Recently I read Bigger Leaner Stronger by Mike Matthews and really enjoyed learning new techniques to become leaner and stronger. I’m not really too concerned with being “big” I just want to build muscle and become lean. Mike really backs up a lot of his techniques with research and focuses on not lifting a lot of reps, but focusing on lifting heavy weights for 4-6 reps. When he says heavy, he’s talking about 80%-90% of our 1 Rep Max. Between each set, you rest for three minutes. I’d admit at first it was a little weird resting that long at the gym, but I’ve already become used to it. Since I’ve only had the book for a week, I can’t speak for the results yet but I’ve become fond of lifting heavy weight. He also focuses on compound lifts such as deadlifts, back squats, chest press, and military press. His training regimen has you working two compound lifts a day along with accessory lifts that are in the 8-10 rep range.
Regarding lifting heavy weight, his cites a meta-analysis of 140 related studies and found that researchers from Arizona State University found that a progression in resistance optimizes strength gains and muscle growth. Researchers also found that working in the 4-6 rep range at 80% of your one rep max is most effective for those who train regularly. “The conclusion” Mike states, “of the research is simple: the best way to build muscle and strength is to focus on heavy weightlifting and increase weight lifted over time. The bottom line to building solid lean mass is to “lift hard and heavy, get sufficient rest, and feed your body correctly.”
One thing I don’t agree with Mike on is that a calorie is a calorie. He really believes in counting calories religiously, but provides good reason. Is his opinion, it’s all about the law of thermodynamics: in order to lose weight one must eat fewer calories than they burn. I find some truth in that, but I’m not a fan of calorie counting all the time. Instead, I use MyFitnessPal 1-3x a week to see how many calories I’m averaging, especially since I tend to keep my meals relatively the same (chicken breast and veggies, protein shakes, and a meal from Eat The 80).
What I do like about his fat loss section is that he debunks the myth that one has to do cardio to lose fat. What he really gets down to is that most people do long-term, endurance cardio sessions… spending an hour or more on the treadmill. And while you will burn calories, it’s not nearly high enough and can easily be counteracted by just slightly overeating. Instead, he recommends high-intensity interval cardio, also known at HITT, which “can increase your basal metabolic rate through what’s known as the ‘afterburn effect.’ While that sounds fancy and is often used in sketch marketing pitches for sketchy products, it’s simple” your body continues burning additional energy after you exercise.”
The fat burning section is also where he debunks the myth that doing a ton of reps gets you shredded. “The reality is that your body is ‘primed’ for muscle loss when you’re in a calorie deficit, and by focusing exclusively on muscle endurance (higher-rep ranges), you’ll set yourself up for rapid strength loss, with the potential for significant muscle loss as well. The key, ” Mike states “to preserving strength and muscle while losing weight is to life heavy weights.” He further cites a study published by Greek sports scientists who found that men who trained with heavy weights (80-85% of their 1 rep max) increased their metabolic rates over the following days, burning hundreds more calories than men who trained with lighter weights.”
The book also discusses willpower and self-control. “Become the master of your won’ts, wills, and wants, and you become the master of your destiny. Procrastination can be licked. Your worst habits can be dismantled and replaced. Whiffs of temptation lose their power over you.” Later he writes, “when cravings hit, instead of trying to distract and argue with yourself, notice and accept the feelings. Realize that while you may not always be able to control where your mind wanders, you can always control your actions.”
Overall, I really enjoyed reading this books and found that his exercise routine to be pretty intense. He lays out several plans for people going to the gym from 3-5x a week. I can’t yet speak fully for the results yet, but after following his plan for a few days I definitely enjoy working out a little bit more. The hardest part is doing what he recommends between sets: waiting three minutes.
Check it out and let me know your thoughts! Click here to purchase the book yourself.