Muscle for life

The Ultimate Fitness Plan for Women

The Ultimate Fitness Plan for Women

If you want a fitness plan for women that builds lean, “toned,” sexy bodies, then you want to read this article.

If you’re like most women, you want a very specific type of body.

You want to be lean but not too skinny (and most definitely not “skinny fat“).

You want a toned upper body but don’t want to look like a “bulky” weightlifter.

You want a flat, defined stomach.

You want tight, shapely legs, and last but most definitely not least…

You want that perfect, gravity-defying butt.

Well, you–yes, lil’ ol’ you–can have all these things.


You don’t need top-shelf genetics or a lifetime of training to look like a million bucks.

You have to know what you’re doing, though.

Forget what the fitness magazines have told you–you don’t become a “goddess” through starving yourself and doing an unconscionable amount of cardio.

Instead, you need to take a completely different approach. And believe it or not, a much healthier, more enjoyable, and sustainable one.

In this article, you’re going to learn exactly what that approach is and how to build the body of your dreams.

If that gets your attention, then keep reading, because we’re going to start with what you most definitely shouldn’t be doing…

The Worst Fitness Plan For Women

worst female fitness plan

If you follow the bulk of mainstream fitness advice for women, you’re almost guaranteed to wind up skinny fat.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

Sounds familiar?

And what do you think you get when you subject yourself to this tortuous prescription?


Tired all the time…hungry all the time…dreading your workouts…daydreaming sensually about bingeing on carbs…counting the days until you can finally live again…

It sucks.

That’s not all that sucks, though. Even worse is what happens to your physique.

You’ll lose weight, of course, but you’ll also lose a considerable amount of muscle.

And the more muscle you lose, the worse your body begins to look even at a low body fat percentage.

What most women don’t know is just how different low body fat levels look with and without good muscle development.

For example, check out the following pictures:

female fitness training

woman fitness plan

Whose body would you rather have?

Most women would choose the second…and would be surprised to learn that both of these women have about the same body fat percentage.

What makes the second more attractive, though, is muscle mass. She has significantly more.

You see, muscle is what gives you curves, shape, and tone when you’re lean. Without adequate muscle, the best you can hope for by lowering your body fat is something best described as “scrawny.”

Here’s another striking example:

female fitness transformation

Can you guess her weight in each of these pictures?

Would you guess…the same?

Well, that’s the transformative power of improving body composition instead of just obsessively “losing weight.”

When you reframe your goals in terms of losing fat and gaining muscle, you open the door to real progress. That’s how you build a killer physique.

So…the question isn’t if you should gain muscle, it’s just how much.

For example, I’ve worked with thousands of women and the look most want (athletic, lean, and defined) requires they gain 10 to 20 pounds of muscle and reduce their body fat percentage to the 15 to 20% range.

Your numbers will ultimately depend on how you want to look.

If you want to be healthy, lean, and athletic, you probably don’t need to gain more than 10 pounds of muscle and go any lower than 20% body fat.

If you want to look like a bikini competitor, though (like the girl above), you’re going to need quite a bit more muscle and quite a bit less fat.

The “sweet spot” for most women seems to be around 10 to 15 pounds of muscle gained and 17 to 18% body fat.

This is where you look both feminine and fit and it’s also a look that can be maintained year-round.

So, now that we’ve dispelled some myths and located true north, the next question is…how do you actually get there?

It’s pretty simple, actually.

  • Lift a lot of heavy weights.
  • Don’t do too much cardio.
  • Use a moderately aggressive calorie deficit to lose fat.
  • Balance your “macros” properly.

That’s it.

Let’s take a closer look at each point.

Use this workout and flexible dieting program to lose up to 10 pounds of fat and build muscle in just 30 days…without starving yourself or living in the gym.

Doesn’t Heavy Weightlifting Make Women “Bulky”?

workout plan for women to tone

If that question is bouncing around in your head after reading my list above, I understand.

I’ve spoken with many, many women that were afraid that any type of serious weightlifting would turn them into an NFL linebacker.

Well, it doesn’t work like that. Even remotely.

In fact, if there’s one lie that prevents women from getting the bodies they desire more than any other, it’s the claim that heavy weightlifting makes them “bulky.”

The idea seems plausible at first blush.

Boys train with heavy weights because they want big, Hulk-like muscles, right? So why would women, who want long, lean, “toned” muscles do the same thing?

Crossfit hasn’t helped the matter, either, which many women think is representative of what heavy weightlifting does to the body.

Well, a quick Google search of “Crossfit girls” serves up stuff like this:

bulky crossfit female

And that’s enough to make most women swear on their children to never, ever do a heavy squat, deadlift, or overhead press in their lives.

“Whatever I do…I don’t want to look like that,” they say.

Well, if that was your first thought, I have good news for you:

It’s much, much harder to look like that than you probably know.

You don’t hit the gym every day and wake up one morning, look in the mirror, and scream in horror. It takes the right genetics and many years of training and eating like a barbarian…and in many cases, steroids as well.

That said, there are still many women seriously into weightlifting that don’t look like that but are still bulky enough to give you pause.

Well, here’s the reality:

Heavy weightlifting doesn’t make you bulky–being too fat does.

Harsh, I know, but let me explain.

First, a question: would you consider the following woman “bulky”?

strength training for women

Probably not, right?

Well, you might be surprised at how much different her body would look if she gained 15 pounds of fat because she has a lot more muscle than the average woman.

Her legs would lose their sleek lines. Her core would bulge and grow. Her arms would fill out like sausages.

The reason for this is simple:

When you gain fat, the majority accumulates inside and on top of your muscles, so the more you have of both, the larger and more formless your body tends to look.

Thus, a rule of thumb for women that want to be lean, toned, and defined:

The more muscle you have, the leaner you have to be to avoid looking bulky.

For example, a woman with little muscle might feel rawboned at 18% body fat and comfortable at 25%, whereas a woman with a significant amount of muscle will probably love how she looks at 18% but feel downright YUGE at 25%.

This is why I mentioned earlier that most women I’ve worked with are happiest when they’ve gained 10 to 15 pounds of muscle and dropped their body fat percentage to about 18%.

The muscle gives the shape and the (relatively) low level of body fat lets it shine.

What “They” Don’t Want You to Know About Cardio

workout plan to lose weight


How many marathon runners do you see with enviable bodies?

Probably not many.

Sure, you have the outliers, but on the whole, people that do a lot of endurance training look rather unimpressive.

This is a direct result of how they exercise and it shows you exactly what you don’t want to do in your workouts.

So, if you think you have to sacrifice your life to a treadmill or Stairmaster to look great, you don’t.

Unfortunately, most women don’t know this. They think that cardio is the key to losing weight and getting fit.

Ironically, research shows that this guarantees little in the way of weight loss (even when you do quite a bit).

In fact, studies have found that you can just wind up fatter as a result, mainly by negating cardio’s already meager weight loss benefits by unconsciously eating too much and/or reducing other forms of physical activity.

Hence the throngs of overweight people in your gym slaving away on the cardio machines, wondering why they’re still not losing weight.

Doing large amounts of cardio has another downside: it can result in a fair amount of muscle loss.

As you know, this only makes it harder to get the body you really want.

So, should you just forget cardio altogether then?

Some “experts” would say yes, you should use only weightlifting and proper calorie restriction to lose fat.

While they’re right in telling people they don’t have to do cardio to get and stay lean, I disagree that it should be shunned.

When done properly, I believe cardio is worthwhile.

It can burn quite a bit of energy and thus appreciably speed up fat loss (and especially when combined with weightlifting and with certain supplements as well, which I’ll talk more about soon).

What constitutes “proper cardio,” though?

Well, if you want to maximize fat loss and minimize muscle loss, high-intensity interval training is the way to go.

(And if you’re not ready to jump into the deep end yet, start with walking.)

Thou Shalt Not Starve

women's health diet plan


You have the lean, sexy body you want and you maintain it by eating foods you like every day, including treats normally considered off limits.

You never feel starved or deprived and thus rarely feel the urge to binge or even overeat.

You do this for the rest of your life and live happily ever after.

Okay…I’m no raconteur but this isn’t a pipe dream.

Millions of women are living it right now and you can too.

Repeat after me:

You don’t need an eating disorder or tapeworm to be lean and happy. You can eat more than you probably think.

Not only that, you can eat many more types of foods than you probably think. In fact, no foods are off limits.

That said, if you want to lose fat, you do have to eat less energy than you burn (and not so little than you lose muscle and/or impair your health).

The key to all of this is knowing how to regulate your caloric and macronutrient intake based on your total daily energy expenditure and lifestyle and food preferences, which I explain in detail here.

The Ultimate Fitness Plan for Women

best female exercise plan

If you’ve made it this far and are eager to learn more, I highly recommend that you read my book Thinner Leaner Stronger.

It will break down everything you need to know in terms of diet, training, and supplementation to build your best body ever.

That said, I want to leave you with an action plan that will prove that the strategies I’ve laid out in this article work for you.

So here we go.

  1. Do the weightlifting workouts below every week for 8 weeks.
  2. If you would like to do cardio to lose fat faster, use this article to determine how much you should do (and what kind).
  3. Now that you know how much exercise you’ll be doing, use this article to work out your dietary numbers.
  4. Once you have your numbers, use this article to work out a meal plan that will work for you.
  5. Show up every day and put in the work.
  6. Use this article to track your progress.
  7. Watch your body transform.

Yup, it’s really that simple. 🙂

Here’s the weightlifting workout:


Incline Barbell Bench Press

3 light warm-up sets

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps (8 to 10 reps if you’re new to weightlifting)

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Flat Barbell Bench Press

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps


(Train your calves if you want more defined calves. Don’t if you don’t.)

Standing Calf Raise

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

Seated Calf Raise

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

If you can’t do dips, find out whether your gym has an assisted dip machine.

If it doesn’t and you still want to do 3 more sets in your workout, you can do 3 sets of flat dumbbell presses.


Barbell Deadlift

3 light warm-up sets

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps (8 to 10 reps if you’re new to weightlifting)

Barbell Squat

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Barbell Row

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

One-Arm Dumbbell Row

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

3 to 6 Abs Supersets

(Do the following 3 sets back-to-back to complete one superset.)

Cable Crunches

1 set of 10 to 12 reps

Captain’s Chair Leg Raise

1 set to failure

Air Bicycles

1 set to failure

If you have lower-back issues, remember that you can swap the deadlift for a more lower-back-friendly variation like the sumo or hex deadlift, or you can replace it with an exercise like the T-bar row.

If you can’t do pull-ups or chin-ups, you can use a machine that assists you. If your gym doesn’t have one, you can do dumbbell rows instead.


Standing Barbell Military Press

3 light warm-up sets

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps (8 to 10 reps if you’re new to weightlifting)

Side Lateral Raise

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Bent-Over Rear Delt Raise

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps


Standing Calf Raise

3 sets of 12 to 15 reps

Seated Calf Raise

3 sets of 12 to 15 reps


Barbell Curl

3 light warm-up sets

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Close-Grip Bench Press

3 light warm-up sets

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Alternating Dumbbell Curl

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Seated Triceps Press

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

3 to 6 Abs Supersets

Cable Crunches

1 set of 10 to 12 reps

Captain’s Chair Leg Raise

1 set to failure

Air Bicycles

1 set to failure


Barbell Squat

3 light warm-up sets

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps (8 to 10 reps if you’re new to weightlifting)

Leg Press

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Romanian Deadlift

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Hip Thrust

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

That’s it–just 9 to 12 heavy sets for each workout with some optional additional sets if you feel you still have energy in the tank.

