If you’ve not heard of Tim Ferris before then check yo’self.
This dude got famous from his first book ‘The Four Hour Work Week’, in which he basically tells you how you can move to a desert island and earn a healthy income by doing a few hours work a week on your laptop. Sounds like a pipe dream but a lot of the stuff in there is genuinely actionable if you’ve got the gumption.
Imagine what kind of ideas he throws up then when he applies the same methodology to getting your dream physique. Can you really achieve your goals by putting in just four hours work per week? I haven’t followed his plan down to a tee, but all the advice is entirely plausible.
The most exciting thing about this book is that Tim’s theories are totally original - you won’t have read diet or workout plans like this before in Men’s Fitness. This means even seasoned trainers will at least learn a couple of new tricks which they can incorporate into their current routine, even if they don’t want to go balls deep with the Four Hour Body plan.
In essence, Tim is talking about turning your gym and diet into a semi-automated process, meaning you get maximum return on investment – that means there’s no overkill – no wasted time in the gym, no wasted time coming up with fancy diet plans, just the quickest, easiest route to your goals that frees up a load of time to do other stuff.
Tim’s theory is, most people spend way to long in the gym, and that once you’re passed a certain point, anything else you do is essentially useless – it’s all about the 80/20 rule. This rule dictates that 80% of your gains from 20% of your input - if we apply this building muscle, we can say that most of your gains will be the result of the TOP 20% of your work rate, i.e. your final reps in each of your sets which initiate muscular failure.
Think about your own training objectively and you’ll probably agree that you waste time in the gym. Could you be training more intensely, resting less between sets? Probably. Most of us could realistically slash the amount of time we spend in the gym on a weekly basis by 80% and still get great results.
Many people apply the 80/20 rule to dieting and fat loss – eat clean 80% of the time and allow yourself the odd cheat meal, and you’ll get pretty good results. Setting a goal of eating clean 100% of the time is unrealistic, and is it really worth the sacrifice (to your sanity, social life, taste buds) for the extra 20% of possible gains (loses)?
This is a pretty bold claim, and Ferris doesn’t just say ‘spend less time in the gym’ or ‘train harder’. The book gives you a fully laid-out training program to follow.
The book is split into a few different sections – there’s one on gaining strength, one on sleep but the two chapters we’re really interested in are the ones on muscle gain and fat loss.
Ferris takes a predominantly diet-based approach to fat loss, after all, this fits perfectly into the 80/20 rule theory – you spend a lot more time prepping/cooking/eating food than you do in the gym – it might not be a 80/20 ratio, but you get the gist.
Tim’s fat loss principles center around what he calls the slow carb diet.
This isn’t anything revolutionary, and is probably pretty close to how most of you are already eating – basically prioritise fresh meat and vegetables, and avoid ‘white foods’ – i.e. bread, pasta, etc. The one carb he encourages is beans or lentils (if you have a Heinz can in your head, give yourself a slap). Pretty standard really, but there are a few aspects you may not have come across before;
- Have one cheat DAY a week – eat whatever you want
- Eat the same foods everyday (especially breakfast and lunch) to make the diet easier to follow
- Don’t drink calories
- Don’t eat fruit
Fat loss isn’t all about diet however according to Tim. He touts a few other tips or ‘hacks’ that won’t make much difference on their own, but do help to get the best possible results. One such tip is taking ice cold showers which stimulates thermogenisis – a process that involves energy, and therefore calories.
All sound advice, most of which I follow anyway- and most which you’ll be familiar with if you’ve read anything about low carb or paleo diets before.
Are there really any new ways to build muscle? Hasn’t the process been the same since the dawn of time – life heavy stuff, frequently?
Well the biological process by which muscle is built hasn’t changed, but Ferris is confident he’s found a training loop hole that hardly anyone is exploiting, and it involves a workout plan that priorities intensity, at the expense of frequency.
Like the slow carb diet the plan is incredibly simple – I won’t tell you what it is – you’re better off reading the book, but it involves just two different workouts, and LOTS of rest days in between – this means training a maximum of three times per week.
Even in the gym, each workout takes about 30 minutes. Sound to good to be true? Don’t get too excited, each workout involves an incredible level of discipline and dedication, so when you are in the gym, you’ll work.
So what sets these workouts apart from your everyday body-part split? Time under tension.
Each rep, you’ll spend a LOT of time on the eccentric portion, which means using much less weight than you’re used to, but actually working the muscle a lot harder because you’re under tension for so long. Be prepared to ache the next day.
Even if you don’t plan to radically change your your program, this is an interesting read.
Some of Tim’s philosophies are pretty ‘out there’ compared to the approach most people are used to when it comes to training and nutrition, but the core principles for sculpting a great physique remain the same.
If you’re looking to give your training a real shake up, give this program a go. I’d also recommend it for people that are really short on time and looking to streamline their training and nutrition as much as possible – everything in this book is geared toward efficiency and freeing up as much time as possible.
I’d even encourage you to get this for the minor tweaks or ‘body hacks’ Tim talks about – e.g. cold showers for fat loss.