Leangains: Martin Berkhan’s Workout Approach

You can find my introductory post to my ongoing Leangains experience right here.

This post is taking a different form from my original intention. I was going to post about my workout experience and how I see it as different from pre-Leangans days. And, eventually in the course of this series I’d shoot some interview questions at Martin, workout questions being among them.

But in discussing some of the goals I’d like to meet in a post like this with Martin it soon became clear that we ought to just partially do this in and interview format from the get-go, after a brief introduction summarizing my own experience. So that’s what we’ll do and, of course, Martin will be around to expand on his ideas and methods in comments. So let’s get to it.


As I blogged way back in the beginning, May 2007, I did have a sense that brief and intense was superior to the standard gym drudgery of 3-5 visits per week of an hour or more with significant time devoted to low-effort cardio. Instead, I went only twice per week, 30-minutes per session, did no cardio (I did a few sprints once or twice per week away from the gym), and focussed on 3 sets X 10 reps for as many as I could get in, i.e., little to no rest between sets or exercises. In addition, I normally did circuits of 2-3 exercises at a time, such that I could move from set to set with no rest, alternating between the exercises.

For the first few months, perhaps six, the two workouts were split between chest and arms one day, legs and back the next. Then, we simply went full body each time but employed different exercises. Eventually, we changed that to be more weights and machines oriented one day and more crossfit circuit styled stuff the next, though I don’t know much about what precisely constitutes crossfit. What I do know is that the weight day got me real pumped while the “crossfit” day got me plain exhausted. I’d call it a combination of bodyweight stuff, some weights, plyometrics, and so on with the result being that it was quasi aerobic, or cardio at the pace I performed it.

I did make significant progress. In roughly the three years I did this I went from 235 pounds to holding between 180-185 (I was 183/4 when I began Leangains). I don’t recall what weight I was lifting in the various moves at the outset but I do know that I gained significantly over the three years.


Note: six months was the timeframe, but over the summer months I had time off for vacations and such so actual time was about 5 months of actual workouts.

From my perspective, there are four primary exercises in the Leangains method (at least in the program Martin designed for me according to my goals and abilities): Deadlift, Squat, Bench Press, and Weighted Chinups. In addition there are about 8-10 other exercises classified as assistance moves. This was a great perspective as it really focussed the goal. I had four exercises to focus on primarily and I didn’t really concern myself with gains in the others. They kinda come automatically. There’s an interesting push / pull dynamic with gains, and it’s never linear.

The other difference is that I went from two to three workouts per week. The primary reason for this was a sea change in the way I was doing things in a circuit fashion. Martin required that I drop the number of sets I was doing and, in addition, the number of reps. In exchange, I was to lift more weight and get some rest in-between sets and exercises. Attack every set with maximal effort was the name of the game.

So let’s summarize the results. I’ll provide individual gains for the aforementioned primary moves and will just group the assistance gains into one number and then give a combined total. These are gains over 20 weeks of actual exercise.

  • Conventional Deadlift: 155 – 295 / 90% gain
  • Back Squats: 185 – 215 / 16% gain
  • Bench Press: 165 – 180 / 9% gain
  • Weighted Chin Ups: 0 – 20 / 11% gain, using average bodyweight over the period to calculate
  • 11 Assistance Exercises: 29% average gain
  • Total Overall Gain Over 20 Weeks: 27%

As I said, I don’t recall where I began in terms of weight 3 1/2 years ago, but in that first three years before going to the Leangains approach I may have — just guessing — gained 50-100%, maybe more in a few things. But that’s over 3 years. This was over 20 weeks, 5 months of actual time in gym.

So call me impressed, and happy.


So at this point I’ll move into questions for Martin Berkhan.

Martin, you’ve seen my summary of my pre-Leangains time at the gym. What can you say about the methods I employed? Anything good and why? What’s bad, and why?

I didn’t see anything good about it and I don’t know where to start with the bad. A few observations in random order.

1. Set structure: I hate “3 x 10” or “4 x 8”, or similar absolute systems. What does that mean exactly? So you do 10 reps with your 14RM weight to get 3 sets of 10 reps with the same weight so that the third set can be completed? What if you can get 12 reps on the third? What’s the point of half-assing it with two easy sets which leaves you semi-fatigued so that you can never get one truly good set in? Huge waste of time and an inferior way to train.

2. Circuit-style workouts and “little to no rest” in between sets. Are you looking to improve your conditioning? Training for an endurance event? Because that’s not how you train for strength and muscle gains. Rest at least 3-5 minutes in between sets for strength. Studies shows that longer rest equals greater strength gains. Since muscle gains follow strength gains, you can draw your own conclusions from that.

3. Mixing conditioning/strength. In the best case you’ll get mediocre at both, in the worst case you’ll stagnate. Keep them separate. Either do a strength session or a conditioning session, and do them on different days.

4. Changing parameters from week to week, i.e. workouts are variable and not constant. This makes it impossible to track progress.

5. Did you even have a training log? Did you go for PRs on a regular basis like you should? Because that’s what you should’ve been doing.

Given my gains over the initial 20 weeks under your guidance, would you say those gains are typical, below, or better than what you see from the average client? And, how about considering gender and age (I’ll be 50 in January)?

I’d say they’re just what I expected given your level of compliance and commitment, which were good. You stick with a sound plan and the right diet and you get to reap the rewards which is what you did. You lost fat, gained muscle and increased your strength significantly.

I know you pay significant attention to goings on in the community. In the context of gym time, what do you see as the good and the bad? How about the really, really bad?

Well, I think I covered that under the first question. In the bodybuilding community you have the issue of people overcomplicating things and screwing around with the small stuff instead of focusing on the core movements, i.e. ten different curls and chest movements, worrying about the optimal pre-workout stack, etc. In the paleo community you have this notion of simplifying things but what I see is instead an overreliance on novelty and mixing things up too much. Workouts vary from week to week, includes some elements of conditioning and strength, etc. This is purely based on my observations and I’m obviously generalizing a good bit. This is an inferior way to train beyond the first sweet six months or so where you’ll get great results on just about any approach. Beyond that point I think you need a more structured approach and get your goals straight to make faster and better progress.

Can you briefly describe your reasons behind the four primary core exercises?

Those are the four money movements from which at least 80% of your gains will come from. I don’t necessarily choose those exact movements but I do choose a proper substitute depending on the client. I’ll talk briefly about each below.

Bench press: For chest and shoulders. Sometimes substituted for weighted dips or dumbbell presses. I prefer barbell over dumbbells since it allows smaller weight jumps for progression, i.e. going from 50 lbs dumbbells to 55 lbs dumbbells is a 10% increase in load, while going from a 135 lbs bench press to 140 lbs is a 4% increase in load. While I do include a set or two of the overhead press, I find that most people don’t need much direct shoulder work in the plans I make. Shoulders get a lot of indirect training via chins, deadlift and even squats to some degree.

Weighted chins: Depending on the relative strength of the client, it’s pulldowns, chins and then finally weighted chins. Extra loading starts with 5-10 lbs added when you can do 8 body weight chins since I believe it’s a movement that’s best trained heavy, in the 4-6 rep range. I always advocate chins, not pull-ups. Chins allows a greater ROM and people tend to cheat less when adding weight. Besides chins, close-grip chins is another favorite variety I use. Most people could build a great set of biceps focusing on weighted chins and close-grip chins only. I did.

Squats: Well, not much to say about this one. Best lower-body movement hands down. Front squats is another great alternative. Leg press is also fine. Some people simply aren’t built to squat and are better off focusing on leg presses instead. Most often tall guys with long legs.

Deadlift: Like squats, this is another no-brainer. Depending on your leverages, this will either be more of a back-lift or more of a lower-body lift. Either way, it needs a separate day; at least in the context I use it. Don’t squat and deadlift on the same day. In my experience, the deadlift is a lift that should be trained low volume, low frequency and high effort. Never more than once a week.

Why heavy, and why the allowance for lots of rest in-between sets and exercises?

Hard and heavy gives you the most return on your time investment. Make all your sets count and try to improve on them your next session. Being physically and mentally prepared is important, therefore the long rest periods. Besides, studies show longer rest periods equals greater strength gains. I should note that I use different setups depending on the goal of the client. For example, I’ve experimented with higher frequency training where sets were not taken to failure every session. However, that was in the context of gaining. On a diet, hard and heavy is the right way to go. Training volume should be low, effort high.

Are the workout programs you furnish clients mostly the same or are they different based on factors like goals, gender, age, ability?

No, they vary depending on the client; goals, available equipment, age, and so forth. However, I do have a few templates that I use over and over again. The one you used is one of the more common templates. Some people gained more strength on that one on their diet than they did on another one when bulking. It’s simple and effective.

Do you ever employ Olympic lifts (snatch, clean & jerk) for clients and if not, why?

No, never, unless they’re Olympic lifters or have a good deal of experience with the lifts. While productive, these lifts require skill and practice. Given that I do most of my work online, it would be irresponsible to include them in people’s templates. Most people can bench, squat and deadlift with good form, but they can’t snatch and clean.

Lots of my readers out there aren’t looking to get ripped but yet want a decent body composition and a good measure of strength. Supposing they’re not going to go all out for a Leangains program, what advice — or perhaps principles or rules of thumb — can you offer that will give them the biggest bang for their time & effort invested?

1. Track progress short-term and long-term. Use a training log to document every workout and compare your performance in between workouts. For long-term progress, use checkpoints. I talked about checkpoints here.

2. Don’t mix strength and conditioning. Keep them separate. Why? First of all, you can’t get a great strength session and a great conditioning session in the same workout. Second of all, there’s a very good reason to keep them separate if you look at what happens on a cellular level. In simple terms, conditioning activates a protein (AMPK) which blunts another protein (MTOR) that turns on muscle protein synthesis.

3. If your goal is fat loss, limit strength training to 3 days a week. 95% of the people reading this don’t need to spend more than 3 days a week tops in the gym to get to where they want, regardless if they just want to lose a few pounds or get ripped.

4. If you stagnate, be that in terms of fat loss or muscle gain, the first thing to fix is your diet, not your training or cardio routine. Count calories.

5. Start every workout with a core movement and pair them intelligently. Looking at Richard’s template, we did.

Monday: Deadlifts and weighted chins. Make sure you get 5 mins of rest in between deadlifts and chins.

Wednesday: Bench

Friday: Squats. Make sure you get a minimum of two days of rest in between deadlifts and squats, i.e. don’t do heavy deads on Wednesday and then heavy squats on Friday.

6. If you’re dragging yourself to the gym in order to do HIIT or burpees supersetted with hindu pushups, or whatever else is trendy right now, ask yourself if you’re really doing this for conditioning purposes or fat loss. I think if most people answered honestly it would be the latter. If you’re interested in gaining strength and muscle, while losing fat, keep in mind that strenuous cardio like HIIT and other high-impact cardio will make that a whole lot harder and less likely to happen. Focus your efforts on strength training and keep cardio light. Ditch the intervals and take a 45-60 min leisurely walk instead.

7. For fat loss, I always use reverse pyramid training with a double progression scheme. I talked about double progression here. So for example, in Richard’s plan he had “Deadlifts 2 x 4-5”. That means he’d warm-up and then do one set all out in the 4-5 rep range. He’d then rest, lower the weight by 10%, and do another set all-out. If he could get 5 reps in either set, he’d up the weight for that set by by 2.5-5% the next session. When using the RPT-scheme, use no more than 3 sets per movement in the core movements. For assistance movements, 1-2 sets is enough.