  • Rest 2 to 3 minutes in between each heavy set and 1 minute in between the bodyweight sets.

This will give your muscles enough time to fully recoup their strength so you can give maximum effort each set.

  • Once you hit the top of your rep range for one set, you move up in weight.

For instance, if you get 10 reps on your first set of squats, you add 5 pounds to each side of the bar for your next set and work with that weight until you can squat it for 10 reps, and so forth.

I guarantee that if you do this workout and eat right for the next 8 weeks, you’ll be very happy with how your body responds.

What About Supplements?

best female fitness supplements

I saved this for last because, quite frankly, it’s far less important than proper diet and training.

You see, supplements don’t build great physiques–dedication to proper training and nutrition does.

Unfortunately, the workout supplement industry is plagued by pseudoscience, ridiculous hype, misleading advertising and endorsements, products full of junk ingredients, underdosing key ingredients, and many other shenanigans.

Most supplement companies produce cheap, junk products and try to dazzle you with ridiculous marketing claims, high-profile (and very expensive) endorsements, pseudo-scientific babble, fancy-sounding proprietary blends, and flashy packaging.

So, while workout supplements don’t play a vital role in building muscle and losing fat, and many are a complete waste of money…the right ones can help.

The truth of the matter is there are safe, natural substances that have been scientifically proven to deliver benefits such as increased strength, muscle endurance and growth, fat loss, and more.

As a part of my work, it’s been my job to know what these substances are, and find products with them that I can use myself and recommend to others.

Finding high-quality, effective, and fairly priced products has always been a struggle, though.

That’s why I took matters into my own hands and decided to create my own supplements. And not just another line of “me too” supplements–the exact formulations I myself have always wanted and wished others would create.

I won’t go into a whole spiel here though. If you want to learn more about my supplement line, check this out.

For the purpose of this article, let’s just quickly review the supplements that are going to help you get the most out of your efforts to build muscle and lose fat.


Creatine is a substance found naturally in the body and in foods like red meat. It’s perhaps the most researched molecule in the world of sport supplements–the subject of hundreds of studies–and the consensus is very clear:

Supplementation with creatine helps…

You may have heard that creatine is bad for your kidneys, but these claims have been categorically and repeatedly disproven.

In healthy subjects, creatine has been shown to have no harmful side effects, in both short- or long-term usage. People with kidney disease are not advised to supplement with creatine, however.

If you have healthy kidneys, I highly recommend that you supplement with creatine. It’s safe, cheap, and effective.

In terms of specific products, I use my own, of course, which is called RECHARGE.


RECHARGE is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored and each serving contains:

  • 5 grams of creatine monohydrate
  • 2100 milligrams of L-carnitine L-tartrate
  • 10.8 milligrams of corosolic acid

This gives you the proven strength, size, and recovery benefits of creatine monohydrate plus the muscle repair and insulin sensitivity benefits of L-carnitine L-tartrate and corosolic acid.

Protein Powder

You don’t need protein supplements to gain muscle, but, considering how much protein you need to eat every day to maximize muscle growth, getting all your protein from whole food can be impractical.

That’s the main reason I created (and use) a whey protein supplement. (There’s also evidence that whey protein is particularly good for your post-workout nutrition.)


WHEY+ is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored whey isolate that is made from milk sourced from small dairy farms in Ireland, which are known for their exceptionally high-quality dairy.

I can confidently say that this is the creamiest, tastiest, healthiest all-natural whey protein powder you can find.

PHOENIX Fat Burner

With the weight loss market valued at a staggering $60.5 billion and more than one-third of U.S. adults obese, it’s no surprise that there’s a glut of “fat burners” for sale these days.

And for the same reasons it’s also no surprise that fat burners are some of the most expensive supplements on the shelves and feature some of the loudest marketing claims, often making big promises of “scientifically proven” rapid fat loss.

The reality is most “fat burners” are junk but there are a handful of natural, safe substances that have been scientifically proven to accelerate fat loss. And that’s why I created PHOENIX.

PHOENIX’s caffeine-free formulation is helps you burn fat faster in three different ways:

  • It dramatically increases metabolic speed.
  • It amplifies the power of fat-burning chemicals produced by your body.
  • It increases the feeling of fullness from food.

It accomplishes this through clinically effective dosages of several ingredients, including…

Through these mechanisms, naringin also works synergistically with synephrine and hesperidin to further accelerate the basal metabolic rate.

Research has show that supplementation with forskolin accelerates fat loss and increases testosterone levels.

  • And more…

The bottom line is if you want to lose fat faster without pumping yourself full of stimulants or other potentially harmful chemicals…then you want to try PHOENIX.


Pre-Workout Drink

There’s no question that a pre-workout supplement can get you fired up to get to work in the gym. There are downsides and potential risks, however.

Many pre-workout drinks are stuffed full of ineffective ingredients and/or minuscule dosages of otherwise good ingredients, making them little more than a few cheap stimulants with some “pixie dust” sprinkled in to make for a pretty label and convincing ad copy.

Many others don’t even have stimulants going for them and are just complete duds.

Others still are downright dangerous, like USPLabs’ popular pre-workout “Jack3d,”which contained a powerful (and now banned) stimulant known as DMAA.

Even worse was the popular pre-workout supplement “Craze,” which contained a chemical similar to methamphetamine.

The reality is it’s very hard to find a pre-workout supplement that’s light on stimulants but heavy on natural, safe, performance-enhancing ingredients like beta-alanine, betaine, and citrulline.

And that’s why I made my own pre-workout supplement. It’s called PULSE and it contains 6 of the most effective performance-enhancing ingredients available:

And what you won’t find in PULSE is equally special:

  • No artificial sweeteners or flavors..
  • No artificial food dyes.
  • No unnecessary fillers, carbohydrate powders, or junk ingredients.

The bottom line is if you want to know what a pre-workout is supposed to feel like…if you want to experience the type of energy rush and performance boost that only clinically effective dosages of scientifically validated ingredients can deliver…then you want to try PULSE.



What do you think is the best fitness plan for women? Have anything else you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below!

admin admin

I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

If you like what I have to say, sign up for my free newsletter and every week I'll send you awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious "diet-friendly" recipes, motivational musings, and more.


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 bestselling books.

Here's a little sneak peek of what you'll learn inside...

  • The 7 biggest muscle building myths & mistakes that keep guys small, weak, and frustrated. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • How to build meal plans that allow you to build muscle, lose fat, and get healthy with ease…eating foods you love (yes, including those deemed “unclean” by certain “gurus”)…and never feeling starved, deprived, or like you’re “on a diet.”
  • The 5 biggest fat loss myths & mistakes that keep women overweight, disappointed, and confused. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • An all-in-one training system that delivers MAXIMUM results for your efforts…spending no more than 3 to 6 hours in the gym every week…doing workouts that energize you, not wipe you out.
  • A no-BS guide to supplements that will save you hundreds if not THOUSANDS of dollars each year that you would’ve wasted on products that are nothing more than bunk science and marketing hype.
  • And a whole lot more!

The bottom line is you CAN achieve that “Hollywood body" without having your life revolve around it. No long hours in the gym, no starving yourself, and no grueling cardio that turns your stomach.

My book will show you how. Get it today and let’s build a body you can be proud of.

Bigger Leaner Stronger

Bigger Leaner Stronger

Thinner Leaner Stronger

Thinner Leaner Stronger

Want more awesome stuff like this? Enter your email address to get the weekly newsletter.
LIKE MUSCLE FOR LIFE? Let Google know!
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!

  • Pingback: You are what you eat… | Lift Like a Girl()

  • 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


  • Pingback: How to Safely and Healthily Lose Weight Fast: Part 3 | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: How to Safely and Healthily Lose Weight Fast: Part 1 | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: How to Safely and Healthily Lose Weight Fast: Part 2 | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: The Worst Way to Lose Weight | Muscle For Life()

  • 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 ?

  • Pingback: 8 Ways to Improve Hunger Control and Weight Loss | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: Carbohydrates and Weight Loss: Should You Go Low-Carb? | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: How to Lose Weight Without Counting Calories | Muscle For Life()

  • 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.

  • Pingback: How to Safely and Healthily Lose Weight Fast: Part 2 | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: 8 Ways to Improve Hunger Control and Weight Loss | Muscle For Life()

  • 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

  • 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!!

  • 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 .

  • Pingback: Kvinnor och tung styrketräning | Felicia Denbu Wilhelmsson – Motivated by the fear of being average()

  • Tamara

    I NEED HELP PLEASE! ben trying to contact you

    • Michael Matthews

      What’s up?

  • Pingback: MFL Podcast #8: WBFF Pro Bree Lind on staying fit like a pro (even while pregnant!) | Muscle For Life()

  • 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.

          • 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!!

  • Pingback: 6 Killer Exercises to Build Biceps That Get Attention — Fitness For Professionals()

  • 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! [email protected]

          • 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?

  • Pingback: Ladies Only Gym Lower Alloways Creek Usa | Exercise To Get In Shape()

  • Pingback: Ladies Only Gym Burns Flat Usa | Exercise To Get In Shape()

  • Pingback: Female Only Gyms Hazel Run Usa | Conditioning and Fitness Blog()

  • 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.

    • 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.

        • 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.

  • 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:)

  • 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!

  • 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?

    • 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.

  • 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!

    • Hey hey!

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

  • Susana

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

  • 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!

  • Pingback: The ultimate fitness plan for women makes lean, toned, sexy bodies | healthmixx.info()

  • Kathleen

    Love this information!!! I am a 54 year old woman who has always been in shape doing cardio and some weights HOWEVER I have been really really pumping the weights the last few months – they are addicting!! I just got so sick and tired of “dieting”; cutting out food, tons of cardio, getting nowhere really and now am able to eat (healthfully of course) but get out of that “dieting” mindset”. I have been heavy lifting for a few months now and boy do I LOVE the results I am getting!!! It happens faster than you think when you lift!! I love reading new tips and really enjoyed your info.!!!! Thanks!!

  • Melii

    I have a question. Im 5’5 I am overweight. 180 female. Should i start weightlifting or focuse more on cardio first?

  • Pingback: 太りやすい原因がわかるかも?遺伝子解析で体質を分析してみませんか?|KURASHIRU()

  • Brienne

    I have low body fat, about 16 percent. I am what is known as “skinny fat”. Have been running for years and recently started lifting regularly but have not seen any results. Struggle with belly fat. Currently lifting 12lbs. Should I be lifting more? What are ab exercises that get results? What I’m doing now is not working. HELP>

  • Sara

    I am really skinny (103) lbs, but have a flabby stomach and love handles! I don´t know what I should do to get rid of my stomach and love handles, weight training and being in a caloric deficit? Please help!

  • Pingback: MFL Podcast 48: Dell Farrell on biggest fitness lessons for women | Muscle For Life()

  • Livo

    Sorry But I got confused with your article, so, you recommend to do HIIT + weight lifting the same day? 3 or 4 days per week? or?

    • Yeah you can do both on the same day. I’d say 3 x lifting and 2-3 x cardio per week is a good starting place.

  • Livo

    Also reading for the second time the article I have another question: Do I have to be first under 20% fat before starting with heavy weight lifting?

