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The Ultimate Fitness Plan for Women

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The Ultimate Fitness Plan for Women

The ultimate fitness plan for women makes lean, toned, sexy bodies..but is quite different than what most “experts” recommend…


Most women desire the same type of body.

They want to be lean but not too skinny. They want to have some muscle definition, particularly in their arms, stomach, and legs, and they want to have a bubbly butt that fills their jeans. And, amen! I’m all for that.

But what’s the best way to achieve this type of physique?

Conventional “wisdom” has women basically starving themselves while grinding away on the treadmill every day and working out with three-pound dumbbells (anything heavier and they might get bulky!).

And anyone that has given this approach a serious go can attest to the fact that it does not give the promised results, it is not sustainable over the long haul, and it can actually harm your health.

So, what’s the real “secret” of female fitness? What does it really take to have a strong, lean, athletic body that you can easily maintain year in, year out?

The Worst Fitness Plan For Women

You shouldn’t be surprised to learn that much of the mainstream diet and training advice for women is almost the exact opposite of what they should actually be doing.

What am I referring to exactly? Well, here’s the common recipe for physical disaster:

  • Excessive steady-state cardio.
  • Light weightlifting only, and usually done as part of a high-intensity circuit.
  • Long workout periods, both for cardio and weightlifting (1.5-2 hours).
  • Excessive amounts of exercise (exercising 6-7x per week, 1-2x per day).
  • Very-low-calorie diets, which are often low in both protein and carbohydrates.
  • Very restrictive nutrition rules that disallow many types of foods.

The end result of such advices is a constant feeling of overtraining, and the dreaded “skinny-fat” look.


Because heavy calorie restriction and excessive amounts of cardio burn away large amounts of muscle along with fat, and muscle is what powers your metabolism and gives your body shape and definition.

You see, 15% body fat on a woman with little-to-no muscle to speak of looks VERY different than 15% on a woman with well-developed muscles. The former is likely to look skinny-fat (thin but with no muscle definition or curves, and with everything soft and squishy to the touch), whereas the latter can look like a fitness cover model.

To really drive this home, look at the following picture:

lindsay lohan skinny fat

And now look at this:

not skinny fat 2

Realize that both of these women are at approximately the same body fat percentage! The major difference is muscle. The first woman has very little, and the second has a lot.

And even if you think the second woman is “too bulky,” realize that it’s muscle that gives you curves, shape, and definition when you’re lean. The question isn’t IF you should have muscle, it’s just HOW MUCH. That is, how curvy and “ripped” do you want to be?

What I’m talking about here is known as changing your “body composition.” That is, decreasing the amount of fat in your body and increasing the amount of muscle. When done correctly, the transformation can be shocking.

Want an example? Consider the following:

body recomposition

Here’s the shocker: she weighs the same in each of these pictures. That’s the power of losing fat and adding muscle, not just “losing weight.”

Another point you should realize is that you must be lean to have that athletic shape and definition. If your body fat percentage is too high (above ~22%), your stomach will always look flabby, your legs will never look tight, and your arms will forever lack definition. 

So, if the common diet and workout advice isn’t the way to go, what is the best way for women to achieve their ideal physiques?

The Ultimate Fitness Plan for Women

The “magic formula” for stunning female physiques is low body fat percentage (under 20%), with enough muscle to have a round, perky butt; a tight, flat stomach; lean, sculpted legs; and toned, defined arms.

What many women don’t realize is how lean they have to be, and how much muscle they have to add to actually achieve that look.  For most, it will mean losing about 10 pounds of fat and replacing it with muscle (yup, gaining weight but looking better!). And while losing 10 pounds of fat can be accomplished in a few months, it can take upwards of a year of proper weightlifting to add 10 pounds of muscle!

How to Use Diet to Lose Fat Easily, Without Also Losing Muscle

Now, reducing body fat percentage is mainly just a function of diet. If you consume less energy–calories–than you burn every day, you will lose fat. There are right and wrong ways to go about this though.

As you know, eating far fewer calories (energy) than you burn every day causes too much muscle loss and leaves you feeling miserable. The key to proper fat loss is eating enough to feel good and fuel your workouts, while ensuring that you’re in enough of a “caloric deficit” (eating less than you burn) to allow for about 1 pound of fat loss per week.

There are various ways to calculate this number, but in my book Thinner Leaner StrongerI recommend you start with a very simple formula for losing fat:

  • 1.2 grams of protein per pound per day
  • 1 gram of carbohydrate per pound per day
  • .2 grams of fat per pound per day

So, if you weigh 150 pounds, you start with about 180 grams of protein per day, 150 grams of carbs per day, and 30 grams of fat per day (0r about 1,600 calories). You then adjust this up or down if necessary, as explained in the book.

Let’s now move on to building muscle. What’s the best way to do it?

How to Lift Weights Properly to Build a Lean, Toned Physique

Lifting weights is the most effective way to build muscle. But there’s more: lifting heavy weights is the most effective way. 

I can already hear you disagreeing. Women shouldn’t lift heavy weights because they don’t want to get bulky, right? Wrong. It’s incredibly difficult for a woman to ever reach the point of looking bulky, regardless of how hard or often she trains.


Because the hormone that most directly regulates muscle growth is testosterone, and an average woman’s testosterone levels are a mere 5–10% of an average man’sIf you’re a woman, I PROMISE you that you will never wake up one day disgusted with your bulky physique if you lift heavy weights and stay lean. Getting to the point of having large, protruding muscles is a very gradual, grueling process that you would have to consciously work at every day, and it would take years.

The circumstance in which weightlifting, or any form of resistance training really, does not help how you look is if your body fat percentage is too high. If you’re 25% body fat and start lifting weights, you’re going to build muscle, which is going to simply make you look a little bit bigger. This is the big mistake that women make with weightlifting.

In terms of achieving your ideal physique, getting your body fat percentage under 20% is just as important as building the muscle that will give you the shape and muscle definition that you desire.

The benefits of weightlifting and building muscle go way beyond looks, though. According to a study conducted by the University of Texas, here’s what happens to your body when you lift weights regularly:

  • Your chances of developing diseases like diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and cancer are significantly reduced.
  • Your bones become stronger.
  • Your metabolism speeds up because muscle, even when idle, burns energy. This makes it easier to stay lean.
  • Your life expectancy increases.
  • Your immune system becomes stronger.

Maintaining a strong, well-muscled body helps you age better. Research has shown that greater muscle mass percentage in older women is associated with better mobility, lower body weight, and lower body fat levels.

Now, earlier I recommend heavy weightlifting for women. What does this mean?

Well, I recommend that women train with weights that allow for at least 8 repetitions, but no more than 10. Once you can do 10 repetitions with any given weight, you increase it by 5-10 lbs, which will drop you to around 6-8 repetitions. You then work with that weight over the next couple of weeks until you can do 10 repetitions, move up in weight, and so forth.

This “progressive overload” of the muscles is crucial to improving your physique. This is what makes muscles grow.

And in terms of exercises, you can’t beat an intense workout of “boy exercises” such as barbell squats, Romanian deadlifts, and barbell lunges for your legs and butt; deadlifts and barbell rows for your arms and back; and dumbbell and barbell curls and bench press for your arms.

How to Use Cardio to Speed Up Your Fat Loss

Last but not least, let’s address cardio. While cardio doesn’t become necessary for weight loss until you’re lean and want to get super-lean, it does help speed the process up.

The best form of cardio for weight loss is known as “high-intensity interval training.” This is a form of cardio that has you do short, all-out sprints, followed by 1-2 minute low-intensity “recovery periods.” You simply alternate between these high- and low-intensity bouts.

To learn more about how to do this and why it’s best, check out my article on why high-intensity interval training is best for fat loss.


What are your favorite ways to stay in shape? Have anything else you’d like to add? Let me know in the comments below!

How to get lean and build serious muscle and strength, faster than you ever thought possible…

If you want a "paint-by-numbers," step-by-step blueprint for building a muscular, lean, strong body...faster than you ever thought possible...then you want to check out my books.

You see, depending on how you eat, train, rest, and supplement, building muscle and losing fat can be incredibly simple or seemingly impossible. I've learned this the hard way, making every mistake you can imagine.

I've also learned a lot about what DOES work, and I wrote Bigger Leaner Stronger and Thinner Leaner Stronger to teach you EVERYTHING you need to know to build the body you've always wanted.

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Leave a Comment!
  • Jessica Vennema

    I think i need some more muscle! Thanks for the information. x

    • Michael Matthews

      YW! Lemme know if you need any help getting muscle. :)

      • Jessica Vennema

        Thnx! I am going to read the 3 free chapters of Thinner Leaner Stronger, maybe that is something for me :)

        • Michael Matthews

          Cool I hope you like it!

  • Amanda Swengros Celikors

    Thanks for the article…awesome as usual!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Amanda!

  • Nancy Campion

    Great article. At present my body fat percentage is around 26 and I can totally relate to the comment you made about muscle growth at this percentage making you look bigger. But on the flipside, all I have to do is flex and bam! There are the muscles.
    Question: my mother has been inspired by my transformation to date and is keen to start. What sort of program do you recommend for a woman over 60 who is at risk from lymphodemia due to being a breast cancer survivor and who suffered a heart failure two years ago as a side effect of her chemotherapy?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Nancy! Haha nice on the flexing. :) Don’t take this article as a criticism of you at all. I’m not saying 26% is a bad place to be. I just wanted to address the issue for the women that are very picky with how they want to look.

      That’s great your mom wants to get going on a program, and it sounds like a proper diet with some low-intensity cardio would be a good place to start? Has she been cleared for exercise by her doc?

  • brioche

    Mike, do you have any plans to introduce a less intensive fitness program for women that requires working out just 3 days a week with less exercises? Some of my friends are not as crazy hard core as I am about the gym but want to shape up and lose some fat. Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      I could! If my 3-day program is too intense, I would recommend a woman start with a simple push-pull-legs routine:

      Day 1:

      Bench press: warm up and 3 sets 8-10 reps
      Military press: warm up and 3 sets 8-10 reps
      Close-grip bench press: 2 sets 8- 10 reps

      Day 2:

      Deadlift: warm up and 3 sets 8-10 reps
      Barbell row: warm up and 2 sets 8-10 reps
      Barbell curls: warm up and 2 sets 8-10 reps

      Day 3:

      Squats: warm up and 3 sets 8-10 reps
      Hack squats: 2 sets 8-10 reps
      Leg press: 2 sets 8-10 reps

      • brioche

        Thanks for reply. Gonna start sharing this.

        • Michael Matthews

          Cool! :)

  • James Conedera

    Thanks mike for putting this article on here. I sent it to my wife and now she’s totally caught interest. This should make it a lot easier to stick with the diet when we’re both cooking with the same goals in mind.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks James! I’m glad to hear it!

  • Kevin

    Mike, I love you bro.

    • Michael Matthews

      Hahaha <3

  • Anna

    How do I check my body fat percentage? Also, for how long at the day should I train in the way that you said? (Lifting weight). Thanks

  • Anna

    Thank you very much for your answerMichael! Loved the article!!! :)

    • Michael Matthews

      YW! Thanks!

  • Monica Padro

    Great article!!! Very informative and easy to follow. I’ve been in fitness for a while now and read many diff POVs. But this article just broke away for the BS we get inundated with as woman. I’ve disseminated your artcile it to a lot of my girlfriends! Thanks for the FACTS!! Loved it.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Glad you liked the article and I appreciate you spreading the word! :)

  • Leah

    Fantastic article! I had been so confused by conflicting information about how to lose weight and build muscle and become very skinny with little muscle (skinny fat) and although I was the leanest id ever been I still hated the way I looked. And then I found your book Thinner, leaner, stronger It has changed my life! I literally live by it & have recommended it to all my friends along with the male version. Thanks Mike!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! I’m really glad you’re finding my work help and I appreciate your support! Keep me posted on how things go!

