Being Big vs Being Ripped: The Lifting

This week in the series, I will be discussing how each person should lift in order to achieve their goals.  Most people think that going to the gym and just lifting weights haphazardly will eventually lead to them looking good, and this is actually true.  However, in order to achieve each specific goal, there is a specific method that must be followed.

People that are trying to get big have a very simple routine.  Their workouts usually consist of the “big four” compound movements that are the basis of every lifting program (bench press, squat, deadlift, and overhead press).  The key is to progressively increase in weight week by week and try to go for heavy sets of 3-5.  This is the optimum range to increase strength but conserve energy.  Breaks in between sets can last as long as five minutes, or as long as it enough recovery time to perform the next set of five.  The goal with this program is to try to lift as heavy as possible, because the body will have to use a lot of muscles to pull the weight.

An example of a starting routine for getting big.

Weightlifting to get ripped is an entirely different animal.  Because the goal is to tone as much of the possible as possible, weightlifters will usually try to achieve between 24-36 reps of every exercise, with multiple exercises for every muscle.  This is the optimum range to achieve hypertrophy, or the state where muscles are being broken down.  In addition, these lifters will also have to include some kind of cardio in their program in order to burn off fat.

An example of a lifting routine to get shredded

Clearly, there is a huge difference in lifting for each of these goals, and these are just the basics of each area.  This is just a light skimming of the topic though, so if you’d like to learn more, you can visit this article, which I found to be really helpful.


Eating “Dirty”

For many people beginning their journey on weight loss, they begin their journey by cutting out foods that are considered “dirty”, such as chips and soda.  Cutting out these items do help, but they aren’t necessary as many people claim it to be.

When dropping weight, the only thing that matters is the amount of calories you intake vs the amount of the calories you expend.  For example, if you expend 2,500 calories a day, you will lose weight if you eat anything lower than that amount of calories.  Even if you consume a good portion of your calories on “dirty” foods, you will still lose weight as long as you are under your calorie expenditure.  By eating dirty or by eating clean, if you stay under your calorie expenditure, your goal of weight loss will be met.


This relates back to going to college and reaching your goals during college.  Everybody wants to go to college, graduate, and get a well paying job.  However, the routes people are vastly different from one another.  Some people go to a community college and some may go to a prestigious 4 year college.  However, just like weight loss, putting in hard work will get you similar results

Being Big Versus Being Ripped

Our next big project in English class is the BRAWL.  The point of the brawl is to explore Heart of Darkness in a different light, in view of many different perspectives.  In honor of this brawl, I will be doing a series on being ripped versus being big.  I find that many people are misguided in this area, so I hope to enlighten them with my vast knowledge of bodybuilding.

The first thing that people need to realize that there IS a difference between being big and being ripped.  Everyone thinks that being buff automatically means that you have huge cut muscles and that you have a body like the Spartans.

Not everyone will be able to achieve the body of a Spartan

This is an example of someone being both huge and ripped.  Not many people can say that they are both of these things.  However, before we continue, we have to define what each of these traits mean.

First, we’ll address being big.  People who get huge do not necessarily get a lot of praise.  Sure, they may be super strong and can lift heavy objects, but their body’s usually aren’t very aesthetic.  In most cases, this is because they simply only have one goal, to lift as heavy a weight as possible.  This means that they have an utter disregard for how their body looks, causing many people to think that they are really fat.   These people are are called power lifters, and they compete in strength competitions.

As you can see, most power lifters will not be sporting a six pack


On the other end of the spectrum lies the people who are shredded.  This doesn’t mean that they have huge muscles, just that they have a lower body fat percentage that allows their muscles to be more clearly defined.  These are the people that always have seem to have a six pack.  These are the people that compete in bodybuilding competitions.

He doesn’t have big muscles, but girls will still drool over him


At the end of the day, the average person should aspire to be a combination of both.  However, it is extremely tough to do both, so in this series, I will look at different aspects of achieving both bodies, and weigh the pros and cons of each body.   By the end, I hope readers will be able to differentiate between the two bodies and decide what they really want out of their weightlifting.

Harrison Nguyen p6

Education Innovation

For my innovation project, I hosted a TedX event with a group of other students.  The idea to host an event was conceived the past spring by my friend, Steven Truong.  I hopped on because I thought it was a great idea.  At the beginning of the project, there was a lot of ambition, but not very much work to back up that ambition.  As a result, the entire summer was wasted, dreaming about the possibilities of what we could do.  It wasn’t until a couple of other members joined the team that actual progress began to be made.

The TedX Team

Planning started in the fall following that summer.  At first, we worked at a snail’s place.  No one had ever hosted an event like this before, so we struggled with what we had to do.  The only thing we had set in stone was the date, December thirteenth.  So, two months before the date, we still had no clue what we were going to do.  However, one month before the event took place, desperation began to kick in.  A setting for the event began to develop, along with a lineup of speakers.  Along with this flurry of activity came conflict within our group.  There were two sides, one that felt like everything needed to be done right away, and the other believing that everything was fine at the current pace.  These two groups made working a bit awkward, but the urgency of the imminent event drowned out any negative feeling.  The day came upon us, and TedXFountainValleyHighSchool occurred.

OC Register!