  • Kyle Webb

    Hey mike, I have 3 of your books but i havent had the chance of getting your one geared towards women yet, I have recently started training my mom and younger brother and was curious about 2 things,
    1. My mom has hypothyroidism, anything i should be aware of to avoid (beside stimulants) or to do, to increase weight loss?
    2. what are your suggestions for training with weights for a 13yr old?


    • Thank you!

      1. No. She will do fine. HT doesn’t affect the metab nearly as much as many people think.

      2. If it were my son/daughter I would start him/her on a body weight routine at that age and probably wouldn’t introduce weights until 15/16. Just for safety reasons (I wouldn’t want him/her getting overzealous on the weights and getting hurt.)

      Check this out:


  • estycki

    I can’t help but feel a lot of the comparison photos on your website are actually similar. Like the photos compared above, the second always has a better angle, posture, lighting and a better fitting bathing suit.
    Otherwise, perfect advice.

    • Some aren’t as dramatic as what you see in other places because they’re not bullshit. You can only do so much in 2-3 months.

  • Livo

    Hei Mike, This is my 4th week training and eating 20% less of my TDEE. I have just lost 0,66 pounds per week do you think is ok? and I HATE the Scale, it goes up and Down.

  • Zee

    This is an awesome site. Glad I found it!
    I have a question: I have really high testosterone levels due to a medical condition and I’ve always been really muscular and it makes me self-conscious. As someone that doesn’t want to put on any more muscle, how should I exercise? I’m always nervous about doing any sort of strength training.

  • Randie Khalaf

    I just read your article and loved it. Im 5’4″ and 220 ish. would this article still apply to me? I have tried so many different things to get more fit but I’m stuck. I was doing what you described as the worst fitness plan.

  • Rachel

    I have been reading your articles for two hours straight, and my Fitbit is screaming at me. Lol. I have one question about my person goals and a question about this article. I am 32 years old, 5’5, 145 lbs., and 23% BF. I have been of the cardio mentality for years, and I have just begun to change my focus to lifting weights (I still do cardio 3x per week). I track my calories using My Fitness Pal. I currently average a 25% deficit of TDEE. The problem is, my scale never changes – not even an ounce. 145.0 every single day. Yes, my clothes fit better and I’m losing inches, but I feel like after five weeks, the scale should budge just a little bit. Right?

    My other question pertains to the article. In the article, you said, “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.” That is confusing to me. So, since I’m at 23%, should I back off of weightlifting, focus more on cardio, then hit the weights again once my body fat percentage is lower?

    Sorry that was so long winded. I just don’t want to keep spinning my wheels. 🙂

    • Glad you’re moving your focus to the weights now. 🙂

      It is very common to build muscle and lose fat at a similar rate when you’re new to this style of lifting. Don’t worry about the scale. If you’re visually looking leaner and losing inches, keep that shit up!

      No you’re totally fine to keep lifting because you’re cutting. You’re losing fat and getting leaner.

      Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • pete

    Hi Mike,

    I convinced my girlfriend she should be lifting heavier with this article instead of super high rep low weight workouts that everybody thinks women need to do. My question is, should she basically follow the ultimate (arm, leg, chest, back, shoulder) workouts you have and just increase the reps from 4-6 to 6-10?

  • Ola

    Hi Mike, I’m wondering if this could help me, I’m really skinny and underweight, I’m 28,5’2 but my weight is ranges 92-94 lbs after 10 months since I’m 84 lbs before, it’s hard to gain weight,I just started my gym just this month coz I’m desperate and worried of my physical body but no personal trainers coz the fees are really surprisingly expensive, I go to gym for 2 consecutive days in a week only since I have a really tight schedule. Unfortunately don’t know my routine I just do whatever I feel like on those tools and machine in gym.At the same time I Pesco-vegetarian, Do u think that works for me? Thanks I would definitely appreciate anything advice that came from u.

    • Hey hey!

      I think you could do great on my TLS program. Are you interested in it?

  • B


  • B

    Sorry for the typo lol. Hi Mike, I bought your TLS book and absolutely love it and have been following your program now for almost two months (been lifting 5 days a week and eating about 1500 calories) and and have been losing about half a pound a week. However, I noticed that my menstrual cycle is in a bit of a funk. It is normal but I am getting a very light period. Got a little freaked out because this has never happened to me before. I am thinking that it may have something to do with working out and/or eating less. Im 27, weigh 140, and about 25% body fat. Any advice that you can give me? Id really appreciate it.
    Thanks for your time!! 🙂

    • Thanks! Glad to hear you’re doing well!

      That can definitely happen. Let’s reduce your daily carbs by 20 grams and increase your fats by 10 grams and see if that helps.

  • Maxwell

    Hi Mike, so after reading a bunch of your articles, I got a little confused here.

    In this article for women and “How To Build Muscle and Lose Fat” you says we need 1.2g of Protein per body weight, 1g of Carbs and 0.2g of Fat.

    In “The Definitive Guide to Effective Meal Planning” is “When you’re in a calorie deficit, get 40% of daily calories from protein, 40% from carbohydrate, and 20% from fat”

    In “How To Lose Weight Fast part 1” you says “45% of your calories from protein, 20% of your calories from carbohydrate, 35% of your calories from fat”.

    So now it leaves me in the situation where I don’t know which one is the right one to follow. Thank you, Mike. 🙂

    • Haha sorry for the confusion. The low-carb approach is for maximizing WEIGHT loss as it helps you drop water weight.

      If you stick to this article you will do fine:


      • Maxwell

        Thanks a lot. 🙂
        But what would be the best way to calculate the
        macros? I mean using % from our total calories or gram per pound of body weight? I’m guessing body weight would be more accurate? 🙂
        Also, we only use pound of lean body mass to calculate when the person is very overweight? Like 25%+ BF men, 30%+ BF women.

  • Sharon

    Hi Mike, I’m a 57 yo woman looking to get leaner and lose the “old lady” arms. At present, I don’t want to lose/gain weight (5’5″-120 lbs). Have been lifting weights for 2 1/2 months (3-4 x week). Am hoping to work up to 15 lbs by the end of the summer. About six months ago, I had a body fat measurement taken with one of those hand-held devices and was told my body fat was 28% (just shy of obese for crying out loud). So my question is, how do I get leaner and toned without losing weight. I’d like to get to 20% body fat and tone everything up with emphasis on the arms.

  • Philippa

    Hi Mike,

    I bought TLS about two years ago and was making excellent progress, then I moved and got a bit lazy. But I’ve been back in the gym since February this year and am making good gains.

    My main goal is to get to around 18% body fat. According to the Tanita machine at my gym I’m currently around 22%. It also reads 43kg of muscle. My overall weight is 59kg and I’m 172cm. I was hoping you could guide me to what kind of muscle weight I should be aiming for?

    I basically want to look good in a bikini, not competitively, but definitely with enough muscle to give a good shape.


    • Glad you’re back on the program!

      I like the goal of 18% BF. Unfortunately, that machine isn’t very accurate… Check this out:


      If you’re lean enough, you’ll probably be happy with 5-7kg of muscle added. That would look good.

      What do you think?

      • Philippa

        That sounds like a good goal. Will the tanita measurements for the muscle weight be fairly accurate? So I should aim for around 50kg of muscle?
        What should my total body weight be with 50kg muscle?

        • Your total weight will depend on how you look. It’ll be your judgement call.

          I recommend getting the caliper to accurately track your BF%.

  • KG

    Great article! 🙂
    I have been “working out” for more than a year now. Started with PURE cardio. Imagine: treadmill for 3-4x a week at least 30 min per session. I have lost weight and I started to do circuit training/ebook I got from a friend. 30 minutes of workout for at least 3 times a week. Yes, lost some weight also.. Butttt I still cannot achive my “target” body. I have skinny arms, my thighs got a little smaller but my stomach still gets flabby at times. Im stuck at 25 inches waist!!! I’m 5’2, Female, 22y/o, at 107-108lbs. I WANT TO START LIFTING if that’s gonna make me lean. But i dont know how. Do you have a program for beginners? I’m training by myself so no one can save me except self studying. lol.

  • PRB

    Hi Michael,

    I m 24(woman), 5 feet 2 inch. I weigh just 39 kg. I lost 10 kgs over a period of 6 months due to some illness . I gained back 5 kgs within a month after recovery. But then it stopped. Its been almost 18 months since I have recovered completely. I want to gain atleast 5kgs. Please help. I am losing confidence and feel miserable. I stay in college hostel, so cant join gym. the gym in my college has very few eqquipments (without instructor). dumbells weigh 1, 4 and 5 kgs. I cannt lift two 4kg dumbells at the same time. Please suggest me some weights for dumbells and barbells.

  • Christine

    Great article Michael. I’m a 42 yr old woman 5’10 and 67kg. Been lifting weights about 4 months now making progress. My deadlift is 65kg 3 sets 5reps, Bench 25kg, shoulder press 12.5 kg with dB, and 20kg front squat, as well as se isolation exercises for triceps and biceps. My weights are progressing with increases every 3to4 wks. My question is how long before I see real change in my body comp. I eat 1800 to 2000 cal with 150g P 50g F rest Carbs. Any advice would be great. Christine

    • Cool you’ve been hitting the weights.

      Good job on those numbers. You’re pretty strong.

      The change is gradual but consistent. Are you bulking or cutting? You should be losing 1-2 pounds a week if you’re cutting and gaining .5-1 pound a week if you’re bulking

      • Christine

        I’m trying to gain some muscle and lose the skinny fat look.I realise I’ll have to gain some weight as I develop muscle and that it’s not a quick process. Thank you for your help.

  • Carmen

    Hi Michael,

    I’m 22, 5’10 and weigh around 145lbs! I lost weight last year and am happier with my size (now size 8) but I feel I used to be more toned and defined!

    I don’t want to diet or anything like that and i don’t want to lose any weight but I don’t know the best way to start working towards being more toned and defined?!

    I’m going away in 6 weeks and would like to of made even a small difference!

    • Good job on the weight you lost last year!

      I hear you on not wanting to diet. However, to get more toned, you’re going to have to lose fat.

      The best way to ensure that is by setting up a cutting meal plan and sticking to it. Check it out:


      Do that and you can make big improvements in 6 weeks!

  • Rochelle

    Hi Michael,
    Great article! I’m a 36 y ear old female who is just beginning again at the gym. Went for the first time today after about 2 years but felt very overwhelmed as far as knowing what to do. I don’t know what muscle groups to work together or even what exercises that would entail. I’m 5’8″ tall and weigh 195lbs. 2 years ago I weighed 150lbs but it was the skinny fat look. I want to be lean and toned I just don’t know where to start when I walk into the gym. I don’t want to get discouraged just because I don’t know what to do with the weights. Any advice would be great! Thanks!

  • RuthWd

    I have your book BLS. Is there any reason why I should need TLS? Isn’t it essentially the same? BTW I am not in the least little bit concerned about “bulking up”. I am primarily training for health and fitness, not looks.

    • Cool! I recommend BLS for men and TLS for women. There are few key differences in the training and dieting.

  • Oussama Mahran

    boxercise workout – skinny fat solution

  • Ambrad

    Hello Michael! I’m a 30 yr old female and currently weigh 176lbs and 5’6″. I had a Bod Pod test done recently and found out that my body fat % is 35.7% (63lbs of fat)! I had the test done to see where I stand because I’m ready to get back into shape. I want to lose fat and gain lean muscle. I noticed in the article you mentioned that weightlifting, or any form of resistance training, doesn’t help how you look if your body fat % is too high and that if begin weight training it could make you look bigger. Well with my body fat percentage being so high I was wondering should I work on losing fat (cardio, HIIT) and then later implement weight training after I get my body fat percentage down or is there any way I can implement both into my routine to get the results I want?

