mental health is a big part of lifting and that should come first,” Pham added.

All images © Liem Pham and posted with permission.

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