8. If you want to lose fat, and possibly gain some strength and muscle in the process, the most important aspect of your diet is protein intake. Though there might not be any benefits beyond 2 g/kg body weight in energy balance, protein needs are elevated on a diet. Generally speaking, 2.5 g/kg is the bare minimum I recommend you get on a daily basis on a diet.

9. There are also other reasons you’d want to keep protein high, such as satiety and TEF, where protein is superior to any other macronutrient. For this reason, I also recommend a high protein intake as part of a lifestyle diet in order to maintain body fat and protect against fat gain once you’ve reached your goals in terms of where you want your physique to be. I talked about this here.


I’ll get drafting the next installment right away so it’s up within a week to 10 days. We’ll cover the dietary aspects of Martin’s approach and perhaps also the fasting depending upon length. But I suspect fasting will require its own post.

Update: Next installment is up. Leangains: The Dietary Approach

Since Covid killed my Cabo San Lucas vacation-rental business in 2021, this is my day job. I can't do it without you. Memberships are $10 monthly, $20 quarterly, or $65 annually. Two premium coffees per month. Every membership helps finance this work I do, and if you like what I do, please chip in. No grandiose pitches.


  1. Mike on November 9, 2010 at 08:38

    Dude, loving this LeanGains series so far. I’ve been experimenting with Berkhan’s AM fasting technique recently and I’ve never felt better.

  2. […] Update: Installment number two is right here: Leangains: Martin Berkhan’s Workout Approach […]

  3. ben on November 9, 2010 at 07:45

    great post Rich! Nice gains, too. After reading this I thought i might pass along a recommendation for a book that really influenced my own lifting. “Dinosaur Training” by Brooks Kubik. Heres the link, very good read:

  4. Phil on November 9, 2010 at 08:13

    What I am wondering is when you reduce reps and increase weight how many are you doing?


    • Richard Nikoley on November 9, 2010 at 08:21

      generally, 2 sets for the four core moves, 1-2 for the assistance moves. Reps differ from ranges of 3-5 for deeds as Martin pointed out, to 6-8 for most of the others.

      The thing to keep in mind is the range. Ideally, when you begin at a new weight for deeds, for example, it should be a weight you can get 3, 4 reps at, not 5, or it’s too light. Once you do hit 5 or more on either set, time to increase for that set on your next workout. You treat each set independently for gains and increases in weight.

      • Jeff on November 9, 2010 at 08:50

        Do you mean that for squats, for example, if you can hit five reps the first set, but only 4 the second, you would increase weight for the first set, but not the second the next workout? Thanks.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 9, 2010 at 09:10

        In principle, yes, and vice versa. However, I am not doing Squats that heavy. I use a 6-8 rep range for squats.

      • pfw on November 9, 2010 at 10:00

        Any reason you’re not doing heavy squats? Your squat progress seems weak compared to your DL progress (90% vs 16%) and it sounds like there might be some thought behind that. Although the ending max lift weight distribution seems more in line with what I’ve seen on lifting blogs/forums than what you started with – maybe your DL was just catching up?

      • Richard Nikoley on November 9, 2010 at 10:15

        Good catch, pfw.

        I could devote a whole post to squats. When I began, at 185, my form sucked. I just was not getting deep enough, and my lower back would sometimes strain.

        I got up to 215 really early on and probably could have just progressed, but I was not satisfied. So I said eff it and went all the way back to 135 to attempt ass to grass form. After doing that a while it was just so uncomfortable for me personally in terms of balance, my back, etc that I began doing box squats, 3 sets instead of two, lighter weight to nail form.

        Now I think I have it nailed pretty well. I don’t go ass to grass, but just below parallel. In the hole, but just slightly. I also spread my grip out a bit so I could drop the bar down my shoulders about 2″ and this made all the difference for my back.

        So, now I’m working my way back up to 215 with a much improved form and the progress from there will probably be reasonably rapid, given my DLs and such.

        I also am tossing in a set of incline leg presses after the 2 sets of squats. I do an 8-10 rep range and am currently at about 330 pounds, I believe. It seems to me the strength is there, it’s just a matter of directing it properly.

      • Aaron Griffin on November 9, 2010 at 11:57

      • Richard Nikoley on November 9, 2010 at 12:26

        Yea, I can and have done all that stuff. I can not only do air squat almost indefinitely as to grass, but I can hold the primal stretch for long periods at a time.

        But get that bar on my back and things tend to go to shit fast, though much better now.

      • Leo on November 9, 2010 at 14:25

        This makes a lot of sense to me. Ass-to-grass is a nice goal, but not all of us are built to do it safely. Also, I’d like to point out to the other poster that going ass to grass in O-lifting shoes with that big heel is WORLDS easier than doing the same in bare feet (or vff’s in my case).

      • Tommy on November 9, 2010 at 16:12

        I have “Dinosaur training” (two of them actually, one is a first printing and signed) and I was a 5×5 lifter for years. I only did 5×5 squats once and awhile though as I was a 20 rep heavy breathing squats kind of guy. Take your 10 rep max (where you would fail at 11) and do 20 no matter how long it takes without ever taking the weight off your shoulders till you’re done.
        Kubik is great…or was…I haven’t been into that stuff for a long while. I used to go ass to grass but found that tops of thighs parallel or just below was enough and safer over time. I think it was a good call backing up your weight and working back up. Squats fucked up my back even though my form was good. Bad form will do you in big time. The heavy weight didn’t get me, it was the light back down set! That’s when form breaks. Beware what seems “easy.” wink

      • Seth on November 17, 2010 at 10:04

        i always do the 4 core throughout the week, leg-chest-back work 2x a week, maybe to much? hey my deadlifts are up in the 330-335 at 4 reps right now but I would be hard pressed to get that 225 at squats. i do have a bad knee that hurts after parallel but i am tall and the leverage is diff for taller people. everyone is different. I was doing the 5×5 right now, and looking more at the progressive overload to gain muscle and strength, but i am considering changing again to reverse pyramid, 3 sets. is the rep range still kept under 10 reps for something like that for the last set in berkhams program?

      • Ishmael on November 10, 2010 at 15:35

        How much time are you actually spending in the gym each session?

      • Richard Nikoley on November 10, 2010 at 15:36

        Who me? Never more than 30 minutes.

      • Ishmael on November 11, 2010 at 16:29

        So 90 minutes a week? Really?

      • Richard Nikoley on November 11, 2010 at 17:34

        For most of my training, 60, which I have just gone back to in consult with Martin.

        Do you have a point you wish to expound upon?

      • Ishmael on November 12, 2010 at 00:41

        Heh. Nope.

        Just doesn’t seem like a lot of time. But I have been reading Martin’s blog, and he doesn’t seem to be recommending more than that to anyone. I can’t imagine that he got to look like he does in those pictures with less than two hours a week training, but my god if he did than this truly is something magnificent.

      • russ on November 12, 2010 at 04:38

        You don’t need any more than that than 30-45 minutes a few times a week. Most people train stupid, and therefore train too much. Too much volume per exercise, and way too many (useless)exercises on top of that. Not necessarily their fault – the amount of misinformation available is vast, while the amount of quality instruction available is not so much.

        You would be hard pressed to find ANY top strength coach recommending anything over 60 minutes a session- most of them less.

        Not to mention – more importantly even – that most people eat horribly. Can’t out train poor dietary habits and choices. The harder you try, the further you get behind.

  5. Dragos on November 9, 2010 at 08:14

    Great post and congratulations

    Can you name some of the assistence exercises please?

  6. John on November 9, 2010 at 08:14

    Although I personally don’t squat and deadlift on the same day, I know of multiple successful powerlifters who do.

    • Martin Berkhan on November 10, 2010 at 02:15

      Yes, so do I, but they alternate them heavy/light, i.e. they might do high effort/intensity squats and light deads for technique or explosiveness, or vice versa. They don’t do squats to failure followed by deads to failure.*

      * It can be done – at least squats followed by deads, not the other way around, and I knew someone that did it for awhile. But it’ll turn into one of those sessions you dread going to the gym for, and that mental pressure isn’t conducive in the long-term.

      • filip on November 12, 2010 at 10:51


        How would you recomend doing squats? In a RPT fashion or just one set of breathing squats of 20 reps?

        I find doing “all-out” squats a bit “risky” so I been doing them 3 sets of 5 (starting strenght).

        Any suggestions would be appreciated

      • Fredrik Gyllensten on November 16, 2010 at 03:23

        Well, in competitions powerlifters do it all the time.

        But then again, they usually needs a a couple of extra days off after the competition..

  7. egmutza on November 9, 2010 at 08:21

    Really loving this series. For an ardent reader of both your blog and Martin’s, these posts are a dream come true – peanut butter (okay, almond butter) and chocolate together!

    One question I’d have for Martin is if he’s familiar with Paul Jaminet and Shou-Ching Shih’s work over at http://perfecthealthdiet.com . Paul has commented favorably on Martin’s approach to fasting, but seems to have concerns about longevity on a high protein diet. I’m reading their book right now and they suggest no more than 1lb of meat a day and only do 1/2 lb themselves.

    Also, Richard, I seem to recall you saying that lately you’ve decreased your meat consumption a bit in favor of fat and starch (very in keeping with the perfecthealthdiet). How much protein do you consume on a daily basis? Have you found you’ve needed as much as Martin recommends to make gains and lose fat?

    • Richard Nikoley on November 9, 2010 at 08:26

      Not sure what post you are referring too, but in general, workout days are very high protein, moderate starch, low fat and rest days are high protein, low carb and moderate to high fat.

      Once Im in maintenance, Ill lower protein, but it will still be a pretty decent amount.

      • egmutza on November 9, 2010 at 08:43

      • Richard Nikoley on November 9, 2010 at 09:07

        Yea, that was pre Leangains.

      • Ishmael on November 10, 2010 at 15:43

        I’ve found it is a whole lot easier to stay slim and eat massive amounts of food if you keep to protein. I eat about a kilo and a half of beef everyday, along with about half a dozen eggs. Lately I have been increasing fats and carbs, by adding some extra dairy and some potatoes, and I have found that I am getting bigger gains at the gym but also feel a little bit bloated (even though my weight hasn’t changed), which is a feeling I absolutely hate.

        I am suspecting this has more to do with the potatoes than the milk and cheese and butter. I should have added these things separately in order to test each one. Ultimately though, just eating a shitload of beef and eggs mixed with vegetables all day long is probably always ideal, no matter what it is you’re doing – save for possibly endurance training, in which case fruit carbs are probably a good idea.

      • Ishmael on November 10, 2010 at 15:49

        Oh, and I’m a little guy. 5’7″, 128-132lbs.

        Another thought: I mostly just eat ground beef, because it is cheaper (here in the Philippines they mix it with water buffalo meat, usually, and then lie about it, but it doesn’t bother me). I usually just get the leanest possible selection, but maybe a fattier mince would be more ideal. What do you think?

    • Martin Berkhan on November 10, 2010 at 02:32

      I am not familiar with them, no.

      Regarding longevity and high-protein diets, it’s a very interesting topic. I could tell you my thoughts, but it’ll just lead to more questions – I’ve been planning to write about it in the future.

      Let me give you something to think about in the meanwhile. Vegans and vegetarians have lower circulating IGF-1 levels, and IGF-1 might speed up the aging process (in laymens terms). This is thought to be due to lower protein intakes and specifically lower methionine intake. Calorie restriction might also play a role. Similarly, anabolic pathways, such as MTOR, is associated with various diseases such as tumor growth, while catabolic pathways such as AMPK is asscoiated with various adaptations that may promote life extension.

