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Leangains: Martin Berkhan Means It

It was sometime in April of this year that I had an email exchange with Martin Berkhan of Leangains, private nutrition consultant and trainer. He'd emailed about some utter bullshit like I deal with here every day that's not even worth mentioning.

We got to talking; he complimented me on my progress, I said I had 15-20 pounds more to go and without being the slightest bit pushy, offered that he could help me. Once we delved into what it was I was doing -- that for more than a year at that point had not gotten me materially closer to my goal -- he determined I was fucking around too much in the gym, doing high rep nonsense workouts that were a bad mix of conditioning & strength which, he tells me, he sees all too often in the paleo community. So, he thought I had lots of improvements to make here, with a no BS strength training routine. ...Which turned out to be true -- my training was fucking retarded...recalling, now, those silly-assed 3 x 10 x 135 lbs. deadlifts. Jesus.

But then was the issue of how to deal with it on the blog. As you'll find out in a subsequent entry about "Working with Martin Berkhan," he has a certain style. Without giving that away just yet, suffice to say that "we" decided to keep it a secret until at or near the end. And we're nearing the end.

By now many of you thousands of readers are asking yourselves: who the hell is Martin Berkhan? Understandable -- and I'm glad you asked -- since so many of you are focussed on the Paleo lifestyle, more Crossfit styled workouts and for probably most of you, not obsessed about getting ripped.

Well, you know how I like to use pictures, so click on this for the larger version and no, I'm not telling you which is before & after.

Martin Berkhan
Martin Berkhan

You can learn all you like about Martin's very long path from fat teenager to near anorexic male model to the absolutely ripped and shredded guy you see above who dead lifts 600 pounds + and does chin ups with a weight belt sporting 100 pounds +. Right here, six posts.

This is going to be a multi-part series culminating in an interview with Martin. As such, I'm going to keep each entry relatively short and we'll go for as long as it takes. I really want this to sink in, because I think Martin is at the very top of his game right now and is finally getting the recognition he deserves. And I know those of you paying attention in these areas are well aware of that. In short, Martin is in many ways turning lots of bodybuilding bullshit on its head. Finally.

As a bit of of a preview, Martin is positive towards Paleo and many of his clients are from the Paleo community, and intermittent fasting (IF) also plays a very core, crucial role in the success he gets. Of course, fasting is also quite Paleo.

And for a final preview, here's a video of me just today, doing dead lifts. That's 305 pounds for 4 reps and then a second set of 275 pounds for another 4 reps. I turn 50 in January. six months ago I was doing something like 155 pounds, feeling satisfied. I was full of shit.

So, there it is. The next post will detail how I lost nearly 10 pounds while gaining over 50% on my dead lift, among other Lean-ing-Gains.

The takeaway is this: Lean Gains. You can gain strength -- like you can't even imagine -- and lean out at the same time.

This is real, and it turns the body building world on it's head.

Update: Installment number two is right here: Leangains: Martin Berkhan’s Workout Approach

Comments

  1. I’m interested in to hear what Martin has to say. From the little that I know about the BB community it is a lot about eating huge amounts, ‘bulking then cutting’.

    Is Martin’s approach different to that?

    • I can only speak to the program he designed for me after an extensive questionnaire that of course included my own desires & goals.

      No, this did not involve bulking & cutting. I lost fat and gained muscle and strength at the same time. We’ll get more into specifics on the next post – those parts Martin generally reveals about his program.

  2. David Csonka says:

    Great work Richard, your gains have been pretty amazing! Deadlifts are such a satisfying workout, aren’t they?

    • Let me put it this way. I feel I could go to the gym once per week, DLs one week, squats the next, weighted chins the next. 10-15 minutes per session. Rinse & repeat. And with sufficient intensity, never loose a thing in terms of strength or composition.

      • Just back from several weeks in Italy, so catching up on all the blogs I follow. Anyway, I remember telling you this months ago, that it’s about short, super intense, infrequent workouts. I remember I wrote you in your comments about this, and you basically blew me off saying you were going to stick with your 4-5 day / wk workouts.

        Me, I work out 4-6 times max a month, and never lose my seriously impressive strength (dip with 120 lbs dumb bell), 365 lb squats, 405 deadlift. I’m 49 and weigh 160, 11% bodyfat.

        It’s ALWAYS about intensity. The enemy of intensity is duration. Once you TRULY appreciate these two statements, you will finally know how to properly strength train. And add this: the more intense the workout, the longer the required recovery period. So, if you’re truly pushing you intensity to absolute max, then one workout per 7-10 days should be your limit. (However, most people THINK they’re pushing themselves to the max, but really they’re not.) Finally, the best workouts are short, condensed, little rest between sets, and exhausting to your cardiovascular system. When I workout without a partner, I’m in and out of the gym in under 25 mins. And my condensed, intense workouts blow away the effectiveness of people who spend two hours in the gym.

        But all of this is extremely counter-intuitive. Only 1-in-100 people ever believe me over the years, and they look at me as a genetic freak for being able to get away with it. They call themselves hardgainers. There’s no such thing — a hardgainer is merely a poor trainer, usually an over-trainer, who doesn’t understand that intensity trumps duration, and intensity requires much longer recovery periods.

        Most people never see the light. But from a paleo perspective, it makes perfect sense. Humans that survived evolved such that they didn’t need to work out often to maintain peak physical form. Humans only need occasional peaks (twice or so a month) to build and maintain required athletic physical attributes. Our ancestors rested more than anything. They NEVER exercised, so the human body evolved to trigger growth from super brief periods of intense activity.

        BTW, bodybuilders generally use cheats (like steroids) to overcome overtraining and poor training. We should NOT use them as our strength building models.

      • You must have me confused with someone else, Scott. I never, ever worked out more than twice per week, 30 minutes a session. Ever. And my very first post on the topic in May, 2007 talked principally about the inverse relationship between intensity and endurance.

        Now, with Martin’s program, it’s 3x per week, 30 min each, but there are some remidial aspects to it, for now. Once I build up to DLs in the 400s and squats in the 300s, workouts will become far less frequent.

  3. I cannot wait to see this series. I have been researching the leangains approach for a few months now. I tried it once but didnt do it correctly. Gained 5lbs. I am retrying it again (started Monday) and am hoping for better results this time around now that I believe I know what I am doing. Cannot wait to see your progress.

