From Geek to Freak: How I Gained 34 lbs. of Muscle in 4 Weeks



After holding off for nearly two years, I’m posting this because too many people have asked for it. The lasses should read it, too, as the same principles can be applied to bodyfat loss.

I weighed 152 lbs. for four years of high school, and after training in tango in Buenos Aires in 2005, that had withered to 146 lbs. Upon returning to the US, I performed an exhaustive analysis of muscular hypertrophy (growth) research and exercise protocols, ignoring what was popular to examine the hard science. The end result? I gained 34 lbs. of muscle, while losing 3 lbs. of fat, in 28 days.

Before and after measurements, including underwater hydrostatic weighings, were taken by Dr. Peggy Plato at the Human Performance Laboratory at the San Jose State University, and I had blood tests taken on September 30 and October 20. Though this ridiculous experiment might seem unhealthy, I also dropped my total cholesterol count from 222 to 147 without the use of statins. No joke.

Here are a few comparative shots. Oh, and I forgot to mention, all of this was done with two 30-minute workouts per week, for a total of 4 HOURS of gym time:


How did I do it?

First, some select stats on the 4-week change (9/21-10/23):

Bodyfat %- 16.72 to 12.23
Suit Size- 40 short to 44 regular (measured at Brooks Brothers at Santana Row in San Jose by a professional tailor)
Neck- 15.8″ to 18″
Chest- 37.5″ to 43″
Shoulders- 43″ to 52″
Thigh- 21.5″ to 25.5″
Calf- 13.5″ to 14.9″
Upper Arm- 12″ to 14.6
Forearm- 10.8″ to 12″
Waist- 29.5″ to 33.1″
Hips (Ass at widest)- 34″ to 38.23″

Here are the six basic principles that made it happen:

1. Follow Arthur Jones’ general recommendations for one-set-to-failure from the little-known Colorado Experiment, but with lower frequency (maximum of twice per week) and with at least 3 minutes between exercises.

2. Perform every repetition with a 5/5 cadence (5 seconds up, 5 seconds down) to eliminate momentum and ensure constant load.

3. Focus on no more than 4-7 multi-joint exercises (leg press, trap bar deadlift, overhead press, Yates bent row, dips, incline machine benchpress, etc.) and exercise your entire body each workout to elicit a maximal hormonal (testosterone, growth hormone + IGF-1) response.

4. Eat enormous quantities of protein (much like my current fat-loss diet) with low-glycemic index carbohydrates like quinoa, but drop calories by 50% one day per week to prevent protein uptake downregulation.

5. Exercise less frequently as you increase strength and size, as your recovery abilities can only increase 20-30%, while you can often increase fat-free muscle tissue up to 100% before reaching a genetic set-point.

6. Record every workout in detail, including date, time of day, order of exercises, reps, and weight. Remember that this is an experiment, and you need to control the variables to accurately assess progress and make adjustments.

For the ladies not interested in becoming the Hulk, if you follow a “slow-carb” diet and reduce rest periods to 30 seconds between exercises, this exact workout protocol can help you lose 10-20 pounds of fat in the same 28-day time span.

Once again, questioning assumptions leads to the conclusion: less is more. Detox from TV twice a week and put in your 4 hours a month!


If you enjoyed this post, check out my latest book, The 4-Hour Body, #1 New York Times and #1 Amazon bestseller. You will learn: How to lose 20 pounds in 30 days (without exercise), how to triple your testosterone, techniques for producing 15-minute female orgasms, and more.

You can also pick up the Expanded and Updated 4-Hour Workweek, which includes more than 50 new case studies of luxury lifestyle design, business building, reducing hours 80%+, and world travel.

Related and Recommended Posts:

Tim Ferriss interviewed by Derek Sivers
Tim Ferriss articles on Huffington Post
Tim Ferriss interview – common questions on lifestyle design and productivity

Posted on: April 29, 2007.

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Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration)

1,313 comments on “From Geek to Freak: How I Gained 34 lbs. of Muscle in 4 Weeks

  1. this has got to be a lie. i dont care who you are that kind of gain in that short of time and with so little time in the gym is impossible even on steroids. The most I have ever gained in that time period is about 7-10 lbs. and that was when i first started, Im sorry but this is highly unlikely. arnold Shcwarzeneggar(forgive me for probably butchering his name) was known for adding an inch in a month and it is thought of as almost impossible. one inch is about 10-15 pounds of muscle. sorry bro but please dont get these peoples hopes up. you cant gain 34 lbs in 4 weeks. Impossible


  2. To Everyone who is saying that he just shaved his chest hair and put some pro-tan on, you obviously are ignorant. Now I’m not saying I fully believe this method of working out, but the before and after pictures were taken at two different times. For example, the lighting in the pictures is different and there is a shadow in the before pictures. Plus his overall build is bigger in the after. Although they were taken at different times, it seems like he wasn’t even flexing in the before pictures. Me personally I don’t think an hour a week (especially only two days) would be sufficient for a gain like that in one month


  3. Please don’t comment until attempting. This is my 3rd comment on times site. 2 here and 1 losing 20bs in a month. YES IT WORKS. how quickly people are to judge something they’ve never tried and how quick they will regurgitate some obscure harvard medical study about how it’s impossible to add more than x lbs Ina lifetime etc etc. I have twice added over 30lbs of muscle in under 1 month. 2 yrs ago I went from 183 to 205 my heaviest/fattest I’ve I’ve been I didn’t look or feel sexy so I then dieted losing over 20lbs in 30 days getting down to as low as 179lbs and 16.8% bf. that was day 1. I spent the next 30 days going to 18lbs and 9.8% bf. that transformation equates to losing 12lbs of fat while adding 22lbs of muscle in the same time period. So before u run ur mouth and say what is or isn’t possible, try it first. You may fund yourself wrong and fit rather than right and fat!