      OTOH, higher lean body mass in the elderly is strongly and positively associated with longer life spans – this is called the “BMI paradox”. Those with higher muscle mass live longer.

      Arguments AGAINST high-protein diets re: life extension:

      * High methionine intake

      * Elevated activity of anabolic pathways

      Arguments FOR high-protein diets re: life extension:

      * Real-life results. While the theory behind protein restriction seems good on paper, people with higher lean body mass live longer than those with lower lean body mass. They get sick less often and are less likely to suffer bone fractures.

      • Poisonguy on November 10, 2010 at 02:53

        Hi Martin. Great interview and commentary. I’m on the bubble in terms of high vs moderate vs low protein intake (I’m currently high fat for fat loss). So I’m interested in how you connect positively high-protein diets with real-life results? By real-life results I’m assuming you are talking about the BMI paradox. How do you know these people ate high-protein diets, rather than say, they were more physically active than the lower BMI variety? I’m unaware, for the general population, healthy or otherwise, that muscle mass correlates with high-protein diets. Seems that just adequate protein diets would be enough to sustain the BMIs seen in these long lived folks.

      • Martin Berkhan on November 12, 2010 at 08:01

        1. High protein intake relative to RDA is beneficial for muscle gain. 2 g/kg is the current consensus for maximal benefit, i.e. there’s no hard evidence that eating more than 2 g/kg yields more LBM gain assuming under or above energy balance.

        2. If Average Joe increases protein intake, WITHOUT training, muscle mass is gained & body fat lost. Example: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20887742

      • Martin Berkhan on November 12, 2010 at 08:03

        In “1.” I was talking about resistance training/strength athletes if that wasn’t clear.

      • Wilson on November 12, 2010 at 19:45

        Martin I am current 146lb. My body weight in kg is 66.3. So if it’s 2 g/kg for me it would be 132 grams of protein daily is that correct?

        Should the rest of my calories come from carbs and fats? Or should I add more protein to fill in the calories for maximum muscle gain?

      • Poisonguy on November 15, 2010 at 01:06

        Thanks for answering. But how does increased protein intake correlate with increased longevity, is what I was trying to ask (and asked badly)?

      • Fredrik Gyllensten on November 16, 2010 at 03:25

        And; how cares if you live long if you are so weak that you can’t do anything?
        I’d rather live s couple of years less, if those years where wuality years :)

      • Fredrik Gyllensten on November 16, 2010 at 03:26


      • Seth on November 17, 2010 at 10:12

        hey Martin, what would you recommend for a vegan/vegetarian for getting more protein in the diet? I choose not to eat meat, but I will still dabble in eating eggs-cottage cheese-yogurt products. I heard that tofu can be estregen producing but if its fermented it wouldn’t be a problem. i try for a higher intake of beans and some nut butters but not too high on the latter.

  8. Grok on November 9, 2010 at 08:24

    Martin’s a cool cat. Glad you have him helping you out. Good job Richard.

    Someday I’m going to visit Sweden and eat him under the table. We’ll have cheesecakes so large, I’ll probably have to finish his up for him.

    • Mountain Dew on November 9, 2010 at 13:10

      “Someday I’m going to visit Sweden and eat him under the table.”

      That could have been worded differently … just saying. :D

      • Joshua on November 9, 2010 at 16:11


    • Martin Berkhan on November 10, 2010 at 02:34

      Keep dreaming. Speaking of cheesecakes, I have one coming up this weekend.

  9. Dragos on November 9, 2010 at 23:25

    Regarding training, Martin recommended on his site 3 books:

    1) Stuart McRobert – Beyond Brawn
    2) Mark Rippetoe – Starting Strength
    3) Practical Programming

    I will read them soon

    • Dragos on November 9, 2010 at 23:26

      same author for the third book

  10. Aaron Griffin on November 9, 2010 at 08:59

    Nice article. I have a question for you or Martin: conditioning is important to me. If it should not be mixed with strength training, when should it be done. Typically, I strength train in the morning, and do conditioning in the afternoon/night time. Is this enough separation?

    • Ulfr on November 9, 2010 at 23:58

      I am wondering about this too. Strength and conditioning are equally important to me and I would like to be much more than mediocre in both areas. How is this best approached?

    • Martin Berkhan on November 10, 2010 at 02:36

      This is what my next article is about but what you’re doing right now is the worst possible strategy. Switch places.

      • Tin Tin on November 10, 2010 at 15:46

        Hello Martin, can you share your cheesecake recipe with us? Let me guess, it’s got lots of cottage cheese in it? Maybe get ‘ol Richard to do a post for us.

      • Jake on November 19, 2010 at 13:32

        Looking forward to that article … I am an avid mountain biker, but I also love weight training. My #1 goal is to maintain myself as lean as possible, maintain strength, but not gain unneeded mass. For biking conditioning and strength are also very important … with power/strength ratio being key.

  11. Samson on November 9, 2010 at 09:15

    Using leangains approach, what would be a reasonable amount of protein ( % of total daily protein intake) to include from protein shakes? I’m not sure if I could get 2.5 g/kg from meat everyday.

    Or would you recommend just buying a carton of eggs and/or dairy products? Thanks for advise!

    • Richard Nikoley on November 9, 2010 at 09:53

      I worked up to it. Initially it was difficult to get the prescribed grams of protein from solid food, so initially there were shakes, but always as part of a meal so it’s not just fast digesting whey all by itself.

      If you like cottage cheese, that’s an easy way to go. Also, cans of tuna are easy. About 40g each, I can easily put down 3 cans. But, I get high quality tuna. Line caught and small.


      • Richard Nikoley on November 9, 2010 at 10:02

        In fact, thanks for reminding me. Just ordered 24 cans of the regular and 24 of the smoked to replenish, since I ran out last week. Most awesome canned tuna in the world.

        Another great way to use tuna is a big salad. Green leaf lettuce or romaine. Take a can (this, you do not drain the juice – it’s packed in its own — no oil or water added), break it all up in a bowl and squeeze in half a lime or lemon. Then take your salad, add some shaved onion, then dress with EVOO. Add the tuna and toss. Add more lime/lemon to taste, salt & pepper.

        You can even do 2 cans fro a whopping 80g of protein. Add a 2-scoop serving of ONPro Complex with water to wash it down for another 60g and you’re up to 140g protein in a meal.

        Mind you, this is a less than optimal Paleo strategy, but as I’ve said, it’s a relatively short program to reach a goal. Once I get there standard paleo with paying attention to getting lots of protein from beef, lamb, chicken, fish will keep me where I want to be.

      • Samson on November 9, 2010 at 10:37

        Aweswome! thank you for the suggestion. I will definitely try this recipe out.

      • skitterling on November 9, 2010 at 12:39

        Thanks for the recommendation! I just went to the website and ordered some – can’t wait until I can crank open the can –

      • Dan Linehan on November 9, 2010 at 14:20

        Do you worry about mercury or BPA at all? I’ve tended to avoid tuna b/c of mercury and canned goods because of BPA in the lining of the cans.

        I used to eat a lot of tuna back in the day, one of the tastiest foods imo, but some research says for adults not to eat more than one can every three days. Not sure how valid that is though.


      • Richard Nikoley on November 9, 2010 at 14:22

        I don’t know what to make of any of it. The High Seas are line caught and smaller, so presumably less mercury.

        I eat so little from cans anyway it’s probably no concern and this is a temporary thing as well.

      • Grok on November 9, 2010 at 14:35

        You can always switch to mackerel or other smaller fish if mercury is a worry. Go to an asian store if you want to buy fish not in a can. They have all kinds of good stuff (real food) there you’ll never see in a normal American grocery store.

        I can find both canned Alaskan salmon and Mackerel for about half the price of canned tuna in the store. Most canned tuna tastes like shit too, if you’ve ever eaten real tuna.

      • jake on December 20, 2010 at 07:46

        I agree with Grok completely that canned tuna is subpar to the fresh, real thing from an Asian restaurant. We have a big seafood market in the city here that I’ve never even been inside. I am reluctant to purchase fish b/c I have very small freezer space [I’m in a studio efficiency apartment with no kitch] also I have no way to cook, but I plan on changing that soon with a Griddle or Foreman Grill] And also, aside from your basic yellowtail, tuna, crab & salmon in sushi rolls, I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure-so to speak- of tasting & liking other fish. g2g this is sounding too weird.

      • rob on November 9, 2010 at 12:29

        I’ve been taking the cottage cheese/cans of tuna approach myself. If my dinner is light on protein I mix 3 cans of tuna with some buffalo sauce, still doesn’t taste great but at least it tastes like something.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 9, 2010 at 12:33

        To make tuna taste good, first, you need decent tuna like whole white albacore. Second, you need to cumin and lime. Then, you can moisten more with EVOO or mayo, according to pref.


    • Ishmael on November 11, 2010 at 16:51

      Ah, don’t be a wuss man. I eat almost 3 times that, as part of an experiment. Not sure what will happen. But it’s easy with 90/10 ground beef. Just cook it in a pan with some tomatoes and onions and whatever. Then eat it with a spoon.

      • Robert on November 16, 2010 at 01:42

        I believe canned tuna may fall under the classification of whole fish and so mercury may not be as much of an issue according to this http://thehealthyskeptic.org/is-eating-fish-safe-a-lot-safer-than-not-eating-fish , short version taken from there is as follows “fish contain selenium. Selenium binds to mercury and makes it unavailable to tissues, thus protecting against any damage it may cause.” No idea on the rest of the toxins but in general the lower down the food chain, the younger the animal and avoiding the liver or areas of concentrated toxins is usually a decent rule.

  12. rob on November 9, 2010 at 09:49

    Fantastic interview, thanks very much.

    I don’t think I have been resting enough between sets, I thought a minute and a half/two minutes was plenty.

    • Martin Berkhan on November 10, 2010 at 02:44

      3 mins is vastly superior to 1 min, 5 min is slightly better than 3 min (results from one study that looked at this). From a practical point of view, I think 3 min between sets is the best compromise. I recommend 5 min minimum rest in between some movements that are particularly taxing, and for the same muscle groups, such as deadlifts followed by weighted chins.

      • Roland on December 16, 2010 at 17:54

        What do you do during your rest period? Literally sit there and take up a lifting area in the gym? I’m just getting into this and I feel like a goofball when there are people waiting to use some equipment and I’m sitting around for 3 or more minutes. Should I go do another type of lift or just wait it out and finish my sets?

        TIA for any advice,


      • Karl K on December 16, 2010 at 21:05


        Well, get out of the way and let someone else use the equipment, or we will all hate you. :) It’s possible that someone uses the equipment while you rest and it’s not ready for you “on time,” but so what? The worst thing that can happen is that you get a couple of minutes extra rest. I’m no expert, but I doubt that that’s harmful…

      • DJ Roland on January 27, 2011 at 00:40

        Good answser Kari :)

        Just so you know, I am NOT related to Roland although we both have the same name :)

  13. Justin on November 9, 2010 at 09:52

    Sounds like you’re doing the same thing I’m doing (same plan more or less). Unfortunately my office gym, which is my only option for the time being, only has a Smith machine and you can’t do dead lifts on a Smith machine, so I’m squatting 2x week. That said, I’m making good gains across all lifts.

    What I really like about Martin’s approach is that it 1) splits up days and exercises so that you’re not doing so much on any given day that you can’t give it a proper effort 2) it’s easy to tell if you’re making progress or not.