  4. ….awesome Richard, Congrats! Can’t wait for the next episode! :)

  5. Strong work!

  6. this lean-gain concept interests me greatly too, I have been working at it on my own, but not making near the progress I think I should, cant wait to read more about it.

  7. He’s got an interesting take on alcohol consumption– worth checking out of grins and ideas.

  8. I’m so psyched for more of this. I found LeanGains a few weeks ago and have been reading all of his stuff. I didn’t realize it, but with only a little tweaking I was kind of already following his protocol. Can’t wait to read the rest!

  9. I’ve been following the Leangains plan (albeit quite loosely) for the last couple of months. Basically two or three big meals within an 8 hour window (but as I said I’m a bit loose so sometimes this window expands), plenty carbs on training days and low-carb high-fat on recovery days. So far I’ve made better strength gains than I did with the “traditional” approach (high carb, frequent meals) or the moderately-low-carb Paleo approach. I can’t say however whether the gains have been down to the diet or down to other factors (better sleep etc.). I’ll be interested to read what you have to say anyway.

  10. I knew it! Your description of what you had been doing seemed very close to LeanGains…which I started on after a consultation about 3 months ago. I’d been messing around for so long, erratically, that it was worth the money to get a good program outlined. I gained a lot of strength and leaned out a little. Unfortunately, I injured myself a bit (bad lifting form) so am now using it to hold steady and maintain my gains/fat loss while I swap in some other lifts to recover. In about a month or so will hit it hard again.

    It is an adaptable program, allowing for this sort of thing. Combining IF with high-strength lifting and plenty to eat…it is a super combo.

    Scott W

  11. Me too – I knew you were talking about Martin from day one – I’ve been a fan of him for years. His clients progress photos are always jawdropping, and obviously, as you show above, he walks the talk completely. He occasionally loses me with the more technical stuff, but his posts are always very insightful.

    His cheesecake mastery series is funny too. Although….not very paleo. 80/20 I guess ;-)

    • PS – perhaps we should send some of the 30 BaD crew his way for bulking up…..

      • There’s some things even Martin can’t fix. :)

        Joking, of course. I would imagine that if any one of them were willing to submit themselves to his dictatorship – which is absolutely required – they would see gain gains, ie, an increase in weight from added lean mass and strength, but a decrease in BF percentage. They have no place to go but to bulk up some.

  12. Leonardo says:

    On a slightly different note, i’ve noticed that your video clips don’ t load. Is this only me or are others experiencing the same? I use Safari on Mac.

    Thanks,
    Leonardo

  13. They don’t load for me either. At least this one didnt.

  14. Aha! That explains the cottage cheese!

  15. Richard your blog is the bomb as is Martin’s.
    My story is similar to yours and I can tell you you haven’t even
    scratched the surface on the strength gains you’ll see ;-)

    I hate people who post advice in comments but I guess I’ll be the
    knucklehead today. your hip flexibility (or lack of it in this case) makes getting into
    a strong (read safe) position at the bottom of the DL tough.
    Especially if you’re pushing to pull PR’s regularly you might want
    to consider pulling from the lowest pin in the rack instead of the floor.
    It will radically improve your form instantly and leave you much less
    vulnerable to injury. Unfortunately I know this from hard earned experience.
    You can always work on hip flexibility as well and ultimately pull from the
    floor but to keep you rollin’ just pulling bottom pin will do ya.

    Keep up the awesome work … you ROCK brutha!
    M

  16. Richard first I want to thank you for the amazing blog.
    Have been following your blog for sometime now.I am sure you know and will be careful with those heavy deadlifts as they have been responsible for a lot of back injuries!

    Regards

  17. richard just wanted to add that I deadlift heavy and regularly and encourage you to enthusiastically continue. there are few exercises if any more important than the deadlift. Nothing unsafe about the act itself just when form flies off.

  18. Richard, congrats on the 305×4. That is a big milestone. You’re probably wishing you got that last rep though aren’t you.

  19. Martin is by far the best. I’ve never found a program that works anything near as well as his. Very easy too (relatively speaking). He needs to write his book already.

  20. Mountain Dew says:

    LG is a tweaking of CKD (which I’ve done in the past and loved) with IF thrown in (which is great because who the hell has time to eat 6 meals a day? We’re not cows we don’t need to graze like them). The evidence speaks for itself and I hope Martin really turns some heads!

  21. Richard,

    This looks like it will be a great series of posts. I can’t wait to see what you have in store. Question for you regarding your workouts: do you workout in a fasted state or do you have a pre-workout meal? I tend to be one of those that likes to workout in the early AM before I head into work. I generally have been working out in a fasted state. I read some of Martin’s website and it looks like he recommends 10g of BCAA pre and then 20g of BCAA post workout for a person like me (then you started the feeding window).

    I guess to take a step back; do you subscribe to the feeding window/IF pattern (16/8) that Martin suggest?

    Thanks

    • Reid:

      Long before I became Martin’s client I was already sold on fasted workouts. On my initial loss of 60 pounds I discovered IF and timed my workouts to coooncide with my two weekly fasts of 30-36 hours – at the end.

      I have lots of posts about it if you search fasting on my blog. Otherwise, yea, I always work out hungry. I have tried once or twice to do a meal withing a few hours and I always hate it. Gives me heartburn. Hate it. Besides, once I do my first set, any hunger I have is gone.

      Fed workouts are for pussies.

      • “at the end” meaning workout near the end of the fast.

      • Richard,

        Thanks for the feedback. Do you take 10g of BCAA pre-workout? Also, what are your thoughts on an 8 hour feeding window?

        I enjoy fasted workouts as well.

      • Yea, I have Purple Wrath. Used to take it pre workout, but pretty much near the end of the fast, and it’s zero cal, though sweet.

        Frankly, have noticed no difference since, within the last month it has been packed away in a box for my move.

        I haven’t missed it.

      • Richard,

        One of my favorite meals post workout has become scrambled eggs and sweet potato cooked in coconut oil. Something about the eggs or coconut oil really makes the flavor of the sweet potato come out. My wife boils a few sweet potatoes for me early in the week and then I just keep em’ in the fridge. When it’s time for breakfast I just cube up a few slices of one and throw it in with the eggs.

        Give it a try if you haven’t already. I think you’ll enjoy it.