  • Gab

    Great article mike! I needed it to remind me to stay focused… So easy to over do it work out every day cardio whenever u can etc.. Good stuff

    • Michael Matthews


  • sunny27

    mike offers the absolute best information for both men and women – and the fact that he offers different information for both speaks volumes. the two genders require quite different training, eating, and supplementation. listen to this man – he will change your life!!!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks so much!

  • dkd

    So if I want to lose body fat, should l still lift the heavier weight? I’m at 29%. I’ve been lifting in the 12-15 rep range for about 3 months and I’m pretty strong. I just can’t seem to cut the fat. I’m eating high protein and moderate carbs and fat. What can I do????

    • Michael Matthews

      Sorry I missed this somehow!

      Yeah lift heavy! It will be best for you. Work in the 8-10 rep range and make sure you’re hitting your compound lifts like squats, deadlifts, and bench press.

      And you just have to regulate your food intake. If you’re not losing weight, you’re eating more energy than you’re burning every day…

  • Natasha Neal

    Thanks for another great article Mike! I have been following your program for about a year and have seen some great results but it has taken that long to change my body composition and build a decent amount of muscle! I wanted to ask about your thoughts on rope skipping for cardio? I regularly do HIIT running but want to mix it up a bit. I’m also a mum who trains at the gym but would like to be able to do some training at home without buying bulky equipment.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Natasha! Great on your gains! And yup building muscle is a slow process, even when you do everything right.

      Skipping is totally fine. You can even do it HIIT style. :)

      I hope this helps!

  • SandraD

    Love the article, but love my daily Zumba Tone class too, it really gives me a high. I follow your program one hour before Zumba, drink a green drink between, then dance my ass off. Am I sabotaging my results?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Sandra! Cool on the Zumba. Keep it up. Nope you’re not. I would recommend having some protein after the lifting and before the cardio. 30 grams or so should do it.

  • Tish

    Love the simplicity. Thanks! Looking forward to working this program. Wish me luck. And self discipline ;)

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!! Really glad you liked it. Let me know how things go!

  • Jade

    Thankyou for this article!! I’ve been ‘skinny fat’ for a long time and losing weight/fat never made me look or feel any better – now I know that muscle is the key! Recently I started lifting heavier weights, doing some bodyweight exercises and drinking protein shakes after my strength workouts and I already feel stronger after just a few weeks, and I can see a little more definition in my arms already! I’m ordering your book now :)

    I have a quick question – I cycle about 6.5 miles to work and back every day – will this amount of cardio be a threat to my muscle? It takes about 30-40 minutes, and I try to do sprint intervals if there’s not too much traffic. Is there anything I can do to minimize damage?
    Thankyou again!

    • Michael Matthews

      You’re welcome! I’m glad you liked it.

      Yup build some muscle girl! That’s great you’re already rolling on this, and I think you’re going to really like TLS.

      That amount of cycling shouldn’t be much of a problem. 5x HIIT per week will probably be a bit much, but you could start with 3x and take the other two rides really easy…

  • Bani

    Been training vid heavy wts for quite smtym..ur article helps..thnx

    • Michael Matthews

      Nice, thanks. :)

  • Tiffany F

    So I need some help :) I’m 28, 5’7″ and between 115 to 120 lbs (just a guess because i use a mirror not a scale usually). Right now my workout regime includes 10 to 12 mins cardio on an arc trainer doing 30 seconds of intense running and 30 seconds slow. Followed my 5 to 10 vinyasa flows, 6 plank leg crunches (i don’t know the name but it’s 6 to same elbow, 6 twists to opposite elbow, 6 to the middle) on each side, and 5 ab exercises. I follow these with a number of stretches because I am also plagued by a number of injuries that effect my neck, knees and extremely tight IT bands and hip flexors. These injuries have kept me away from lifting weights in fear of straining my neck or injuring my knees but I want to be lean and muscular and know that this is the way I have to go. I am well on my way thanks to a winter of hot yoga which had me shed that extra 10-12 lbs I was carrying around but now I want to focus on toning and muscle mass. My arms have come along nice thanks to the planks and vinyasas but I just wondered if there are alternate weight lifting exercises that may put less pressure on my knees and less strain on my neck. Or pointers on how to avoid doing so with the exercises suggested above and below in the comments. I want to set up a 5 day workout routine and have approximately 45 minutes at my fully loaded office gym (free weights, weight lifting machines and cardio machines) to get in a great session. I like a lot of the exercises I’m doing now but want to integrate some of these great tips you’ve shared. What do you suggest?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for commenting!

      What do you think about the exercises I lay out in this article? These are a great alternative to traditional weightlifting…

      • Tiffany F

        I’m concerned mainly with barbell squats amd barbell lunges because of my knees. There’s this sled leg press that I just tried at the gym but I didn’t have any weight on it and it seemed to go ok doing 3 sets of 8 squats. I think that’s going to be as close as possible that I get to doing something similar to barbell squats.

        • Michael Matthews

          Ah okay. I’m kind of confused though because I thought you didn’t want to go to the gym or?

          • Tiffany F

            Sorry if I was confusing. I have a gym at work that I use on my lunch break that is fully loaded. I want to use it! I have 45 mins approximately and we have everything available to us.

          • Michael Matthews

            Ohh okay. Have you read my book Thinner Leaner Stronger? I’d love to get you going on that program!

          • Tiffany F

            It is on it’s way to me in the mail and I’m planning on reading the first three chapters I downloaded this weekend.

          • Michael Matthews

            Ah great. Lemme know what you think of the program once you’ve given it a read!

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  • Michelle

    The tan fitness lady up there has the butt I used to have! She stole it(I am kidding)! Then she tanned it to disguise it! Ok, so what does qualify as cardio and what doesnt? And I read the free portion of your book Thinner, Leaner, Stronger and plan to ask for the whole book from “Santa” this Christmas. Does it explain what usually works for that butt. Because when I had it before, I really do not know how I got it. Lifestyle? Lucky movements? I did not really work out, per say. Thanks for your help and for offering answers that DO um, lift.

    • Michael Matthews


      Although any aerobic exercise is cardio, here’s my favorite type:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com /high-intensity-interval-training-and-weight-loss/

      Thanks on the book! Let me know what you think of it.

      Yes, the program will give you a booty. :)

      • Michelle

        Thank you!

        • Michael Matthews


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  • Guest

    hi I’ve put on a lot of weight recently am about 21lbs and give up at the gym . Now I want to turn my life around where do I start ? I would love a toned body I know it’s gonna take some time and very hard work but am ready for this !

  • Cherie

    Hi I’ve put on alot of weight recently am about 210 lb and give up at the gym after loosing my job,I am ready for a big change in my life , I know it’s going to be very hard work ,am up for the challenge can you help me where do I start ?

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  • Lea

    Hey Mike,
    I bought your book, am 13 years old and want to start getting a nice body :)

    However, im not that interested in getting muscles on my arm,back and chest, i rather would like to have a nice butt, legs and abs…. Should i do more exercises that target these and less that target my arms and shoulders and back and chest?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Lea! Honestly I recommend training your upper body equally so you don’t have a well-developed lower body with flabby arms and a formless back, you know?

      That said, you can train legs and butt a little extra. 3 days after the legs day in the program, you can do 6 more sets. I would recommend squats and lunges.

  • Jake Kaltenbach

    I did these calculations for my girlfriend using the numbers above and this seems to have her eating extremely low calories. My girlfriend is 42 kg (92.5 lbs) and this would have her consuming only 981 calories per day. Isn’t this dangerously low?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yes that is quite low but she is TINY. How often is she exercising?

      • Jake Kaltenbach

        About 3-5 times per week for weights and 1-2 times for cardio depending on her work schedule. She said wants to stay about the same size she is now, but wants to lower from 20% to 15% body fat based on pictures she’s seen of 15% body fat for women. I’ve explained to her that if she doesn’t want to be any smaller but wants to be 15% body fat then she has to build muscle as well as lose fat and I’m trying to help her set up a diet for this. Thanks Michael.

        (She’d be posting herself but she doesn’t speak enough English so I’m translating everything for her)

        • Michael Matthews

          Okay cool let’s start here here:

          1100 calories per day 40% from pro, 30% from carb, 30% from fat

          Lifting 5x per week cardio 2x per week, HIIT cardio 25 min per session

          We can then see how her body responds and adjust accordingly.

          What do you think?

          • Jake Kaltenbach

            Sounds like a plan. You rock man. Thanks for the help. I’m also following BLS so I’ll be sure to let you know how that goes.

          • Michael Matthews

            My pleasure and awesome please do.

  • Thu

    Hi Mike, your article is very help. But I need help. I’m 21. My weight is 100lbs. I workout 5-6 days a week. My problem is ” clean eating”. I heard about IIFYM ( flexible eating) but I still do not understand. Can you explain for me? And how many calorie should I consume if I gain 5lbs of muscle? And i want to lose my fat belly too. Thank you for helping.

  • andrea

    Hi! I weight 114 lb and i been doing my macros for 6 months, i eat 150 carbs 46 fat and 113 protein. i just want to get leaner and toned. do i continue eating those numbers? or should i change them? thanks for the answer.

    • andrea Villarreal Berlanga

      my body fat is 16% and im 5 ft 6.0 in

  • andrea

    Hi! i been doing my macros almost 8 months ago and i just want to get leaner and toned. i weight 52 kg and my body fat is 16%. My macros are 150 carbs, 46 fats and 113 protein, its that ok to reach my goal? or what do you suggest?

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s a bit high unless you’re VERY active. I would do something closer to 120 pro, 100 carb, 30 fat.

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  • Alli Hill

    Hey there!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Alli!

      Awesome, I’m excited for you! I like what you’re doing. You can definitely make good gains with a good body weight routine, and the HIIT cardio is perfect.

      If you haven’t already, check out this article so you know how to create a proper meal plan:


  • Agnes

    I started to read Thinner, Leaner, Stronger. I found it very demotivational. So I started reading Bigger, Leaner, Stronger. I find it much more motivational. I’m a girl, but I don’t want a “lean, toned” body, I want solid muscle. I really WANT “ugly, bulky muscles”. It makes me really demotivated that you write that “it’s nearly impossible”. I don’t mean I want to look like a bodybuilder, but I’d like to look strong. I’d like to have way more muscle than your average Hollywood babe.

    So my question is, do you have any fitness advice for women which covers building lots of muscle? I can’t seem to find it on your website. I’m currently planning on following the BLS program, but I don’t know what adaptions to make because I’m a female.

    It’d be great if you could help out!

    • Michael Matthews

      Ah okay, It totally understand! You’re not like most women, that’s all.

      You can build big muscles but it takes time. And you will need to bulk and cut like us guys, which you can read about here:


      And you can follow the BLS program as you are going to be eating to build muscle and want to maximize size.

      I hope this helps. Let me know!

  • diane

    Hi Mike just read your book I am 48 135lbs I used to lift heavy weights when I was younger then taught aerobics for a lot of years I still run usually 3 times a week and I do a bit of weights if I follow the program can I still get the body back I used to have or is it a case of making the best of it for my age thanks

  • http://batman-news.com Beliup

    Hey Mike. I just wanted to say that this has been a very informative article. I just finished reading your book TLS…and was so very motivated! This article is my favorite since reading your book. I do have a questions though. I am Latina and like…actually very much embrace my curves…..so I’m not leaning towards the very athletic look (especially that very defined bulky looking quad area) but toned and curvy. Any suggestions??

  • Greg Jones

    FINALLY i find a website that gives women the correct advice. i got my bachelors degree in Exercise Science & Health Promo and im constantly explaining all these same concepts to women. However most recently my gf has heard comments from friends of hers that probably caused her to be hesitant to the advice n info i provide for her (and of course the ppl making the comments arent even in the field but anyways lol) i decided i’d try n find some fitness articles online to give her some re-enforcement to what i been teaching her… unfortunately a lot of what i found online wasnt that great either… til i found this article. So hopefully showing her this article will help re-enforce the things ive been tryna teach her all along and hopefully anyone reading the article and this comment will feel more assured in knowing these are the concepts n approach women should have when trying to attain a desirable body type. Props for the article n getting it right!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thansk Greg! I really appreciate it.