    • Hey hey!

      You can start with both actually because the lifting will help you lose fat faster while improving your body composition.

      The key is that you use your diet to drive the fat loss and don’t assume that just exercise alone will do it.

  • Mrs. Bennett

    Hello, I was wondering about fiber intake. I am 27 year old female and 163lbs. I was once 227lb so I think I’m doing okay in the weight loss area however, everything you said was true about me. I lost weight but I also know I loss muscle. I will follow your advice and pick up those books from Barnes and Noble. Yet I have a question about my fiber and dairy intake. I always hear about the yogurt craze and fiber craze. Do I cut or keep them to get lean muscle? Any comment will help.

  • Ana To Find

    I am so glad I found your website! I am very small but the embodiment of skinny-fat (some fat in all the problem areas women talk about but very little to no definition). I started dancing ballet last year and already lost 10 lbs but seem to not be putting on as much muscle. I am 5’5 and weight about 114 lbs. already wear a size 0 and when I used to have more muscle and less fat I was a size 00. Is ballet alone enough to put on muscle for my body type? I love ballet but have been wondering if I should starting lifting weights as I do not want to lose anymore. I eat every 2 hours (never dieted a day in my life) not so much into sweets and aside for my love for white rice and bread I eat a somewhat healthy diet…

  • Maxwell

    Hey Mike,
    I am a small female 5’1 100lbs. Unfortunately, I have broad shoulders and narrow hips. What shoulders and arms exercises do you think I should avoid? Or I shouldn’t do any shoulders exercises at all?

    And I bet I should focus much more on my glutes and legs?

    Thank you, Mike. 🙂

    • Yeah you’ll want to avoid pressing in general. Heavy pressing at least. Plenty you can do for your triceps that don’t also heavily involve the tris…

      • Maxwell

        Thank you, Mike. So I decided to mainly focus on my glutes & legs, avoiding all shoulders exercises. Here’s my 4-day split workout routine that I’ve been training lately:

        Day 1 (Glutes + Abs):
        Straight Leg Cable Kickback
        Laying Leg Curl
        Abs Circuits

        Day 2 (Back + Biceps + Triceps):
        Wide Lat Pull-down
        Seated Front Cable Row
        Hammer Curl
        Alternating Dumbbell Curl
        Dumbbell Triceps Press

        Day 3 (Glutes):
        Dumbbell Goblet Squat
        Dumbbell Reverse Lunge
        Cable Kickback

        Day 4 (Glutes + Abs):
        Dumbbell Single Leg Squat
        Laying Leg Curl
        Dumbbell Glutes Bridge
        Abs Circuits

        All exercises I do 3 sets with 8-10 reps. Am I overtraining my glutes & legs based on this routine?

        Let me know what you think. 🙂

        • Hmm personally I would do hip thrusts instead of the DB SLS on day 4.

          • Maxwell

            Thanks Mike, I’ll try that. But my main concern is if the volume is too high and counterproductive for my muscle growth ? Based on my routine the weekly volume is 264-330 reps for my glutes.

          • Well your glutes day doesn’t actually have any direct glute training such as hip thrusts or glute blasters. They’re just involved in the squatting and deadlifting and so forth.


    Hi Mike, I have recently bought your audiobook. Where can I get the sample workouts and meal plans as they don’t come with the audiobook? Thanks – think I’m talking about the bonus report

    • Thanks! There’s a link in the chapter called bonus report. Check it out.

  • Anna

    Hi Mike,
    I’m really glad I found your site! Your pages are well-researched, realistic and motivating! I’m a 32-year-old woman, and I’ve been a runner and swimmer for five years, and an active hiker since childhood, so I’ve got good endurance and cardiovascular fitness but am quite new to weightlifting. I got started about six months ago when I found out that our NHS (I’m British) considers muscle-strengthening activities necessary for health, especially as we get older. I’m enjoying doing something positive for my long-term health, and have now started to get enthusiastic about the challenge of improving my lifts! Can you explain why you recommend that women ‘lift heavy’ by choosing a weight they can lift for 6-10 reps, while men should chose a weight that only allows 4-6 reps? I understand that we women aren’t typically pursuing the bodybuilder look (!!), but I’d have thought that the difference in free testosterone would have prevented that from happening even if we did lift so heavy as to allow only 4-6 reps. My primary goal for my lifting is to become stronger, and to know how to keep my mobility and strength into my later years. 🙂 Should I avoid 4-6? Would I be in danger of hurting myself somehow?
    Thanks very much! Anna

    • Happy to hear you’re enjoying what you’ve seen so far. 🙂

      Cool you’re starting to get into weightlifting!

      The main reason I recommend the 8-10 rep range for women is because the majority of women aren’t comfortable lifting in the 4-6 rep range. The ultimate goal is progressive overload which you can do with the 8-10 rep range.

      If you’re comfortable lifting in the lower rep range and can do it with proper form, go ahead!

      • Anna

        OK, great to hear that I can still achieve progressive overload and therefore build muscle and strength in the 8-10 rep range. To the best of your knowledge, when does that possibility of building muscle and strength start to drop off? If I manage eleven bench presses (as I did yersterday with 20kg), have I used something too light? And I’ve tried a few exercises in the 4-6 rep range, and have found it is challenging and isn’t easy to keep proper form, but I think I’ll improve, and I’ll aim to start workouts with a few exercises in the 4-6 rep range, as I saw you recommend to another reader. Thanks!

        • Yes you can and as you get more comfortable with your training, you can incorporate some 4 to 6 rep training as well.

          Yes once you get 10 reps, you want to add weight.

    • Carolyn S

      Hi Michael,
      I have your book, TLS and am wanting to start today 🙂
      I’m not understanding though, why 8-10 reps would be easier, less intimating than 4-6 reps. Wouldn’t it be easier to do 4-6 (ie fewer reps) than 8-10??? Maybe I don’t understand what you mean by reps???

      • Anna

        Hi Carolyn,

        I’m sure Mile will chime in very soon with more
        precise instructions, but as I’ve asked him questions before about the
        recommended number of reps per exercise, I thought I could give you some

        Lifting heavy weights a small number of times works the
        muscles in a different way than lifting light weights many times.
        Lifting heavy a few times prioritises strength, but lifting light many
        times without stopping prioritises endurance.
        The TLS programme is
        based upon selecting a weight that is heavy enough that you are not able
        to lift it any more than 10 times. The weight is heavy enough that at some point between eight and ten lifts (repetitions, or reps,
        which I think you have understood correctly!), you fail: you simply can’t complete the movement any more.
        Every time you get strong
        enough that you can lift that weight more than ten times, you add on
        more weight, to make it harder again.

        For this reason, you don’t need a figure for the amount of weight you should lift. At the beginning of your first session with weights, I’d advise starting simply by trying them out, getting a feel for
        the sort that you can lift twenty times, the sort that you can
        only lift ten times, and the sort that you can only lift four or five
        times. You’ll quickly get an idea of what’s an appropriately challenging weight for you.

        For the BLS programme, aimed at men, Mike recommends that
        the weights be so heavy that the lifter is only able to complete 4-6
        repetitions before failing. This is hard work! He has found that women,
        especially at the beginning, find it difficult to work safely with such
        heavy weights. We do better with a slightly lighter weight, though with time and practice many of us can work up to including some exercises
        with very heavy weights.

        So that’s the reason for the apparent contradiction! I hope that helped, but please do write again if you’re still confused. Best of luck with your lifting from another recent weights newbie!


  • Katie Thomas

    I’m having a bod pod next week. Is there a way to truly figure out how many pounds I’ll need to lose as a weight loss goal once I have my body fat %? Or is it more something you just kind of watch over time as I am proceeding with a good protocol? I love the realistic timelines you mention here. What a joy to think about relaxing into what may take a year.

    • Not really because you can’t 100% trust readings from those types of machines. Check this out:


      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Katie Thomas

        Thanks for saving me $$$ on the test! I think I was looking for some sort of external success validation with that number anyway so I’m just going to use the mirror and pictures.

  • Carolyn S

    Hi Michael,
    I have your book, TLS and am wanting to start today 🙂
    I’m not understanding though, why 8-10 reps would be easier, less intimating than 4-6 reps. Wouldn’t it be easier to do 4-6 (ie fewer reps) than 8-10??? Maybe I don’t understand what you mean by reps???

    Also, how much weight would I know to start lifting??? I’m reading that on Day 1 I should do “incline barbell bench presses” and have watched the video of how to do these, but how much weight do I put on the bar bell? (sorry to be so ignorant but have never lifted before. I’m 55 y.o., 153lb, 5’4″). Thank you, desperate to get started but floudering a bit here.

    • Anna

      Hi Carolyn,

      I’m sure Mile will chime in very soon with more precise instructions, but as I’ve asked him questions before about the recommended number of reps per exercise, I thought I could give you some help!

      Lifting heavy weights a small number of times works the muscles in a different way than lifting light weights many times. Lifting heavy a few times prioritises strength, but lifting light many times without stopping prioritises endurance.
      Because of this, the TLS programme is based upon selecting a weight that is heavy enough that you are not able to lift it any more than 10 times. The weight is heavy enough that at some point between eight and ten lifts (repetitions, or reps, which I think you have understood correctly!), you fail: you simply can’t complete the movement any more. Every time you get strong enough that you can lift that weight more than ten times, you add on more weight, to make it harder again.

      For this reason, you don’t need a figure for the amount of weight you
      should lift. At the beginning of your first session with weights, I’d
      recommend you start simply by trying them out, getting a feel for
      the sort that you can lift twenty times, the sort that you can only lift ten times, and the sort that you can only lift four or five times. You’ll quickly get an idea of what’s an appropriately challenging weight for you.

      For the BLS programme, aimed at men, Mike recommends that the weights be so heavy that the lifter is only able to complete 4-6 repetitions before failing. This is hard work! He has found that women,
      especially at the beginning, find it difficult to work safely with such heavy weights. We do better with a slightly lighter weight, though with time and practice many of us can work up to including some exercises
      with very heavy weights.

      So that’s the reason for the apparent contradiction! I hope that helped, but please do write again if you’re still confused. Best of luck with your lifting from another recent weights newbie!


      • Carolyn S

        Anna, that is the most awesome and helpful answer – thank you so much! I’m itching to get started so thank you for taking the time to help me out; I appreciate it greatly 🙂

    • Thanks for picking up my book! Glad you’re excited to start!

      8-10 reps is easier because the weight you’d work with to only be able to lift 4-6 reps will be a lot heavier than the weight you’re able to lift for 8-10 reps you know what I mean?

      For finding the starting weight, honestly it’s just trial and error for your first week or two. As a general rule, for every 5 lbs you add to a dumbbell exercise, you’ll lose 2 reps. The same for every 10 lbs added to a barbell exercise. So if you put 100 lbs on the squat bar and do 10 reps, you should be able to get about 6 reps with 140 lbs.

      Just work with light weights at first and learn the form, and then increase. You’ll get your numbers within a week or two. 🙂

  • serina whitaker

    I love to dance. It’s better than watching t.v.