      • Richard,

        So even as you’re trying to put on muslce you’re sticking with the fasted workouts? Interesting. I did a lot of that when I initially went paleo, and I lost about 40 lbs. But now that I’m trying to bulk up a little bit, I read on Martin’s site where he called fasted workouts “detrimental.” So now I basically eat lunch at 1:00 (first meal), work out around 7:00, and eat after that. Do you think going back to working out in a completely fasted state would be helpful?

        Thanks,

        Jim

      • I’ve got a whole post planned about the meals, in terms of some of the things I like to do, variations and such. Of course, some of that is already in various food porn posts but this will be a chance to put a lot of the Leangains specific stuff into a single post.

      • Yes, Jim, virtually all workouts are right at the end of my fasting window so that my post workout meal and breaking of the fast are one in the same.

  22. Excellent work, Richard! I’ve been waiting to hear what this was all about – excited to see it was working with Martin. I’ll definitely be looking for updates.

  23. Hi Richard,

    First, nice work on the DLs! That improvement alone has got my interest peaked.

    The pictures on Martin’s site are really impressive. Do you know if this is his maintained weight or is this a weight dropped down to for a short period of time? I ask because my hubby and I have a background in bodybuilding and its inherent leaning out phases. If I could get lean without rebounding, it would be sweet, but it scares me to go down this road again (after having spent years trying to sort out my metabolism via paleo). I’m really interested to finding out if Martin is able to achieve this level of leanness on himself and his clients on a maintenance level.

    Thanks, Richard.

    Tara

    • Tara: Martin will be here fielding questions so I will defer to him.

      However, I suspect the answer will be the logical one. No, you can totally maintain lean mass, low BF and super strength. Perhaps not to pro BB competitive requirements especially if juicing (though I know absolutely nothing about that). That’s why Ill defer to Martin.

    • Tara,

      Yes, and so do many of my clients. Keep in mind that it took me many years to find a suitable system that worked for me in order to maintain this state – I am all too familiar with leaning out, and then rebounding, dieting again, rebounding again, etc.

      I’ve talked about this here:

      http://www.leangains.com/2010/03/maintaining-low-body-fat.html

      http://www.leangains.com/2010/03/intermittent-fasting-set-point-and.html

      http://www.leangains.com/2010/03/secret-benefit-of-being-lean.html

      The “secret” to finding a system that allows maintenance of the lean state in the long term depends on

      a) Finding the right approach for you, in terms of meal frequency, macrocomposition, “rules”, etc (while at the same time ignoring conventional wisdom…which is much easier said than done)

      b) Winning the war with yourself – most people that have been dieting for a while, or those that would label themselves as somewhat “serious” when it comes to diet/training and so forth, have neurotic tendencies and irrational thoughts. “Magic thinking”, if you will. This is extremely counterproductive, as we set up imaginary and nonsensical rules for ourselves.

      Concrete example of “b”

      When breaking the rules we set up for ourselves, we get depressed/anxious – and binge.

      Alternatively, we overindulge in “forbidden foods” when we get just a little taste of them. The all-or-nothing-mentality. If you ate some carbs at family dinner, you rationalize that you’ve broken the diet and go “screw it”, eat plate after plate of pasta, and end up in an insulin coma on the sofa for the rest of the day.

      Hope this makes sense.

  24. Richard… Like several of the comments before me, it was pretty obvious when you started incorporating carb refeeds post workout and eating cottage cheese who your consultant was. That and all of your tweeting with each other made me think you already told everyone.
    And seriously…amazing progress.

    Tara,

    Martin says in various places on his blog that he sits around 6% body fat year round, I believe in some of those pictures he might be 5%. He doesn’t rebound much, even after eating a giant cheesecake in one sitting.

  25. Dan Hagg says:

    Richard,
    great stuff. it seemed you might be doing something along these lines.
    i’ve been thinking of consulting with Martin for awhile. I’ve followed the leangains approach for a few months, not perfectly and seem to have stalled after about 7 lbs of muscle gain and dropping the BF. Pulling a heavy set like that is soooooo satisfying isn’t it. the other day i was so pissed off after a morning meeting at work i immediately went home and pulled 345 x 4, 325 x5, 305 x5 with a very similar primal grunt to your video. then went back to work. so much better.

    can’t wait for the posts as i’m still hoping to push up anoth 8-10 lbs of lean mass.

    Dan

  26. I think Martin is a mad genius – the smartest bodybuilders always know the most about nutrition. Ever read Rob Faigan? The man was way ahead of his time in 1990.

  27. ive long read leangains blog and kind of knew that i should adopt it but for whatever excuses i havent. So i love seeing this series.
    and on a purely bloggy side, i love seeing the whole “series” thing with a bunch of posts culminating in an interview, etc. Not that i needed one, but it really give a reason to keep coming back.
    Great DLift btw. rock it.

    • Here’s what you guys need to know. The comments are great and while I already have rough drafts going of the subsequent entries, the comments weigh heavily in my continuing polishing and edits.

      So keep ‘em coming as it will only improve things. I’m looking to have a very vibrant series. It’s about time we changed subjects around here.

  28. anonymous chris says:

    Two questions Richard:
    1) Do you (or perhaps better yet, does your ol’ lady) think that Berkhan looks good?
    2) How can you know for sure that he’s not up to his gums in Winstrol (or something similar)?

    Thanks – looking good Richard

    • Anon Chis

      While you can never absolutely know what a person is doing in private, I trust Martin because of how he has dealt with me over these months.

      If he was a juicer, I think Id have gotten some clue along the way. Not even subtile, to say the least. This was just work.

      Unfortunatey, for Martin, this shit exists and he is always probably going to face the suspicions.

      But he has a golden helment, of sorts. You’d have to believe all of his clients are juicing, too, which is unlikely ’cause they’re real, average people. Too many unbelievable success stories, in pics.

      But more on that in part two.

      • anonymous chris says:

        Actually most if not all of his non-pro bb clients (results/success stories) look natural to me. So I don’t believe that any of his non-pro clients are juicing. Unlike the client-examples HE does not look natural to me. Natural in terms of drug free or natural in terms of well, looking natural.

        If you could tell by talking with someone whether or not they use steroids, drug testing labs would go out of business.

