Keith and Kevin Hodge, better known as "the Hodgetwins" on their YouTube channel TwinMuscleWorkout, specialize in a unique brand of fitness advice that's quickly turning the duo's videos into cult classics, but not because they have big production values of fitness systems like P90X, or huge special effects budgets.
Think of them as the "Blair Witch Project" of the fitness world—original, street, and no-holds-barred. If you want someone to weigh in on just about any topic with unabashed honesty peppered with boundless profanity, then theirs is the most honest channel on the internet. It's no-bullshit fitness advice that's entertaining and rock-solid, but also includes more comments and stories about life in general.
The twins begin each broadcast by taking extreme pauses and making faces at the screen, which sets the mood for the antics that follow. Their charisma and wit is infectious, but the underpinning theme is an ambition to help people and promote the healthy lifestyle they so obviously live and breathe. But this path to success wasn't the way people traditionally achieve it.
"We always say we took the long route into our careers in fitness and entertainment," they explain. "In 2008, we uploaded our first video with absolutely no idea it would become the start of new careers for us. We had this dream of making people laugh while inspiring them to live healthier lives, but didn't quite know how to achieve that and earn a living. One day at work, Keith had this idea that we should quit our jobs to do YouTube videos full time, and so we did.
"Our first channel was just a comedic commentary channel where we gave our views of current events, and it did well. Next came advice channels, at the urging of our new fans, but our fitness channel is really where it all took off for us. We were very interested in health, but we first had to answer our harshest critic, which at the time was the mirror.
"Neither of us liked how we looked or felt, and we knew we weren't at our optimum health. We started working out to improve our own fitness levels, and took our viewers along for the ride. If someone had told us back then that we'd be doing this, we wouldn't have believed them."
It's abundantly clear that the twins are now doing their dream job, with explosive career prospects on the horizon. They're currently developing their own TV show, which has afforded them the opportunity to work with several comedians they've always admired.
They've also launched a clothing brand (officialhodgetwins.com), but their main ambition is to meet their fans in person—a testament to their charismatic personalities. But before you head to YouTube to get your fix of their videos, here is a behind-the-scenes look at their training, motivations and eating philosophies.
When it comes to building muscle, change gets gains. In fact, trying a new workout every 4-8 weeks and taking rest weeks is a time-honored practice among lifters. This periodized approach is the key to long-term exercise success and avoiding overtraining.
No matter how much you switch up your training, there's often a program that works best for your particular body type. The Hodges' physiques are no exception.
"Working each body part twice per week using a rep range of 5-8 reps for compound movements, such as squats, deadlift and bench presses, and 8-12 reps for isolation exercises, such as concentration curls and triceps pushdowns, seems to be the formula we've had the most success with," they explain. "Plus, we don't train to failure."
This notion might go against the mantra of yesteryear's bodybuilders, but research is lending plenty of credence to it. A study in the "Journal of Applied Physiology" had one group of athletes train to failure and the other train to nonfailure. At the end of six weeks, there was no significant difference between the gains made by either group. Yep, that's right: all that extra effort for no additional reward, so save your breath and listen to the Hodge wisdom.
This was actually echoed by further research at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, where it was discovered that lifting less weight more times is just as effective for building muscle as lifting with heavy weights. Plus you're probably less likely to get injured.
The Hodge twins often run cooking segments—diet has always formed a huge part of their broadcasts—answering questions from viewers and showcasing the best foods for building muscle. That said, some of the broadcasts have explained how to eat a post-workout meal at McDonalds—yep, we've all been there.
But despite the odd indulgence, their strategy is quite traditional while being unique. "We eat 120-140 grams of protein a day," says Kevin. "I don't get a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight because I weigh 206 pounds. That's way too much protein because your colon and kidneys are getting a pounding. I eat 2,500 calories a day to get both stronger and bigger, because I know how my body runs.