  • Jenny Hudson

    Women should be slim and trim but not with good muscles. See here for very quick and easy weight loss. http://www.amazingaus.com/exercise-for-losing-weight/

  • AnnaD

    Hi Mike,
    Firstly, I have to say I love your work and have found all your articles incredibly useful – thank you so much!! I’m a 41 year old female who’s been strength training 3 x a week for about a year and seeing pretty good gains. I’m currently around 20% bodyfat. My goal is to pack on as much muscle as I can (I want to look like those crossfit girls!) and then get down to around 15% bodyfat. Which of your books would be most applicable to me? BLS or TLS?

    • Thanks for the kind words and support Ana.

      Cool on what you’ve been doing!

      I recommend picking up TLS. It’ll lay out everything you need to know to build muscle and lose fat effectively.

      • AnnaD

        Thank you, I will do that! One more question: currently I do a full body heavy routine twice a week at the gym (day 1: squats, bench press and rows, day 2: deadlifts, lat pulldowns and military press) and on the third day, I attend a boot camp style class which is about 40mins of high intensity varied full body work, using weights, bodyweight exercises, sleds, kettlebells etc).
        I also walk my dog about 30mins every day, plus my full time job has quite a physical aspect to it – lifting and moving 45 pound boxes for a few hours a day. Obviously I want to avoid overtraining (not sure if i am overtrained – i do get quite tired early at night, and I’m often pretty sore, but don’t think I have any other symptoms you list), but also maximise my muscle gains. I have been thinking of changing my routine to the 2day split you write about – push/pull day one and legs with a little push on day 2) and keep going to my class one day a week. So I guess that means I would be working full body twice a week rather than 3 times. My question is, do you think that would be a better and more effective routine for me, or should I just stick to what I’ve been doing the last few months?

        • Cool on what you’re doing.

          Hmm I think you could be fine either way but you’ll definitely want to make sure you’re eating enough food.

          Check this out:


          • AnnaD

            Thanks Mike, another fantastic article. I eat a lot (should measure, but I don’t as yet), but recently have lost about 1kg. Since my numbers are going up at the gym, could I assume that it’s fat loss more than anything else?

          • My pleasure!

            Yep, if you’re gaining strength and your weight is going down, you can assume that

  • Gemma

    Great article, very informative! There’s One thing I’m a little confused with. You mention if you opt for the weightlifting with high body fat percentage (over 20%) you will look bigger as you need to get your fat percentage down to 20%. I’m 28, 5’4″ and 120lbs but my scales give me a fat percentage reading of 25%. I recently started up weight training with 3 sets of 10 reps per exercise in hope that it will help to get my fat percentage down as I don’t weigh very much and it’s just my stomach, thighs and upper arms looking pretty awful with the amount of fat i carry there, but don’t really want to be losing more weight as im already very small round my torso and face and don’t want to end up looking gaunt.

    Am I going about losing the fat wrong? Is there anything you would recommend?

  • Kayla M. James

    Hey Mike,
    I’ve recently gained about 15lbs (recently as in the last 8-12months) and I feel like I look “bulky”, I’m not delicate anymore. I weight train 4-5 times a week with minimal cardio. I feel “large”. I’m looking to lose muscle as to look less bulky but keep the butt I’ve worked so hard for. If I start a low calorie diet, do more cardio but continue to weight train my legs only a few times a week will I get the results I’m looking for? I don’t know what to do but I’m definitely unhappy with my physique.


    Just ordered your book! TLS! I’m so very excited I can’t wait to get started! I need focus and focus and did I say focus?

  • AnnaD

    Hey Mike, I got your book TLS about 3 weeks ago and am doing the 3 day split you recommend. (Prior to this I had been doing a full body routine 3 times a week for about a year.) I must say, I am really loving your program! Enjoying my workouts so much more and setting PRs every time. So thank you!
    A question – in a month’s time I have to sit a physical exam for the police. I want to be as strong as possible for this, but I also don’t want to take unnecessary time away from the gym either. How long would you say on average the body needs to rest before being completely recovered and at optimum strength? I’m thinking a week off the gym beforehand?

    • Thanks for reading my book and writing! I really appreciate it. Anything you could do to spread the word would rock too! 🙂

      Really glad you’re doing well!

      Yeah you could do a deload week before:


      Should work great. 🙂

      LMK how it goes!

      • AnnaD

        That sounds great, thank you – I will try it!
        Another question: I train fasted first thing in the morning. After the leg day in particular, I feel pretty tired for the rest of the day! Is this normal?

        • YW!

          Hmm not normal no but that’s okay. You could do that workout fed and see how you feel?

  • Claudia

    Hey Michael, I’m a new follower. Is there a few brands of whey protein that you recommend into looking in (they are so many!) I’m trying to lose fat, but gain muscle. Also, I do kettlebell training, I heard that kettlebells are a mix of both cardio and weights, so should I count that as my cardio and use dumbbells for building muscle?

  • Lauren Finley

    What do you recommend to reduce body fat to 25% in order to start this process?

    My wedding is in April, I know I won’t be in perfect shape by then, but I want to look and feel great that day!

  • Sarah

    I’ve been lifting full-body for about 6 weeks and was looking for something different to get strength. I felt so lost when it came to finding a program to follow that fit my needs and broke down the WHY. I’m looking forward to reading your book!

    • I get where you’re at Sarah. LMK what you think of the book and if you have any questions. I’m happy to help!

  • Danielle Fraser

    Hey Mike! Couple of questions for you. I’ve been reading almost all of your articles with my fiance, as he loves your writing and workout structure. Basically I have been trying to lose weight over the last two years unsuccessfully. Part of that was ignorance as to what we could or could not eat, and also from your writing I was eating way too little calories and specifically protein. So I have been reverse dieting over the last month from 1350 to 1750 calories adding 100 calories every 7 days. My questions are , do I continue to raise my calories every week until I reach my tdee? After that, do I immediately start cutting? My stats are I weigh around 260 pounds with 39 percent body fat. With your calculator it shows that my tdee was around 2261 calories and my bmr is 1901 calories. Does that sound right, or as a female would I be eating too much ? I work out for about 1 hour and 15 minutes 3 days a week, as I do your 3 day split with my fiance at the gym every week. Ideally trying to lose weight this time, so I’m hoping we’re on the right track. Also, if those stats are correct than wouldn’t cutting put me below bmr? Which should be avoided right?

    • Thanks Danielle!

      Great on what you’ve been doing. This lays out the whole process:


      And then yup just go right into cutting. This is going to help you too:


      And when it comes time to cut, you can just eat BMR and you should be fine (40/30/30 split will probably work nicely).

      • Danielle Fraser

        Thanks Mike! I appreciate you helping me understand this more. So the 2,261 calories won’t be too high? I remember reading all these sites where women my weight would come out around 1600-1700 calories at the most.

        • Welcome! Nope, that’s fine. You’re just going to be reverse dieting to there to speed up your metabolism. Then you’ll go straight back to cutting at 1901 cals.

      • Danielle Fraser

        Also, is gaining weight normal during this process? When weighing myself, I have been gaining a couple of pounds over the last few weeks. I was basically eating 900 calories under my tdee for a long time, so it’s a bit difficult to feel like I’m doing this right.

        • A little bit of weight gain is expected due to glycogen increase.

          Continue with the RD as planned. Make sure you stick to the cals and macros and only go up by 100-150 cals every 7-10 days. Once you finish it, you can go back to cutting!

          • Danielle Fraser

            I’ve been following my calorie intake every week. Should my clothes be fitting a little tighter? Just trying not to psych myself out before I build up to 2200 calories

          • A small size increase can happen, again, from glycogen and water retention. It’ll come back down quickly when you’re back in a deficit. Promise! Keep going.

  • Tracy Garcia

    Hi Mike, this is a very informative read, thank you! I met a lady who competes in body building and she informed me that Creatine would not be good for me because I am only 5 ft tall. She said it would make me look wide and bulky. I weight train 4 days a week and do compound and isolate movements (I do go heavy, an example, 125lb squats 6-12 reps and 4-5 sets) I also kickbox 3 days a week. Eat clean and supplement with whey protein and fish oil. I have been training for over a year and have little muscle gain. Your thoughts on Creatine for petite women and any other advice would be greatly appreciated!

  • Andrea

    when in the day should I take the Phoenix Fat burner?

    • You should take two capsules twice a day with meals. Any two meals is fine!

  • Danielle Fraser

    Hey Mike! Another question, what do you do when dumbbells become heavy? For example, if I’m getting up there in weight in curls, eventually I won’t be strong enough to lift the dumbbell to do the exercise correctly. What would I do in that situation? As in what would be the alternative to throwing the weight up instead of curling it properly?

    • NP!

      The dumbbells should always be “heavy” meaning you should always be working with weight that you can’t do more than 6 reps of (and light enough so you can get at least 4 reps).

      The goal is to progressive overload while maintaining proper form. For dumbbell curls, that’d mean keeping your back up, not leaning back and forth and not swinging your arms.

      So, if you can’t do at least 4 reps with good form, you need to lower the weight. Once you’re able to get 6 reps with proper form, you can go up in weight.

      Hope that makes sense! LMK what you think.

      • Danielle Fraser

        That makes sense! But wouldn’t I eventually need to do a completely different exercise? I can’t see myself curling 45 pound dumbbells lol

        • Keep training and dieting correctly, and you could if you want! You may not want to get as big as you’ll need to do that, but technically speaking you could. 🙂

  • Rachna Bangia

    Mike, just a little confused – if I am at more than 25% body fat then I shouldn’t lift weights at all? In the entire article i thought i should but then that 1 paragraph confused me.

  • Kiretpal Kaur Gena

    Hi Mike, I am 5’2″ 117 lbs. I am relatively new to all of this. I am 52 yrs old and recently went through a weight loss/exercise program and lost 19 lbs in six weeks. I have gained about 6 lbs back while continuing with the exercise program. I workout 5 days a week mostly with weights, TRX and whatever else the trainer gives us. I also do 2 days a week 1hour sessions with trainer doing heavy weights/compound workouts. I love my new muscles and want to continue to develop more. I still have a bit of fat on hips and belly I want to lose while building. I am very bad with math, and so don’t get the BMR LBM thing. Help.

  • Jay

    Hi Mike

    Thanks for the information here! My mum is 50 years old and I’m currently trying to culminate a suitable weight loss programme for her. She wants to lose weight but wants to avoid heavy weights due to sciatica back problems. What kind of programme would you recommend for her to follow 3/4 days a week? Thanks a lot in advance

  • Adreana Jaime

    Hey. Help? 5’5, bf is definitely less 20%, I weigh in at 97Ibs on a good day, have a very active job, and will admit my eating habits are junk (pizza, fried chicken, chips, tons of coffee). Have been trying to gain weight for ages but have never figured out a plan to do it.

  • AnnaD

    Hi Mike, I’ve been training for almost 1.5 yrs now, the last 4 months using TLS 3 day split. I’m curious – I’m still making steady weekly gains on most of my major lifts, usually by at least a couple of reps each time (when I get to 8, I up the weight). Not complaining, obviously! But I thought that as an intermediate lifter my gains would be slower and harder to come by now?

    • Everyone increases at different rates, but those kind of gains at your training level aren’t unheard of. That’s what happens when you train and diet properly. 🙂

      Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Camila

    Hey Mike,

    I’m a bit confused about the different routines for women here in the website and in the book. Some include lunges, some don’t. You also included two leg days here, in the book (TLS) there’s only one. Which one should I follow? I get overwhelmed by this much information.

    • Hey Camila! Either routine works.

      Keep in mind that in TLS, the Back & Butt & Abs day includes the barbell deadlift and barbell squat which involves heavy leg work.