        Do you think he looks good? Do the single-ladies find 4% bf attractive? Just askin’

      • Nathaniel says:

        I think serious bodybuilding goes well beyond the desire to be attractive. Some people do it just to do it, just to see how far they can push themselves.

        I think most people realize that giant muscles cease to be attractive beyond a certain point. But, you can’t blame people for wanting to see what they can do.

        Richard, I look forward to hearing more about this. I’ve been interested in Leangains for a long time but hearing about your personal experience with it will be quite enlightening and you might convince me to try it when I begin lifting in the near future.

        One question… I am pretty much a beginner. I’ve squatted in the past, and I do chin-ups, but I’ve never stuck to a routine for long and never deadlifted before. Would Leangains get me better results in the very beginning, compared to lifting heavy and just eating a lot? I was just going to stick to a regular Paleo diet and drink a lot of milk on top of it.

        But I’m open to being sold on Martin’s approach, based on your upcoming posts!

      • It really depends on what you want. Me, I pursue body comp because “health” is bullshit. Body comp in a paleo context. Then, you’re healthy or your not, but at least you look good in your clothes for as long as you live.

        I wanrpt to look good without even sucking in my stomach. That’s as simple as I can make it.

      • “Health” is not bullshit. If you’re some 70 year old guy who has never been remotely healthy and is 100 pounds overweight , “health” is probably relatively important. I wish my mom and dad would give some thought to “health,” but it’s not going to happen.

        I understand, appreciate and very much respect your pursuit, but I’m in a different camp than yours on this.

      • I mean that health is bullshit in the sense you can and quite possibly will fool yourself. Look at all the conflicting health advice out there.

        Body composition, however, is objective. Get plenty of real food protein, fat, carbs as necessary and build lean mass via properly structured intense workouts. The health then should take care of itself, but still no guarantees.

        I’m just saying to shoot for something you can objectively control and hope it works out for you.

      • money advice :)

      • I’m a married lady, but I am a bit repulsed by muscles that bulge that much. I prefer a trim, lithe look over a heavily muscled one. But that is just me, to each his/her own. I think a Sisson, Wolf, or Le Corre body is much nicer looking.

      • …a Sisson, Wolf, Le Corre or even a Nikoley perhaps?

      • Laurie, Im sure you understand the difference between a full on hyper flex and just normal appearance.

        Nobody wants to go around looking like that normally and it’s not the point in the slightest.

        Martin is very well aware of that.

        Essentially, it comes down to looking nicely ripped, even when you’re relaxed.

      • Yes, I meant no offense to Martin. He looks in wonderful shape. It’s just a preference thing. The question was do women prefer this look and I can only speak for myself. I think guys like the bulging muscle thing for themselves more – not sure why. I think you are spot on though that at least it is an objective way to gauge fitness, though I am not sure that a certain lower % of body fat necessarily equals “health.” I am pretty sure that in women, it does not, but in men? Who knows?

      • I just love how easy it is to sit at your computer, watch porn and stroke it. Oh, and make it look like you’re the one in a tux and someone else has their pants around their ankles.

        Catch my drift, anonymous…anonymous? Anonymous?

        But no gentleman. No wonder. Cause you’re an anonymous pussy.

      • anonymous chris says:

        Is that directed at me Richard?

      • Yes sir it is.

      • DamnDirtyApe says:

        >>Do the single-ladies find 4% bf attractive?

        Does it matter what other people think? You sound a bit jealous anonymous chris.

        If Martin wants to be a human road map of veins and cross-striations then more power to him. Personally it looks bad-ass to me, but then again I’m not a “single lady” so I guess I’m out of contention for ole Chris to pay attention to.

        At least the man lives by his own example and maintains extreme leanness year-round. Doesn’t matter if he’s juiced or not – 99% of bodybuilders (who happen to be the people most concerned with extreme low body fat levels) fail to achieve his level of body composition for more than a few weeks a year on a ton of heavy pharmaceuticals including Clen/DNP (which Martin is most certainly not on)

      • And if you want any more respect than that, identify yourself. I never give a shit about anonymous.

      • So let me get this straight: If I linked my moniker to some web presence, replete with narcissistic ramblings and bad photos, I would have more right to comment? My words would somehow mean something different? I thought you were an anarchist (in the non-hierarchical sense). I thought FTA was a forum for free thinking and dialog, not ego-stroking.

        And unlike the other 99.9% of the people you call names ONLINE, I actually live right near you my friend. You want to try and call me a pussy to my face Richard? Name the time and name place. You’ve got my e-mail.

      • i told you what was required for my respect, I don’t give a shit that you live in Campbell

        You want to be someone to me? Then be Some One.

      • My name is hyperlinked. So what does that prove? Does it change anything I’ve said here before? Funny that you call me a pussy in an online forum and then talk about respect. My previous comment stands.

      • Your beef is that I’ve made anonymous online comments and somehow that’s “stroking it online”. Talk about the pot and the kettle. You’re a “telephone tough guy”. You called me a pussy ONLINE. Well, you’d never treat me with such disrespect to my face Nikoley, try it. So who’s the one “stroking it online”?

      • Sweet FSM, shut the fuck up Chris.

        You realize this is a fairly well-trafficked blog, right? Richard has to get a shit ton of BS communication from it (not only comments but also emails) from all sorts of douchebaggy, anonymous people.

        But hey it’s all about you, right? You want to somehow take it personally that he called you a name over the internet?

        After you came on here, his site, and accused a well-known and respected trainer who is being featured of juicing; now you’re shocked, *shocked* that you got a negative response back.

        No one is being an internet tough guy here except for you. Grow the fuck up.

      • Aaron Curl says:

        Agreed with the above. I got accused of juicing this summer because of my low bodyfat! I am six foot one inch and weigh 170-175. If I was juicing I sure would weigh a lot more than 170! When the human body has super low bodyfat levels it looks freaking amazing IMO. Good job on the dead lifts Richard!

      • Add me to the list of people wrongfully accused of using steroids. Judging from the pictures posted by “anonymous Chris,” I would think he probably has more in common with Martin (and the rest of us wrongfully accused) than most people (unless of course he is on the juice, which I doubt).

