Gaining double digits of muscle within four weeks with only a few short workouts sounds great. But it’s not as easy as it sounds. Just wait to see how much you have to eat!
This winter I lost some weight bringing me to an all time low of 142 lbs (at 5’11” height). I’m usually at about 147 lbs. Since I was looking very feeble I decided to try and bulk up a little. For fun I experimented with the exercise and nutrition protocol outlined in Tim Ferriss’ book, The 4-Hour Body.
Tim gained 34 lbs of muscle during a four week period with 4 hours of exercise.
I gained 12 lbs in 3.5 weeks with 3.5 hours of exercise, going from 145.6 lbs to 157.6 lbs. While it’s about a third of what Tim gained, its still damn impressive. Why did only complete 3.5 weeks instead of 4? Because I was sick of eating.
Here’s a summary of what I did, my challenges, and what I would do differently next time. Keep in mind that this is a summary. If you’re thinking of doing the same program I suggest getting Tim’s book. It goes into a lot of detail and outlines many important points and options not mentioned here.
Lets begin with a few ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos. While not huge, I definitely started to fill out nicely after just 3.5 weeks.
Ten exercises to cover the whole body, stimulating maximum hormonal response with each workout.
Each exercise is performed very slowly (5 seconds up, 5 seconds down, for a total of 10 seconds per rep) with a 3 minute break between each exercise (except where noted by a “+” where no break was taken).
Each set I attempted to perform 7RM (rep max), except for crunches and neck resistance exercises. This is a true 7RM, meaning no assistance from a spotter.
If I completed 7 or more reps, I increased the weight in the subsequent workout. If I did 6 reps only, the weight was maintained for the next workout for that exercise. If I stalled (completed 6 reps for two or more exercises) I increased my break between workouts by one day.
I started with two days break between workouts.
1. Leg Press (machine)
2. Hamstring Curl (machine)
3. Pullover +
4. Yate’s Row
5. Pec Fly+
6. Tricep Curl (machine)
7. Bicep Curl reverse grip
8. Calf raise (machine)
9. Manual Neck resistance
1. 5g creatine monohydrate at waking and at bedtime with 250 ml of water
2. Alpha-Lipoic Acid (30mg) 30 minutes before lunch and dinner. I stopped this after two weeks because I kept forgetting to take it, plus it gave me heartburn.
3. L-Glutamine 8000 mg per day for the first 5 days, then 3000 mg post workouts only.
4. My regular multivitamins
This was the toughest part of the program and the primary reason for my limited weight gain in the last half of the program. I did not eat enough. I was sick of eating.
Here’s what my ideal eating day looked like:
Smoothie (cup of milk, banana, heaping tablespoon of almond butter, 1/2 cup of berries, 1.5 scoops of whey protein powder, cup of water)
Glass of water.
Coffee, chocolate muffin, and 2-3 eggs. Two glasses of milk and a glass of water.
Chicken breast (or two) with tons of rice and some veggies + glass of water.
Protein bar or milk with a scoop of protein. Glass of water.
Usually same as lunch.
PM snack #2
Protein bar or more milk, some nuts etc.
Smoothie (same as for breakfast) and glass of water.
The biggest challenge was eating enough. Or more accurately, the biggest challenge was forcing myself to eat enough.
That really was the only challenge. By about week two I was sick if eating. I started to eat less (but it was still a lot compared to normal). However, not keeping up with all the meals as planned resulted in lower muscle gains than I would have expected otherwise.
What I Would Do Differently
1. Pre-make my meals for each week. If eating was the toughest part of the experiment, making all the food was the second.
2. Vary the meals a little more. Eating chicken twice a day every week sucks.
3. Make sure I always have good snacks ready so that I don’t need to eat sugary protein bars. This caused some fat gain in week 1. (I limited my protein bar consumption starting week 2). A good substitution may be Greek yogurt (make sure it’s high in protein) with cinnamon.
4. Change up the pec fly exercise for a bench press. I felt my joint was a bit stressed with heavy weights in the fly motion.
5. Make sure to have a fasting day once a week. It’s important to reset your system.
Again, this is a very basic overview of what the protocol looks like. I highly recommend you get Tim’s book The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman if you’re thinking of doing it. The book goes into great detail on what to do, how to schedule your workouts, what exercises to pick, what supplements to consider, etc.
Also, here are a few links to related posts on Tim’s blog which may be helpful:
– How To Gain 20 Pounds In 28 Days
– From Geek to Freak: How I Gained 34 lbs. of Muscle in 4 Weeks