      I hope your girlfriend likes the article! Let me know!

      • Greg Jones

        she liked the article and i definitly think it helped fortify the concepts. thnx and once again great job!

        • Michael Matthews

          Great, thanks! :)

    • Ricky

      Hi Mike! I am looking to help my mother out with training and losing weight. However, does any of this information change when the person is 50-60 years old? I want to help her, but just want to make sure. And if weight lifting isn’t really an option what else can be done? Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Greg! I really appreciate it. I hope your GF likes the article too! :)

  • Bfb

    This confuses me. How do you keep from burning away all your muscle if you’re only consuming enough calories for your BMR? I am 24% BF and obviously I want my muscles to show. I want a flat stomach and nice butt. If I go by what’s “healthy” shouldn’t I be consuming about 2000 calories a day. I am 5’6 and weigh 120 lbs. I already look skinny with some fat in my stomach and thighs. So am I still trying to lose fat even if I am skinny

  • cheryl dickenson

    Hi! Just getting started with flexible/IIFYM and IIFYM.com based on my stats recommend 132.9Carbs, 129 protein and 51 fats with 26-32 fiber. You seem to be recommending a lot lower than this for other women is mine too high?! I do weights 6 mornings a week, started lifting v heavy and for 45mins plus 30 HIIT five evenings a week. Any guidance welcome! :) Thanks, oh and just starting reading your book last night! Cheryl

    • Michael Matthews

      The IIFYM calculators are too high. They’re based on the standard Katch McArdle multipliers which are…too high. :)

      Check this out for more info:


      Cool on what you’re doing. That’s a LOT of exercise–I wouldn’t recommend more.

      Thanks on the book! Let me know how you like it!

      • cheryl dickenson

        I love how you take the time to reply! :) Thanks for this, I have recalculated my stats and brought my carbs and fats down a little and calories now at 1360 per day (I am 5ft 2in and weigh 128.5lbs.) It may seem like a lot of excerise but it’s only really 1.5 hrs max a day and I’m really enjoying it, maybe when my body fat reduces over time I will reduce HIIT to 2-3 times per week. I’ll keep you posted on how I get on with your book :)thanks again.

        • Michael Matthews

          My pleasure! :)

          That sounds about right. Let’s see how your body responds!

  • Dawn Easter

    Hi Michael,
    Thanks for posting the article, great information. I want to be sure I am understanding it correctly.
    Briefly, I am working on a body transformation, as I have a lot of weight to lose. Right now I weigh 289lbs, I’ve lost 18 since October but nothing in the last month(totally bummed about it). I am following Jamie Eason’s Live Fit 12-week program. The workouts are basically 3 sets of 10-12 reps of each exercise. Your article states a single set of 8 but no more than 10 reps of heavier weight. Here’s my question: do you think that would be my best option since I am looking to lose a large number of pounds as well as build muscle?
    Thanks in advance,

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Dawn!

      What you’re doing is totally fine. You will build some muscle along the way, which is good.

      Your diet is going to be key though (of course). What does it currently look like?

      • Dawn Easter

        Thanks for the response, Michael!
        My diet overall has been good. I found a few clean eating recipes and basically cut down on the white stuff: flour, sugar, pasta, rice, etc. I fell off of the wagon for about a month, sliding my guilty pleasures in here and there which I think stalled my weight loss. Also, I found myself eating a lot of protein and meal replacement bars. This month I’ve nixed that in the bud and am eating real food just more cleanly.
        One more question if I may, how much cardio should I do each week? I take 2 hour-long Zumba classes each week in addition to the weight training. I am thinking I should incorporate 2 more 30-minute minimum sessions of cardio each week. What do you recommend?
        I appreciate your insight, Michael.

  • Christina

    Hey Michael!

    Thanks so much for your article, it’s really informative. I’m trying to lose fat and build muscle, but I’m really confused on how I should be eating. I’m 5’1, ~118 lbs, and at 19% body fat (the last time I checked, which was two months ago). I just started lifting (squats at 95-115 lbs, deadlifts at 105-125 lbs, and benching 50 lbs as of now–all at either 3×10 [warmup with lighter weight, usually 95], 3×5 or 5×3), but I also want to burn fat.

    I’ve been lifting for about two weeks so far, and I’ve noticed that I’m getting hungrier more throughout the day. My diet is mostly whole wheat bread, oatmeal, fruits, vegetables, eggs, peanut butter, goat cheese, salmon, chicken, tahini, and olive oil when I need it. I drink mostly only water and green tea, with the exception of a shot or two of something or a glass of cider when I go out.

    I haven’t solidified my workout schedule yet, but I lift 3-4 days a week and I’m planning on running + little exercises in between (burpees, pushups, etc.) 3 days a week, along with my daily 40 min or so yoga.

    My concern is–how much should I be eating in order to burn fat while still eating enough to build muscle? I eat probably 1600-1700 calories a day, but I’m afraid that may be too little for my body to build muscle, but also too many calories for me to burn fat.

    Thank you in advance!

    • Christina

      Just to clarify, the 3×10 warmup at 95 lbs is only for squats. Can’t bench 95 yet, haha.

      • Michael Matthews

        Haha nice :)

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Christina!

      Cool on your stats and lifts.

      The key to keeping your diet in is creating a proper meal plan that you stick to every day–that is, one that meets your daily numbers and lets you eat foods you like.

      Check this out:


      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Lauren2710

    im no newbie to the gym and am there evry morning anytime between 5am-7am for approx 40-50mins. I shake it up and one day ill do cardio – running, cross trainer, bike, stepper..and then floor work for my crunches, then the next ill focus on weights for arms chest back, the next day will be weights for my legs..and my routine continues like that. My problem is..i struggle to get definition in my legs..i want that whole muscle tone look supermodels have going on ..but i cant get them as tight :( is it my diet? thats the hardest thing i struggle with..eating clean! Im 5ft 6 weigh 120lbs and body mass i think is 18% last time i checked. Maybe im not doing enough squats? are deadlifts the way to go? i do a leg raise exercise and leg extension and usually do 3-4 sets of 12reps.
    thanks michael

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s great.

      18% is pretty lean. I don’t think that would be the issue. It sounds like you need to build more muscle in your legs.

      I would recommend this:

      Barbell Squats: 3 sets of 8-10 reps, once you hit 10 you add weight
      Romanian Deads: same
      Leg Press: same

      Do that once per week for the next 4 – 6 weeks and really push yourself to move up in weight and let’s see how your legs respond…

  • Em

    I’m getting this book! I’ve been working out for almost a year now without the best results that some work-out programs promise you, from what I’m reading here, I’ve been doing it wrong from the start.
    You just got me excited to work out again! :)

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Let me know how you like it!

  • Anne H.

    Mike, I have been following a fairly clean program. Lifting heavy four times a week, shoulders/chest, back, legs, biceps/triceps, 10-12 reps, 4-5 sets; cardio four times a week, sometimes HIIT, sometimes group classes to mix it up. I find that I can easily build and strengthen my quads, and I don’t want any more “bulk” there. I want to keep the strength and tightness but prefer to build my butt and hamstrings. What would be your recommendation?

    • Michael Matthews

      Great! Sounds very good.

      You want to focus on squats, RDLs, hip thrusts, and glute blasters (if your gym has this machine).

      Use a slightly wider than shoulder width stance on your squats and make sure you get deep–an inch or so below parallel.

      Stay away from front squats and leg press as they emphasize the quads.

      What do you think?

      • Anne H.

        Thanks for the info. My leg workout has consisted of sumo squats using a 75 lbs dumbbell, walking lunges, 25 lbs in each hand, and I threw in single leg deadlift with 30 lbs weight in hand. Am I in the the right direction at least somewhat?

        I will incorporate your suggestions; although, I don’t have the glute blaster here. Front squats and leg press I have not done, so I was happy about that.

        Thank you for your informative website. I’ve read two of your books so far and some of the free e-books. I am still wanting to pick up the recipe book from you, which I will, just haven’t done it yet.

        If I can get my butt in gear — pun, I know — I want to train for a bikini competition this year. I just would be nice to have a little more support around me, friends and family. Some people just don’t get it…..

        • Michael Matthews

          Yeah that’s a good workout. I would recommend a traditional back squat with a barbell though.

          Thanks so much for your support. I really appreciate it.

          Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • betty

    I need some help. I’ve been trying to make my butt and legs bigger. My weight is 123 and my height is 5.5”.I was told that eating more proteins and more times a day will help me to do so. However, i feel that my waist is getting bigger at the same time. every time that i lose weight my legs and butt become smaller. So what would you recommend me to have a proportional body. U know. Having nice legs and butt without getting my waist bigger. I’ve been lifting weights for two months.I do squats, dead lifts, lunges, etc Definitely i see that my strength is getting better. However, i do not see any progress in my legs and butt. They dont get bigger. How many times per day should i eat to get rid of my skinny fat around my waist and at the same time make my legs and butt grow bigger. In overall i want to gain muscles and be toned.Thank you so much!!

    • Michael Matthews

      Just eating more protein won’t do it–you’ll need a proper meal plan to meet your needs.


      And you’ll want to focus on…

      Squats (deep)


      Bulgarian Split Squats

      Hip Thrusts

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • hardcore trainer

    are you bringing out 100% raw vegan bb diet- found my strength tripled. Also I can bulk hugely both parents meso and it,s insane how quickly my body changes been 13 stone muscle 5 feet 9, now 9 stone. I main question is bulking and cutting, is it not possible to hammer glutes all areas without “bulking”, i just want higher butt, rounder- not growth and reduce waist. But been “told” that need to grow hips to make waist smaller. Think it,s possible to reduce waist and lift perk butt without the former? Wasn,t happy when told about gaining 8 lbs and stripping-just had bad gut feeling over it- I do get /add muscle rapidly-and I,m in the freak catergory where can look like vc model or bb competitor without drugs etc. Just like to heard you feed back on my assumption regarding can shape at same weight, eating enough, not bulk cut- it,s yo-yo, don,t like idea- maintained 9 stone easily and add muscle easily- p.s. buying the book so not rinsing you for free info- 3 chapters- excellent, thank you:)

    • Michael Matthews

      Wow very cool with how your body responded to the dietary change.

      Yeah you can build muscle without being a large surplus. You’ll build muscle eating around maintenance or a slight surplus.

      The fastest way is to just deal with the fat storage though, haha.

  • carissima

    So, i am starting a new exercise program, and have started with all these types of exercises. my concern is…that I don;t want to lose any fat. my body type is lean and with lean defined muscles. It seems like every exercise program (and especially for women) is about losing weight, “shredding fat”, burning calories.
    I am very petite, and quite strong for my size. I eat super well, very high caloric intake, lots of proteins, vegetables, natural fats. I am looking to get stronger and build some muscle, but I much prefer curvy over lean. I understand with my genetics I will never be curvaceous, but I am not wanting to lose what body fat I have. I would ideally like to gain body fat *and* body muscle. How to I shape my workout to gain the best muscle without losing body fat?, and without adding junk food to my meals lol.

    • Michael Matthews

      Great! You’re in a perfect starting place.

      All you need to do is eat at a maintenance level and focus on getting stronger. Check this out:


      • carissima

        Thank you for taking the time to reply! I am trying to eat at a little more than maintenance level as I would like to gain weight. I will have to see how it goes.

        • Michael Matthews

          My pleasure! That’s an easy, reliable way of going about it. You MUST push yourself in the gym though–you need to be getting stronger over time…

          • carissima

            thanks! I’ve never been able to gain weight tho, even though I eat, stuck at 100 lbs for many, many years lol
            I’m just starting a program so not pushing anything yet, I started with someone to make a program for me as I am not that familiar with the gym and its equipment. Starting with squats with a weighted bag, deadlift 85lb, swinging this kettlebell (I think it is) and a variety of lunges, bridges, leg lifts and smaller weights with the arms, doing 4 sets 8 – 12 reps each. About an hour, twice a week. i already do martial arts 2x week so I have a foundation in movement I guess… but yes, I would like to get stronger too. Right now I am just learning the names of everything!