"Find the calories you need to maintain growth, and then make sure you have enough protein. Some days it's real easy to get carbs because they're in everything, and in one meal you can consume all your fats for the day.
"There ain't nothing wrong with tracking your nutrients, but we ain't be doing all that. I eat what the fuck I want to eat wherever I want to eat: Taco Bell, KFC, Chili's—whatever.
"We eat well, as long as we're getting all the calories. If you find your own way of eating that fits your lifestyle, you'll make all kinds of gains. I count my calories and make sure I get my protein. You can't do a bulking routine for the rest of your life or you'll get heart disease—you need to find how much food you need to maintain."
Though it might seem a little unconventional, their results do speak for themselves and they do offer a few golden rules for eating to look good.
- Rule 1: Protein sources should be lean cuts of beef, chicken, and eggs.
- Rule 2: Ideal carb sources are rice, potatoes, legumes, and vegetables.
- Rule 3: Eat home-cooked meals and healthy choices from restaurants as well.
- Rule 4: When reducing their weight, the twins eat 1,800-2,000 calories daily.
- Rule 5: They restrict carbohydrates to 50 grams or less 2-3 days a week.
- Rule 6: Eat up to 4-6 to six small meals per day.
Opinions That Matter
The fitness industry can be a fickle workplace and not without elements that can kick your blood pressure up a notch. "One of the things we don't like about the fitness business is dealing with some of the egos where people think they are better than others because their fitness level may be better at the moment," the twins explain. "It's discouraging to people still trying to obtain their best personal fitness level."
Getting started on your journey is far more important than posturing about how good you can or should be. In fact, research at Michigan State University found that athletes report more life-skill and character development when coaches place greater emphasis on self-improvement rather than winning alone.
So even though the Hodge twins have a tough-as-nails veneer, on the inside it's clear they genuinely care about their supporters, and try to tailor things to each individual as much as possible.
"The one-size-fits-all mentality is another one of our pet hates," they explain. "We are all different, and everyone's body reacts differently to different exercises and nutrition, volume, and rep ranges. What may work for you may not work for someone else. We are very clear about that in our advice to people.
"Sometimes you have to try a number of different approaches or a combination of routines to reach your fitness goals."
Though genetics is a fledgling science, it is beginning to answer why this phenomenon stops some people from maxing out their T-shirt sleeves no matter how many curls they do.
Some people respond very well to weight training, some respond a little, and others don't respond at all, found research in "Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise." Using the same training program, the worst responders lost 2 percent of their muscle mass and didn't gain any strength, while the best responders gained 59 percent more muscle and increased their strength by 250 percent. Those staggering differences beg the question: How likely are you to draw the genetic short straw?
Well, research in the "Journal of Applied Physiology" found 26 percent of people gained no brawn at all after a month-long weight-training program. However, that does not mean that a quarter of all lifters are destined to a lifetime of spaghetti arms. The nonresponders simply didn't react to that kind of weight-training protocol, so take the twins' advice, mix it up, and see what works best for you.
Living The Dream
Though the Hodges often project an air of anger, this is usually applied for comedic effect, because it's abundantly clear they love what they do.
"Our fans not only inspire us, but they are also the real source of our credibility," they explain. "We constantly receive before and after photos from our fans that show us exactly what impact we've had on helping them reach their fitness goals and optimum health.
"It is life-changing for them, so it's personal for us. It's why we do what we do, the way we do it. We don't sugarcoat anything, and give them the same advice we follow on our own fitness journeys."
This is what separates the twins from other fitness channels—the personal touch and willingness to poke fun at themselves—but it's not all jokes. Behind the personas are two guys with some serious fitness chops.
"We are both International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) certified personal trainers," the twins say. "It was important to us both to become certified because we do take fitness seriously. We wanted to have access to the best information, and so we're constantly doing research and updating our knowledge on what's new in fitness and nutrition."
While the twins don't deliver information in textbook-boring drone fashion, you can still take their knowledge and advice very seriously.