        Whatever the truth is, it is in no way served by gratuitous slanders directed at people we have not really met or interacted with. Some people clam up when you insult them or their friends with an unprovoked, unjustified accusation. Richard prefers to call the slanderer colorful names. As long as one is not too invested in arguing a hopeless case (“Martin is a steroid freak: I can feel it in my bones”), we should be able to laugh the whole thing off. “Anonymous Chris” said something stupid (because he does not know Martin), and Richard called him on it (because he does).

      • I think that Richard and Anonymous Chris should meet up and fight. Clearly.

      • Peter “hyperlipid” Dobromylskyj isn’t anonymous.

        Neither is Martin Berkhan.

      • Enough, anonymous. What Dan Linehan said.

        Any of your further comments on this thread will be deleted.

      • I am all for sound skepticism. Given that I am fairly cynical myself, quick to think people are juicing if they are equal to me, or more muscular, I am not surprised people think I am “on the juice”. Which I am not and never have been.

        Nor are any of my clients – and the two most recent competitors were tested in August, which is great because they didn’t use and I will make sure to mention the testing in the next client update (out of 6 tests at that comp, 2 were done on my athletes).

        Related to this, there’s a formula I have devised that would indicate if a person is juicing or not:

        http://www.leangains.com/2009/06/whats-my-genetic-muscular-potential.html

        It’s based on my experience with my own competitors and the very few other bodybuilders I know and would stake my left arm on being non-users.

        The weight given is the maximum achievable for natural bodybuilding competitors.

        You’ll find that my weight is very close to that upper range, being 87-89 kg and 186 cm (I’d drop lower if I’d deplete for the stage).

        Most people could realistically get to height (cm) – 100 = weight (kg) at 10-12% body fat within 3 years of smart training (unfortunately, “smart training” is a naive assumption).

  29. Martin certainly knows what he’s doing. His cheesecake mastery series and low carb taliban blog post was awesome.

  30. dont discount IF with martins protocol for just lean gains & fat loss ….. :) i have been using it since February this year and have put on about 20 lbs, and my EX- eating disorder is no where to be found…. looking to get into lifting weight sometime in the future hopefully cuz i feel strong as hell!

  31. Richard, I’ve always hoped you do some more fitness stuff and here it is! Excellent.

  32. First time commenting. Richard, we expect to see the student cheesecake mastery attempt video soon! I always wondered whether Martin used sugar or artificial sugar in the recipes.

    Very inspirational progress. Looking forward to this series. Perhaps you might considering putting all these posts into a LeanGains category or tagging them (along with the PWO meals) for easy future referencing.

    Can’t wait for his long overdue book and to see your pictorial testimonial on Martin’s site!!! – Jay

  33. Awesome!!!! I had a technique question–how do you know when you’re back’s rounding too much? Both you and Martin lift with a slight rounding that I imagine would make Rippetoe annoyed, but your technique seems to work–and I made my back sore while letting too much of my upper back round during the deadlift. Thoughts on how you came to that form? Any help would be appreciated.

    Thanks
    Dan

    • All I can say is that dipping I do is with some significant pressure, such that I FEEL when it’s right to pull full force.

      I don’t know what else to say about it except, since I began doing it that way I have not the slightest lower back strain and conversely I feel this sort of warm buzz in the middle back after completion, a buzz that feels very comfortable.

      • My personal experience is that the principle of n=1 applies very well here. In combat sports, one is always lifting in “compromised” positions: you do whatever you have to with the position you are given, which is rarely an exact repeat of something seen earlier and even more rarely a “textbook” position. So you learn to follow your gut: when rounding feels good, do it; when it hurts, drop it already. Many factors (arm length, hip flexibility, back flexibility, leg length, etc.) play into what makes the “perfect form” for an individual’s deadlift. Personally, I think Rippetoe’s approach offers a great entry-point (a safe way to introduce the duly cautious beginner to deadlifts), but should not dictate the way every person lifts for the rest of his/her training life. As my own experience accumulates, I may have to eat my words (if my back gives out), but for now I like lifting with a slight round to my lower back.

  34. This is a great series idea and I’m really looking forward to hearing more. I’ve read Martin’s site and learned a lot- he definitely challenges your thinking and conventional wisdom. He’s got the same no BS attitude about eating and exercise that Richard brings to paleo- neither starts with a conclusion and works backwards which makes both men very good resources. I’m constantly amazed at all the incredibly high quality content that is produced daily around the internet about diet and exercise, though I’ve had to learn how to identify junk within about 2 sentences. I also really like how the people I read frequently seem to find and promote each other as well.

    I wonder if anybody here has tried Dr. McGuff’s Body by Science protocol? I’ve been doing it for about 4 months now and have had the same sorts of amazing (to me) strength gains. I’d lifted weights before, but lots of sets at what I thought was my weight. Turns out I had no idea. Changing my mindset to high intensity, once a week and constantly looking to progress made all the difference in the world. In any case, Martin’s approach seems like it comes from a similar place, although he’s focused on a pretty impressive level of fat loss and muscle gain. I’m not sure I want to get to BF% it looks like he lives at, but I can definitely see the appeal- especially if I was 20 years younger.

    As Richard has helpfully boiled down his knowledge about eating to “eat real food”, exercise seems to come down to “brief, heavy, intense and infrequent”. Lot’s more to learn about both, but it really looks like a case of complicated reasons for very simple rules.

  35. Richard-I guess you fired your other trainer, huh? Just some words of advice on deadlifting (words that were passed onto me not long ago after I hurt my low back for the umpteenth time while deadlifting-and have helped tremendously)-As you pull, keep that bar closer to your body. Try and literally drag it up your legs. It will save your low back and the movement just feels better. I have to wear a pair of long tube socks so that I don’t rip my shins up (I still do a little), but I am doing 280×14 at a body weight of 147 lbs, and it feels good (yes, some of the last reps are rest pause style) with less (almost none) strain in the lumbars. Just thought I’d pay forward some good advice that has really helped me. Happy hard, heavy (and safe) deadlifting.

    • Amen. Keeping the bar close always makes better for me as well.

    • Even better option, IMO, is the trap bar for deadlifting.

      The advantages are the “bar” travels through your body instead of in front of it and because there is no actual bar in front of you there are no ripped up shins.

      Unless you are training for powerlifting then I think the trap bar is a much better option for deadlifting. It can literally save your back!