    Pre-leangains I got into a huge rut of low-rest, intense workouts using pull-ups/kettlebells/push-ups, etc. It was oriented in a CrossFit style (more or less). And while I could start these sessions giving a particular exercise my all, by about 2/3 through I’m so tired that it’d drudgery. Leangains reduces volume so you don’t get worn out on volume but on intensity, and that’s a great feeling.

    My biggest struggle at present with LG is weekends, which tend to involve me overdrinking and overeating.

    Looking forward to the next post, Richard!

    • Aaron Griffin on November 9, 2010 at 11:53

      Smith Machines are generally bad for your squats… I’ve never met a professional who says they’re even “OK”.

      • Leo on November 9, 2010 at 15:21


      • jordan on November 9, 2010 at 15:42


      • Reid on November 10, 2010 at 08:10

        If a Smith machine is your only option, what would you suggest doing instead (assuming I can’t switch gyms)?

      • dave on November 16, 2010 at 03:40

        Smith machine leg press.

  14. Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger. on November 9, 2010 at 09:53

    Martin is as legit as legit can get. Period.

    I’m surprised he actually gave away so much of this programming but I can vouch for the efficacy of his approach!

    • Richard Nikoley on November 9, 2010 at 10:08

      “Martin is as legit as legit can get. Period.”

      Absolutely and I can’t wait to get to the final “Working with Martin” post. That’s gonna be fun.

      “I’m surprised he actually gave away so much of this programming”

      Me too, but Martin MOST EMPHATICALLY did not want any of this to read like an advertisement for his services. He’s doing it the smart, long term way — basically increasing awareness of what he does and that will pay off in a totaly honest, up front way. Marin oozes integrity. He already has more clients than he can handle from the sense I get.

      It’s truly funny to watch him in battle with the pushers of “broscience” (learned that term from him) in various BB forums and such from morons who have no clue about what he does or the amazing results he gets for clients.

      • Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger. on November 9, 2010 at 15:29

        “It’s truly funny to watch him in battle with the pushers of “broscience” (learned that term from him) in various BB forums”

        That is my only beef with him. Martin is such a class act and it’s really sad to see him fight it out with random (genetically gifted and roid dunking) idiots on websites like bodybuilding.com. IMHO, Martin will benefit from staying away from such douches… kind of like how we all stay away from http://theflatearthsociety.org/cms/.

      • Ishmael on November 12, 2010 at 00:13

        I haven’t read any of this (would like to if someone can point me there), but I think that speaks to his credibility. I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t flame idiots on web forums for at least 2-4 hours a week.

    • Sean on November 9, 2010 at 15:04

      I’ve been reading Martin’s blog for a while and he is rather cagey about nailing down his approach. Richard’s report supplies more specifics than I’ve ever seen Martin do. He’s writing a book and this cageyness is the norm in the BB/fitness world, I get that. I would buy the book regardless and find the coyness annoying. But what the fuck do I know about marketing?

  15. Woodwoose on November 9, 2010 at 10:02

    Is there any consensus as to what is a Chin-up vs a Pull-up, it seems not even google will give a straight answer?

    Personally I find using a wide grip with my palms away from my body is alot more difficult than using a narrow grip with my palms facing my body.

    • Richard Nikoley on November 9, 2010 at 10:19

      In this instance, it’s palms inward, vertical arms, i.e., shoulder width. Difficulty is reached by adding weight. Marting uses these instead of palms outward because of the increased range of motion.

      • Aaron Griffin on November 9, 2010 at 11:55

        As an aside, a palms-in dead hang is much harder and will help strengthen your elbow and shoulder tendons far better than a palms-out dead hang.

      • Chris on November 9, 2010 at 14:28

        I was going to ask the same question. Palms away has always been harder for me, and I can never do as many reps. I thought they worked the lats a bit more and biceps a bit less than palms in. Perhaps that’s why Martin has such obscenely big biceps.

    • Martin Berkhan on November 10, 2010 at 02:47

      I talked about pullups vs chin-ups here:

      See “6”.

  16. Reid on November 9, 2010 at 10:41


    Great post. I’m sorry if I missed this, but how do you determine the weight to start at for each of the core exercises? For my first set (post warm-up) should I use a weight I think I can do 3 times, then drop the weight from that point by 10% on the second set? If I end up getting 5 reps on either set, I know I need to increase the weight for that set the next session?

    Also, how do you warm-up? For example, do you do light deadlifts prior to doing your first heavy set of deadlifts?

    • Richard Nikoley on November 9, 2010 at 11:47


      It’s a bit hit & miss at first. Don’t worry about it. Just give a reasonable estimate and go for it. If you can do eight reps instead of 3, then obviously it’s too light. Bump it up 10-20% on set number two and maybe toss in a 3rd set that first time. Soon enough you’ll figure out where you need to be.

      I typically warm up only on deads, squats, and bench (those are the first exercises on those days, and weighted chins come on my deadlift day). Once I’ve done that first exercise I feel adequately warm to move on to the other exercises without a specific warmup.

      I typically warm up with three reps at 65% of the weight I’ll be lifting in set #1.

      (This is all subject to whatever different or other ideas Martin might have)

      • Dragos on November 9, 2010 at 23:19

        Richard, this is your only warm up?

      • Richard Nikoley on November 10, 2010 at 07:06

        Yes, once I’ve warmed up for the first big core exercise and completed it, good to go for everything else.

  17. Steve Cooksey on November 9, 2010 at 11:28

    Wow… many thanks Richard and to Martin as well. At 165 lbs (down from 235) I am relatively pleased with my own fitness journey but I’m always looking for ways to improve.

    This post alone is worth the FTA membership fees you charge me. :)

    Question for Martin: I’m a Type 2 diabetic and while I have not encountered any limitations myself … I don’t train at the level of Martin. Just curious if has trained any diabetics and if so if he could comment on any negatives he’s encountered relating to the training regimen.


    • Martin Berkhan on November 10, 2010 at 02:52

      Re. diabetes:


      I’ve had clients with T2DM in the past and they had no problems. Then again these were people with some weight training experience that could manage their doses easily, etc. I did not have to step in and provide any advice on how to use their insulin (which I would not dare to do).

  18. Mike Hollister on November 9, 2010 at 11:45

    Great article. I’ve been crossfitting and eating paleo since April and am truly in the best shape of my life. The stuff about mixing strength and conditioning not being effective is a bit troublesome to me b/c I’ve had such great results with it.

    However, I take a lot of heart knowing that I’ll be able to maintain and continue to build muscle with a lot less volume than I’m doing these days. Plenty of time for training right now but I know that season will not last forever.

    Great interview. As mentioned, it seemed like he was giving away a lot of his programing “secrets” for free.

  19. anand srivastava on November 9, 2010 at 11:47

    I have been reading Martin’s blog for sometime. This is excellent.

    Wish this article had come sooner, I have less than 4 weeks of access remaining to a decent gym.

    • jake on December 20, 2010 at 08:17

      Buy some home workout equipment, most of these things are very easy to substitute, I am the type who likes to drink the NO.-Xplode, then spend 45 mins [various exercises, usually 2 sets of 10 reps, two sets of 15, or until failure, depending on the exercise] i usually do core last but now i see this is counterproductive. a lot of the advice Martin gives is so counter-intuitive to everything I’ve heard, & here I’ve been taking the advice of a “bodybuilding” friend! Well my “new years resolution” but really, for the rest of my life, I’m going to follow this IF thing & perfect it, I know it’s going to be hard as I love to eat now, but hopefully the book has a lot of goof things to say about eating the foods you WANT & enjoying them. He seems to have a “holistic” lifestyle approach, enjoyment of yourself [mind & body] as well as time spent advocating health & wellness to others. This is my mission in life.

  20. Marc on November 9, 2010 at 12:05

    Thank you Richard and Martin!!!

    Martin is absolutely right about not mixing strength and conditioning. I had to find that out the hard by myself. It just doesn’t work.

    Thanks again, really enjoyed the post.


  21. Dan Linehan on November 9, 2010 at 12:24

    Was waiting for this post, did not disappoint.

    I really appreciate the four exercise focus Martin uses. I’ve also had great luck with the reverse pyramid style thus far (from 4x35lb to 3×53 lb one-handed kettlebell press in the first month)

  22. Paul C on November 9, 2010 at 12:46

    Question for Martin,

    Jim Wendler’s approach is very similar to yours in the focus on the few core strengh movements with added assistance movements, amount of rest between sets, and also a set of max reps at heavy weight. Can you comment on how the reverse pyramid rep scheme compares to 5/3/1 in terms of client progress, if you have had the opportunity to compare? The science behind why you chose reverse pyramid vs other rep schemes would be interesting also, if you have more detail.

    One thing that may not come across from this interview is that this style of workout is FUN, doesn’t make you crying-sore, doesn’t take a huge amount of time, and will have you beating your best results often, which is just plain fun too.

    • Richard Nikoley on November 9, 2010 at 12:51

      “One thing that may not come across from this interview is that this style of workout is FUN, doesn’t make you crying-sore, doesn’t take a huge amount of time, and will have you beating your best results often, which is just plain fun too.”

      Yea, I should have focussed on that. I think I may add this as an update at the end because it is very important. It is fun.

  23. Jim Arkus on November 9, 2010 at 12:47

    I’ve also been waiting for this post and it did NOT disappoint! Thank you both!

    For those of us without access to a gym, would you be able to comment on what some good substitutes are? At this point, I’m doing Deadlift Twists (got those from Ross Enamait), Zercher Squats (got those from Justin at The Bodyweight Files), chin ups (not weighted just yet), and a lot of push up variations.

    • Leo on November 9, 2010 at 14:35

      buy a barbell and some olympic plates. worth the investment.

  24. Mountain Dew on November 9, 2010 at 13:20

    Man, I’m just trying to get to drop 40 lbs and get to 10% bf. But this is all kinda confusing. So you’re (Martin or RN) saying that for weight loss it’s better to go low volume, low rep, high weight?

    • Richard Nikoley on November 9, 2010 at 13:25

      For _fat_ loss. And caloric deficit. High protein to preserve lean mass.

      • Mountain Dew on November 9, 2010 at 13:29

        Thanks, Richard. But about the caloric deficit, is that on the off days? I’m kinda thinking that a deficit on WO days would not be good.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 9, 2010 at 13:32

        We’ll talk more about that in the next post.

      • Ishmael on November 12, 2010 at 00:32

        I’m running a massive caloric surplus and it is working fine. I don’t see any benefit of caloric restriction. Possibly on the off days, but I usually only have one of those a week.

        However, I am going to give martin’s 18/6 thing a try, just to see what happens, but I am still going to try to fit 3lbs of beef and a bunch of vegetables in that 6 hour window. I don’t see any benefit to overloading the protein. Though my age and personal metabolism might have something to do with it.

      • Ishmael on November 12, 2010 at 00:36

        *I don’t see any benefit to NOT overloading on the protein.

    • Mountain Dew on November 9, 2010 at 13:28

      Egh, remove the “to get” in that first sentence. And I meant *fat* loss instead of weight loss.

