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From Geek To Freak: How I Gained 34 Lbs. Of Muscle In 4 Weeks!

Timothy was tired of being the skinny kid on the block and decided to make great changes to his body. Learn more about his training and how he gained 34 pounds of muscle, while losing 3 pounds of fat. All in 28 days!

Before Before:
146 lbs
After After:
177 lbs

Vital Stats

Name: Timothy Ferriss
Age: 29
Weight Before: 146 lbs.
Weight After: 177 lbs. (183 three days after last official weighing)
Body Fat % Before: 16.72%
Body Fat % After: 12.23%
Total Muscle Gained: 34 lbs.
Total Fat Loss: 3 lbs.
Time Elapsed: 4 weeks
Favorite Exercises:

Supplements Used For This Transformation:

Why Did I Decide To Do This?

I weighed 152 lbs. for four years of high school, and after training in tango in Buenos Aires in 2005, I had withered to 146 pounds. I was born premature and suffered bullying for the first 12 years of life, and I had no desire to once again be the skinniest person in the room.

Hence the decision - upon returning the U.S. - to perform 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 pounds of muscle, while losing 3 pounds of fat, in 28 days.

Before After
Click Image To Enlarge.
Timothy Ferriss.

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. Though this ridiculous experiment might seem unhealthy, I also managed other health goals without the use of statins (see the pre-bed supplementation). 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 8 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 (@ss at widest) - 34" to 38.23"

Before After
Click Image To Enlarge.
Timothy Ferriss.

Here are the six basic principles that made it happen:

1. One-Set-To-Failure:

    Follow Arthur Jones' general recommendations for one-set-to-failure (80-120 seconds per set) from the little-known Colorado Experiment, but with lower frequency (maximum of twice per week) and with at least 3 minutes between exercises.

2. 5/5 Cadence:

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

3. Focus On 4-8 Exercises:

4. Protein & Low Glycemic Carbs:

    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 down-regulation.

5. Increase Recovery Time Along With Size:

    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 Everything:

    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.

    Questioning the basic assumptions about resistance training led me to a surprising conclusion: less is more. It just requires working out smarter instead of more often.

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Rule #1: Eat The Same Few Meals Over & Over Again:

    The most successful dieters, regardless of whether their goal is muscle gain or fat loss, eat the same few meals over and over again. Mix and match, constructing each meal with one from each of the following groups. I've put an asterisk next to my most common defaults:


      • Egg whites with one whole egg for flavor
      • Chicken breast or thigh*
      • Grass-fed organic beef
      • Tuna*
      • Pork


      • Lentils*
      • Black beans*
      • Pinto beans
      • Dal


      • Yams/Sweet Potatoes
      • Steamed Rice
      • Quinoa* (higher protein content than rice and keeps 3-4x longer)
      • Macaroni*

    Eat as much as you like of the above food items. Just remember: keep it simple. Pick three or four meals and repeat them.

    Note To Vegetarians & Green Eaters: a 1/2 cup of rice is 300 calories, whereas a 1/2 cup of spinach is 15 calories. Vegetables are not calorically dense, so it is critical that you add legumes or starches for caloric load.

Meals Per Day:

    Some athletes eat 6-8x per day to break up caloric load and avoid fat gain.

    I found this unnecessarily inconvenient, particularly when you are on a regimen of supplements (chromium polynicotinate [not picolinate], ALA, etc.) that increase insulin sensitivity. I eat 4x per day:

    • 10am - breakfast
    • 1pm - lunch
    • 5pm - second lunch
    • 7:30-9pm - sports training (if in-season)
    • 10pm - dinner

Favorite Meal:

    My single favorite meal for mass is simple: macaroni (preferably durum whole wheat), water-packed canned tuna, and fat-free turkey/bean chili. Use a little skim milk instead of butter with the macaroni (also only 1/3 of the orange flavor powder) and bulk prepare that in advance.

    Mix the macaroni with a can of tuna and as much chili as you like, microwave it for one minute on high, and have it for breakfast in a bowl. It actually tastes fantastic. I sometimes had that meal 2-or-3 times per day, as prep time was less than 3 minutes if you prepped the macaroni two times per week in volume.


Post-Workout Drink:

    Last but not least, consume a high-glycemic post-workout drink, usually sold at the gym (or just prepurchase Mass Recovery), within 30 minutes of working out, when glucose transporters like GLUT4 are temporarily brought to the muscle cell surface. I actually mix Mass Recover with water in a 50/50 ratio and sip from the bottle between sets, polishing off the remaining 50% of the Mass Recovery immediately after the workout.

Additional Training Data

For exercise sequence, I recommend doing one or two exercises (upper body) to prep the nervous system, then move to legs. If you want an alternative to whole-body session, I have also experimented successfully with a 3-workout split:

  1. Pushing movements
  2. Pulling movements
  3. Legs

If you are unconditioned or deconditioned (atrophied), take one day between workouts (e.g., PUSH, one day off, PULL, one day off, LEGS, one day off, ad-nauseum) for the first two weeks, two days between workouts for the next three weeks, then move to three days between workouts.

My favorite movements for pure mass using this split are below. Don't forget at least 3-5 minutes between exercises and just one set to concentric failure for each exercise:

Before After
Click Image To Enlarge.
Timothy Ferriss.

About The Author:

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