The basics – How old are you, which university do you go to and what do you study?
Hello everyone, my name is Tom Lin, 21 years old and I study architecture at University College London. I was born and grew up in China and since I was young, I have always been passionate about all kinds of sports but I was still always the skinniest kid compared to others. Despite growing up in China and the incredible study pressure, I always wanted to live a healthy life and be stronger.
How did you get into fitness?
I came to the UK for A levels when I was 16 years old and that was when I could finally start going to the gym and becoming more and more addicted to fitness. I started to see very noticeable transformation of my body and enjoy the feeling of muscle soreness and seeing myself getting better and better each day and more importantly I became more and more confident about myself. However, with the lack of knowledge of diet, I started gaining size as well as a lot fat as well and I did a cut successfully and started becoming more careful with what I eat and nutrition became a big part of my life since then. Until now, fitness has been an indispensable part of my daily life.
What made you want to compete?
Competing means a lot to me and I think it is about bringing the best version of myself. It gives me a goal to work towards and keep pushing myself harder and I also want to inspire others, especially Chinese students whose life is about constantly working 24/7. No matter how far I can go, MASS SPC gives the opportunity to realise my goals and motivate others. As an architecture student, who is notoriously famous for endless amount of work and deadlines, I want to prove that it is still possible to achieve a healthy lifestyle both physically and mentally because exercise and study are a mutual process.
How many competitions have you done? Is this year’s SPC your first? How are you feeling about it?
MASS SPC is my first ever competition and I am feeling so excited about it because I have never really cut down to this body fat before and obviously it was a bit painful when it comes to the dieting but I really enjoy the process. My training during prep hasn’t changed much to be honest. It is still generally training very heavy to maintain as much strength and muscle mass as possible. Because I am naturally lean, I didn’t go for the conventional “low weight high reps” training routine and I also don’t do much cardio either. My prep was basically revolved around the change of my diet.
What is your training like during prep?
Day 1: Back and biceps:
Pull-ups until failure to warm up, 4 sets of until failure
Wide-grip lats pulldowns, 4 sets of 8 reps
Reverse close-grip lat pulldowns, 3 sets of 12 reps
Seated cable rows, 4 sets of 6 reps (I really go heavy on rows because I think I need more thickness)
Single arm dumbbell rows, 4 sets of 10 reps
Barbell curls, 4 sets of 6-8 reps
Dumbbell hammer curls, 4 sets of 10 reps
Reverse grip barbell curl for forearms, 4 sets of 12 reps
Day 2: Chest and triceps
Incline dumbbell press, 4 sets of 6-8 reps
Flat barbell bench press, 5 sets of 8-10 reps
Seated chest press, 4 sets of 8 reps
Body weight dips, 3 sets until failure
Cable crossovers, 4 sets of 10-12 reps
Seated machine flies, 3 sets of 15 reps
Seated dumbbell overhead extensions, 4 sets of 6-8 reps
Close-grip bench press, 4 sets of 12 reps
Rope triceps pushdowns, 3 sets of 12 reps
Single arm cable pushdowns, 4 sets of 10 reps
Day 3: shoulders
Seated dumbbell shoulder press, 2 warm sets and 4 sets of 6-8 reps
Dumbbell lateral raise, 4 dropsets of 8 reps each sub set
Barbell upright rows superset with plate front raise, 3 sets of 8 reps
Single arm cable lateral raise, 4 sets of 12 reps
Reverse machine rear delt flies, 6 sets of 10 reps
Day 4: Legs
Leg extension to warm up the quads, 3 sets of 15 reps
Leg squats, 6 sets of 8 reps
Leg press, 5 sets of 10 reps (5 reps of feet together to focus on quads and then 5 more reps of feet wide apart to get more hamstrings involved)
Single leg extension, 4 sets of 12-15 reps
Leg curls, 4 sets of 10 reps
Dumbbell straight leg deadlift, 3 sets of 10 reps
Day 5: Rest day
Day 6: Weak point target day
On this day, there is no fixed training routine, I basically go into the gym and focus on where I’m lacking, such as chest or legs. It will not be a heavy session; instead, it is more about the intensity and burning calories. I treat this day as a cardio day while still stay very active during the rest of the week.
Above is a general overview of my training during prep, which is similar when I’m bulking as well because I believe it is important to still train heavy for maximum muscle mass maintenance without strength loss. More importantly, my routine is never the same every week. I will alter it more or less or change what I start with to trick the body and keep it guessing.
What is your diet like during prep?
I believe diet is the most important part during my prep. During my 12 weeks prep, the diet is slight different and can be split into two different phases:
- Generally average carb intake
- Carb cycling period
Once I started my prep, I became super strict with myself and cook every single meal. Although I was generally eat healthy before, there were still a few days when I ate out with friends and ordered takeaways. But once the prep has started, all of that was gone. Because I am naturally lean, I don’t really track calories everyday as long as I’m clear with what goes into my body.
During the generally average carb intake period, I basically still have healthy carbs, such as brown bread or oats, and eat no carbs for dinner and during the carb cycling period, I eat 260g of carbs on a high carb day and 80g of carbs on a low carb day, which works for me the best.
As I become more and more strict with my diet during carb cycling period, my diet plan is as follows:
Breakfast: 100g of instant oats with skimmed milk, one scoop of protein power, 2 slices of brown bread, 2 whole eggs and 2 egg whites pan fried, one banana and one apple
Lunch: 150g of grilled salmon fillets, 200g of brown rice, 50g of asparagus
Before workout: 2 slices of brown bread with low-fat peanut butter or one banana
Post-workout: one scoop of protein powder
Dinner: 200g of grilled mini chicken fillets, 4 boiled egg whites, spinach
Before bed: one scoop of protein powder
How do you stay motivated during prep?
Honestly, during the prep, I have always been motivated and never felt slacking because what I am doing is to bring the best out of me. I watch a lot Youtube videos and I really look up to Men’s Physique competitors such as Ryan Terry and Jeremy Buendia. I also have an amazing training partner who supports along the prep and pushes me to the limit for every single set I do.
How do you manage your studies alongside staying in shape?
Being an architecture student is tough, who is associated with endless amount of work, drawings, models and readings. But what is good about my course is that I have a very flexible timetable and it is all about managing time on my own. I believe a healthy lifestyle is a study booster and helps me become more focused during my study. Sometimes, what happens to me is that when I’m stuck with design inspirations for ages, I will just stop working and go hit the gym and when I come back fresh, the inspiration comes in naturally.
What are your fitness goals for the future?
Fitness for me is a life-long process to always try to reach the best version of myself, physically and mentally. I don’t think I will become a professional competitor but I will never give up fitness for sure. Being an architect is a dream job for me, but fitness is what motivates me everyday and it forever will be.
Finally, is there anything else you would like to add?
At last, I just want to say that patience is key to build an aesthetic physique and as long as you stick to your plan, it will happen. I have seen so many people who are determined to go to the gym but then give up in two weeks, complaining they see no results. It is a long process, which does not happen overnight. As a student, I believe it is important to balance study and physical health. By that, I don’t mean everyone should become passionate about fitness because people have different hobbies in life. But what fitness is about for me is learning how to be dedicated to the goals you set for yourself and be consistent and patient, which applies to every aspect in life I believe.