  25. Candice on November 9, 2010 at 15:50

    So great to see two of my favorite bloggers working together. The post about fasting is of particular interest to me because it seems every time I fast (I’ve tried the 16/8 split and the 24-Hr Eat Stop Eat method) I seem to gain weight. It doesn’t seem to be just water weight either. I am don’t think I’m overcompensating on my calories when I break the fasts so I’d be interested to know if Martin has found that IF causes some people – and in particular women – to gain weight. Maybe there is some kind of hormonal environment that causes tsome bodies to store fat in response to fasting. Michel Montignac wrote that fasting is the perfect way to gain weight:

    “The only way to put on weight when one feels too slim is to break the normal and regular cycle of food intake. For instance one can completely skip an important meal and eat more at the following one or even fast during one day and eat a lot afterwards. This is the only way to force the body to make reserves. This is the reason why monks in the past were always fat. It’s because they alternated fasting days with eating days that their bodies being scared of missing food managed to make reserves.”

    • Joshua on November 9, 2010 at 16:21

      I can tell you are sincere, but I think it’s helpful to be frank.
      that last quote is utter bullshit. alternate fasting IMPROVES insulin sensitivity (i.e., makes you less likely to store fat with a given caloric load). Fat loss is accelerated greatest at around the 16-18 hr mark of a fast. Read the studies. You’re just eating too much, plain and simple. Count your calories and this won’t happen. Seriously, COUNT YOUR CALORIES. Meal frequency doesnt matter and macros dont matter AS MUCH as many presume.

      • Martin Berkhan on November 10, 2010 at 02:55

        As Joshua implied, Montignac is full of shit.

        Read this, Candice:

      • Candice on November 10, 2010 at 09:22

        @Martin. Thanks for your response. I think I’ve read just about every post on your site Martin. The only reason I mentioned Montignac is that I’m searching for something to explain why I gain weight when I fast. Maybe I’m just not giving it enough time to see the effects. After 3 24-hr fasts with nothing but about 50 calories in cream in coffee x2 during the fast I effectively gained almost 2 lbs. I was just wondering if there is some kind of hormonal issue which might make fasting not work well for certain people. Also, is there an intitial period where you might gain while your body gets used to fasting before the losses start and in your experience does a female cycle mess with the ability to measure losses.

        @Joshua I don’t count calories at the moment but I have religiously logged FitDay for long enough periods in the past to have a good idea of my calorie intake. Maybe it is worth doing it again just to be sure but I find doing that brings out my obsessive side. I really liked Martin’s post about the unexpected benefit of being lean freeing up so much mental energy because you don’t have to constantly be thinking about all that stuff.

        @Wes Yes, I saw that. And more fruit (which I love). I’ve tried the 16/8 split in the past so the 14/10 would be easy. Maybe I’ll try that.

      • Jeromie on November 10, 2010 at 11:43

        what about using coconut milkk instead of cream? I hear the medium chain triglycerides are less likely to be stored as fat and convert into ketones very well.

      • Jeff on November 12, 2010 at 07:55

        If one is drinking cream, is one really fasting? Aren’t the fat and calories in the cream sufficient to disrupt the hormonal response to fasting? Not challenging, genuinely curious. I would love to include cream in my coffee while fasting!

      • Martin Berkhan on November 12, 2010 at 08:07

        <50 kcal is ok during the fast.

        Read this:

        "The fasted state is not an on/off switch"

    • wes on November 10, 2010 at 06:27

      candice, I believe Martin uses a 14 hour fast and 10 hour eating window for the ladies.

  26. Berzinator on November 9, 2010 at 17:25

    Although I’m a huge fan of Martin’s and his IF approach, I was in disagreement with his training ideas until this part:

    “I’ve experimented with higher frequency training where sets were not taken to failure every session. However, that was in the context of gaining. On a diet, hard and heavy is the right way to go. Training volume should be low, effort high.”

    I feel a higher frequency of training can be very beneficial when gaining, but I do agree that lower frequency is better when dieting. I also agree with the idea that strength and muscle gain tend to go hand in hand, but not to the extent written here.

    If you look at HST, for example, strength doesn’t necessarily increase a ton, but growth is very good on this program. Plenty of testimonies to go around for this, too.

  27. Nathaniel on November 9, 2010 at 17:32

    I love Martin’s approach to training. It clearly draws inspiration from Stuart McRobert, one of my favorite strength training authorities, and one of Martin’s favorites, too, so it’s not surprising.

    I’m expecting to join a gym next month and I’m looking forward to implementing Martin’s approach to training and experiencing the amazing results.

  28. Dan Ordoins on November 9, 2010 at 18:54

    Great write up and interview. I can contest to Martin’s layout and program as I worked with him for about 6 or more months to get down close to 6% bf. Kept and even gained strength. I even hit a personal best of 350 on bench while dieting down. Martin said that usually bench takes the hardest hit when losing body fat. The workouts are intense and challenging but fun. I was pulling 110 lbs for reps on my chins. That was a personal best.

    Keep up the great write ups the stuff Martin puts out works. No BS.

    • Richard Nikoley on November 9, 2010 at 19:03

      it is no BS. And this is why so many like my style, and Martin’s. Amazing we don’t but heads, but I’ll get into that aspect later.

  29. Marc on November 9, 2010 at 19:26

    Do you need a spotter for these lifts or are you able to do max weight safely as a solo?

    • Richard Nikoley on November 9, 2010 at 19:36

      I use a trainer, but I only have him spot on bench.

      • Leo on November 10, 2010 at 15:33

        once you get confident enough to squat at your maximal capacity, you will want a good, expereinced spotter for squats too. (as an aside, a good squat spot is super homo-erotic!)

  30. Primitive on November 10, 2010 at 02:09

    Thanks Richard and Martin; it’s a great guide for those, like me, who try increasing strength while losing last pounds of fat.

    On question, since I can’t seemingly go beyond a 200lbs limit on dead lifts, due to a hand grip problem (dead right thumb muscle), can you recommend an alliterative?

    • Martin Berkhan on November 10, 2010 at 03:03

      There’s no great alternative considering your grip problem but you can build an impressive physique without deads. However, you might consider adding in hyperextensions and *maybe* even good mornings (takes awhile to get this right, it’s not the easiest movement), as they target the lower back and glute/ham area that deadlifts hit very well.

      • Jeromie on November 10, 2010 at 05:15

        What about hip thrusts?

        What do you think are the pro/cons in comparison with good mornings and hitting the same muscles as deadlifts?

        Just curious.

      • Leo on November 10, 2010 at 05:49

        Why not use wrist wraps or other grip aid, if DL’s are only limited by grip?

        Hip thrusts are great for glute strength, but only recruit the hamstrings and spinal erectors minimally when compared to DL’s. DL’s also hit many upper back muscles (retractors, depressors, elevators… all of them, to a certain degree).

        I use hip thrusts as an assistance exercise almost exclusively. The only time I’d use them as a primary movement is if for some reason I can DL safely OR if I’m deloading from heavy DL’s for a week.

        Good mornings will smoke your spinal erectors and hamstrings. Less glute and no quad. The limiter for GM’s is often spinal erector strength and as such overall load i less when compared to the DL. A great movement, though and super hard.

        The great thing about the DL is that because it uses so many muscle groups in a synergistic way, the lifter can handle huge loads. It is these huge loads which send the strongest signals to the body to stay muscular/strong. The brutal intensity/stress caused by DL’s is evident by every(?) decent strenght coach advocating heavy DL’s infrequently (every 7-10 days, seems to be the norm). Theyre so damn stressful, and so damn effective.


      • Primitive on November 10, 2010 at 10:16

        Thanks very much martin.
        Due to effectiveness of DLs, I’m trying to find ways to keep them in my routine while making progress on handling heavier weights; using an underhand grip helps (for up to 4-6 reps, which seems to be in line with your RPT approach); I’m also trying to master using wrist wraps and find out if that helps.

      • Hans on December 14, 2010 at 02:53

        Hi sir, could you describe more precisely your thumb problem? Is it only the muscle that activates the tip (first phalanx) of the thumb that is dead? Because I have a similar problem with my left thumb which has given me trouble for gripping heavy weights. Have you consulted a doctor about it and if so what were you told? Thanks for the reply, ideally by e-mail!

      • Hans on December 14, 2010 at 02:58

        Nevermind about the e-mail thing, just reply here and I’ll receive the notification through my e-mail :)

      • JimS on November 16, 2010 at 06:36

        Thanks for that suggestion, Martin. My left leg is off at the knee, so I can’t do deads or squats. I’ve maxed out the 300lb back extension machine, and Good Mornings seems like a good replacement. Needless to say, I *won’t* be trying to start GMs at 300.

        Also, I had forgotten about Lyle’s one-legged leg press… I’m about to max the seated leg press machine and wondered what to do next.

        HUGE THANKS to Richard and Martin for all you’ve provided.

  31. Mallory on November 10, 2010 at 07:39

    i wann SEEE your results :) so hopefully that’s in the next post…like beofre and afters cuz a lot of people seem to want to find errors in martin’s approach and i think it is genius. im finally coming around on the switch up from lowcarb/high fat to lower fat/high carb….always keeping protein the same… i definitely see a difference.

    still workin on that gym membership…. i used a pole i found int he shop at work to do chin ups and pulls ups but i cant find anythign heavy enough to put ont he ends to squat lol

  32. Juan on November 10, 2010 at 09:00

    To echo everyone else: Thank you Richard and Martin for your clear, informative, and very forthcoming narratives and responses. Super helpful.

    Selfishly looking forward to more from you both!


  33. Ulfr on November 10, 2010 at 10:50

    Thanks Richard and Martin! This approach really makes a lot of sense. I will be starting to experiment with RPT today. Already been doing some pre-workout fasting with good results.

    Martin, really looking forward to your upcoming post concerning strength and conditioning.

    Richard, for you having done Movnat, how do these things all fit together for you and your goals? I am really just getting started with all this and I am trying to decide on my goals and how to proceed.

    • Richard Nikoley on November 10, 2010 at 10:58

      MovNat was a completely different deal. Very valuable on a number of levels (there are five posts in that series) but, as Martin said, don’t mix things up. When I did MovNat I took a week off from the strength training and did that instead.

  34. Ulfr on November 10, 2010 at 11:12

    Yes, I am starting to understand this (a little from limited experience too). I would like to maximize my strength, body composition, as well as endurance/work capacity and real world ability, but not quite sure how at this point.

    When you returned from Movnat, what was your experience getting back to the strength training? A week is not very long, but it seems that they should complement each other over the long term if not mixed up.

    The Movnat posts were great! I’ll go back and read them again.

  35. Craig on November 10, 2010 at 11:24

    I apologize if I missed it in your previous posts. Are you weighing and measuring your food intake or just eyeballing it?

    • Richard Nikoley on November 10, 2010 at 11:51

      Usually weigh and measure, except when eating out or, having something I know, life a fistful or roastbeef, for example.

  36. rob on November 10, 2010 at 11:42

    Yesterday afternoon I went with 3-4 minute rest between sets instead of the 1 1/2-2 minutes I had been doing, did pullups/chinups/pulldowns/rows … I am really feeling the difference today, was able to do more reps per set on the bodyweight stuff and work out with heavier weight on the weights.

  37. Hugh Anderson on November 10, 2010 at 11:51

    This is very timely as I just started my Leangains-inspired body recomposition on Monday. I’ve planned my diet to the hilt based upon Martin’s site, but the one piece of the puzzle missing for me was the weight training aspect. I was familiar with his RPT post, but this solidifies in my mind that my beginner 5×5 routine (Stronglifts, a variation of Starting Strength) ain’t gonna cut it now that I’m squatting relatively heavy 3x a week. I was planning on cutting back to 3×5 but now I see that I’ll probably be better off limiting squating & deadlifting to 1x a week using the RPT scheme for those lifts and perhaps use 3×5 for the press, bench, & rows. Or do RPT for all of them? Hmmm…

    In any case I’m looking forward to waking up January 1st leaner & stronger than I’ve ever been even after eating to my heart’s content for all the holiday dinners coming up. And I’ll be celebrating my first week of my diet on Saturday with a Leangains-style boozefest.