          • Michael Matthews

            Trust me, if you push heavy weight in the gym and slowly increase your calories, you WILL start gaining weight. It’s inevitable.

            Cool on what you’re doing!

  • KHenry13

    Just started reading thinner leaner stronger, and plan on making this my new lifestyle so it will follow me into nursing school starting in AUG14′ So far the book is GREAT, Ive read a couple chapters twice jus to make sure I retain it.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for reading my book and writing! I really appreciate it.

      Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • Tanya Asnis

    Hi Michael,
    I have been reading your articles for female training and they totally make sense to me. I am at the gym 7 days a week. I am very toned and muscular. I am 5ft tall and I weigh 114lbs. My total body fat is 12.5% so the total fat % is pretty good. I have always been athletic and have a great muscle definition on my legs and arms but my stomach is the biggest challenge (it has lose skin and it’s not tight). I had 2 kids and ever since then I cannot get my flat abs back. I do very clean diet, I try to stick with the good protein/carb/fat combination and I do weight and cardio training. My problem is that all my fat always remains in my abs area and pretty much nowhere else. I am very athletically slim (even my stomach looks great) as long as I wear a shirt over it. I want to get my bikini abs back. I know that you cannot target an area for the weight loss but there has to be something that I could do to get rid of the ab flab. What exercise/ food combo would you recommend to me to target my abdominal area?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Tanya! Wow great job on how fit you are. That’s impressive!

      How are you measuring your body fat %? I suspect you’re a bit higher as 12% is basically contest shape.

      Let me know. If you’re a bit higher then it’s just a matter of reducing body fat %:


      • Tanya Asnis

        Thanks for such a quick response. I just had my BF% measured by a professional personal trainer at the heavyweight lifting gym where I go. I have my complete 8 point measurements and some of my fat measures are extremely low for a girl. For instance, my Pecs are at 4-5%, arms are 10-12% and my Calfs are at 8-9% fat. So the total fat % came up pretty low overall. Even my stomach has 13-14% which is not too high but I have lose skin and my belly does not look tight. So I recently started doing heavy weight lifting in addition to my spin and other cardio routine and hoping this will help me. I am extremely fit and already have a lot of muscle on my arms and especially my legs (years of gymnastics when I was young). I am sort of affraid that it’s a lose skin problem due to genetics and not the fat problem and that it’s as good as it will look.

        • Michael Matthews


          Ironically multi-point caliper measurements can give some really strange results when you go to calculate bf %.

          If your body fat % really is that low then I would think it’s more of a skin issue than anything else…

          • Tanya Asnis

            I think I might have a problem with my skin elasticity in my adbominal area (I have scaring due to 2 pregrancies). I am still trying to reduce my fat % just to make sure maybe it will help. Otherwise, I might have to look into some skin tightening alternatives. Thanks Mike.

          • Michael Matthews

            It definitely could be that. Great job on keeping your body in such good shape!

  • Preece

    Hi, I just came across your website-what a great resource, its JUST what i’ve been looking for! I ordered your book, but i’m in a time crunch to lose fat-my goal date is in just 3 weeks and really want to lean out. I’m 152 lbs. and 5’9 and my goal is to build muscle and lose fat. I’m working with a trainer online who told that to lose fat the only cardio I should do is first thing in the morning, before I eat, 20 minutes of steady state walking at 60-70% heart rate, and my HIIT should be just once a week after i’ve eaten. I would think I should do 20 minutes of HIIT first thing in the morning on an empty stomach for quicker results, but she says I’ll lose muscle…what are your thoughts on this??

  • marsa

    hey mike,

    niiiiiiicce article as usual.first, any more articles about women?

    second: I do HIIT cardio(about 30 minutes treadmill) and upper body and abs work out , 3 days a weak(in the same day) and 1 hour aerobic + lower body exercises in other 3 days.I’ve been working out for 10 years.now I’m 62kg,164cm.and I guess about 24%-26% body fat.my program for upper muscles is:

    dumbbell pullovers 4*8,7/5 kg, supinated grip pulldown(super set )4*10,10 kg, seated rows 4*8, 10 kg ,narrrow grip pulldown, 4*8-10, 10 kg. one-arm dumbbell rows 3*8-10, 6 or 7/5 kg.
    lower body:
    leg extensions 4*8,15kg. ingline leg presses(single leg)4*8-10,2.5kg(that’s heavy). squats 5*8-10,7.5kg. lying leg curls 4*6-8 15kg. standing leg curls 3*6-8,10kg. dead lift,5*8, heavy barbell. front dumbbell lunges 4*8,7.5kg.and finally back dumbbell lunges,3*8,6kg.
    I want to be lean,strong,and lower body fat.thanks a lot for your nice recommendations

  • Jessie

    Okay, I have worked out in the past but never stuck to it longer then 2-3 months at a time. I’m 27, 139 lbs. Like 18% body fat, I have a small waist, but my goal is to have abs, thick muscular legs and a lifted, round butt. My upper legs have this extra fat on them that seems hard to get rid of(which may be due to diet) my butt is not where it used to be, and I have a pretty flat stomach, just want to tighten it up more and tone it(sometimes I look bloated if I dont watch what I eat). I have researched hundred of diets, workouts etc…I was doing the p90x, brazilian butt lift…and end up giving up because I’m wondering if I’m doing it right, or I end up feeling like I’m starving all the time. Anyways, I told u above what my goal is and was wondering how I should approach a workout. I know I need to lose some fat, but I also want some bulkiness in the right areas, I do not want to lose too much weight either and look skinny and lose all the goods!lol… what do u recommend? P.s. one more question, can u get rid of, or cover cellulite with muscle?

  • marsa

    thanks for your reply. to be honest ,no i didn’t care about my meal plan.but now i want.second:plenty work out? so am i wrong?cause i wanted to be sure,I’m working enough on every muscle group of mine.how many movements are enough for every muscle group?is it important to work on one group (with more fat) ,more than other group?

  • Rei

    Hello! As a female who used to lift and no longer has access to a gym (at all), I would like to ask your opinion on body weight work outs with progressions (e.g. standard push-ups to other variations, squats to jump squats etc).

  • Jess

    Hi there, what about boxing training? Do you recommend this? It also includes body weighted exercises and goes for 45mins. It’s high intensity. And I usually do this 2-3 times per week. I’m just trying to gain muscle and gain weight and I’m wanting to know if I’m doing too much cardio? I don’t run long distances.. Seeing as I hate it, but I do hill sprints. Any advice would be awesome. Thank you

    • Michael Matthews

      Sure! It’s good cardio.

  • SkinnyCollegeGirl

    So I am not trying to lose weight. In fact I’m rather skinny and I am told that all the time but people believe I am too skinny and tell me all the time I need to gain weight. However I don’t gain weight. Actually I’m on my summer break from school and I came back from school 7 pounds lighter wommpp :( So I am trying to work out so my body will be toned and have more muscles since I am already skinny; 20yrs old, 5’5 110 pounds. What should I do? I am really not trying to lose any part of me, I want to tone my body and gain muscle so I’m not just skinny…Can you help me please?? (I REALLY Don’t want to lose my butt either)

    • Michael Matthews

      No worries. The best way to gain “good” weight is to start weightlifting and eating enough food to build muscle efficiently.

      What do you think?

  • keira

    Hi Mike, thanks for the article.ive been on a weight loss journey that helped me lose weight but I lost muscle mass cos it was a very low calorie diet. Im not at my goal yet but im 5’11 and I now weigh 79kg (about 165 pounds, not sure…) I want to drop another 12kg of fat but also get that toned sculpted physique without looking like a body builder! Thing is; ive been hitting the gym and lifting heavy weights for a while now and eating less but the scale says im gaining weight and i look bigger in the mirror. So I want to clarify if you are saying I should cool off with the weights until ive lost body fat before I resume the weight lifting. My stomach is really flat and if I scrunch up real tight I can see muscle definition under the fat thats still there… I just want the wobbles on my sides and overall gone!

  • Shana Lisenby

    Help! Im 5’2 and last time I checked I weighed 152. In the past three months I’ve went down two jean sizes ( from a 13 to an 11) and although im somehow losing weight bring very inactive besides walking like two hrs a day, I feel like my shape has taken on the “skinny fat look” you were talking about in the article. Im a mom of two and have a desk job so im pretty inactive five days out the week except household chores. Can you suggest a protein and maybe some equipment I can purchase for my home? Please consider that my budget is very tight. Thank you!

  • Mia

    Hi Michael, very inspiring! Im female, 24 years old, weighs 120 pounds, height 5’5” – Ive been active all my life in gymnastics. Im strong, especially my shoulders, arms and lower back are strong. I think I look to broad shouldered. The last couple of years through education and work I have gotten more fat on my body and Im not blessed with good metabolism from my family, but why? If muscle burns fat? I would like to get my old body back and loosing muscle is not a problem.. though I do think that some parts of my body is not particularly strong – legs, abbs – What should I do? Thanks Mia :-)

  • Amanda Jackson

    Mike you are such an inspiration and your passion has touched and changed so many people’s lives… For that I want to thank you. A quick question I do have that may have been asked and answered already is what to do about protein if I have a whey allergy. With a caloric deficit it’s challenging for me to get enough protein without a supplement. Thanks for the help.

  • iz

    Hi I am wondering if you can give me some advice. I am 5’4 @ 140lbs and 23% body fat (female). I have been on paleo (some months more strict then others) since about february 2014. i have been doing crossfit for about a year now. the issue i have is no matter how healthy i eat and how much i lift i am not getting ab definition. I have a natural hourglass figure and generally happy with my body but have stubburn flab on my upper abs that wont shift. i also feel my ass is too flabby… i have read that stress can cause this but i am not stressed in any way. I am not really sure what to do as nothing seems to have worked to be lean and less squishy in those areas. i train hard, and i am pretty sure i eat enough for the activities i do. I rest enough, sleep 8 hours…
    any advice would be great :)
    love your articles, keep them coming.

  • Gina

    Hi, I’ve just come across this as I’m starting to add weight lifting to my workout routine. Is it beneficial for women to split their weight training into days dedicated to certain areas of the body? I hear guys say Leg Day and Chest Day etc, is it ok to do a full body workout each time?
    Also, should I add cardio before I lift weights and if so, what’s a good ratio of cardio to weights should I be doing each workout?
    I’ve recently been doing 15 minutes of high intensity cardio before going onto weights for about 45. Is this completely wrong?


    • Michael Matthews

      Yes you can do that or do other splits like upper/lower 2 x per week or push-pull-legs, rest, repeat.

      Personally I prefer one major muscle group per day.

      I would do the cardio after the lifting and stick to HIIT.

  • Heather

    Hi Mike! I love your blog read it everyday!! I have a few quick question.s Well, first off I lift heavy weights three times a week with one sprint session a week. I have been working in the 8-10 rep range, but I really enjoy being in the 5-6 rep range (4 sets) with weight training. I know this is considered more of a “strength” range, but can I still build solid dense muscles with this range of reps also? Last question, I recently went to a nutrition/supplement store where the people employed there are certified nutritional specialists. I asked them what my calorie intake should be since I constantly struggle trying to find what’s right for me. They recommended me 1200 calories a day, does that sound right to you? I’m 5’6, 120 pounds with 16% body fat and like I mentioned before lift heavy weights 3x a week with one sprint session a week. It seems really low to me, any insight would be extremely helpful.

  • anna

    Hi, I found you through IG and I am so glad.
    I have been working out for almost a year now, had never workout before. My main aim was to build my butt and lean legs, but now I am getting more interested on beside growing my butt to lean my body as well.
    I lift heavy, and do very little cardio, max 10 min of uphill after lifting. I also eat clean with high in protein diet, but I can’t see much changes in my body:/
    I am loosing patience now and thats why I ended up here;).
    I want to know if I buy the meal plan, does it comes with exercise plan as well?
    And do I need to know my body fat and blood type for the questions for the meal plan?
    I really really need a second look/opnion on my routine, and think you can help me, as I can’t find the right kind of trainer here in DK.
    I will really appreciate your help.

