One claim made by Timothy Ferriss in his blog post From Geek to Freak: How I Gained 34 lbs. of Muscle in 4 Weeks seems rather incredible. Given my new daily schedule, I decided a week ago that I would devote my scheduled workout time to testing the ideas in Tim's post. After all, who does not want to become an intimidating hulk while only spending 4 hours a month in the gym (fortunately I am already intoxicatingly attractive!)? In Tim's own words:
The end result? I gained 34 lbs. of muscle, while losing 3 lbs. of fat, in 28 days...all of this was done with two 30-minute workouts per week, for a total of 4 HOURS of gym time.
Source: Timothy Ferriss' Blog.
Is this another case of questioning assumptions leading to revolutionary results, or a case of unsubstantiated infomercial-esque claims?
As far as I can tell, the program Ferriss describes in his post is a cross between high intensity training and the Aitken's diet. The ideas are not really new at all, but both are somewhat controversial in their respective domains.
The idea behind high intensity workouts is that exercises should be, well, intense! - meaning that one uses heavier weights, for a limited number of repetitions until exhaustion. The corollary being that workouts are brief and infrequent (the typical regimen is to do one set of each exercise three days a week). Supposedly this kind of exercise will cause large increases in muscle size. The controversy surrounds the fact that this type of workout is facilitated by Nautilus style equipment, equipment which came to market at the same time as this style of training was first advocated. One could wonder whether these claims were made for the express purposes of selling such equipment.
Aitken's diet is a high protein, low carbohydrate diet. A quick and dirty version of this diet might be described as simply eating what you eat today, but cut out the bread, potatoes, rice, fruit, desserts and sugar. If you are hungry, eat whatever you want as long as it is not part of the aforementioned list. This diet is controversial because it is more or less mute on the topic of eating fat - the reduction of which is usually the pillar of standard diets and nutritional programs. Having tried a low carbohydrate diet in the past, I believe it can be effective. One would think it is easy to do as there does not have to necessarily be a reduction in food quantity - as long as the carbs are cut out. However, after a month of low carb'ing it, you would be surprised how enticing a simple bowl of steamed rice or a bun appears.
I want to state emphatically that I am not an expert on high intensity training, or the Aitken's diet. Furthermore, I am not an athlete, personal trainer or a doctor (unless I am trying to meet women in a bar). The above is just my simple understanding, I encourage you to investigate everything further, and I am hardly advocating that either works or is even healthy (I don't know!).
My Geek to Freak Program
Here is how I have decided to implement my own kinder, gentler "Geek to Freak" program:
- I am following the high intensity training one-set-to-failure method (see the Colorado Experiment). Unlike Ferriss, I am going with the more regular frequency of three workouts per week with 48 hours rest between sessions, which amounts to me doing the training on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The 4 hour per month claim simply sounds too incredulous.
- I am performing every repetition with a 5/5 cadence (5 seconds up, 5 seconds down). As Ferriss points out, this eliminates momentum and ensures a constant load.
- I am doing 11 exercises per training session, working the entire body each workout. I am favouring machines over free weights to ensure discipline and full extension in each movement. My exercises include: Leg presses, extensions and curls, shoulder press, seated rows, chest press, biceps curl, triceps extension, chin-ups, cable cross-overs and calf raises.
- On the diet side, I am avoiding bread, potatoes, rice, fruit, desserts and sugar. I am not going out of my way to eat enormous quantities of protein however by cutting out carbohydrates I am no doubt eating more protein. One thing I need is sugar in my coffee. I am only putting in half a teaspoon per cup (I would put in a teaspoon per cup before).
- I think I will keep the number of exercise sessions per week static even if I increase in strength, size and good looks, as it just works well with my daily schedule. I will do cardio or play hockey or another sport on Tuesday and Thursdays.
- I am recording every workout in detail, including the date, the time of day, my weight, my mood, the order of exercises, reps, and weight.
I'll keep you posted and get some stats up regarding this experiment as soon as possible!
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