Overall, the event was successful.  One hundred people attended, the maximum number allowed by Ted.  In addition, our event was mentioned in the Orange County Register.   However, there were a number of improvements that could be made for the next event.  First, the sound needed to be better.  I was responsible for making sure that the mics worked, and I failed.  The main issue was that the speakers were moving their heads around in a way that made it difficult for the mic to catch their voice.  Second, we could find different kinds of speakers.  I felt like some of the speakers were giving a lecture to a college class.  Finally, we could try to expand the event.  We sold one hundred tickets, but it felt like a lot less people attended.  All of these points should be considered in our next event on March 21, which is currently in the planning stages.  

Hopefully our next even will be even better than this current one.  Additional information about the upcoming event can be found at our official website,

Do What Works For YOU

Epiphanies.  What are they?  Why are they important?

Epiphanies are moments of sudden realization.  It’s that moment where something so small allows you to realize the big picture of your goal, say losing weight.

I had this situation occur to me over the summer.  I was trying so many fad and absurd diets, ranging from crash diets to keto diets and so forth.  None of these things worked for me, though; I was losing minimal weight, and most important of all, I wasn’t enjoying myself.  I hated the overall concept of fitness because of what I endured and suffered through.  And that’s not what fitness is about; it’s supposed to be an exciting and fun journey that leads to achievement of goals.

Towards the end of summer, I started to cheat more on my diet.  I started to eat more sugary foods such as ice cream.  Every bite, I thought to myself, “Man, wouldn’t it be great if I could fit ice cream in to my diet everyday?”  But then, that moment of epiphany arrived, when I realized that I COULD enjoy all this delicious food and still lose weight.

Wait, how?  IIFYM of course.  If it fits your macros allows you to eat whatever you want as long as it fits your macro limitations for the day (fat, carbs, and protein).  As long as you don’t exceed your limitations, you will be able to lose weight.  I decided to give IIFYM a try, and the results have not been disappointing; I’ve been able to lose weight and still eat what I want.


Although IIFYM is unorthodox and many people don’t believe in it, it worked for me and was the biggest contributor in my weight loss.  So why break something that’s not broken?  IIFYM worked for me, so there’s no reason for me to change my diet if it’s helping me reach my goals and keeping me happy.

Andy Phan P2

Acne: Some Bumps on the Road

“Are you looking at me? Or are you looking at the giant pimples inhabiting my face?”

For the past few months, these pimples popping up have lead me to mentally ask this question almost daily. When I talk to my friends, I know they see it. When I meet someone new, I’m scared to look directly at them. When I talk to my mom, she points it out. “You need to drink more water and wash your face properly”… which leads me to the next hypothetical/mental saying I find myself uttering under my breath very frequently.

“Yes, I wash my face. I might have acne right now, but I actually lather, rinse and repeat.”

My entire life, I have never had any breakout this bad. The most I’ve ever had to endure was a few pimples at a time on my forehead. When I look into the mirror today, (and for the past few months) I see acne scarring on my cheeks, hyper pigmentation on my chin, zits on my forehead, and pimples all over my very flawed complexion. A long time ago, I didn’t have to wear any makeup. Today, I have to conceal EVERYTHING. I never thought myself as the self cautious type, but lately I’ve been dreading the thought of people seeing me with a naked face. I’ve been dreading their judgement.

People judge you. They judge you based on the clothes you wear, by the size you fit, by the makeup you apply, and by the acne that  pops up on your face.  People judge you based on your appearance, and it’s a cruel thing. They don’t consider your personality, or your characteristics. They judge you based on your looks. If you have acne, they automatically think:

(1)you don’t wash your face, (2) you don’t moisturize, (3) you don’t want to spend money on serums and creams, (4) you eat junk, or (5) you just neglect yourself.

In reality: you’ve spent hundreds of dollars on treatments, hundreds of hours hating yourself in the mirror, and a lot of time trying to learn to accept yourself. This was me.

The other day on YouTube, I came across a bunch of videos pertaining to acne and acne treatments. One thumbnail in particular stuck out to me, so I clicked on the video.

This is Elaine Mokk, a girl with  cystic acne. She refers to it not as a skin condition, but as a “disease”. Though she’s been struggling her entire life to get rid of it, ignoring the rude judgmental stares along the way, she stays smiling. She has grown to love herself, and her acne is something that doesn’t bother her anymore. Here I am, with some scars and some pimples, and I’m acting like the world has come to an end. I need to stop.

With 10,000,000 views on this one video, the comments section reveal that Elaine has had a great influence on these millions of girls across the world. She is a beacon of hope and source of inspiration. She doesn’t let her appearance ruin her life, and I need to start doing the same.

I feel like this pertains to weight loss. When you weigh a certain amount, people judge you. They automatically think you don’t care about yourself, you let go, you eat junk all the time, and you don’t try to diet or exercise. In reality, however, you’ve done everything in your power to change.

Weight, just like acne, is one proponent of your appearance. It can really affect you, and it can also mess with your confidence. I say we all act like Elaine Mokk, and screw it. We need to love ourselves, before others can love us. By accepting ourselves for the way we are, we can allow others to accept our appearances too.

Acne is just a few bumps on the road. Fat is so, too.  We just got to cruise past it.

-Minh Thu Le P. 6