    Thank you Michael

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey! Great on what you’re doing.

      First we need to see what’s up with your diet:


      My guess is you’re just overeating.

      Sure what’s your routine?

      • anna

        hey thank you so much,
        I looked at the link, got so much out of it, and ya I think I am eating in the wrong order, so I will love to have customised meal plan.
        I eat about five meals and I maybe am taking low carb, and as I eat a lot of nuts, my fat intake could be higher. And my protein should be a bit higher too.

        My routine is:
        I workout 4 to 5 days a week.
        2 leg days and the rest upper body, abs and back, arms and bi tri.
        For leg days I do around 8 different exercises in two supersets,
        12 rep x4.
        and the same goes for the rest of the body, but as my main aim was to build my butt, I put more focus on lifting heavier on my leg days.
        I have already changed some things after visiting your site, today i lifted more heavy so that i could only do max 8 rep, think it will help a lot.

        Do you also do customised workout plan?

        Thanks Michael

        • Michael Matthews

          YW! Ah okay well we can definitely help you out.

          Cool on your workouts. The volume is a big high and you could benefit from some heavier lifting.

          I don’t do customized workout plans just yet but I will be adding this service at some point. Just short on time these days!

          • anna

            Ok thanks for now I will start with your customised meal plan:)
            And just last question, I didn’t get it when you say volume is a big high?

            And I am just so happy that I found you:):)
            Your site is amazing.

          • Michael Matthews

            Cool! We’ll be happy to help.

            Ah sorry volume = the number of sets and reps you’re performing. You’re doing a LOT for your legs…

  • Serena

    Hello Mike!
    Really great article, thanks so much! I am 22 years old, 125 pounds, 5 feet 6 inches and I believe my fat percentage is now 19%. I have been working out each week for the past 3-4 years (and hardly at all before that time). I love it. I have lately been doing workouts that consist of high intensity interval training with sprints followed by the 1-2 minute low intensity walking. Each week I do this and heavy weightlifting for full body. I am wondering what you think about the best way to split this up for the week? One day lower body heavy weightlifting, one day upper body heavy weightlifting and 3-4 days high intensity sprints? Should I do them on the same day just less sprints on days of heavy weightlfting? Hope you are able to get back to me! Thanks so much! I wrote many notes down from your article.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Great on your stats! That rocks.

      I like what you’re doing.

      I don’t like upper/lower splits because I don’t like heavy squatting and deadlifting on the same day. Whichever comes second always suffers.

      If you want to train 3 x per week, a standard Push-Pull-Legs approach would work better.

      If you wanted to train 5 x per week, you could do great with a single muscle group approach (so long as volume and intensity are correct) with a bit of additional “weak point” training to bring up areas you really want to focus on.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Helen Hines

    How do you get your body fat measured to find out exactly where your at?

  • Helen Hines

    And the percentage of under 20% of body fat applies to all women regardless of their age, weight and height?

    • Michael Matthews


  • Mrs. Santos

    Hi Michael, I’m a women that is 5.5” and used to weight 160lbs. I’ve lost 40lbs. between zumba and weightlifting. My body was kind of muscular, but I’ve notice that now it looks skinny besides that my butt has disappeared. what can I do to gain muscle and have a BIG BOOTY? I want to look muscular =) Thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      Great job! That rocks. Haha lots of heavy squats and hip thrusts!

  • Lauren

    Thanks for this article! I have been long discouraged over time and now feel motivated! Im mom of 3, 26 and 95 lbs. can’t seem to gain wieght and my muscles are very weak as I really don’t exercise much bc of busy mom life. So, how can I gain the muscle I’d like so I don’t look 12 and so I can be healthy and fit and strong again and gains few lbs? How many calories a day and how many exercises in each rep if that makes sense? I just want my old body back! Thanks again for this info I can’t tell you how down I was becoming and overwhelmed.

    • Michael Matthews

      You’re in a perfect place to focus on building muscle! I’d LOVE to get you going on my Thinner Leaner Stronger program! Have you read that book yet?

  • Savannah

    Hi Michael,
    Just came across your article, and I’m interested in getting a miss fit usa body. I’m 20, 5’7”, 100 pounds. I’m vegetarian and eat mostly raw fruits and vegetables. I jog every day with my dog for 30 minutes. Do you have any training videos?

  • liz

    Hi. I just turned 24 and I weigh 108. I was a gymnast and competitive cheerleader until I was 18 so I use to have a great body I was toned and I loved my muscular legs and butt. But I now have 2 kids and lost all my muscle. I’m that “fat skinny” now and I hate it!! How do I get my muscle back without having to do all my tumbling and hard core conditioning since I can’t be a gymnast/cheerleader anymore? That’s all I knew how to do and was constantly pushed by my coaches. Thank you!

    • Michael Matthews

      The good news is you’ll have muscle memory on your side and will re-gain muscle quickly and easily!

      All you need to do is start training those muscles again. Would you be interested in weightlifting?

      • liz

        Yea I’m willing to do whatever it takes. How should I start? Now another problem I have is I eat just about anything and everything. Since I don’t gain weight easily I take advantage of it. Do you have some advise for a diet plan?

  • Sarah C.

    Hi Mike! Ok, I am 38 and BF is 30% :( I just started the weight lifting journey as I have spent years doing major cardio with no change! Do you think my body can change a lot by this time next year? I’d really like to get into competition shape.

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey! Yes absolutely. You can do a LOT in a year.

  • lauren oakley

    Hi Mike,
    I am currently 70.3kg, 5″2 and have 37% body fat. I do crossfit 3-4 times a week and tae kwon do 2 times per week.

    am i doing enough? although crossfit sometimes has cardio i feel maybe i should do some more but wanted to get your opinion?

    also crossfit people believe we should eat paleo, though everytime i try it i get to day 3 and go on an eating bindge and go crazy for any junk food i can get.

    i want to loose the weight as fast as i can and would love to be 25% body fat. from the scan i did it recommended i loose 11kg to do this as i have a fair amount of muscle.

    please help :)

  • Vale

    Hi! I’m a 17 year old girl! I’m 153cm height and weight about 49kg. I take a low calorie diet and loss both fat and muscle. Now I’m not that fat but not that skinny either. I want to be tone, and have muscles.. What my diet and my exercise routine should be?? Please help me

    • Michael Matthews
      • Vale

        Oh thanks Michael! So what I have to do is to take a calorie supplus and concentrate on weight lifting.. And then if necesary go to a fat loss process right?!?

        • Michael Matthews

          YW! Yes exactly. :)

      • Vale

        Hi Michael! I have a question can my diet be 40%carbs 30%protein 30% fat! Because I’m having a little of hormonal problems so I considered to increase my fat intake a little and reduce my carbs! Can this helps me build muscle too??

        • Michael Matthews

          Yeah you can do that.

      • Vale

        Hi Michael! Thanks for the information given, but know I have some questions… I’m training basketball three times a week,( Monday, Wednesday & Friday) for 2 hours each day! My main purpose is my abs to be notice! Ihave about 23 % of body fat ( I think cause I’m 1.54 cm height, my weight is 46km, waist 70 cm, my hips 85cm and neck 30cm). Should I do ab exercises on my non training days or just led my muscle to relax?… What my diet should be in my training and not training day? Please help me!!

        • Michael Matthews

          That’s totally fine. Good cardio!

          You can do resistance training in addition to that.

          Regarding your diet:


          • Vale

            Thanks! So if I’m taking yoga classes 3 times a week mixed with basket is fine? ? And should I lose more fat or no?

          • Vale

            Thanks! So if I’m taking yoga classes 3 times a week it’s fine? And should I burn more fat??

          • Michael Matthews

            Yeah that’s fine. Yoga is great.

          • Vale

            Ok! Thanks! I have one question more…. I take my yoga classes at 7:30 to 9:00 and go to sleep almost immediately, I eat dinner at 6:30! So, do I need to eat something at 9 after my yoga class or not?? Thanks :)

          • Michael Matthews

            No you don’t have to. A little protein might be a good idea though–just 20g or so.

  • Ricky

    Hi Mike! I am looking to help my mother out with training and losing
    weight. However, does any of this information change when the person is
    50-60 years old? I want to help her, but just want to make sure. And if
    weight lifting isn’t really an option what else can be done? Thanks a ton!

  • Justine

    Hi Mike! I am new to the weight exercises you recommend in your articles such as deadlift, squat, etc.. I noticed that in another article you linked a video by Scott Herman Fitness, would you recommend I learn how to do the exercises from his videos? As you know there is so much bad advice out there, both on the internet and in local gyms, but I would trust your advice :) Another question: while browsing through the Scott Herman Fitness videos I saw a few videos of the same exercises performed without weight such as “air squat”. Would you say it would be a good idea for a total beginner to do the exercise using bodyweight to get used to the movement and avoid injury for the first couple of weeks or do you think that it would be the “chicken” way to exercise and a waste of time and that it’s ok to start with heavy weight straight away? Thanks for your advice, you’re the best!

    • Michael Matthews

      The videos of Scott’s that I recommend are good. I can’t speak for all of his.

      You probably don’t need to start with no weight but some people do. It depends on your strength and athleticism…

  • nogoodnews

    This article is so on the money it should be posted in every gym bathroom!!! At age 47 I have done more for my body in TWO years than I did in 17 years of cardio only (!) exercise.
    I had never used weights before until I turned 45 … and I lift HEAVY!! (40 lb dumbbell rows) Not ridiculously heavy mind you – but heavy enough my body composition changed – FINALLY!! This article is AWESOME!!!!!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks and that’s awesome! Great job! Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Rebecca Weir

    So I’ve been reading and reading every day and trying to find out the best program for me. When I started all this in April 2014 I was 182 and I’m 5’6. It is now July and I’m 159 and have lost inches all over. I would like to post my daily routine and get your advice…

    Morning (Monday)
    Protein shake with peanut butter and banana
    Workout- 10 min warm up, arms, upper and lower back, chest and abs. Spin class or HILT treadmill
    (spin class or more cardio. depending on how busy my day is)

    Morning (Tuesday)
    Protein shake with peanut butter and banana
    Workout- 10 min warm up, legs, lower back, abs. Spin class or HILT treadmill
    (spin class or cardio. depending on how busy my day is)

    Wednesday- same as Monday
    Thursday- same as Tuesday
    Friday- same as Monday
    Saturday- same as Tuesday
    Sunday- off
    Monday of the next week I start with whatever I didn’t do from that last Saturday.

    I also use machines, barbells, free weights and do squats on my leg days.. I have to workout at least 6 days or I don’t feel like I’m doing enough. With all this being said what do you think? I hope I gave you enough info to help me :)

  • Ashley Lewis

    Hi Mike,

    I am a medical student and my schedule is really tough but I try my best to workout at least 5 days a week even if I don’t do them consecutively. My problem is that I’ve been working out for a long time on and off but within the last 2 years I’ve been very consistent yet I’m not seeing the changes I should be seeing. I lift, box and swim when I can….I recently became strict about my diet so healthy eating is not an issue. I have been the same weight for a while now 153 pounds 5 foot 7 inches and I have definitely gained muscle yet I don’t seem to have lost much fat. My upper arms look quite big with the muscle I’ve put on since there is still a fair amount of that ‘jiggle’ (that all women hate) in that area. Also, I seem to have a decent amount of back fat and that I have no idea how to get rid of!!! My stomach is flatter than it was before but not as toned as it should be for the consistency with which I’ve been working out. My legs though, are pretty toned so I’m not too worried in that department. What should I be doing that I’m not doing right now to shed those extra pounds (ideally I want to come down to 140. Also, how often should I do cardio and weights for the week? Pleasssseeee help me I’m so tired of trying and not seeing the results.

