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

1,324 Comments

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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:

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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!

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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)

1,324 comments on “From Geek to Freak: How I Gained 34 lbs. of Muscle in 4 Weeks

      • Your an idiot, look again, 2 comparisons have him nearer in the after shots, and 2 have him further away, but you just saw what you wanted to..
        Even with the slight differences in distance between the shots it’s easy for anyone to see the difference in his musculature.
        If this was really an attempt to deceive then it would have been a poor attempt, in fact it would have been as easy to photoshop the after shots.

        Like

      • He alternated in the shots before/after of standing closer to the camera vs. further so it’s a wash… look more closely.

        Like

    • This is a joke. Anybody who spends an ounce of time in the gym should know this. ive been at it for a year and a half. I started out at 145 pounds and right now im 175 of actual good weight and worked my ass off every month to get where i am.34 pounds of fat and muscle in a month is doable and probably 85% will be fat. Its impossible to gain 34 pounds of lean muscle a month much less a year. If every guy could gain 34 pounds in a month then all guys on earth would be jacked. Great transformation, but i know it didnt take 4 weeks. Probably a year minimum. this is a scam dont buy it.

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      • Please don’t immediately dismiss things without experimenting and trying them for yourself. I understand your disbelief, especially considering the amount of hard work you probably put in at the gym. The reason why not all men are jacked is b/c most of us are lazy, and/or don’t workout. I used Mark Lauren’s ‘”You are your own gym” and while I didn’t gain 34lbs, I noticed extreme gains in strength in just 4 weeks and am now able to do handstand pushups, something I was never able to achieve from my time in the gym (which was a lot). Your body is a machine and like all machines can be manipulated to improve its performance.

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      • that’s because you’re a beginner, and there’s the reason for your big gains.

        After some time, your gains will be lower and lower, and harder harder to get.

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      • You both have a point but you have to remember that everyone is built differently which can change how fast you gain muscle or loss fat. Another factor is how you eat, you need a good source of protein and other things too.

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      • This is the typical “I can’t do that so it must be a lie” type of response. The web is full of this kind of hate speech. Anything that points out that what someone else is doing isn’t the best way to do something is said to be a scam. Just remember that your results may vary. If you put out more effort you will do better. If you put out less you will do worse.

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      • True, lots of people claim something is impossible just because they cannot do it. If you work hard in the weight room you should just about always see results. Although from the little I read he says he worked out 2 times for 30 minutes per week. That is 4 hours, and you are trying to tell me he put on 34 pounds of muscle? I’m sorry but no. 4 hours of working out over 30 days, and getting more than a pound of muscle a day…

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      • I agree. Suspicious of the gains, I checked the waist size difference, and the gain there is the same as the other dimensions! So, it obviously is due to largely water or fat gain, again I suspect through creatine use, as the same happened to me. The size all disappeared after I quit using it!

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      • Any body who doubts this program obviously hasn’t used it. I’ve used it 3 times and gained an average of 1lb per day of pure muscle while losing fat for the thirty days. Yes that’s 30 lbs of lean muscle in thirty days. And I’ve been body building for 28 years and have tried everything. This hands down works the best. The hard part is actually the eating. You have to eat like it’s your job….

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      • Wait — you’ve used this 3 times and gotten 30 pounds over 30 days each time? You’ve used this to gain 90 pounds of lean muscle on top of the weight you’ve gained from bodybuilding for 28 years? Or have you been gaining 30 pounds, losing 30 pounds, gaining 30 pounds, etc over the course of your life?

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      • You know? You were with him the whole time? If not you don’t know so stop being a hater, challenge conventional “wisdom” and give it a go.
        There’s many reasons why people plateau or get minimum gains and its usually because your not eating enough or pushing yourself hard enough at the gym.

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      • Very easy for the Arthur Jones method to work. A couple good books on it out there, my fave is By Ellington Darden called the new high intensity training. You will learn about Arthur jones experiments with this style of training in the book if you just read it. I gained 12 lbs in 6 weeks of of this program, diet is key as well. I trained 3 people in e HIT method, and one guy went from 212 to 164 in about 4 months and got pretty muscular. My close friend I trained couldn’t handle the intensity but he gave it a good effort which is more than a lot of people can do as this is very difficult. The third guy I trained was young, and never worked out before with weights and in 9 weeks went from 137 to 163. Arthur Jones trained Casey Viator in this method as well after he got in an accident and lost most of his size. He utilized mostly negatives with this method and gained a ridiculous amount of weight in a few short weeks. Granted some of that was muscle memory though. This method does work, just not for everyone… Most don’t have what it takes to push through it.. Give it a shot.

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      • Your absolutely right, I only gained 16lbs in 24 days, but only 13 were muscle….of course I did have an extra 1.5yrs that I didn’t have to spend in the gym that you got over me. :) Applied knowledge is power. If we ruled out everything we didn’t know or try, the world would still be flat. Thank you Tim!!!