    For anyone that cares, I’ve been happy so far with the free app Cron-o-meter for calorie counting purposes. Easy & flexible.

    Thanks again, gentlemen.

  38. PR on November 10, 2010 at 12:30

    Hi Martin/Richard,

    For people with weak/injury-prone backs, what would be your single best recommended replacement for (a) squat and (b) deadlift? Leg press is mentioned in the post, so that may well be the answer to (a).

    Thanks to both of you for your excellent work!

    • russ on November 12, 2010 at 04:53

      why don’t you work on fixing the back so that you are fit to train properly? this will most likely also include core stability as well.

      • PR on November 12, 2010 at 13:22

        Yeah, I’ve seen this response in other forums where this question has been asked, but I was actually hoping for an answer (if there is one).

        I was encouraged to post by Martin’s reply to the question above about deadlift alternatives for weak grips, where he said there were no great ones, but I was hoping he might have a suggestion for weak backs.

        Lyle McDonald wrote a great article about leg presses vs squats, in which he states both that “the idea that someone must squat to get big is mainly a lot of macho nonsense” and that “doing leg presses one leg at a time (with the other leg on the floor) makes it nearly impossible to round the low back and this may be the safest way of all to do them”.

        However, I’ve yet to see an equivalent suggestion for replacing deadlifts. Maybe that’s because there is none. But I was hoping Martin might confirm.


      • Russ on November 12, 2010 at 13:38

        well i would say if you are going to use the leg press, then switching to a single leg version is the way to go for the reasons lyle mentioned. though i would prefer no one use it regardless.

        in the same vein you could perform single leg squats. rear foot is elevated and supported on a bench or chair. that would substantially decrease the load on your spine. front squatting and/or goblet squats with kettlebells may be an option for you too. while i’m on the subject of kettlebells, performing swings may get your back and grip somewhat up to par as well. but please, please don’t do this without some quality instruction. and RKC or HKC certified individual is what you are looking for.

        you could similarly switch to single leg deadlifts as well. should easily be able to find a video on-line. again, barbells, dumbbells, or kettlebells would work here. would be best to start with a broomstick or pvc pipe to get comfortable and get your technique down. whatever you use it should maintain contact with the back of your head, thoracic spine, and sacrum at all times.

        there could be glute weakness and/or firing problems also – hard to tell from the internet.

        and lastly, but possibly most important of all – you need to learn to breath correctly under load in order to create the required pressure in the abdomen to protect the lower back.

  39. Jose on November 10, 2010 at 13:37

    What are some good assistance exercises?

  40. Chuck O on November 10, 2010 at 13:39

    Outstanding read! Thankyou. The only question i have are you currently using Martins BCAA protocal along with your workouts?

    Martin- What type of BCAA’s do you recommend?

    I am taking a break from X-Fit and doing a more strenght bias WOD’s (CF Football) and would like to use Martins approach.

    Thanks Again!

    • Martin Berkhan on November 12, 2010 at 08:10

      If I train fasted, which I most often do, then I use BCAAs pre-workout.

      As for brand recommendations, you might find this useful:

      • Chuck O on November 17, 2010 at 06:26

        I understand your BCAA protocal is 10mg before WO, then 10g after then wait 2 hours and have another dose of BCAA 10mg with fist meal? when do you suggest the Whey Protien? and how much….

      • Orinn Checkley on December 16, 2010 at 03:15

        I get my powdered BCAA from http://www.myprotein.com/uk/products/bcaa unsweetend and cheap, taste like crap, but hey! Orinn

    • JimS on November 16, 2010 at 06:29

      Chuck, the best deal I saw for BCAAs was from NOW Sports 12 oz. I think I got it from Swanson online or maybe iHerb.

  41. Paul Verizzo on November 10, 2010 at 13:46

    My head hurts. Reps/times per week/load/rest/positive load/negative load/crossfit/blah/blah……

    After losing 90 pounds I discoverd I’ve also lost a lot of upper body strength over the years. A lot due to ageing, sarcopenia, no doubt.

    After lots and lots of research (not ever being a gym rat I can start with a clean slate of understanding) I bought Body by Science and have followed a modified form. Think of it as a K.I.S.S. H.I.T.

    Once a week now, I use The Big Five plus some barbell curls, the former wasn’t cutting it in the biceps department.

    Using a large clock in front of me, I hold to utter exhaustion aiming for 60-90 seconds. That’s it. All done in 15 minutes. Utter exhaustion is defined as I can’t wiggle the weight anymore.

    I’ve just started experimenting with resting 15 seconds and doing it again to exhaustion. And possibly once more. Time irrelevant.

    I have recorded everything I’ve done since I started six weeks ago. Generally, I’ve seen 100% improvements in most efforts, 400% on the seated row.

    Not shabby, I’d say.

  42. Henry on November 10, 2010 at 14:19

    Martin/Richard – are you counting your BCAAs towards your protein macro targets?

    • Leo on November 10, 2010 at 15:35

      there are no calories in BCAAs. So I would say no.

      • Nathaniel on November 10, 2010 at 19:00

        How can there be no calories? They are protein, right?

      • Nick on November 10, 2010 at 20:35

        There are calories in BCAA, same as in protein so 4 cal per gram. However, since Martin advocates 10 grams of BCAA before working out fasted, I’m pretty sure that 40 calories isn’t going to make or break any diet/calories counting you have going on. I’ve did it for 6 months with great success with both my energy in the gym and my gains on paper.
        My only advice to Richard is too not get too caught up in training posts, I could really use some more food posts and pictures (I live in Africa so give me a break, I’m perpetually craving fatty meat).

      • Leo on November 11, 2010 at 04:20

        A sincere thank you for the education on BCAA’s. Sorry for my previos post, I will try to remove it. Sorry, Guys!


      • Hugh Anderson on November 11, 2010 at 10:33

        My BCAA bottle says “Calories: 0” for a 10g serving.

      • Paul C on November 11, 2010 at 08:19

        My understanding is the energy is metabolized differently, so counting as regular protein grams may not be what you are after. If muscle is where the energy is used directly, and you are taking the BCAA so that it will be used right away by the muscle because of a workout, why throw it in the overall count? I don’t think you can even view it as replacing regular protein grams, because of the difference in the way it is used.

      • Martin Berkhan on November 12, 2010 at 08:12

        BCAAs should be accounted for like any other protein source.

  43. B. Dalton on November 11, 2010 at 18:48


    Are you going to lay out exactly what your entire workout is? Or have you already done that? I’m curious to see everything that you are doing so I can have a model. This type of training is not mainstream so its difficult to get a read on it.


    • Ishmael on November 12, 2010 at 00:38

      I don’t think so. This is an advert for Martin’s “secret methods”, which is why it was left intentionally vague as to the details. If you want specifics, you are going to have to give Martin some money.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 12, 2010 at 02:57

        This is no advert, Ishnael. Any clever person can go it alone. But, no, Im not going to detail every iota of Martin’s livelihood.

      • Martin Berkhan on November 12, 2010 at 08:28

        I have 336 unanswered consultation requests in the queue from the last of July (I just checked,) so if you think I am doing this to fish for clients you’re wrong. I actually voiced that concern to Richard, that I didn’t want this to come off as an advert in any way.

        My motive is simply to share my knowledge and possibly help people make better decisions with regards to their training and diet. This interview series was actually Richard’s idea and not mine. If more people have concerns about this being “adverts,” please voice them now and we’ll have all posts deleted.

      • Ulfr on November 12, 2010 at 08:47

        No way! I for one am really thankful that you are here doing this! This post has opened up a whole new set of issues I am wondering about (strength vs. conditioning) that I thought I knew about: namely, max mixing of the two. This is another signal to me that I have a LOT to learn. Keep it up Martin…you are really helping a lot of people in lots of ways!

      • Jim Arkus on November 12, 2010 at 09:25

        I’ll freely admit that I’m REALLY hypersensitive about any sort of hard sell with any of this stuff, and I can honestly say that I haven’t gotten that vibe from any of these posts or comments at all!

        And quite frankly, I wouldn’t even mind a little bit if you wanted to. For instance, I keep hearing about a book – when is that coming out? =P

      • Kelly A. on November 12, 2010 at 13:46

        Please no! Don’t let a few ruin this great wealth of information for everyone else.

      • Birgit on November 13, 2010 at 04:31

        You’re not seriously going to pull posts and deprive the rest of the world of your wisdom, just because some idiots feel you friggin’ owe it to them that you do years and years of hard work and research and then put it all together in a format that even they can follow and then serve it to them on a silver platter for free.
        Are you kidding me?
        Even if it was marketing–and I agree with others that it does not at all come across as that, but even if it did–what the hell would be wrong with that? What the hell is wrong with being paid for quality work and information?

        And yeah, when’s the book coming out? I for one would be more than happy to become a paying customer, since I don’t like my chances of becoming a client.

      • Ishmael on November 13, 2010 at 22:53

        Why you mad?

        Read my post again. I am not condemning anyone here. I am simply stating the fact that this is intentionally vague as to certain details because Martin sells this information. In no way did I make a moral judgment.

        I don’t know why I am being painted as the blog comments super-villain for simply pointing out a fact that some commenters were obviously unclear about. As I’ve already said, I would buy this information without hesitation. We can’t expect everyone to put this stuff out for charitable purposes (though with the internets, we have often become accustomed to looking at advertisements and giving donations in exchange for information).

      • Birgit on November 13, 2010 at 23:20

        I’m not mad at you. Your post was just in the wrong place and I worded mine as if I was having a go at you.

        I am mad at the fact that this happens a lot. People publish awesome blogs, give, give, give so much of their time and energy, and when at some point they offer a product or service they get this backlash from the same community that has for god knows how long benefited from their generosity.

        And it’s not even the people complaining that bother me, you always get those. It’s that so many blog owners are actually influenced by that and allow it to make them feel like it’s wrong to try to earn money with what they do, like they owe their readership to slave away for free forever.

        The fact that Martin considers removing the posts because of a comment like yours, which really was harmless, because the posts could be perceived as fishing for clients or ramping up for a book launch, that’s what makes me bang my head on the keyboard.

        He should be proudly marketing what he does and tell those who don’t like it to get lost.

        Hope that clarifies. Sorry I didn’t make the effort to be clearer first time round.

      • Ishmael on November 13, 2010 at 23:52

        No problem man. I see how my post could be interpreted as a jab, even though it honestly was not intended to be. Though I apparently mistook this for an advert, which Martin has now stated it was not intended to be, even that is something I would have no issue with. Richard showing support for Martin’s service which he considers to be high quality would be no different than his recommendation of a certain brand of canned tuna.

        Just to be clear once again, I see no problem with Martin charging for his services. However, given that he has stated that he has a full load of clients and a massive waiting list, I should also state again that it would behoove him to offer this material in another form.

      • Ishmael on November 13, 2010 at 22:39

        Fair enough. Economics generally upsets me, but I do understand where you are coming from. It is your information, that you have worked to acquire, and if you want to sell it, that is your choice.

        I appreciate the information you have shared for free, I think it makes a lot of sense, and I am going to try some of it out. And honestly, if you are able to make people look like you do in those pictures on less than 2 hours a week in the gym, without the use of anabolic steroids, than your service is worth whatever you are charging for it. Honestly. I don’t have a hard time believing that you have more requests than you can handle.