      So, whichever you prefer is fine. 🙂

  • Belladonna

    Dear Mike I hope you are doing well & fit 😉 Thank you for your kind post. I have been following careful the advised routine and I have seen major changes, got toned, have more strenght, feel great! ….the only thing that I would like to ask is : how can I stop the quadriceps to grow; it seems they are getting bigger every week 😉 …please please I would love to hear what you advise; big smile & thank you !

    • Thanks! My pleasure!

      Awesome to hear on the results you’re getting following the routine.

      We’ll just need to bring down the leg training volume.

      How many sets per week are you doing for your legs ATM?

      Welcome! Talk soon.

  • AnnaD

    Hey Mike, I’m up to Phase 3 of TLS but my gym doesn’t have a glute/butt blaster. What could I substitute? Reverse hyper? Thanks heaps 🙂

    • Hey Anna! No worries! Yep, the reverse hyper works.

      Welcome. 🙂

      • AnnaD

        Great, thank you! Also, I’ve been stalled on side lateral raises for an age and I’m a bit over them…could I substitute face pulls? Really want to work on growing my delts. Would that be the best substitution? Thanks 🙂

  • Jonathan ‘Jk’ Kha

    Hey Mike great article. Just been doing BLS for the last 2 months and results are insane so you have all my gratitude (also props for having a kindle edition – really useful). So my gf’s joined in with TLS and pretty into it so we train together when the routines aren’t too different. But one thing I’m a bit confused by is the rep range recommendations for her. 8-10 seems to be the bread and butter for everything except abs and calves (fair enough). But in the book you hint at moving to 4-6 reps once she’s stronger and here in this article the big 3 seem to be in the 4-6 rep range. So do you mind just clarifying what would be the best start with and when to progress?

    • Thanks, Jonathan!

      Awesome you’ve been rolling on BLS and are happy with the results.

      Great the GF joined you! Nah, I still recommend 8-10 reps even on the main compounds lifts until she gains some experience.

      Let’s stick to the 8-10 rep range for her for 6 months and see how she does. If she wants to by then, she can drop to the 4-6 rep range on the main compound lifts.


  • Janelle

    Hey there. I’ve really enjoyed and appreciate your articles, so much great information. I am currently 10 lbs down in 2 months, I have been following Fitness Blenders videos on Youtube but I am always second guessing if I’m doing too little or too much exercise. I currently do 2 lower body workouts and 2 upper body workouts (strength training) and on the other 2 days cardio and core. Should I be taking more rest days than just one? Or should I just continue to listen to my body like I’ve been doing? I want to make sure I’m gaining muscle as well as losing fat. I look forward to your reply, thanks so much!

    • Thanks! Happy to hear you’re enjoying them. 🙂

      Great job on the weight you’ve lost.

      It doesn’t sound like too much. To make sure you’re not overtraining, take a look at this:


      To make sure you’re building muscle while losing fat, you’ll need to be tracking your composition. Take a look at this:


      My pleasure. Hope this helps! Talk soon.

    • Cassie H Cowell

      What you are doing sounds great. 10lb in 2 months is a lot. Don’t expect to lose faster than that. Keep it up!

  • Nice article. After reading this I think I need to work on me 🙂 Before its too late. Thanks for sharing such an informative information.

    • Thanks! Let’s do it! My pleasure. 🙂

      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.

  • Newbie

    Great informative website.

    I have purchased all three of your books from Amazon, Thinner Leaner Stronger, The Year One Challenge for Women and The Shredded Chef. I found the science in the first book absolutely amazing, especially as I am skinny fat with 12.6% body fat. I am always on the look out for easy recipe books and yours certainly is a beauty, what with having to feed a family. The Year One Challenge I thought would be awesome and it would be – if I could get to a gym :o( I saw the front of the book when I purchased all three and thought it would involve dumbbells only. I realised it wouldn’t after reading your first book but I had bought all three together.

    I saw the FAQs at the back of the book and looked on your website but cannot find sufficient information for substitute exercises to amend the Year One Challenge. Perhaps I could complete this challenge without going to a gym??

    Unfortunately, space in a cottage is limited, as is outside storage, to set up a home gym having looked at articles on that.

    Is there anything you can suggest please? I was so keen to get started and then I ordered a DVD for weight routines at home but having read your first book, I do not want to continue with this purchase. I want to use your methods but I am limited. I look forward to your reply – hoping you know of a positive way forward. I should also add that I have under the muscle dual plane augmentation. I wonder whether the chest exercises would emphasise what is a natural looking augmentation, hence half the implant under some of the pecs and the other half under breast tissue (cut on a diagonal). They’re not big but natural looking. How embarrassing! I hope other women may find this post useful so I would feel less embarrassed!! Maybe you have had similar questions asked before.

    • Thanks! I’m glad you like my work. 🙂

      Hmm it’s hard to follow the program exactly as is without at least a basic setup. That said, you COULD start with a bodyweight routine and do that for a bit before moving on to weights?

      Check this out:


      • Newbie

        Thank you for your response Mike. You know, having read your article, I think it will be a great way to get started. My upper arm has a circumference of 9 inches!! Not much you can do with that, is there?! I weigh 53 kg and I am 167 cm tall. I am going to type up your programme so thank you very much for that.

        I can get barbells and pull up bar over the door, couldn’t I? I looked at your suggestions for the pull up bar so I could get one of those but the tower looks to be too big for the cottage. Still, barbells and pull up bar can be a good start from bodyweight exercises you think? I am particularly interested in toning my abs and took a look at the raised legs exercise on the pull up bar. I could incorporate this in my routine.

        My 6 and 7 year old girls enjoyed the Spinach and Salmon recipe of yours! I thought it was delicious and to put blueberries with it – what a way to pack in excellent nutrients. This one is a favourite of mine :o)

        • YW! Let’s do it then! I look forward to seeing your results.

          NP if the tower doesn’t fit. The pull-up bar you mentioned above should work!

          Glad you and your girls enjoyed the recipe. 🙂

      • Newbie

        Hi Mike – I am starting the bodyweight programme and checked out the exercises and got myself up a pull up bar. I have one that fits between the door frame as the one you suggested in your article means I would bump my head on the ceiling of the cottage.

        Just a few questions please, about your programme.
        PUSH UPS – can’t do these but I seen the regressions and they are incorporated into your plan thank you.
        BURPEES – can’t do the push up element – how would you suggest I do these please?
        HANGING LEG RAISE – i cannot hang my body completely straight without it touching the floor. Can I do this exercise with my knees bent and shins/ankles at 90 degrees behind me and then bring my knees up? Will it have the same effect please?
        CHIN UP – the regression of these is first step – 20 second hold. Your plan says 20 reps, so once I do 20 seconds hold x 20, I move onto the second step of progressing a chin up?
        Finally, some good news – I can do a body squat and move onto the jump squat (outside unless I hit the ceiling!).

        INITIAL FITNESS ASSESSMENT – do I complete this once I can complete each of the four you have listed? They say repeat reps until failure – I fail at the first rep apart from the bodyweight squat. I am skinny fat and I am determined to get lean!!!

        Thank you for your help. I will incorporate into your plan if you could get back to me please as this would be very much appreciated and thank you for this training programme.

        • Hey hey,

          Leave the pushup out of the burpee–just down, legs out, legs in, up.

          Yup that’s fine on the leg raise.

          Good question on the chinup regression. Try moving on to chinups after you can do just 1 run of 20-second holds. You may be able to.

          Nice on the squat!

          I would do the program for a couple of months and then go for the assessment.

          • Newbie

            Excellent – you’re brilliant! I will never be as brilliant as you but I aim to achieve and exceed my own brilliance – or lack of it!!! ;o)

            BURPEES – noted. Just like I did at school then. Why didn’t I think of that?! LEG RAISE – great – I do feel the muscles working so I thought maybe this is ok. Thanks for confirming as it was a worry that I could not do it like the video you had on your article. CHINUP – ha ha – I can’t hold myself for more than 5 SECONDS!! Seriously! I can manage 10 leg raises or just hanging but starting from the hold for regression chin ups, I can’t manage it – different group of muscles which are pretty rubbish!

            So 1 run is “20 second holds x 20 times” in one session? The move on?

            Squats – Thanks Mike. Females are known to have better lower body strength than upper body strength. Well, having started this programme, I guess that’s true! :oD

            Just one more thing – do the programme for a couple of months and then go for the FIRST assessment? Then follow for eight weeks as per your programme before attempting the SECOND assessment? I think that is what is in your article anyway, in effect eight weeks only that seems to be based on someone much stronger than me.

            If anyone reads the posts, I hope you ladies don’t feel defeated if any of you are like me – lean lean lean apart from a little belly, which looks rather big when you are so skinny everywhere else. There is muscle in there somewhere, otherwise, our skeletons wouldn’t be able to stand! I thoroughly recommend this body strength programme. What a way to get started to improve strength and to maintain healthy bones for those years to come!

            Thanks to Mike for the programme and for helping people in our posts. Really encouraging.

          • Thanks! You can do it. 🙂

            Nah, not 20 times. You’ll follow the routine as it’s laid out in the article which is 6 sets of chin-ups (or holds in your case). However, once you’re able to hold for 20 seconds in 1 set, you can advance to the more difficult gradient.

            I normally have people start with an assessment to see where they’re at, but in your case, let’s just start following the routine and then do your first assessment in 8 weeks. From there, you can do assessments every 8 weeks and see your progress.

            My pleasure for everything! Happy to help. 🙂

          • Newbie

            Not 20 times – thank heavens for that – I manage 5 seconds if I am lucky. Such a weed am I. Trying to do six sets of 5 seconds? You will be so chuffed with me if I manage 20 seconds and progress onto a full chin up – you’ll know about it, I can tell you that much!!

            Well, if you think I can do it, knowing my height, weight, body fat % and skinny circumference on my upper arms, then I must be able to do it! You are the expert. I take great confidence in your comments so thank you for helping me and many others out there. :o)

          • Thanks! And I have full confidence in you.

            YW. Very happy to help.

          • Newbie

            Hi Mike – so the progress so far? This will sound great when I say I can hold myself up for 15 seconds on the chin up – I could manage 20 I am sure. The trouble is, successively, the seconds start dropping rapidly so I cannot complete a set!! I also have to jump to get up there. This, along with the burpees, are the worse for me but progressing on the other body strength. Can’t see much muscle development though. I feel stronger, if you know what I mean. Can’t see it, although the abs are taking shape, oh YES! That cycling one as well, working the obliques, is a really good one. I like that one a lot!

          • Great! Keep up the good work.

  • Wissem Nina

    Really good article! Actually all are amazing. You don’t have complex rules or plans just simple layouts which have to be filled according to need and want. At the same time it’s a base and has all the info needed.

    Really appreciate your efforts.

    • Thanks! My pleasure for everything!

      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.

  • Lunden Scheller

    Hi Mike, I started listening to LTS earlier this week and have been binging on it ever since. With 2 boys under 2 years old, reading can be a challenge so the audiobook has been great. I listen when driving, walking the dogs, cooking, showering, and at the gym! Lol I have started building a schedule for workouts off of your women’s article and am excited to see the transformation in my strength. Given the 5 day plan you outlined with 2 rest days, what do you suggest for incorporating hiit? I have 2 20 minute routines I like but am just not sure how often I should build them in. I am currently 207 (down from 225) with 37% bf. I have been strength training and doing some cardio for 3 months now but know I need to focus my efforts to see maximum gains and losses. Thanks so much for your help and the motivation you have sparked in me to take my fitness to the next level.