    • Michael Matthews

      Great on what you’re doing. It sounds like you’r exercising enough. Let’s check your diet. Read this first and let me know:


      If you were lifting and doing cardio, 5 x lifting and 4 x cardio for about 20-25 minutes of HIIT would be all you need…

      • Ashley Lewis


        Thanks so much for the quick response! I’m most def gonna follow your guide on the meal plan stuff! I just wanted to clarify by 5x lifting and 4 x cardio you mean that’s the amount of time I should be doing them per week? And in terms of cardio all i need is 20-25 mins of HIIT (regardless of the type of cardio workout it is)?…i was gonna do an hour but that will work out great for my schedule. Also, would you suggest doing the cardio and lifting on different days (as I know this is the best plan) or do them on the same day sometimes?

  • Linda B

    Thanks for this article. My friend just told me about your site and I am really inspired by it. I have always loved exercising, but struggled with my weight all of my life because of food! I really don’t want to become an overweight diabetic statistic!
    I am a 29 year old female “: 5’4, weighing 197 lbs, 48% fat (read: not good!)
    Anyways, I have focused on just overcoming emotional eating and have gotten much better , but I really want to incorporate healthy eating and effective exercise (especially since exercise always curbs my appetite). While eating has been my main issue, your article has highlighted many common mistakes I have made with approaching weightloss.
    I want to get your book, but had some questions while I wait:
    What is your take on green smoothies? Can they play a role in this whole fat losing, muscle building process?. I am not sure if you are familiar with the 10-day green smoothie cleanse by JJ Smith, but I did enjoy her smoothies and found that they helped me overcome cravings for unhealthy food and overeating. What are your thoughts on her program? I currently am doing 1-2 smoothies a day and one meal, usually a salad.
    You have mentioned that a person has to get to under 20% body fat for the muscle to take ideal effect. But you also said that the excessively long cardio routine isn’t the most effective way to burn fat. Perhaps I misread/misunderstood, but could you clarify what a person like myself should do? Would the 20 mins of HIIT and 40 mins of weightligting (barbells etc) suffice for starts, or would I need more than 20 mins per workout due to my high fat % ?
    Finally, is there space for popcorn in your program? :0)
    Thanks !!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! I’m glad you’re liking my site.

      No worries on your stats. If you’re willing to work hard and stay patient you can transform your body.

      Green smoothies are overrated because they usually just contain a ton of calories and they’re not very filling. If you wanted to just blend up some veggies that would be fine but people go overboard here and include all kinds of fruit, nuts, and other calorie-dense foods.

      You don’t need to do a cleanse. We just need to get you started on a proper diet. This will help:


  • marykay

    I have a question on diet. I am 43yrs old 5 ‘3 105lbs & my fear is losing what small amount of fat that I have left while trying to gain muscle. Due to autoimmune problems my diet is pretty much paleo no gluten nuts dairy soy oats beans and some veggies. Now where would I increase in my diet in order to maintain fat? protein fats or carbs? Or combo?

  • MM

    Oh, my, I’m just reading the reviews on your book on Amazon, and I think I’m sold! A couple of questions…I think I saw in one of your responses to someone else that the book helps a person figure out calorie intake? I think I have the most trouble with this. I’ve used the calculators, but I think I was too low, especially since I started exercising and didn’t change my calorie intake. Then I was hungry frequently and low on energy so I ditched the calorie counting and now I’m sure I’m way over where I should be. Despite the fact that I can eat any time I want, I seem to actually be afraid of being hungry – I mean like stomach hurting, hungry, so I eat to make sure I don’t get that feeling. Figuring out the right calories would be really helpful for me, that considers working out. I’m fortunate to be able to go to a HIIT class, but the session I like is only 5 weeks long, three days a week, then there is a month or two until the next session (sometimes I can take two sessions back to back for 10 weeks). During these sessions, I’m also fortunate that my workplace has a very nice, but small, gym that I have access to for a very small fee. While I’m in my HIIT classes MWF, I want to follow a weight training plan TTH (a la your book). Is this okay to do? The onsite trainers at the gym say yes. If this works out, then when the HIIT class is not in session, I can continue doing those exercises on my own (as I’ve done before) but keep up on the weight training. BTW, I’m super impressed that you are so responsive to people’s comments, reviews and questions.

  • elle

    Hey there!

    I suffer from “skinny fat” big time and I carry most of my extra weight in my thighs. I’m lifting heavy right now; I do a lot of leg exercises like squats, deadlifts and hip thrusts, and I’m slowly increasing my weight. I also eat pretty well. Ideally I would like tone and increase my glutes, but I really don’t want my thighs to get bigger. Is this a realistic goal? Are the size of my thighs more dependent on exercise or genetics?

    • elle

      Also, I’m 20, 5’6′, about 138 pounds but I haven’t weighed myself in a while!

    • Michael Matthews

      Great on what you’re doing. That’s a big “first step.” It sounds like we just need to get you leaner:


      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Vanessa

    So I was hoping for some info on ab workouts. I do not want a muscular six pack but I do want to strengthen and define my core. How many reps and sets would I need to achieve this?

  • Hazel

    i’m 5’3, 14, and 101 pounds. I consider myself skinny fat and have made so many mistakes trying to balance my diet and exercise. I’ve recently bumped up my calories to about 1,600-1,700 (from 1,200 back in May). I’m quite bored of the usual planks, mountain climbers, etc. so i’m looking into weight training. my question is, what is considered heavy weights? i know for sure lifting 5 pounds won’t do much, but what do you recommend for me? should I start off with five pounds and ease into heavier weights? and how many times should I lift + HIIT? Thanks so much for this article and your other articles!!!

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey! Awesome on your cals. That’s a really healthy intake for your weight. You have a good metabolism.

      You’re in a perfect place to hit the weights. Your body will respond really well.

      If I may recommend, check out my book Thinner Leaner Stronger. I’d love to get you going on the program:


  • jill

    I’ve just finished the first phase of TLS. its awesome. I went for ten weeks and it was a week and a half too long. I’m dying for my rest week…praise heaven its here.

    my strength has doubled across the board; I’m lifting heavier than i ever have before. i love being and feeling strong but i tend to feel self conscious about it. Hauling around a 90 lb barbell for deadlifts makes me feel like a half-man. haha

    the downside is i haven’t lost weight… perhaps a pound or two. i didn’t take measurements when i began, i figured the scale would tell me all i need to know. Now that i know better i will begin phase two with measurements so i don’t get discouraged at the end of the next phase.

    my legs are coming much slower than my upper body in terms of definition. Can i double up on leg days to speed that process up? Ive debated…i know it’s not in your book. my other option (one I’m guessing you’ll go for) is more sprinting. I won’t hit the bike as it makes my thighs get bigger and that isn’t something i want to happen.
    I’m lifting 3 days a week per your routine in the book and sprinting about 2xs weekly.

    Also, just for the future female readers of this comment: being on my period on this program is brutal. :)

    • Michael Matthews

      Haha awesome! Great job! That rocks.

      Regarding your weight, the scale most definitely isn’t everything. This is especially true for women as you will gain weight from the weightlifting simply by having your muscle suck up more water and glycogen.

      The mirror and your waist measurement are much better for jduging progress at first.

      Yes you can add 3 sets of squats to your back day.

      And let’s make sure your diet is right:


      • Jill

        Thanks mike.

        my husband and i follow your diet plan. i have a lovely journal of my daily intake. I’ve noticed numerous benefits from eating enough protein.

        we weren’t sure if my metabolism is ‘broken’ from years of chronic under-eating protein and having a couple kids so we were considering having me reverse diet up and then do another cut to see if things work out better.

        what do you think?

        i think its a lot of time to fix something that potentially isn’t broken however…I’m sure you can see the flip side.

  • mona

    I am 5’6 and 160 pounds (!!!!) I am ashamed to have let myself get this heavy, as I am most comfortable in the 130-135 range. My question is: since I am overweight, should I focus on losing body fat first through diet and then go into weight lifting or do it all together? I am scared the muscles are just going to make me look bigger because I will be covered in a layer of fat….

    • Michael Matthews

      Good question! You can start lifting right away as it’s going to help you lose fat faster…

  • Tahlia

    i went online and it says that i have a body fat oercentage of 30, how would i lower this in order to start toning up my body? i weight 125 lbs and im 5’1 but im starting to look too thin . , what can I do? when i was younger i belly danced at my home to loose the weight in my belly. but now reading your page ts saying that if mt bfp is more than 22% than ill always look flabby :( please help .

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  • Tamara

    I NEED HELP PLEASE! ben trying to contact you

    • Michael Matthews

      What’s up?

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  • Rico

    Hey Mike. Quick Question:

    Why do you suggest an 8-10 rep range for women and a 4-6 rep range for men?

    Thanks in advance.


    • Michael Matthews

      The reason why I recommend 8-10 reps for women is simply because the majority I’ve worked with were already quite intimidated by the weight necessary to work in the 8-10 rep range. The 4-6 rep range was REALLY uncomfortable for them (generally speaking).

      The reality is 4-6 reps does work fine for women, but they can do great with the 8-10 rep range as well. There’s also the issue of overtraining to consider–women’s bodies can’t repair nearly as much muscular damage as guys’.

      • Crateria

        What trips me up from reading both books (to be able to help out my wife) is that you have women do 12 sets, but men only do 9 sets?

        Is that solely due to the rep range difference on the sets?

        Thanks again Mike.

        • Michael Matthews

          The reason why I recommend 8-10 reps for women is simply because the majority I’ve worked with were already quite intimidated by the weight necessary to work in the 8-10 rep range. The 4-6 rep range was REALLY uncomfortable for them (generally speaking).

          The reality is 4-6 reps does work fine for women, but they can do great with the 8-10 rep range as well. There’s also the issue of overtraining to consider–women’s bodies can’t repair nearly as much muscular damage as guys’.

          So, if she’d like to work in some 4-6 training, I recommend doing no more than 3 sets in the 4-6 rep range, and using it on the following exercises:


          Military Press

          Bench Press


          • Crateria

            No no my point was I understand the rep range difference, but the total number of SETS per workout that you have women doing vs men is 3 more, which is what I was curious about.

            All of the TLS workouts are 4 exercises, 3 sets per exercise, for 12 total sets. The BLS workouts are 3 exercises, 3 sets per exercise, for 9 total sets. Is that simply because of the rep range difference? Can you elaborate on that more?

            Thanks again.

          • Crateria

            I guess I’m talking more about 4 exercises per muscle group, like for chest days the women do 12 sets for chest, while men do 9.

          • http://www.muscleforlife.com/ Michael Matthews

            Yeah you can do 12.

          • Michael Matthews

            Doh sorry. You can “get away with” doing a bit more volume when the weights are lighter, that’s all.

            That said, many guys do like to bump BLS workouts up to 12 total sets and it works well.

          • Crateria

            Roger that and was thinking the same thing from having read your articles where you add in an extra 2-3 sets (if you have more juice left), but just wasn’t sure.

            So thank you for clarifying!

          • Michael Matthews

            Exactly. YW.

  • disqus_UlXpvsHUej

    Im 25 weigh 50 wont to tone get fit little mussly i get tiyerd un fit i eat lot yunk wont cut it out what should i be eating when what weights please help thank you

  • disqus_UlXpvsHUej

    Hi im 25 weigh 50 get tiyed un fit eat lot junk wont to tone up get fit little mussle girly abs what should i be eating and how much and when what gym worl exusize should be doing please help thank u

  • Jules

    Michael, I am 5’7 and I weigh 116lbs. I had my bf checked by a trainer and it is 24%. My waist at the navel is 25.5 inches. Thigh (mid) is 19 inches, I did the skin caliper thing with accumeasure but I’m not sure it’s coming out right. I got 24% with that as well(11mm skinfold at my lower stomach below navel). My glute muscle has all but disappeared, when I squat I can practically feel bone and flab. I had a terribly stressful period in my life and I was an idiot and for 5 straight months I ate very little (800cal or less) and did 2 hours of elliptical DAILY. Idiotic. I know.