        I think for most people, a book would be more practical than a personal consultation service, and it is certainly something I would buy. I understand from experience the kind of difficulties that go into writing a book, especially for a perfectionist, which you appear to be. A good midway between the personal training service and an actual real life book might be an e-book which consists simply of several formats of workout/diet regimens for varied goals and body types. If I could buy that through paypal for $10 or so, I certainly would.

        I think I am not the only one feeling frustration about not being able to get a full grasp on what it is you are propositioning here, and if you are already fully booked, than it seems that getting the rest of this information is presently impossible. Please consider offering something like I have suggested (it is obviously a thought which has crossed your mind before) while you are working on compiling an actual book.

      • JimS on November 16, 2010 at 06:43

        If Ishmael had read everything up to this point, he wouldn’t have made such an asinine remark. My reluctant suggestion would be to ignore any further comments from jerks.

        Personally, I’m looking forward to buying the book when it appears, and hope you make a bundle off of it.

      • Jared on November 16, 2010 at 13:31

        It’s amazing some people’s sense of entitlement, isn’t it? They get FREE information and then they bitch about the content, because they feel they were being sold something. This just happened at Mark Sisson’s site a couple of weeks back. He puts out all this great, FREE information, and then, God forbid, he uses his blog to promote some of his nutritional supplements. You would have thought he got caught killing puppies with the way people reacted to him. I was disgusted.

        No where at all in this post did I feel like this was just some clever marketing ploy. And, even if it was, so what? I for one hope this post gets Martin a 100,000 eager clients who are willing to pay him for a valuable service. In turn, I hope Richard’s blog becomes the most popular site on the internet, netting him untold billions. Together, Richard and Martin will join forces and purchase Google, and then take over the world. I look forward to bowing down to our new overlords!

        Whether or not you consider hiring Martin, there is a lot to take away from this post. I have totally re-thought my training regimen (mixing met con and strength on the same dah…ahem) and plan to make some changes based on this info. I would have gladly paid for this information. Thank you, Martin and Richard for such great info!

      • Jared on November 16, 2010 at 15:04

        Couldn’t have said it better myself. I vehemently defended Mark on that post and got some venom shot my way. “This is a comments section! We are allowed to comment and say what we want!”

        Well, you’re also allowed to wear black socks with sandals…. doesn’t make it a good idea.

      • Birgit on November 16, 2010 at 16:50

        That’s another pet peeve of mine…

        “This is a comments section! We are allowed to comment and say what we want!”

        No you’re not. (Not you, Jared :-). I am generally talking to the people who post such stuff and feel that sense of entitlement. Good on you for defending Mark.)

        You are visiting someone else’s online home. The fact that your host welcomes open discussion does not mean he has to put up with crap from any and everyone.

        Consider it a privilege to be invited to (or tolerated at) a high level discussion among such knowledgeable people as you find on some of the paleo and nutrition blogs. And treat your host with respect.

        And if you dislike something he does so much that you can’t do that, well, you are entitled to one thing: staying away!

        Steve Pavlina wrote an excellent article about this issue. Whenever you see people posting such nonsense send them to read this:


        A long article, the best stuff is in the second half. Reality of Private Forums, Common Courtesy, You Are an Invited Guest…

        Too many people just don’t get those concepts.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 16, 2010 at 17:01

        What boiled me even more than that were claims that “this is OUR community.”

      • Ishmael on November 16, 2010 at 22:27

        Why are you mad?

        Someone asked why Richard’s entire workout was not being explained (which, all things being equal, would have been logical), and I replied with the answer, which no one is denying; the entire workout is not explained because Martin sells the format, and the presumption is that if he were to give it out for free, less people would be willing to pay for his services. This is a fact, which no one is denying.

        Regarding my assumption that this was an advert:

        I took it for granted (and assumed that everyone else reading this, save for the person who asked the question I replied to) that Martin approached Richard, via email, offering to give him free coaching. Here is what Richard wrote in his first Leangains article:

        “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.”


        As my assumption went, Martin understood that Richard has a popular blog on which he would then, if Martin services were helpful (Martin, confident that he offers a valuable service, felt they would be), give him a favorable write-up which would boost his own blog’s readership, which would in turn result in monetary gain.

        Perhaps an analogy is needed, so as those attacking me do not remain so confused:

        Magazines and journals often send free copies of their publications to the offices of doctors and various other professionals. Their intent is that the office’s staff will place the complementary copies of the publications they have been given in their waiting room, and that individuals, while waiting, will flip peruse their printed materials, find them favorable, and then choose to go out and buy their own copies of the publications, increasing the publisher’s profits. This is known as “marketing”, which is generally synonymous with “advertisement” (the word from which the term “advert” is derived).

        Again, this was an assumption, which was accompanied by the assumption that everyone else reading this had the same understanding. Judging by the responses given by both Richard and Martin, it seems that I was mistaken, and apparently there is absolutely no profit motive on the part of Martin (it was never assumed that Richard had anything to gain – he was simply sharing information that had been helpful to him).

        So, I now see I was mistaken in believing that Martin was motivated by anything other than goodwill in offering his services to Richard. However, my assumption that he was attempting to increase his exposure does not seem like a wild one – certainly not one which I should be rabidly attacked and called names for having made in good faith. Indeed, I made no value judgment on this. I see absolutely no problem with a person using “synergy” across the blogosphere to increase traffic.

        And that is the end of the story.

        I would ask you: where is the claim of “entitlement” in my statement? Which part, exactly, was “bitching”? It’s his life and his work, and it is certainly none of my business what he does with it.

        The fact that I am being attacked and called names for simply making a statement says a lot more about the people on the attack than it does about me. All I did was answer a question.

      • Karl K on November 16, 2010 at 23:49


        Of course Martin wants exposure. Nobody is denying that.

        Your original post was very disrespectful, and as you yourself admitted, can easily be taken as a jab. It did give the impression of “Oh my God, this person is not giving away the whole store for free, what a bad guy!” and that is why many people (me included) read an attitude of entitlement into what you wrote.

        Personally I don’t see any conflict between wanting to be paid for your information and marketing on the one hand, and being genuinely helpful and happy for people’s achievements on the other. Ideally the two should go hand in hand.

        Now that Ishmael has explained that he meant nothing bad, can we please stop the whole “Oh my God, I can’t believe he said that! I know, me neither!” session, close this issue, and get back to a useful discussion? :)

      • Martin Berkhan on November 17, 2010 at 04:09

        I mainly helped Richard to showcase the effectiveness of a paleo-friendly version of the original LG setup.

        I could think of no better candidate. He was one of many but, I’ll freely admit, the most important one if successful. Plus I liked his style; outspoken and brash.

        You insinuated that this was an advert for my services, which was pretty far off the mark. I can barely handle the requests I have so far. The request queue stretches back to early August.

        I don’t care much for monetary gain at this point. Spreading my ideas and, cheesy as it sounds, providing some value to people is what motivates me. Plenty of people have benefited from the information I have provided – without spending a dime. Thinking about all the success stories and thankful emails I’ve received is something that cheers me up in dark moments.

        I’d be curious to hear what you have added to this community and how many lives you have impacted, Ishmael. Given how judgemental you are, I assume it’s quite a lot.

      • Skyler Tanner on November 17, 2010 at 07:36

        I’ve benefited without spending a dime, as I’ve been following since you first proposed this might work based on your original summer experiment. Not a penny spent on my part.

        But no, you’re money-grubbing, Martin. Isn’t your country’s values steeped in Communism or something? Why isn’t this free? ;) ;)


  44. Noel on November 12, 2010 at 01:27

    Great article. Martin Berkhan’s a great fitness expert, so it’s always great to read more about him. My favorite part about this is Martin focusing on how people mix up or change workouts too often and how this is not effective. I find that this needs to be addressed to more often since so many popular workout routines these days advocate this.

  45. Mike on November 12, 2010 at 08:22

    One thing I remain totally confused about is the consumption of carbs post workout. Martin and others seem not only to recommend it, but consider it essential. While Art De Vany who I consider equally as brilliant is stead fast against it.

  46. Steve on November 12, 2010 at 13:39

    Awesome article, Tons of information. Thanks to both Richard and Martin, just out of curiosity to either Martin or Richard, how do you become a client of Martin’s? Am I missing something on his website?

    Thanks again for all of the info!!!

  47. Karl K on November 13, 2010 at 07:04


    (The link is found at the very bottom of the main page of Martin’s website.)

  48. Chris on November 13, 2010 at 18:20

    Martin and Richard both deserve a great deal of thanks for putting in all the time and energy to bring this to the public, for the sheer sake of sharing the information to benefit people who are concerned with their fitness. Kudos, guys. If more people did this, people would be a hell of a lot healthier.

  49. Kellen on November 14, 2010 at 13:49

    Great post! Martin, you never disappoint. I am a lifelong Martin fan, I learn something new from everything he posts. Richard, keep doing your thing. Thanks so much for bringing this to us. I’ll be a lifelong reader of yours as well!

  50. Mark on November 16, 2010 at 07:30

    I’ve tried ifing recently following eat stop eat 24 hour fasting. Its just not the thing
    for me to do and work manually 12 hour days. I like Martin’s 18/6 hour fast idea though.
    I would certainly buy any book written by him. He has an excellent web site.

  51. rob on November 16, 2010 at 17:29

    Thank you both for this great interview.

    Martin, when are you coming out with this book? I’m so frustrated with my lack of success that I’d pay for the unedited pdf just to get on track.

    • Martin Berkhan on November 17, 2010 at 03:29

      I’m not giving out an ETA for the book. The release date will be announced shortly before it’s out.

      I’m not great with deadlines, at least not when it comes to this book. That’s why I prefer to keep my mouth shut rather than make promises I can’t live up to. I had the best intention of releasing it this year, trust me.

      My issue it that of dividing my attention between many different things; clients, my blog, my job at the magazine (www.body.se), and so forth. Plus the fact that I tend to devote a lot of time to reading research related to nutrition and training (i.e. I’ll read anything from PubMed that I’ll find remotely interesting).

      Another issue is that my book is scientifically referenced – reading all those studies consumes a huge amount of time and the payoff is often very small in terms of text produced. For example, you might read half a dozen papers on a specific issue only to conclude that there is no conclusion to be made yet.

      Add to this the fact that I’m easily distracted, a perfectionist, and that my time management skills sucks and you have my explanation for the long wait.

  52. Michele on November 17, 2010 at 00:40

    Hi Richard and Martin, great article. I have 2 questions for you.

    1) i can’t understand the way you decide the number of set/reps for the 4-core movement. I see that martin use a 2×4/6 for deadlift, 3×4/6 chins and 3×8/12 on bench. So, why this number of rep for the bench? i’m a bit confused…

    2) the max effort should be used only for the set #1? How should the 2nd and 3rd set be managed?

    thanks indeed

    • Martin Berkhan on November 17, 2010 at 03:38


      1) It’s actually 2 x 6-8 for bench in Richard’s case. The rep ranges differ from movement to movement; this is mostly based on

      a. my personal experience re: what movements respond better to a certain range. This is probably related to the muscle fiber make-up of the muscle groups involved (i.e. the trend seen from muscle biopsies seen from large samples), or…

      b. the nature of the lift. For example, the deadlift allows “grinder reps” better than bench presses.