  36. Well done Richard. Martin is a fantastic guy.

  37. I have read you occasionaly, but from now you are in my favorites.

  38. We used to have a powerlifter who worked for us and, usually in moments of ammonia-fueled heighted arousal, he’d yell, “TEAR THAT SHIT UP! WOOO!” before attempting a lift.

    You, sir, tore that shit up. Bravo.

  39. I’m looking forward to the coming posts Richard.

    Marc

  40. Also very excited for more from you, Richard and from Martin… Update your blog, please. :)
    I too have made this transition and am doing my own variations on a paleo+dairy leangains approach. My personal tweaks have been made to customize the program to my percieved (psycological/physiological) needs and preferences. I’m trying to find my own sweet spot and there is no doubt that IF is a super powerful tool in my journey towards a health relationship with food. The body comp and strength are a super side benefit!

    Thanks guys.

    Leo

    • HA! just as I said that, a new Leangains.com article went up! and it’s a doozie! Love it.

      • Glad to hear it. It seems to have been well received.

        If you like it, please help me spread the word and kill these nonsensical myths.

        I will update it later tonight (I hope, if I find the time).

        (I’m referring to http://www.leangains.com/2010/10/top-ten-fasting-myths-debunked.html)

      • Hello, Martin.

        Every link to your site crashes my browser. I’m sure that this is something from my end, but in case it’s not I wanted to mention it to you. I can’t get to your home page or any of the links to articles posted. Actually, my browser doesn’t crash. It goes into “Not Responding” mode and sits there for as long as I’ll let it until I manually shut it down.

      • VW,

        Since I switched to a slower computer (new iMac to older Windows pc) at work it takes freakin forever to load his page, I feel your pain. Try using a newer computer at a library or a buddy’s house?

      • I actually pulled the site up with Chrome and it works like a charm. I should have tried that before posting about it.

  41. Good going, Richard.

    (But Dr. Oz doesn’t approve: http://tinyurl.com/2vk4m82)

    :)

  42. VW,
    Speaking of that article, Martin had a blog post over that study a couple months back.
    http://www.leangains.com/2010/08/high-reps-vs-low-reps-for-muscle-gain.html

    “This was not a perfect study by any means. For example, there was a tremendous gap in terms of work volume between the 30% and the 90% group (96 reps vs 20 reps). It would also have been more interesting to see a middle group in the 75-85% range (6-10 reps), rather than only comparing extremes.”

  43. This is the first time I’ve been to Martin’s site and read his info. I have one question about IF that I tried to answer for myself but haven’t been able to find the answer. Maybe I missed it, because it seems like a basic question.

    Is the 16/8 every day? Only on workout days?

    • The Leangains IF protocol is every day. There’s a new post up about fasting on Martin’s site, but Ive not read it yet.

      • This is another pivotal moment for me. All these years I have forced myself to eat breakfast when not hungry because of some vaporous thought that harm would come to me if I skipped a meal, and now it turns out to be a huge waste of time based on myths.

        Martin’s new post has a huge amount of info, and I really enjoyed it. I’ll have a lot of time to read posts like that now, rather than eating breakfast. I’m currently on hour 13 of my first fast.

  44. I think IF is great, although I doubt that physiologically it helps burn more fat (in the long run) over and above helping to reduce the amount of calories consumed that day. Whether you eat 1500 Kcal over a 12 hour period or over an 8 hour period really doesn’t make a difference (you are still likely in deficit). What IF does do is make it easier to achieve this deficit and helps disconnect a person from their need to always eat (wich is a very good thing). I think one of the likely success keys to Martin’s program is his periodic large calorie meals (cheese cake, etc.). If you are in a calore deficit more often than not, these periodic huge meals seem to actaully help you continue to lose fat. Dr. Warren Willey, in his book Better than Steroids, advocates this by having his clients have one cheat day or two “3-hour windows” where you can eat anything you want. Otherwise, the diet is pretty strict low cal. Whether you use IF to reduce your calories or just eat more frequent smaller meals, the calorie deficit is the key (as is the periodic re-feed). Cool stuff.

  45. Jim Arkus:

    “I read on Martin’s site where he called fasted workouts ‘detrimental’.’”

    Completely fasted workouts, meaning training without pre-workout protein intake is not detrimental – protein synthesis is still increased, as the body can recycle proteins that are broken down during the workout and use them for protein synthesis (in laymans terms).

    However, it’s far from optimal. Protein accretion, which is just a fancy name for muscle gain, will be impaired without protein available from external sources (food).

    Protein synthesis – protein breakdown = protein gain. Without dietary protein/amino acids, endogenous protein must be used for synthesis, resulting in a kind of zero-sum equation.

    So in order to maximize synthesis/halt breakdown, and skew the synthesis:breakdown-ratio to our favor, I recommend 10 g BCAA before fasted workouts.

    Calorie per calorie this will provide the most oomp for synthesis, while minimally impacting the fasted state.

    Insulin will be back to low levels quickly and the potential benefits of the fast maintained – while still taking advantage of the benefits of pre-workout protein intake.

    For more on fasted training, read:

    http://www.leangains.com/2010/10/top-ten-fasting-myths-debunked.html

    Myth no 9. Make sure to read all the links to my other articles on fasted training under that paragraph, as I explain the necessity of BCAA/protein in conjunction with strength training.

  46. This is great! I found Martin Berkhan’s site a while ago and have been following the Leangains approach for over a month. Though I haven’t noticed any decrease in bodyweight, there is a perceptible change in recomposition and general feelings of wellness. I’m definitely sticking with it!

    So, I’m not sure who to direct my comments to…but, I think I have a good understanding of the nutritional/IF approach and I’m currently tinkering with my diet to see what works best. However, strength gains are the main reason why I choose to follow Leangains and I’m not satisfied with that area at the moment. Will you be going over the training approach that you use with Leangains and perhaps how to incorporate it into other training programs (ie. Crossfit)?

    • Laura, you’re onto the Holy Grail and that’s Martin’s hugest value in all of this besides, of course, his bringing IF as he does.

      STRENGTH!!!

      It is so overlooked in favor of conditioning. There is no hard on like being fucking STRONG. Well, you know what I mean….