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      • In my late 30s after working out steadily for half a year, I devoted 6 weeks to a ketogenic diet and multiple sets of exercise to negative failure. The workout, in retrospect, was unnecessarily brutal. But, I lost 10 pounds of fat and gained 15 pounds of new, not regained, muscle. Furthermore, my strength increased by at least 50% in most lifts (singles). I never had similar results before or since. Big changes in short periods is possible.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Brilliant! so much for the conventional wisdom that you can’t pack on muscle while on a ketogenic diet. Perhaps you could tell us what your diet looked like?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Not true….in my hay day…..I gained 15 lbs of muscle and lost 25lbs of fat in less than 5 weeks…this was recorded by a trainer…he couldn’t believe it since I am a girl!!!!….he said I have good mind muscle connection…..

        Like

  1. Very interesting, inspirational and impressive!
    Did you do any negative only exercises like Jones did in the study?
    Have you been able to maintain the gains since you first did this?

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  2. Great transformation Tim, your before and after photos are fantastic. I have a few questions:

    What was your rep-range for each of your exercises?
    How many calories per day were you eating?
    Were you also doing any cardio exercise?

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  3. Wow!!

    Along with the fat-loss diet look like two things I need to start today!

    Thanks for sharing this with us!

    Your book is great, I ordered it via Amazon first but the ship date went from 2 days to the first or second week of May so I dropped by my local Borders and found one copy that I snagged. I will be seeking a worthy recipient for the copy from Amazon when I finally receive it.

    Like

  4. OK, I like the idea of doing your own homework. And I don’t doubt this can be done (you were in good shape to begin with, although many will not see that). But I’m a guy who also designs his owns training, and I know a lot about this stuff, and were I to try to start your program (I wouldn’t, I like spending more time exercising (: ), I would have no idea where to start.

    In other words, if this is meant for beginners – and all geek-to-fantastic-body programs are – you should explain the workout routines in more detail.

    And, while we’re at it, there’s no way a beginner will be able to apply your principles; I bet you have had a lot of experience before starting the program.

    These aren’t really criticisms, just observations (;.

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  5. any chance you might give us a little more detail on the workout routine/principle? I went to the colorado experiment link but they give a bunch of stats on the results, not what working out to the point of failure means or what routine they used, etc…

    Thanks!

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  6. I’m signing up to be your first female case study! I’d like to get leaner and sleeker during my 28 day trial; I’ll let you know how it goes.

    Just started the slow-carb diet (and also picked up my copy of the Four Hour Workweek)on Saturday. My boyfriend leafed through the book and is already bugging me to finish so he can steal it.

    Like

  7. Pingback: Blog »
  8. What percentage of your max weight were you using? A. Jones seems a little hazy here.

    Clearly, you keep pushing your set until failure, but with what weight? 40, 50, 60, 70%?

    Also, A. Jones’ message is somewhat fuddled by pitching the Nautilus equipment; with a spotter I can replicate negative-only. Any recommendations on this?

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    • People, if you get the book, it helps. “4 hour body”. To answer your question of percentages. He states that you are to find out what weight you can do for 8 to 12 reps. The idea is for each lift, to have your muscles under a total stress time of 80 to 120 seconds. Each rep should take a total for 10 seconds (5 seconds up, and 5 seconds down).. You must go slow for every rep. For example.. If you want to start this workout. Go pick up a 50lb curl bar, and do as many (5seconds up, 5seconds down) reps as you can. Keep going until you think you can’t get a single more rep, then try for another one. If your arms drop out of complete loss of strength to do another rep, then you have hit muscle failure. Furthermore, you should hit muscle failure at 8 to 12 reps. I go for 10 reps generally. I started out with a 60lb curl bar, and got complete muscle failure at 10 reps. I ate a calculated amount of protein and carbs (which was a load) and at my next workout (which was 3 days later), I tried a 70lb curl bar. I got 10 reps. I gained 10 pounds in the lift. Magic. That hopefully will explain. Some parts of the concept are confusing. Buy the book.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m not sure if the author is telling the truth, but after examining the contents, this seems to be a Nautilus commercial. The first link posted (in the details) mentions that only “rotary” equipment, with direct resistance could do the job, and after setting that up, they finish with “only nautilus equipment was used”.
    Makes me question the authenticity of the entire posting.

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  10. Very interesting. I’d like to do the same. I’m interested in a more specific breakdown of what exercises you used. Do you think you could breakdown your workout routine?

    Also, im not entirely sure I know what you mean by this: “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.”

    Check out my site at http://www.nolimitzentertainment.wordpress.com

    Like

  11. Tim – first stumbled onto your site because of this page being featured on del.icio.us/popular, which is an awesome story in itself. (I could definitely use a new workout/excercise/eating regimen)

    Have since read through almost all of your posts, pages, interviews, etc. Incredible, & truly inspiring!

    Amazon’d your book for 2-day delivery; can’t wait to read the whole thing!

    Like