    • Hope you’ve been enjoying it! 🙂 Yep, two kids at that age can certainly make it difficult to find time to sit down and read. That’s why audiobooks are great!

      Cool you’ve started putting together a workout routine! I look forward to seeing your transformation as well!

      You can incorporate the HIIT any days you like. You can do them on your 2 days off from lifting or you can do them on your lifting days. Just make sure you do the lifting first.

      As to how much HIIT you should do, check this out:


      Great job on the weight you’ve lost so far!

      To make sure you continue to lose weight and build muscle, check these out:



      Welcome! Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Mark

    Hi Mike, a friend of mine would like a body similar to the Victoria secret models. To me they seem to be very low body fat but little muscle. Apparently they work out quite a lot? Would you recommend TLS to obtain that look or anything different?

    • Hey Mark,

      TLS can accomplish that look, and what’s really key here is the fat loss aspect.

  • Christi Goni

    Hi Mike,

    I received my copy of Thinner, Leaner, Stronger this weekend and I’m super excited to get started! I’ve been lifting for several years now but am always open to learning something new and improving my existing knowledge. I’m really hoping that Thinner, Leaner, Stronger will help me get my diet under control. I seem to lose and regain the same 20 lbs. over and over again. It’s time to finally get and stay lean! I am very guilty of reading programs and then adapting them to fit what I’m most comfortable with (hence that 20 lb. gain and loss cycle). This time I’ve promised myself that I will follow your program exactly as it’s laid out. No detours, modifications or adaptions. I’ll check back in with you in a couple months and let you know how it’s going!

    • Hey Christi, that’s awesome! Definitely keep me posted on your progress as you go through the program.

  • Andrea

    If I only want to be at 20% bf. . should i not continue to try and progress/lift heavier?? So that I don’t look bulky? I keep trying to up weights on all exercises, but since I dont’ want to get as low in BF, should I limit how much muscle i gain? (I don’t have that much) but just sayin. . .. also what do you recommend for women who still are skinny fat/have some lovehandles, but the skinnier I get, my face is the only thing that gets gaunt and my stomach stays the same

  • Sabrina Hall

    Hi Mike
    What is the reasoning behind having women start with the incline press on chest day, rather than the flat bench press?

    • Hey Sabrina! The majority of people are generally lagging in the upper chest. That’s why I start the chest day routine with incline barbell bench and make the overall focus of the chest workout on incline pressing.

  • Marisa

    Good Day Mike,

    Just wanted to say thank you for all the wonderful articles, I have been reading and rereading for the last 3 days, Started last night on the exercise program you have here for woman, 2 questions please.

    It doesn’t take long to do these exercises or am I doing something wrong, I was done within half an hour? Just scared I missed something because I really want to do this, i have lost like 15 kg, and have been running all the time before, so I am flabby.

    Also, now that I wont be running as much, wont my fitness levels go down, as I quite enjoyed my 5-7 km runs.And it felt god doing them, although i didnt know that running as is not always good. I did sprinting like you said before the weights though,I am 41 years old, but you said we can still train as normal.

    I need to lose another 10 kg, last but not least, van I do 2 days training in one day , as my working hours limits my exercise times.

    I will definitely look at your book as well, thank you again,.


  • Mika Kennedy

    Hi I am what is considered to be skinny fat. I’m a petite girl but have 25% body fat I’d like to get to 18-20%. I want to get lean not skinny. My question is do I lose weight first then start building muscle or build muscle and then cut fat. I am told that I can’t do both at the same time.

  • Jennifer

    Hi Mike, I have been following the TLS 5 day split and enjoying it. However i feel that it’s very upper-body focused. That being said, leg day absolutely kills me. How could i re-work the program to get a bit more leg work in, but not all in one “leg day”. My posterior chain is quite strong i believe, but my quads are pretty non-existent (i’m gassed doing body-weight lunges).

    • Jennifer, the program already has two heavy squat days included–which is plenty. If you want that added push, what you can do is work in the 4-6 rep range for one of those days, and/or add lunges or bulgarian split squats to Day 5.

      • Jennifer

        I’m confused–the TLS 5 day split has only one leg day–Day 1: Chest/Abs; Day 2: Back; Day 3: Shoulders; Day 4:Legs; Day 5: Arms.
        Are you saying i should switch to a different program?

        • We’re looking at different versions, it seems. No biggie. Same idea applies:

          On one of the scheduled squats, do a heavy 4-6 rep range.

          On legs/butt day, add lunges or bulgarian split squats (Day 4)

          • Jennifer

            Ok now I’m REALLY confused. I have the TLS e-book and the actual book and apparently they show completely different workouts?! I was under the impression that they were the same book? I’ve got second edition in both formats. Which workout should i be doing?

          • Doh! Sorry about that. The most recent book is edition 2.1 (a small update from the second edition). Shoot me an email at [email protected], and I’ll send you the PDF of the correct one. 🙂

  • Ebony

    Hey Mike,
    I am just looking into getting some advice regarding how to go about starting a fitness regimen, and what would be the best route to take to for the concerns I have…
    I have been lean my whole life until I turned 30 this year. I was able to maintain my figure with little to no exercise. This all changed over the past 7 months. I had to have dental surgery and ended up losing some weight, when I put it back on, I put on double of what I lost and it is all fat. My thin legs are now riddled with cellulite and my midsection is in shambles! I feel the extra weight and it is extremely uncomfortable. The number on the scale does not bother me at all, it’s the actual look and overall tone ( or lack there of) that concerns me . It’s not that I don’t want my old body back, but I was hoping it might be possible to tighten up and add more curves. I work in an office so I am sitting at a desk for 10+ hours per day. I do not partake in any activities or exercise currently. So I am having an extremely hard time getting started. PLEASE HELP 🙂

  • Deana

    Hi Mike,
    Just about to finish up the 8 week “Ultimate Fitness Plan”. Love this workout & I am seeing great results all around! My question is, Do I continue this workout…if so for how much longer, ie – another whole 8 week round or do you have another workout you recommend? Thanks so much!

    • That’s great, Deana! Glad you’re seeing good results. You can continue this workout or follow the TLS 1YC workouts.

  • jenn

    Hello Mike! First I would just like to say that reading your book and your blog posts has made me fall in love with health and fitness! I have gathered soo much knowledge of the fitness world by reading your posts, and I would just like to say, thank you sooo much for everything that you do!! I am 20 years old, have been working out for a year and a half, and made alottt of gains! I workout 5 days week (Monday:Legs, Tuesday:Arms and Shoulders, Wednesday: Back Thursday: Legs Saturday: Abs) My question is, is it bad to have two leg days? Also, I would like to become a personal trainer, and start making meal plans, and workout programs for people (highly requested), any tips on getting started?

    Thanks again Mike, your the best!!

    • That’s so great, Jenn! Happy to hear it. You’re welcome, and keep up the great work racking in those gains.

      It’s not a bad thing to do two leg days if you find that your legs are a lagging muscle group that needs the extra volume.

      To start, do lots of reading, research, and get some experience under your belt with training and nutrition. Good luck!

  • Javi De Leon

    HI Mike, thanks for all info, one question my wife have varicose veins and is starting your program, is there any article or something in relation weightlifting ? – Thanks!

    • YW Javi!

      Nah, I don’t have anything written on that. She should check with the doc on that just to be safe.

  • Kristin Friedlander

    Hi! I’m about 6 months into the Year One Challenge for women after being really inspired by Thinner, Leaner, Stronger – thank you! I’ve kept my reps at 10-12 per set for all exercises – is that correct or should I be shooting for 4-6 reps?

    • Hey Kristin, that’s great you’re 6 months in! Awesome work. 8-10 reps is what I recommend.

      The reason why I recommend women start in the 8-10 rep range (~75% of 1RM) is most start out with very low levels of muscle and strength and find that to be quite heavy. 4-6 would be really daunting and possibly even dangerous (due to poor form).

      Once women have put in a good 6 months or so at that rep range, though, they’ll have the strength and experience to comfortably (and safely) include some heavier work in their routines.

      So, if you’re at that point and would like to work in some 4-6 rep range training, I recommend doing 3 sets in the 4-6 rep range, and using it on the following exercises:

      Military Press
      Bench Press

  • Di Cunliffe

    Hi Ya, I have just finished your book Thinner, Leaner Stronger and I am doing 4 days a week. I did my first workout yesterday doing 10 reps each set of each exercise and finding it hard to do the 10th rep (guessing my weight is about right), but it only took me 35 mins, am I doing something wrong???

    • Moving fast! Did you do your warmup sets? The workouts should all be able to be completed within an hour.

  • AnnaD

    Hey Mike, I just switched from your 3 day TLS routine to 4 days. Just wondering the best way to structure my program, as there will have to be 2 days where I work out consecutively. Today I did chest, triceps & calves after doing legs yesterday, and my workout pretty much sucked. I couldn’t even get 1 rep with a weight I did 6 of the week before. Frustrating! I don’t know if it’s just a one-off or whether my CNS is tired from yesterday. Is this a typical scenario for the workout done the very next day?

    • Hey Anna, that’s a pretty dramatic difference. Back to back workouts should be no problem. How was sleep, pre-workout nutrition, and hydration?

      • AnnaD

        Hmmm all fine as far as I’m aware!

        • Either a miscalculation of weight, or one of the factors above. You can try again to see if you can replicate 6 reps (or close to it). If not, no problem! Drop weight and continue as usual.

          • AnnaD

            Ok, yes, hopefully just an anomaly and next week will be back to normal!
            One more question, I take my dog on a brisk walk every day for 30 to 60 mins. Would this count as cardio?

          • Very light cardio, yes.

  • Leah

    Hi Mike,
    I’m so appreciative of your work! I started your TLS diet program 6 months post baby & have been doing it for a year & seen amazing results! In that year I did HIIT workouts and some kettlebell/dumbbell work at home. I’m at 20%BF and starting another cut to try and get to 18%.
    I just started your weight lifting program 5 day/week & love it!!! I’m pretty strong, and work on our family farm, so all day I am moving and lifting hay bales, buckets, saddles, etc. So over the years my shoulders have become very rounded forward, chest tight and sore upper back. I’ve listened to your podcast with Dr Fontaine & Starrett & am now realizing how bad my forward shoulders are. I really struggle to get my arms straight above my head!
    So I’m wondering if need adjust my schedule to help correct this problem? For instance do more back days/week, do less chest, etc? I’m also trying Starrett’s mobility moves, but I’m struggling a bit sifting through his vast info! I’m super stoked for your mobility digital course on MFL!!!
    Any advice & direction is greatly appreciated. Thanks so much!!!

    • Thanks Leah! That’s awesome! I’d love to feature you on the website as a success story. What do you think?

      Ah yeah it would help a lot to add in some mobility work to get your posture where it should be.

      Have you seen this?


      • Leah

        Thanks Mike!
        Wow, I was about to have a bite of chocolate when I read your response…AND I put the chocolate down! Hahaha! Perfect timing!
        I’m so excited to try & get BF down more, & beyond pumped with starting the weight routine! I just started using Pulse & I think you snuck somethings special in there cause I’m literally giddy when I’m mixing it up…it’s amazing!!! 😜 I’m toying with trying Forge also since I train fasted & sounds like that may help with stubborn fat.
        I checked out the mobility article & will definitely apply this to my routine to fix my shoulders! I’m so determined to get them back where they should be!
        You’re awesome & seriously I’ve never felt this awesome & strong in my life!!!
        Thanks! Leah

        • YW! Haha great timing indeed. Glad you’re enjoying the supps!