      • oh, I know what you mean and I am so ready to get fucking strong! My problem is that I feel like I’ve plateaued over the past few months… I’m an avid Crossfitter so strength is a big part of our programming as is conditioning. I also lift 3-5 times a week but, my numbers aren’t moving by all that much (if any). I’m wondering if this has more to do with how I’m lifting than how I’m eating or maybe I just need to give it more time…
        How did you switch up your training when you transitioned to leangains? I’m curious if there is some sort of training approach that complements Leangains for optimal strength. I’ve been toying with the “Wendler” for the past few months.

      • Laura, guessing but I’d suspect that you need to go crazy on protein. post workout — though I have no idea how the female physiology responds.

        Easier to just ask Martin.

      • Laura,

        You lift3-5 times/week??!!

        No wonder u ve hit a plateau.

        Have a WO every 72 hours …more than enough(and a shitload of starch carbs for PWO nutrition)

    • Best way to incorporate leangains into crossfit is by dropping crossfit and actually *training* with specific goals in mind rather than “working out” to feel tired and fuel the illusion that progress comes from tiredness.

      • could not agree more. doing DL’s once every 6 weeks will not a better deadlifter make you. CF looks like tons of fun, but so is pulling a 3x BW DL. >:)

      • exactly! that would be my main criticism is that lifts are to infrequent that its hard to make gains. So, I’d like to lift outside xfit to eventually get that 3x BW DL. But, I’m pretty confused about the best approach to strength programming

      • that’s not how I view Crossfit, I do see value in it and some of my specific goals are related to Crossfit. I think there certainly is a way to increase strength while continuing Crossfit. I realize I might not become the strongest I possibly can be..but I’d like to find that balance between optimal strength and conditioning

      • Man, Vic, that is so pithy I just love it.

        I tried the crossfit thing and I hated my workouts. I felt like I was back in in church again, where sins must be atoned for.

        Now, I do few exercises but i get plenty of downtime between so as to attack each one with determination. And it’s fucking fun again.

      • I think it was Mark Sisson who said he didn’t want to be fit, but look fit. As a former athlete myself, I can certainly understand his point. Conditioning is a tough bear to maintain over the years, at least the kind of conditioning a lot of folks seem to be aiming at, and really isn’t necessary for a fit and healthy lifestyle.

        So my goal has been to look fit and be strong. I love it. And I can still out do nearly all my peers in healthy functional living. Do I have the endurance/conditioning to play basketball at an NBA level anymore? No. But I don’t need that to be fit for life.

      • agreed. Even Crossfitters are realising this. Robb Wolf has been saying for a while in his podcasts that most crossfitters are burned out and need to cut the metcons and focus on simple linear progression to build strength. This is a good article too :

        http://www.theconnectedthread.com/blog/2010/04/02/crossfit-and-excess-conditioning/

      • thanks for the link. That might be what I have to gain some strength!

  47. recalling, now, those silly-assed 3 x 10 x 135 lbs. deadlifts. Jesus.

    I missed this the first time around. “Silly-assed” is putting it kindly.

    • Yeah, I’m glad to see you’re coming around, Richard. I had to bite my tongue a whole lot back then. =) It wasn’t really my business to tell you that I thought your protocols were… less than super-efficient.

      • I’ll take that implicit rebuke, Jae, so long as you don’t hold you tongue, anymore.

        Do I? :)

        I may snap back ’cause it’s in my nature, but I know who are the good guys out there, even Ananomymous.

  48. Richard you hit the nail on the head with xfit WODS, i have been killin myself for 2yrs+ doing metcons and fearing the damm WODS, now 4 days week of just deads, squats, presses, pull-ups
    and using IF leangains, i feel amazing and stronger than ever……

    Keep up the good work you ANIMAL
    JD

  49. I have been working with Martin for over 6 months now and love it…. I have gotten pretty lean, around 6% give or take some….. and feel pretty good about seeing my muscles pop out and new veins that I didn’t know I had. Even on my abs lol. I try to keep a primal / paleo diet and feel pretty good. Just transferred to maintenance before moving onto lean-gains. I seem to get addicted to and enjoy doing the fasting part…. It also makes the food more enjoyable…. when it is tome to eat, I eat.

    Great right up here. I will be following along.

    Dan

  50. Richard,

    Great to see you working with some real weights! Conditioning ala crossfit is hamster wheel garbage as far as I’m concerned. You’re right on to consult Martin. I’ve followed his blog and employed some of his IF techniques. 5% BF is a bit extreme IMO. I think the key to IF is that after the first couple days food cravings almost disappear . My relationship to food has never been more balanced or steady. Have you found a similar effect? -Stu

    • Stu:

      Yes, absolutely, but that was well established quite a long time ago as I lost my initial 50-60 pounds mostly employing paleo with IF, generally two fasts per week of 24-30 hours and generally worked out deep into those two fasts.

      While the Leangans approach to both feeding and fasting is quite different I have had zero problem ever with the fasting part of it. If anything it took a while to get used to the big post-workout meals.

  51. Hey Richard or Martin,

    I’ve been following the leangains approach with two huge meals for a while now and will never look back. I’ve gotten leaner, a smaller waist, yet lost belly fat all whilst getting STRONGER. Just one question: when you do a reverse pyramid style training protocal, do you warm up with a lighter dl or just go right into trying a pr? It would seem dangerous to start with a par, but with weighted chins I just go into it without a problem. Great post Richard and thanks for the info martin.

    Big meals ftw!

  52. Richard, are you still doing sumo deadlifts as well? Do you find a difference in how much you can lift between sumo and normal?

    • I’ll go more into this when I do the post about the workouts specifically, but I had dropped the deadlift because even at 155 they seemed taxing. Then I saw a bit about Tim Ferriss trying to get to a 500# DL in 2010 and he posted a video of a pretty skinny girl pulling a lot, but Sumo style, so I gave it a try. 155 was a piece of cake, so I was immediately able to begin at 185.

      Once I’d built up to around 235 or so, I think, I learned that Sumo was probably not optimal compared to conventional so I went all the way back, but was able to start conventional at 185.

      And you know the rest of the story. 155 – 305 in six months, with two months during that period where I was not doing them due to vacations and other commitments.

  53. Excellent post Richard. Impressive DL’s :)

    I’m really looking foward to your follow up post on Martin/Leangains.

