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Strong Like Bull or Just a Bunch of Bull?

When I first read the “From Geek to Freak: How I Gained 34 lbs. of Muscle in 4 Weeks” post on Tim Ferriss’ blog, I had my doubts. So, I emailed a good friend who’s a serious body builder, and here is his reply.

Yep, you certainly grabbed my attention.

If someone says they can gain 34lbs of pure muscle in 4 weeks I’d have to call BS. There is a limit to muscle growth unless you have freaky genes eg. a fault on your myostatin gene like this bull:

Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle

Look at some facts:

  • He could just be a freak of nature, but even the most genetically gifted body builders have NEVER gained this amount of muscle in such a short period.
  • In the “Body for life” competitions that are held over 12-week periods as entries for BIG prizes, the best ever winner was Antony Ellis who gained 32 lbs. But it took him 12 weeks. And this was the BEST EVER muscle gain in the competition out of near hundreds of thousands of entries.

I could take 1,000 people and put them on this 4-week program and I would be very surprised if even one person gain over 20 lbs, let alone 34lbs , unless…

  1. They increase the illusion of size in the photos (shaving hair, better tan, better lighting, better posing). Just getting pumped from a work out can give you the illusion of 10 to 15 lbs of extra muscle.
  2. They include “weight” in their claim that isn’t actually muscle. For example, if you eat 8,000 calories you can gain 7 lbs of weight just from the food in your gut in just one day. Take creatine and you can gain 5 to 15 lbs of water weight in a week (5 lbs to 10 lbs of water/glycogen weight, etc.).
  3. They may have used illegal steroids or growth hormones.
  4. They may have had that muscle in the first place then lost it. There is a mechanism called “muscle memory” which essentially means it is VERY easy to regain any previous lost muscle very quickly. (This is my guess.)

Viator, the person who’s method he used, had a bad bout of flu before doing his experiment, so his impressive (re)gains are easily explained.

In any case the method he uses is very outdated and has been tested by thousands and thousands of people. I am yet to hear of one who has made such gains.

If he is just some sort of genetic freak, then lucky him. It has taken me 8 months, using the best diet and training strategies, to gain near 40lbs of PURE muscle. Only another 10 lbs to go to my lofty target! 🙂

I suspect this is clever, if slightly deceptive, marketing for some forthcoming product.

Makes sense to me. My doubts are now even stronger (and I’m not alone). I’m not calling Tim Ferriss a liar, since I don’t know all of the facts.

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  1. That’s exactly my opinion, too 🙂 The 34 lbs in 4 weeks is just BS!

  2. I think Ferris is a bit of a con man. He has some good ideas, concepts and pointers… but he exaggerates them to make him sound like he’s inventing the wheel. I suspect this will just be the first piece of B.S. he gets called on, and more will follow.

  3. I’m just reading Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Workweek book. In it he mentions that he weighed 193 lbs back in 1999 for a kickboxing competition. Looks like my guess in the original post (#4. Muscle Memory) was right on the money.

    I find it slightly deceptive that he mentions he was 152 lbs for 4 years then 146 lbs more recently, without mentioning he was 193 lbs originally.

  4. I weighed 130 pounds. I lost 29 pounds and now I weigh 101 pounds.

  5. Being a skinny guy myself at one point I knew right off it was not “34lbs of muscle.”

    It was 34lbs of lean body mass. Combination of muscle, fat and water. That is a big difference.

    Still impressive without a doubt but what gets me about skinny guys is that they slam all this lean body weight on in 30 days, 5 months, 1 year, or whatever,

    and then you see them 3 years later and they are the same.

    The real hard part of bodybuilding isn’t the newbie gains. It’s building muscle year after year.

    Taking a look at the Tim Ferries updated blog in March 2008, he looks to me like he lost all that size and he’s back to square one. Where he started off before he hit the weights and got serious.

    All he figured out was that newbie gains come quick and fast. Almost anybody who’s not organized and eating right can pack on lean body mass quickly and think “Eureka, this is it.”

    Unfortunately he just found his plateau and now the HARD work begins. From his latest picture, looks like he didn’t make the cut.

    But he’s still an in-shape individual and he probably managed to inspire a lot of people to better themselves which is fascinating and good by itself.

  6. It is a simple photo manipulation.

    Look at the bottom set of pictures, the head on ones. Look at his face. The ratio of how wide it is to how tall it is, is different. The after shot has a wider looking face. What they did was a simple photo manipulation of reducing the height without reducing the width. I tried it with the before shot and by reducing the height only to 85% he looks far more muscular.

    This is the opposite of what they do with fashion models to make them look thinner or to make their legs and arms look longer. In small doses the eye does not notice this trick.

  7. Nice article, Tim rocks.

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