    So now I have your thinner leaner stronger book and I’m ready to get started. However, because I know my body used up a lot of my lean muscle to nourish me while I was under eating, I am afraid that I may be starting from a strange place and I don’t know what diet to follow. I had upped my calories to 1400 for the last 2 months. I gained so i am 119-120 now. My question is do I do the fat loss diet calculations? Or do I stick to maintenance? Should I purchase your custom meal plan? Would you help me find a meal plan that would allow me to lose fat but keep my muscle from training? I really want to gain muscle but lose the fat I accumulated from under eating. Thank you so much for your advice.

  • Angela

    “The circumstance in which weightlifting, or any form of resistance training really, does not help how you look is if your body fat percentage is too high. If you’re 25% body fat and start lifting weights, you’re going to build muscle, which is going to simply make you look a little bit bigger. This is the big mistake that women make with weightlifting.” So does this mean that if my body fat % is greater than 25% (mines quite high, like 40% I think) that I need to reduce my body fat % with a calorie deficit diet and HIIT cardio 3 – 4 times/week before I start lifting weights?? Thanks

  • Guest

    Hi Michael! I have some questions… I’m training basketball three times a week,( Monday, Wednesday & Friday) for 2 hours each day! My main purpose is my abs to be notice! Ihave about 23 % of body fat ( I think cause I’m 1.54 cm height, waist 70 cm, my hips 85cm and neck 30cm). Should I do ab exercises on my non training days or just led my muscle to relax?… What my diet should be in my training and not training day? Please help me!!

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  • jehannessy

    Hi mike great article i need your help imthinking of getting a tummy tuck im 24 yr old female 190lbs and 5ft3 and i have a loose stomach will this ever lift and go away what should i do please i want to lookgorgeous never been fit in my life but always athletic thanks

  • Josey

    Hey Mike! I’ve been cutting since April and I think I’m ready for maintenance. I’m down to about 19% body fat. I’ve been cutting for so long I’m not really sure where to begin on calculating my macros for maintenance. How many grams of each macro should I stick with? I’m 5’5″ and I currently weigh 123 lbs.

    • Michael Matthews

      Awesome! Great job! Let’s reverse diet:


      Oh and I’d love to feature you in a before and after success story if you accomplished this on my program and if you’re interested! What do you think?

      • Josey

        Reverse diet instead of maintenance? Or is that the same thing? Sorry, I’m not that familiar with that territory.

        And are you sure you’re talking to the right person? Lol. You want to feature me?!

        • Michael Matthews

          Check out the article and you’ll see how it works.

          Yeah absolutely! Shoot me an email! mike@muscleforlife

          • Josey

            Ohhhhh! I see what you’re saying now :)

            And will do!

          • Michael Matthews

            Great! :)

  • Lindsay

    Hi Mike, I just read TLS and love all of your information. Yes, it’s SO different that what us ladies have been continuously taught but I am really excited to give your way the effort. I’m curious if it’s possible to follow your program with some different variations than you offered. I do not have access to a gym right now nor do I have a complete home gym. I do have a slew of resistance bands, adjustable dumbbells and a bench. Is it possible to trade out the barbell exercises for strictly dumbbell and/or resistance bands? I have the feeling you will say no, that the load won’t be enough for 8-10 reps but just checking. I’d like to start the program now but can’t add to my home gym at the moment. Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for reading my book and writing! I really appreciate it.

      Yeah you can do that to get rolling but at some point you’ll want to make the switch to a gym or proper home gym because as you get stronger, the bands and DBs just won’t work for certain exercises like squats and deadlifts.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Lindsay

        Thanks for the quick response. I will start this way and graduate to the barbell when I get the home gym in order. And truly, thank you so much for your content and for being accessible like this on here. It’s all so refreshing. I’m so excited to be on a plan that doesn’t involve super, crazy low calories and zero carbs, yay!

        • Michael Matthews

          YW! Sounds good! My pleasure! Let me know how everything goes!

  • adubya

    When staying in a calorie deficit, how do I manage that I relation to cardio? Would I not eat some of the calories burned? Ive made gains with building muscle but I know my diet should be tweaked a little (especially protien). Im 36, 130lbs, run between 25-35 miles per week (just cause I like to run). I lift heavy (for me) 4xper week.

  • adubya

    When staying in a calorie deficit, do I eat some of the calories or nutrients burned during workouts? I know my diet needs to be tweaked (especially protien). I don’t want to compromise the muscle gains by dropping calories to low. And suggestions for someone who loathes counting calories? Im 36, 130lbs. I run 25-35mi/wk (just cause I like to run) and lift heavy (for me) 4xper week. Cross train a couple times a week. Yes im looking into your book. Thanks:)

    • Michael Matthews

      I don’t like to do it this way. Here’s how I like to do it:


      Honestly if you want to guarantee that you’ll get results, plan/track food itnake until you’ve reached your goal and then you can get looser with your intake and maintain…

      • adubya

        Not sure why that posted twice, sorry. Thank you!

        • Michael Matthews

          NP. YW! :)

  • AA

    Great article Mike! I have a question tho. I am 5’5″ and I weigh only 80 lbs. I’m not really skinny fat cos I used to play football months ago. Anyway.. How do I gain muscle to achieve a normal bmi but still manage to be fit and lean? I’ve just started lifting weights a week ago & I really dont know if I’m doing it right. Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! How old are you? And are you a boy or girl?

      • AA

        I’m a girl. 21 years old.

        • Michael Matthews

          Cool. This will help you work out your diet:


          And we’ll definitely want you lifting weights. What are you currently doing?

          • AA

            Thank you! I’ve been going to the gym 3 times a week. I do 2 workouts: 1st – lifting weights that focuses on shoulder, chest and arms; 2nd – on back, legs, ab & waist. I do them alternately every other day. 12 reps with increasing sets every week. I’m doing 4 sets this week.

          • Michael Matthews

            YW! Cool. That can definitely work. What types of exercises are you doing?

  • sarah

    Will there be a follow up to thinner, leaner, stronger?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yup. I’m releasing the second edition in about a month and then will be looking at doing a BTLS.

  • Sarah

    Hi Michael.
    I’m quite overweight. 86kgs 168cms. Not sure exactly what my body fat is but probably around 30 something %.
    Would you suggest losing weight/fat first before lifting heavy weights?

    • Michael Matthews

      You could do both. The weightlifting will help speed up the fat loss.

  • Martha

    Hi there are soooo many workout plans meal plans, you just dont know which one is the best one for you! Im female 134 lbs im 51 omg ! My greatest assets were tummy and arms didnt have to work them out that much, and looked toned , WELL, thats all changed! I have flabby arms, and a bit of love handles, and flabby tummy, my thighs have always been big., as well as my butt, i see an osteopath for my knees, as i have a begining stage of osteoarthritis, so theres alot of your typical bottom half excersises i cant do, i follow my osteopaths excerises stretches she has for my needs, as well she has me do spin classes at a 50 percent max for tention, and row machine, i used to run! So my goal is to get rid of my tummy fat no more love handles , and have a toned tummy arms, and reduce the fat on my thighs , i want to look fit and be healthy, at 51 ! Im going through peri menopause,hating it! Im up at 4am every day start work at 6 im in bed by 8:30 .i have a gym memebership, and can workout at 2:30 pm not later!is there something that will work for me? I dont know who i can trust, i just want realistic results, at my age and with my issues, is it actually possible? Im on my feet for 8 hours and very fast pased job, when im done work im always so tired, but i forse my self to go to the gym, and i go 2 times if im lucky 3 times a week! Help!!

  • Ida

    Thanks for that article! Really helpfull! Hope i can ask a question. I really want to build up a bit but my problem is that I am 42 kg 167 cm and have 9% in body fat, thats just how I am by nature. so yeah i dont have any muscle and no fat to turn in to muscle. I have a problem gaining weight and I really dont wanna burn to much cause belive it or not but i loose the few kg that i have and fast. What are my options? I just feel like everything i read tells me to burn and do cardio and im afraid to. (english not my first language, so sorry about that)

  • GG

    Help! Im a 5’1 girl weigh 103 pounds and i want to gain muscle sooo bad i hate being skinny and i’m having a hard time. I My metabolism is sooo fast im alwys hungry and i eat clean. All i want is a big butt and legs and skinny waist ;( I workout 5 days a week sometimes 6 and i do legs 2 times a week .

  • Jules

    Hi mike,
    I’m 25 years old female and I weigh 125 lbs . I had my bodyfat measured using a caliper and it is 21%. I have your meal plan purchased and I’m wondering what a safe rate of weight loss would be for me? I went to this site fat2fittools and I entered my weight my body fat and my desired bodyfat. It says that at 15% body fat my goal weight should be 115 pounds if I want to keep my lean mass. Is this about right? How do I avoid muscle loss? is it safe to lose 1 pound a week and what if I’m losing 2 a week? I just want to gain muscle and lose the excess fat… Thank you. And I’m weightlifting now 4-5 days a week

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey Julia!

      Cool on your stats and we want to see about 1 pound lost per week. 15% is VERY low–your body may like not it. You may find you don’t generally feel good, you may lose your period, etc. In my experience, around 17% is a better place for most women to sit. That’s really lean and generally doesn’t have any negative side effects.

      Let’s play it by ear and see how your body looks week by week. In the end, the mirror is really what matters, you know?

      • Jules

        Thank you!! So what weight can I expect to be at for 17%? 116-117lbs? I need to lose around 8lbs? So that’s about 2 months if I’m losing abut 1lb a week. I’m definitely planning on weight lifting for the rest of my life :) but in about 2 months can I expect a physical difference ? Your meal plan has me at 1440 calories 40/40/20 for p/c/f ! As I’m losing do I adjust the plan? Or keep eating the same ??

        • Michael Matthews

          Yeah those numbers all sound about right. We don’t need to adjust numbers unless you’re plateaued in your weight loss.

          Yes in the second edition of TLS, which will be out in Jan, I have added additional legs/butt work. Do this:

          1. Add 3 sets of squats to your back day, after deadlifts.

          2. Add 3 sets of hip thrusts to your legs day, at the end of the workout.

          Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Jules

        Could I also lose the fat and potentially gain muscle? How would this scenario play out? If I’m losing weight am I only preserving muscle or could I be gaining some while losing fat? In a previous comment you said somewhere around 3lbs of muscle in 3 months for a female beginner?? :) thanks so much for all of your advice!

        Am I understanding correctly? if I were to gain muscle and lose fat it would be my body fat percentage . Like how would this look? Let’s say I go from 125 to 118 in about 2 months ….am I looking for my body fat to go down? I’m at 21% now. Could it really lower to 17% in 2-3 months??

        • Michael Matthews

          Yes that’s possible but we’ll have to see how your body responds.

          We want to see a reduction in body fat percentage. We don’t really care about weight to be honest. Usually body fat going down means weight going down, but if you add muscle, it may not reduce much.

          Fortunately waist measurement, caliper, and mirror will tell us everything we need to know…

  • Runningaddict


    I am a 22 year old performer/runner. 5’8″ and around 120 pounds. I am constantly dancing and I also run probably six times a week ranging from 4-6 miles a run. I feel very fit but I just am not looking as toned as I want to be. I am a pescatarian and a very picky eater so it is hard for me to find things I like. I am also lactose intolerant and have a sensitive stomach. HELP!

    • Michael Matthews

      Great on what you’re doing. That rocks.

      Based on your height and weight, it doesn’t sound like you need to lose fat. It sounds like you need to add muscle.

      Do you think you could work in 2 weightlifting workouts per week?

  • Kelly Martin

    I purchased the Bigger, Leaner, Stronger book because I absolutely hate how most of the fitness information geared toward women is kind of wimpy and ineffective (5lb pink dumbbells…cringe.) However, after reading it, I’m wondering if the female version is much different? Are the nutritional recommendations and exercises the same? Read: I’m afraid to eat so many carbs and do shrugs and dips :) I’ll do it if it is recommended but I just want to make sure I’m not following a male specific program.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for reading my book and writing! I really appreciate it.