  54. Very amazing results there, i hope ill will have gained such streng by the time im at your age Richard.

    I have been strenght training for a year now and have seen a great improvement in my overall energy levels and strenght. Its amazing how great the difference is in aquired strenght just for someone who trains semi regularly. Strenght training and improving my digestion (IBS) with a very carefully planned “paleo-ish” diet combined with intermittent fasting has also reduced my chronic fatigue greatly. Previously i would usually have a cold 5-6 times a year, often requiring antibiotics, but this year I have only been down with a cold 2 times, so (knock on wood) perhaps the greatest improvement to me is that i have gotten rid of my constant sinusitis.

    However while having progress in strenght training i feel a bit confused about the ways that strenght can be trained. My main interest is in gaining muscle mass (in a healthy way) since muscle mass seems to give the greatest ROI in the terms of training/Metabolic health

    http://www.bodybyscience.net/home.html/?page_id=43

    Now there seems to be atleast two different philosophy’s in regard sto this

    1.) Focus on strenght and the muscle mass will follow
    This seems to be the method of Martin, Stronglifts people, and most paleo’s

    2.) Focus on muscle contraction and strenght/muscle will follow
    This seems to be the method of Body by Science and bodybuilders

    What i have seen is that most “Big guys” in the gym seem to mix it up with often liffting lighter weights and lifting them slowly.

    Is there any consensus out there regarding of how to use these two different training methods?

    • If you want to emphasize strength, then do 5 reps per set; do 3 sets per core exercise (squats, bench, deadlift, press) if you are a novice and 5 sets if you are in the intermediate stage. If you want to emphasize muscle hypertrophy rather than strength, then do anywhere from 8-12 reps according to Practical Programming For Strength Training 2nd Ed by Rippetoe and Kilgore.

  55. That’s pretty impressive. I’m following a very low carb diet and doing the novice program of Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength. So far I’m up to 265 lbs for 5 reps for my deadlift, 225lbs for 3 sets of 5 reps on my squats.

  56. Nathaniel says:

    Someone referenced Body By Science above; I have been reading that book lately, and it argues that a majority of studies have found that you can obtain optimal results with only one set of each exercise, one time a week, provided that your intensity is high enough, lifting heavy with low reps, etc.

    What do you all think about that? Is doing one heavy set of squats, once a week, enough? If not, how much is ideal?

    • Nathaniel,

      I’m still waiting on updates, but right now it looks like Lyle McDonald is pushing for 40-60 reps in a workout for hypertrophy gains. This is of course assuming that’s your goal, not strength. As for strength, I’m not really sure.

      http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/training/categories-of-weight-training-part-4.html#more-4378

      I’ve read people arguing both ways (one set, multiple sets) with studies and anecdotal reports to back each up, so I’d say the best way to go would be to try them each and see which works better for you. As for me, one heavy set per week didn’t work even for strength gains, nor improvements in the mirror over a 2 month period, so I tend to stick to multiple sets for everything but deadlifts, which seem to improve fine on one set per week.

    • I don’t think that is correct. What BBS says is that multiple sets per week do not, over the long term provide better results than one set. This makes one set to failure more efficient. If one works as well as 2 or more sets then why bother doing more? To get this efficient requires it to be really hard and most people don’t want to make that much effort. 1 set of 10 comfortable reps aren’t going to get it done. I have put several through a BBS 15 minute session and most never do it again. To hard and uncomfortable for them.

      To me, I like BBS training since I don’t get injured and it is easily measurable. I have gotten steadily and safely stronger each week since starting BBS training 1 1/2 years ago.

  57. I’m looking forward to your remaining Leangains posts. Do you have any difficulties with hunger. I did when I briefly tried following Leangains (without Martin B’s help). How many calories are you consuming per day? Now I’m off to read your older posts.

    • Nope, no problems with hunger. As to caloric intake, Ill have to defer to Martin as that might be confidential, but we’re working together on this series so we’ll see what I can and can’t divulge. I will say that it is pretty structured, ie different macro ratios depending on workout day or rest day and also different toal caloric intake.

      I’m working on a post about food and also workouts, but not sure which of those will be next.

  58. FiddlersFart says:

    This is going to make a brilliant series!

    I have followed Martin’s Blog and Richard’s for diet & strength info since dropping 35lb fat this summer. It will be interesting to see the progress you make and the methods used.

    Any dates for the book Martin?

  59. RE: Purple Wrath BCAAs

    Are you not concerned with the sucralose?

    Thank you Richard!

    • Who, me? Sucralose? Not at three scoops in an entire week. And it’s a temporary thing, anyway. I hope to get to goal within a couple more months and maintain from there. I have had zero trouble maintaining body comp or strength since this all began, i.e., things have never gotten worse than a bad workout or a bloat for a few days.

      So, I plan to go back to eating standard Paleo. Workouts will morph to twice per week but remain in the LG style of heavy: fewer reps, fewer sets.

      • Thanks for the quick reply! I cut out all the processed crap recently (and diet cokes, etc..), so I don’t really have any interest in throwing it back in.

        I haven’t tried BCAAs before a workout yet. I may buy some of capsules.

      • Clayton,

        If you don’t want the artificial sweetener, just find an unsweetened BCAA. Cheap Supplements has one on bodybuilding.com for the lowest price anywhere. It doesn’t have any beta alanine, which Martin mentioned gives an extra boost to performance.

        Brian

  60. Orinn Checkley says:

    Good Blog Richard, I have been doing Lean Gains for 2 months now and strength going through the roof. Deadlifts now at 420lbs, weighted chins at 60lbs (plus my bodyweight of 220lbs), Breathing Squats x 20 at 350lbs, Bench at 260lbs and weighted dips at 90lbs. keep up the good work. Orinn

  61. Richard

    Fantastic results and well done. One question (having seen your deadlift video)- does your lower back hurt? Suggest you work on your hip and adductor flexiblity so you can get your back flat

    Regards

    Ed.

  62. I been following the 16/8 fasting leangains approach and feel great.

  63. I realize this thread is a few months old, but I just wanted to add my two cents anyway. I came across Martin’s site before I came across yours; however, it was from your site that I discovered the amazingness that is his Reverse Pyramid Technique. I’m a female and have been lifting for about a year and a half with no clear progression (though I have made progress). In the last two weeks alone I brought my deadlift up from (top set) 195×3 to 195×6 (last week) to 205×4 (this week). So satisfying! Thanks for posting about this stuff. Great work too btw!

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