      Example –

      Failure on 4th rep deadlift – often allows grinding it out

      Failure on 4th rep bench – this will happen fast and hard, often midway. There will be no grinding/tension. A higher rep range is therefore more productive, as you will be able to gauge how close you are to failure and quit in due time. (This assumes you don’t have a spotter to help you.)

      2) Max effort, or close to.

      I’ll probably need to write another RPT-article soon.

      • filip on November 17, 2010 at 04:42


        I asked this question somewhere in the beginning of the post but i guess it got lost in all the posts and opinions on your future book :)

        How would you recomend doing squats? In a RPT fashion or just one set of breathing squats of 20 reps?

        I find doing “all-out” squats a bit “risky” so I been doing them 3 sets of 5 (starting strenght).

        I tried to vacumclean the web for your strategy on squats but cant find much more than that they need to be done. Would really appreciate you input.


      • Orinn Checkley on December 16, 2010 at 03:30

        Breathing Squats will take you to another level and I know martin would agree. Orinn

  53. Michele on November 17, 2010 at 03:55

    Thanks indeed Martin, now i have clearer minds :)
    Hope that the new rpt article comes soon!


  54. Glenn on November 18, 2010 at 08:13

    I assume some examples of assistance moves would be barbell curls, push ups, various types of rows, maybe some abs? I have tried to find a definition here and on Martin’s site and have not been able to see one.

    BTW Richard, are you the same Richard who Moderated the the Credit Spread forum a few years back? That was a great group.

    • Richard Nikoley on November 18, 2010 at 08:47

      Yep, Glenn, that was me.

      • Orinn Checkley on December 16, 2010 at 03:32

        Hi Richard, I am curious as to what you do to earn a living, is this blog your way of income? Cheers, Orinn

      • Richard Nikoley on December 16, 2010 at 07:28

        If this blog was my source of income I’d be pretty damn cold right about now.

        Info about what I do in on the right sidebar and the about page.

      • Orinn Checkley on December 19, 2010 at 07:57

        : ) thanks Richard, the reason I asked was that you do such a great job on this blog I wondered if it took up all of your time. Keep up the good work. Cheers, Orinn

  55. Skinny2Strong on November 18, 2010 at 13:19

    WOW. This sounds almost exactly like Rippetoe’s Starting Strength program.

    I wonder if that’s what Martin used at the core of his program?

  56. Andrew on November 26, 2010 at 00:33

    What do you think of squats 3 times per week like on Stronglifts, is too much? Also do Deads and Bench on the same do you do squats, Iv’e been doing it and I feel strong, but the little voice is asking, would I get better results doing squats only once a week as described above by Martin.

  57. Richard Nikoley on November 26, 2010 at 06:19

    Andrew, I believe the point with Martin’s approach is not so much as whether you can do squats 3x per week, but that if you can then you aren’t lifting heavy enough. In other words, you should up the weight so that by doing to sets in the 6-8 rep range with set #2 about 10% less weight, you have no desire or benefit doing it more than once per week.

    Currently, having been at about 225# on my first set, I lowered the weight way down and uppped to three sets, but that was to work on form. Now I have better form, am closing in on 200# again, back to two sets and I have tossed in one set of incline leg press in the 8-10 rep range which right now is about 380#.

  58. Don’t Be Stupid: Take Your PR’s and Go Home « Fitness. Unchained. on December 3, 2010 at 14:04

    […] art than science. Matt at ImpulseStrength has a good write up of his experiences with RPT, as does Richard at Free The […]

  59. […] I did a modified version of Martin Berkhan’s fat loss template. Martin recommends some machine based exercises which I’m not a fan off and so those exercises were changed. Martin also recommends only walking on non-workout days. You can read more about Martin’s training methodology here at Richard’s Free The Animal. […]

  60. Gruesome on December 5, 2010 at 12:12

    This will definitely work – for mirror muscles and meathead strength. But those are the easiest dimensions of physical improvement to measure, and that’s why they appeal to so many readers of this blog. But excellence in other dimensions like speed, agility and balance is much more difficult to achieve, and take more effort than most readers here are willing to sacrifice. Rather than a simplistic approach like Leangains that involves narrow training dimensions, it would be of greater benefit to borrow from disciplines such as Movnat, parkour, gymnastics and Circular Strength Training to build a more useful body, in addition to being just great for the mirror or weightroom. Richard should beware of falling for conventional quick fixes that aren’t 100% health-centered.

  61. anonymous on December 6, 2010 at 05:28

    I really appreciate your posts(this one and the others) about the leangains approach. I love reading about people’s experiences and successes with Martin’s training and dietary approaches.

    I’m looking forward to your post on Martin’s dietary approach!

  62. My LeanGains Experiment « Fitness Log on December 7, 2010 at 13:43

    […] came this article, by Richard Nikoley, over at Free the Animal, describing his workout strategy. Richard made huge […]

  63. Eric on December 11, 2010 at 18:40

    Can’t wait for the next installment to come in!

  64. […] You can find the previous post in this series that discusses the workouts, right here. […]

  65. branko on December 14, 2010 at 13:17

    martin can put up a sample rpt-program with assistance exercises that you apply to most of your trainees ?

    • Karl K on December 14, 2010 at 15:53

      Martin wrote a post about RPT on his blog. You can find it at:

  66. CrossFit Peachtree | CrossFit in Buckhead | CrossFit in Atlanta | CrossFit in Midtown | Personal Training Atlanta | Atlanta Strength and Conditioning Coach | CrossFit Football in Atlanta | Atlanta Speed and Agility Training on December 15, 2010 at 05:53

    […] You can find the previous post in this series that discusses the workouts, right here. […]

  67. JAKE on December 16, 2010 at 13:35

    Relating to the reverse pyramid method of lifting, would it work as effectively if weight was kept the same, with reps changing each set ?

    For example if I was squatting for three sets total … 1st set I try for 8 reps, 2nd set 6-7 reps, and 3rd set 5-6 reps, all with the same weight. Once I am able to achieve 1st set of 8, 2nd set of 7, 3rd set of 6, I then increase weight???


  68. Mat on December 17, 2010 at 13:46

    How many exercises did you do total? One core exercise(two in case of DL+chin ups) + how many secondary lifts? No abs work?

    • Richard Nikoley on December 17, 2010 at 14:47

      I think it was like 15 in total, including the DL, Squat, Bench & chins. Now, it’s a little less because I had to go to a two day routine instead of three, so some of the assistance moves have been dropped.

      I do some cable crunches.

      • Mat on December 17, 2010 at 23:36

        i ment how many did u do in one workout :)

      • Richard Nikoley on December 18, 2010 at 06:08

        It’s like 5 exercises per workout.

      • Mat on December 18, 2010 at 09:13

        thanks :)

  69. branko on December 21, 2010 at 02:47

    richard can you post your workout rotation for you 3 day respectively 2 day a week , when you mention 5 exercises per workout are only the first one rpt style . how about the other 4 what reps scheme do you use for assistance ?

    also if its deadlift day are you doing all assitance exercises for back also ?

    thank you branko

  70. […] har 3 gode intervjuer med periodisk faste ‘kongen’ Martin Berkhan. Anbefales! Del 1, del 2, del […]

  71. Amit on December 29, 2010 at 17:20

    Hey, I had a couple of questions…

    1. Were the 3 days set up sort of as a pull/push/legs setup? This is more pertaining to the assistance exercises. i.e. were overhead presses and tricep work placed after bench / bicep work placed after deads+chins / hamstring+calf work placed after squats?

    2. How many sets total were you doing per workout in general? You said that you were doing about 5 exercises per workout, but how many sets? From what I’ve read here, it seems like you did about 1-2 sets per exercise (2 for core movements, 1-2 for assistance), so probably about 6-8 sets/workout?


    • Richard Nikoley on December 29, 2010 at 19:12

      1. No idea. Workouts based (each distinct workout) on DL/weighted chins, Squat, Bench. All else is assistance stuff, which can vary by individual and goals.

      2. Most exercises are 2 sets. Most rep ranges are 6-8. So, yea, 6-8 or 7-9 sets per workout. Keep it big.

      3. No idea. Ask Martin., once he comes down from his Christmas Cheesecake Mastery debauchery. :)

  72. Amit on December 29, 2010 at 18:07

    Sorry, forgot one…

    3. How do you factor in bodyweight when using RPT for exercises such as squats? Obviously you are lifting a good portion of your bodyweight when squatting, but I don’t think it’s quite as high a percentage of your bodyweight compared to when doing something like chin-ups. So should your whole bodyweight be factored into the 10% weight decrease or a certain percentage of bodyweight?

  73. […] har 3 gode intervjuer med periodisk faste ‘kongen’ Martin Berkhan. Anbefales! Del 1, del 2, del […]

  74. Max on January 2, 2011 at 10:02

    Improving body composition is not rocket science and doesn´t require mysterious strategies, neither in the kitchen or the gym. Only track your food intake and adjust if you don´t improve on a weekly basis as assessed on the mirror (through away the scale). Many try to make a science about how to workout, but as someone pointed out, lifting with enough intensity allows you to mantain (and maybe gain) muscle and gain strenght. You don´t need to go to train more than once a week if intensity is high. As Richard pointed out, I also feel that by training once a week I could mantain strenght and muscle. I just go more often to the gym because I enjoy it, not because it´s necessary.

  75. Max on January 2, 2011 at 14:01

    That should have read `throw´ away the scale.

    Also Richard, when we should expect the next Leangains update?

    • Richard Nikoley on January 2, 2011 at 17:24

      Now that the holidays are past I’ll be thinking about when to get it out. It’ll probably be at least a couple of weeks and will cover intermittent fasting.

  76. element2011 on January 21, 2011 at 02:26

    Wow, thanks for what you’re sharing here, Martin. I’ve been on bodybuilding.com, Jim Wharton’s stretching and strength books, Paul Chek’s website and others trying to figure out a program that will work for me. I’m honestly not too structured, and either end up getting bored or getting in pain pretty fast. So my exercise program stops-and-starts often. To tell you the truth the best thing I’ve found that I can stick with is playing DDR. :) I get out and skate once in a long while when my friends are around, too (pretty basic stuff, not that good at it.)

    But let me ask you this — the prob I have is pain in my connective tissue. Big time problem with my left elbow. Some instability/unsteadiness in my knees. So I can’t go hard and heavy, at least now. I don’t get sore like one gets after a workout. I get pain, like major inflammation and nerve numbness in my elbow and down my arm.

    You think the Wharton/Paul Chek stuff or other functional exercises is my best approach for now? Thanks big time.

  77. […] More about my Leangains workout regime here and here. […]

  78. John on March 3, 2011 at 15:16

    For the 4 main movements, did you generally just have 1 direct assistance movement for each of them? By direct assistance, I mean working the same body parts for the most part. i.e. something like dips as assistance for bench, rows as assistance for deadlifts/chins, leg press as assistance for squats, etc…? I’m assuming there were more assistance exercises, like probably a shoulder press, biceps curl, triceps extension, calf raise, and so on; but I’m just wondering about how many direct assistance exercises you were performing to get an idea of approximately how many sets you were doing for the main/big body parts (quads/chest/back)

  79. » My Leangains Approach engrevo on April 19, 2011 at 18:13

    […] was when I discovered this guide, in concert with FTA’s series on Leangains (Intro, Workout, Diet) that I realized Martin would not approve of my program in the slightest. I had some serious, […]

  80. […] fast. Just a quick word on workouts. Being far beyond all the heavy stuff from the past, including Leangains, I’m very satisfied with Doug McGuff’s Big-5. Takes 15 minutes and currently, I’m […]

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.