  4. Hi Tim, firstly thanks for everything, but i was wondering whether you had any experience with how well this works while on the keto diet?
    Thanks, Koray


  5. So disappointed in this article Tim. This is physically impossible without exogenous compounds or substances. Thought you were more honest and genuine than this.

    Source: I’m a bodybuilder.

    Yes I’m a naysayer, and yes I’m more qualified then all of you trying to refute my argument.
    I really looked up to you. Not anymore.


  6. Found this on wiki. Might of used steds on this experiment

    Ferriss has acknowledged using steroids, specifically “a number of low-dose therapies, including testosterone cypionate,” under medical supervision following shoulder surgery, as well as using “stacks” consisting of testosterone enanthate, Sustanon 250, HGH, Deca-Durabolin, Cytomel, and other unnamed ingredients while training.[94]


  7. I have a few questions from a girls persepective – 1) Are the supplements you have mentioned in the book required to achieve muscle growth or would I be able to achieve that solely on exercises and slow carb diet? 2) You mention to reduce rest period between sets from 3min to 30 seonds between each set – would I still be able to achieve muscle growth? My goal is gain muscle. I am 55kg and 164cm tall so I don’t want to loose weight but I’d like to see more muscle growth while still not being bulky. 3) What happens after? Can you just continue to exercise twice a week with the slow carb diet to maintain muscle and not loose it? Do you keep adding weights? Confused as to what happens long term.


  8. I have no huge problems with the workout described. I do however have huge problems with the claimed results in 4 weeks. There is literally no way that it is humanly possible to gain over 30 pounds of muscle in four weeks. Just think of it from a food intake perspective. Over each of the 28 days you will have had to eat more than a pound of food that you didn’t burn off. AND you will have to have kept that weight as muscle. Not possible. Furthermore, the pictures don’t even show a gain of over 30 pounds of muscle. He’s not flexing in the first set of pics. He also shaved and put on tanner for the second pics. The pics also aren’t the same scale. He’s definitely in better shape in the second set, but that’s not 30 pounds of muscle. It’s really somewhat irresponsible to let people think this is achievable. Set realistic goals for yourself and stick with a workout. You have to walk before you can run. Get in a routine and you will be healthy for life.


  9. I don’t even know if this is the right place to post this, but I just wanted to say thanks Tim for a great programme (Occam’s Protocol), and share my results. I followed Occam’s Protocol to the letter for six weeks and gained 6.5kg (14.3lbs) while dropping my body fat from 13% to 9.16%. I know, it seems crazy that you can do so little in the gym and eat so much (I also drank a litre of raw milk every day) and still gain mass while losing body fat, but I tracked the data and that’s what happened.


  10. 30 pounds in one month…. so basically it should only take 3 months to get on stage with Mr. Olympia….. seems legit lol. A pound of muscle a day… not EVEN possible with the fattest stack of steroids. And the diet too… hilarious. You’d have to eat 3500 calories on top of your maintenance, somewhere close to 6 thousand calories a day AND not gain a pound of fat. I used to wonder why these scam artists keep trying to spread this nonsense and then after reading some of these comments I realize that some people actually believe this is possible. Just mind boggling how people can be so out of touch with reality… completely blows my mind.


  11. After trying a lot of other of your awesome lifehacks, I’m currently on this one. Today I did the first session according to your book 4HB. I’m fit with pull-ups already, but I have a problem with the “close-grip supinated pull-down x 7 reps (5/5 count)”. The muscles that fail first are the ones in my forearms. Meaning I can’t hold the grip with the hands any more, but still have lots of reserves with the muscles that actually pull down the bar. So I don’t get to the point where I actually train until those targeted muscles fail. What can I do?
    (I’m weighing 165 pounds and I’m able to do the 7 pull-ups with the 5/5 count with a weight of 200 pounds. Then my grip fails, but I could actually do more reps with the rest of the muscles.)


  12. Hey Tim, I’m reading your book and I’m confused, you say that you did the 10 exercises you listed for the experiment, but then later you have the A and B exercise sets. I don’t know which to do, the 10 exercises you did or the A and B. I’m going to do this for an acting role, thanks Tim.


  13. From what I understand, Occam’s protocol uses 4 exercises total and two workout days a week doing 2 exercises each day. Tim says to fight the urge to do more exercises because this is the minimum dose you need to get the results. However, with Geek to Freak, he states to use 4-7 exercises. Wouldn’t doing more exercises defeat the purpose of minimum effective dose? I’m confused.


  14. Any lean red meats will work great for building muscle. Having a couple of servings per day. Red meat is definitely on the top of the list of foods that build muscle.

    It would be even better if you could get grass-fed red meat to a local farmer. Check around and you can find one. Tastes great too!