      The women’s book is a little different but the principles are the same. I’ll help you here.

      1. Are you an experienced weightlifter?

      2. Carbs aren’t the enemy. Let’s just make sure your calories are right and macros are balanced:


      3. No need for shrugs and dips are good but unless you’re already strong, we’ll have to work into them.

      Talk soon!

      • Kelly Martin

        Thanks so much for the reply! I ended up buying the female specific book as well. I’ve been lifting for about 5 years and specific muscle groups have gotten pretty strong but I’m not balanced. I attempted dips yesterday and that did not go well. I probably did one successfully. :( What do you suggest I do to work into those?

        • Michael Matthews

          Thanks! You can do assisted dips if your gym has the machine or you can swap for another exercise like more incline presses.

          • Kelly Martin

            Great! Thanks again for the reply. I’m excited to see the progress this program will bring!

          • Michael Matthews

            YW! Keep me posted!

  • 3abera

    hi there
    i’m a girl 160 cm , 113 Ib
    i have been on a calorie deficit for years so i had a metabolic issues , lost lots of muscles
    anyway i started going to the gym 6 weeks ago i had 33 % body fat and 18.5 kg muscle mass
    i go to the gym 4 daysweek doing weight lifting followed by 30 minutes HIIT on the treadmill
    i eat at least 113 gm protein and less than 20 gm carbs on rest days and 75 on gym days except on my leg day up to 130-150 gm , fats usually between 20-30 gm my daily calorie intake between 1150 and 1400 calories
    last week i measured again my body fat was 28 % and muscle mass was 20.1 kg
    am i doing good ?, do i have to change anything to loose fat faster and gain more muscle , is my calorie intake too high ??

  • Terri

    So I’m confused you say the big mistake women make is lifting weights before they lose the body fat. So should I lose all the body fat before I start lifting at all?

    • Michael Matthews

      Not exactly BEFORE they start losing fat but lifting WITHOUT ALSO losing the fat isn’t going to help them look better, that’s all.

  • njs

    Right now I am 5’6 and just weighed in at 145lbs, which I find concerning because I have been around 130 for a while. I have always been really athletic, and have started doing a lot more weighted exercises. I look like I am in great shape, but the 145 seems a bit high? Is this just from added muscle? I dont think I have gained enough fat to do this.

  • Mel

    You mention that when choosing what weight to lift that you should only be able to do 8 to 10 reps but you don’t specify how many sets of each excercise. I typically do 3 sets and the weight I use isn’t easy per se but I’m not trembling after the first set but can barely finish my third. Am I going too easy on myself?

    • Michael Matthews

      I recommend you do 12 of these heavy sets per major muscle group per workout, and that you train each major muscle group every 5 to 7 days.

      You don’t have to go to absolute failure every set but you do want to push yourself to the point where you struggle to finish your last rep and probably can’t get another.

  • Taryn

    Is it possible to lose tummy fat with weight training? I’ve always been quite a skinny girl but since puberty filled out in my tummy area and legs. I’m 22, 1.77m and weigh 63kg at the moment but feeling like I could lose a few pounds/kg mainly from my tummy and love handles. This seems to be an impossible task. I eat a very low carb diet.. another thing i’d really like to build muscle but have no idea where to start. I can lift 3 on my biceps.

  • Amy

    Hiah Michael, thanks for the article. I’ve been going to the gym a while but it isn’t really working for me. Started bouldering on the side and noticed muscle growth almost instantly. I’m also training long-distance running which according to many means I will never be able to build muscle… I’d appreciate your opinion on that. What’s more, I wanted to ask about a proper technique when doing low-rep weight training because what I’ve found is that it’s extremely difficult to maintain good posture etc. when working with weights that only allow for 8-10 repetitions. Would you have a good tip for this? I started out on lighter weights to “train the routine” but the transition to heavier weights still feels problematic. And there’s no sense training with a bad technique, you’ll just end up with severe injuries…

    • Michael Matthews

      You can do quite a bit of cardio and still build muscle. Check this out:


      Maintaining form is tough but just part of the game, really. When you form breaks down, you end your set. Then adjust the weight as needed, you know?

  • Stacy

    I’m just turning 18 and am around 111lbs at 5″7. I don’t know my exact bf% but I think it’s relatively low, but I want to lose fat and get more toned/gain muscle. As I want to lose flab especially on my arms and around my knees and legs (I know you can’t spot reduce.)
    I was wondering if it is possible to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time, to look slimmer. As I recovered from anorexia around a year and a half ago and so just losing weight may cause me to lose my period again and would be unhealthy for me.
    what advice could you give me in terms of workouts etc?

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey Stacy,

      Cool on your stats and goal.

      Yes you can build muscle and lose fat when you’re new to lifting.

      Check out my Thinner Leaner Stronger program. I think it would be great for you:


      Let me know what you think!

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  • Shannon

    Is this for people who never really lift weights? All of the women that I know who compete, bikini, figure, cross fit etc lift weight for more than 1.5 hours and they look fantastic. Not only do they look fantastic they are strong.

    • http://www.muscleforlife.com/ Michael Matthews

      You don’t need to spend more than 45 to 60 minutes lifting weights, 4 – 6 times per week. You COULD but you won’t necessarily get more out of it and could even end up overtraining.

      Remember that many women competing are also using light steroids to build muscle while bulking and preserve it while cutting to very low levels of body fat.

      • Shannon

        I have to disagree with your later statement. I know plenty of competitors and non use steroids. Maybe in physique or body building but not in bikini, figure or cross fit. I don’t compete but I am insulted by what you said.

        • http://www.muscleforlife.com/ Michael Matthews

          Sorry to offend but I’m just speaking from experience. I can qualify my statement by saying many women competing in the bigger leagues and placing/doing well.

  • ella

    Love it. It works great. A little fine tuning to personalize the plan and its simple and effective.

    • http://www.muscleforlife.com/ Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Let me know if you have any questions.

  • http://www.muscleforlife.com/ Michael Matthews

    Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

    Oh and if you like what I have to say, you should sign up for my free weekly newsletter! You’ll get awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious “guilt-free” recipes, articles to keep you motivated, and much more!

    You can sign up here:


    Your information is safe with me too. I don’t share, sell, or rent my lists. Pinky swear!

  • Jeanette: )

    Wow this article is awesome! ! I had been skinny fat before and worked out like crazy when I was young…now I’m 28 gain some weight and started lifting just recently I was told not to lift so much..because I shouldn’t lift too heavy since I’m a lady…so now I’m certain to keep at it! Thank you so much for your article hopefully this time I get thinner and stronger too:)

    • http://www.muscleforlife.com/ Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Definitely let me know how it goes!

  • Christina

    Hello I am turning 40 this year and have become morbidly obese. I am 5’8 and weight 260. I love swimming laps and working out and used to be in the gym everyday for at least two hours but still couldnt get under 200. LAst year I lost my motivation and went completely south in terms of my fitness. I have made a promises to myself to be in the best physical condition of my life when I turn 40 in Dec. Im desperate for help on how to get lean and toned and be a heather more active me for my five kids and husband. I use to do at least an hour of cardio then lift after. I feel like my workout is all wrong …please help desperate and do anything to be fit…not skinny but fit

  • mrsgeeley

    looking at your advise re 150lb person wanting to lose weight.. I am 145lb and workout 5/6 times a week weight training with two even hiit added. i eat clean having a movie night on fri where i’m looser with counting for the treats. I’m concerned because i have been advised to consume 1916 calories a day, 10% less of what i was told is my sustainability calorific value. i’m fearing that i’m eating too much and am stressing out over it now! please can someone help me!

  • Croquette

    Thank you for confirming this to me!

    • http://www.muscleforlife.com/ Michael Matthews

      Glad you liked it!

  • Croquette

    why is the booty so hard to tone? I am 5’9 140 pounds approximately, maybe 135. I did P90X like 5 times I got really ripped but I have NEVER EVER had a booty like the girl in the pic. Not even close. Meaning not big, but toned. Whats wrong? Can it be the diet?

    • http://www.muscleforlife.com/ Michael Matthews

      Takes a lot of work. A lot of squatting and butt-specific training. I’m going to write an article on it soon. :)

  • ConnieBoo

    Hi Mike, what do you think of Barry’s Bootcamp? Seems like it does what you recommend – high intensity interval training (treadmill work) combined with weights.

    • http://www.muscleforlife.com/ Michael Matthews

      Never heard of it. Will have to check out.

  • Lola

    Very good information! I am new to your website but I find it very research based, what I love! ;)

    I know this is a long comment, sorry about this :). But I have spent about 3 h today of watching your videos and I couldn’t resist not to ask you an advice. To be honest this is first time so eone from youtube gas inspired me so much that I am getting in touch :)).

    Question :) – I am around 23% bf, hard to get lower than this… I am doing HIIT and a wide range of bodyweight exercises, also had some probs with thyroid (hypo) but trying to manage it with my diet, no drugs. Also I am VEGAN. And many years before I was yo yo dieter for quite a while.
    Would you advice to do more of hiit and watch my diet (what I am doing already, eating only clean, healthy, home made food, at the moment doing juice fast ;), have been doing IF to lower body fat as well xx).

    I tried few years ago a bit of lifting heavy weights (I have 2 dumbbells where you can change weights etc.at home) and I saw results – I was getting bigger. So I stopped. Probably as you are saying – getting bigger because my body fat was 23%.

    I really would appreciate your opinion…..

    Working out about 4 x a week with hiit plus bodyweight. Also on fasted state. ;)

    (27 y, female, 167cm, 56 – 59 kg (changing all the time, sensible to calorie intake), bf around 23% (my scale shows this).
    Many Thanks,
    Regards, Lola.

  • Lina

    Hi michael..
    I’m 20 this year and i look bony. There’s not much of fat in my body and im trying to find out whether by doing gym can make me look firmer and get nicer body posture. I’m currently 43 kg. I look alot more skinnier than the woman in the pictures.

  • Jess

    Hey mike, love that youre promoting lifting and strong bodies for females! I lift heavy, follow IIFYM , which basically follows the macros you listed except the protein intake seems a little high and the fat a little low for a 150 lb woman. That is in fact my weight and I have always been guided to be around 150p/140c/70f. Any particular reason to up protein that much and drop fat so low?

  • Ce

    Hi, I am from Costa Rica. I’ve been weight lifting for about 2 years, and have made a lot of the common mistakes: not eating clean enough and not lifting heavy enough…Consequently, my physique has stayed pretty much the same ectomorph self it has always been. Maybe a little more definition here or there, but not a radical change…I’ll see if I can get your book and find out more about how to build muscle and get lean!

    • http://www.muscleforlife.com/ Michael Matthews

      Hey hey!

      My book will definitely help you. Let me know what you think of it.

  • Susana

    Hello!!!! I JUST GOT YOUR BOOK!!!!!!

    • http://www.muscleforlife.com/ Michael Matthews

      Great! Thanks! LMK what you think!

  • bgillila

    hi michael, just curious if your custom meal plans account for slow metabolisms and aim to get them back to a fat-burning stage?

  • Elle

    Hi Michael, I’m 30, 5’7, and as of this morning 124 lbs. I recently started kickboxing regularly and eating clean for about 3 months. I have completely changed my lifestyle. I’ve always been skinny but want to be healthy and lean. I am losing weight (which I didn’t want) but my legs and arms (where all my noticeable fat is) has stayed the same. My torso is very small but I see no difference when I look in the mirror. 2 weeks ago I started doing compound arms with heavy 8/10 as well as dips and pull ups (assisted), legs with mainly squats, deadlifts, more squats, and leg press. Then I’ll do an ab day and one kickboxing class which is my cardio/HIIT for the week. I switched to this about 2 weeks ago. Based on this, do you think I will lose the fat around my legs and arms and build more muscle? Do I need break up my arm routine? I’m so confused and frustrated :( Thanks for any input!

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