          Sounds good.

          Keep up the great work, Leah! I’m happy I was able to help.

      • Leah

        You bet, feel free to share my story. I tell everyone who asks me what I’m doing to check out you & MFL site 🙂

        • Super! Shoot me an email whenever you’re ready: mike at muscleforlife.com

  • Neda

    Hi Mike,I just read your article and more accurately,I read most of your articles but there’s a big question in my head which I hope you answer it!!
    I’m 5’5” feet tall and I weight 119 pounds. I’m completely new to weightlifting but I used to work out mostly cardio and some ab exercises,I have 21% body fat which formed a layer of fat on my abs and I have a flat butt.so when I was reading your articles in one of them you said we need to be in a calorie surplus to build muscles (I want to build big butt muscle) and in the other one you said we must be in calorie deficit to burn fat(I want to remove all the covering fat on my abs) so what am I supposed to do to get the best results??If I opt for calorie deficit diet,will I be able to build good muscles in my butt? I’d be happy if you tell me what to do cause I need a plan for my fitness goals!Thanks Mike!

    • Neda, if you’re new to this style of training, you’ll build muscle and lose fat while in a calorie deficit. You can cut a couple of %, then start on your bulk.

      • neda

        As I mentioned I have a super flat butt since I lost a lot of weight 2years ago,will weightlifting really help me to build a strong perky butt?and how long does it take to see a dramatic change?

  • Mell29

    Hey Mike ! Love this article, it breaks everything down so well.

    So currently I’m 5″7 170… Which for me is too skinny but even worse I’m like the poster child for skinny fat!! I’ve never really had any muscle definition even when I was younger (I’m now 29) but I was always slim, around 140lbs so it never bothered me. Over the past 3 years or so I’ve been yo yo dieting always with cardio and low calorie diets where I ate whatever, but the past year and a half has been the worse! i had been 185 most of my adult life which was ok for me since I’m really curvy so I carried it well but then I gained 50lbs and lost it doing the same crazy diet as usual. With that came the ultimate skinny fat body that I hate looking at its just so jiggly and I hate it !!

    So now I have a few goals and I’m not sure how to get there but in hoping you can help…. I would ideally like to gain 15 lbs to be back at 185 but I wanna be a lot more toned but still have some fat because I really enjoy my curves. My problem is that everything I read says I shud cut first and then bulk BUT that would mean I would be even skinnier than I am right now and I WOULD HATE TO BE ANY SKINNIER! So I just started a bulk cycle last week which I plan to do for 4 months then i have a surgery so I’ll be out of the gym for 8 weeks after that but my diet will still be intact … My diet now is very clean, I eat around 2600 Cals daily and I stick to my macros as best as possible and I’m doin crossfit 3-4 days a week as my only source of exercise. I also have a very sedentary job.

    My question is do u think I should keep with this plan to gain weight(hopefully mostly muscle) and then cut after, which will mainly depend on my diet since I’ll be recovering from surgery…or do You have a totally different suggestion? I just hate looking so flabby and being so skinny! I rather look bulky fat than skinny fit if u get wat I’m saying… Please advise

    Thanks in advance !

    • Hey Mell!

      Everyone has to start somewhere, and the skinniness after cutting is only temporary. Cutting down to 20% is ideal for several reasons: it preserves insulin sensitivity and hormonal balance, it allows you to maintain a calorie surplus for many months before having to reduce body fat levels, and it saves you from long, grueling cuts.

      If you’d rather look bulky fat rather than skinny fit, then bulk away. But, if you want that lean athletic look (not even necessarily skinny…just lean and not jiggly), then it’s not going to be a fun time when it’s time to cut.

      • mel

        Thank you so much Roger for the response … Ultimately my goal is to have that toned look with a but like you said I can either bulk first then have a long grueling cut … or cut first to 20% fb and be skinny for a little while then bulk up…

        These are my concerns and please correct me if I’m a little misinformed (which I probably am lol) It seems if I cut first It may take me at least a year to bulk to a point where I feel comfortable since I’ll only gain about .5-1lb of muscle per month. For that reason I’m willing to bulk first then endure a long grueling cut if I have to just so I don’t have to be any smaller than I am right now.

        Do you think I can still reach my goals with this approach? … And if so what’s the best way to get there as far as how long to bulk/cut, best diet plan, and also do you think crossfit alone is sufficient to bulk. I’m currently eating around 2600 Cals 90-95% clean (my cheats are usually alcohol or some high carb meal maybe once or twice on the weekend) but I usually have a hard time getting to 2600 Cals. I do 35% protein, 40% carbs, 25% fat. What would you change/add/takeaway.

        Thank you so so much for the advice!!!!!

  • Shaz

    Hi Mike
    The calves are optional im doing the 5 day split and am happy where my calves are at if you removed that what can you substitute with on chest and shoulder day to make up the sets

    • That’s fine if you’re happy with your calves. If you need more volume for chest, shoulders, or arms, then you can add extra exercises in place of calves.

  • Courtney

    Hey there! I have just been meaning to ask: how long does it typically take to build on a fair amount of lean muscle? I am 17 years old, 5’0″, and have been doing the StrongLift program for about 6 months now. It has worked well in burning off my extra fat and helping me become lean and more toned. I want to do this program after getting to 100 lbs. on Bench on Barbell Row (which isn’t far away) in order to become more toned.
    Now, don’t fight me here (haha), but I do follow the Keto Diet, yet I do TKD, where I take a shot of glucose before lifting heavy. I know that this is a determining factor, so that’s why I’m adding it.

  • Jaime-Louise Roberts

    Hi Mike! Hoping you can help..

    I am coming to the end of a 12 week (3 phase) routine – that whilst it’s goal to get me stronger and leaner has probably got me a little stronger but barely leaner. I understand that Rome wasn’t built in the day, and in my 20’s found it very easy to become lean and strong by weightlifting. Now I am in my 30’s it has become SO hard and I am certainly not as strong. I am extremely frustrated. I absolutely love weight training and I am certainly not scared of lifting heavy.

    Here was the 12 week plan (please remove if not allowed to post) http://www.simplyshredded.com/the-ultimate-female-training-guide.html

    I am a vegan and I use myfitnesspal to make sure I am aiming for 1200-1500 calories a day and to ensure my macros is right.

    I also practice Yoga every single day (it’s more of a mental thing really). My cardio consists of 1-2 sessions of squash per week and / 1-2 sessions HIIT running.

    Very frustrated.

    Any advice would be most appreciated.

  • DeAnna Terry

    I did the thinner leaner stronger program and lived it but don’t know what to do know that I’m done

    • That’s great you enjoyed the program! Your next step depends on your goal. Are you happy where you are? Cool. Keep up the exercises and go on a maintenance diet.

      Still more fat to lose and/or muscle to gain? Continue the exercises and continue to cycle cuts and bulks.

  • Elijah Laughinghaus

    Hey Mike! A friend has been really impressed with my progress on your program and she is ready get training for the first time in her life and asked me to help her get started. I’m curious about a few things here:

    1. 8-10 reps for beginners. How long would you recommend do work in this range before moving down to 4-6?
    2. 5 days a week? Is there a reason you suggest a 5 day workout regiment for women, and less frequent workouts for men? I think she is going to feel overwhelmed at the idea of hitting the gym 5 days a week right off the bat and learning so many exercises. Have you got a simpler/less frequent regimen detailed anywhere that would still let her see some good progress in the first few months?

    • That’s great!

      1. The reason why I recommend women start in the 8-10 rep range (~75% of 1RM) is most start out with very low levels of muscle and strength and find that to be quite heavy. 4-6 would be really daunting and possibly even dangerous (due to poor form).

      Once women have put in a good 6 months or so at that rep range, though, they’ll have the strength and experience to comfortably (and safely) include some heavier work in their routines for the following exercises:

      Military Press
      Bench Press

      2. 5 days is great for guys too. She can try a 3-day split to start.

      3. Depends if she has that much weight to lose.

  • Crossfit Girl

    That picture that you used for reference of “Crossfit Girl” that you said most women don’t want to look like… what if I am not most women? What if that is my goal? Do you have any articles geared towards ladies who are not afraid to get “bulky”?

  • AmyL

    At what point (if any) would you suggest women focus on the 4-6 rep range?

  • AmyL

    Sorry, I see my question was answered in an earlier post. New question: do you recommend that women (once they have a good foundation of lifting) solely focus on 4-6 rep range for bigger lifts and the 8-10 rep range for “smaller” movements? Do you ever suggest they move to 4-6 rep range for all lifts?

    • No worries! Yup, once you have at least 6 months of proper training under your belt, you’rr welcome to start training in the 4-6 rep range on squats, deadlifts, benchpress and military press and stick to the 8-10 rep range on the rest of your exercises.

      After doing that for a while, if you’d like to switch to doing all exercises in the 4-6 rep range, you’re welcome to do that too. 🙂

  • Coco Brashears

    Mike, I read Thinner Leaner Stronger and I’m so excited to get started on the program! I trust you when you say to not be afraid of getting bulky because women’s bodies just don’t develop that way on accident, but what about abs? Some women have very chunky 6 pack abs and other women have a flat but defined stomach. How do I avoid having a 6 pack! Is doing the ab workouts twice a week laid out in the Year Challenge going to give me more defined abs than I want and it is therefore something I could omit or lessen like the calf workouts or do I not need to be afraid of this? Thank you Mike

  • Connie Boo

    Do you have a way to modify this for home use. Have Dumbbells only obviously.

    • Sure! Working out with only dumbbells is a bit tough because you can’t squat, deadlift, bench press, or military press (and these are the most important exercises in any program, really).

      My first standard recommendation is to get a proper home setup (a power cage or multi-press rack with an Olympic bar and plates), or work out in a gym instead. Here are the products I like:


      That said, if neither are possible, you can focus on the dumbbell exercises given in the “approved exercises” section of the book. For instance, a chest day would look like this:

      Incline dumbbell press: warm up and 6 sets 4-6 reps
      Flat dumbbell press: 3-6 sets of 4-6 reps

      While that might seem redundant and inefficient, it’s actually a great chest workout. I did that for nearly 6 months a couple years ago and was amazed by the gains I was able to make.

      You can also add a couple exercises to make your legs day more challenging:

      Goblet squats are decent, albeit limited.
      One-legged squats are challenging even without weight.

      For your back, I recommend doing a lot of dumbbell rows and weighted wide-grip pull-ups.

      You also have the option of working in some modified body weight exercises, as discussed here:


      I hope this helps and let me know what you think!

  • Aly

    Hi Mike,

    I am terrified of going to the gym and doing heavy lifting workouts because my arms are like noodles and my legs are what I call chicken legs. My stomach however is a muffin top/bulging belly. You can see why I want to start this program. However, because I am so frail, what weights should I be lifting? I am 5’7 and 127 pounds. I am so scared of being judged by the little amounts of weights I will probably be able to do. Do you have any tips with what weights should be my target? How much I should be lifting?

    Thank you!

    • Hey Aly! Nothing to be nervous or scared about. Everyone starts somewhere! Honestly it’s just trial and error for your first week or two. As a general rule, for every 5 lbs you add to a dumbbell exercise, you’ll lose 2 reps. The same for every 10 lbs added to a barbell exercise. So if you put 100 lbs on the squat bar and do 10 reps, you should be able to get about 6 reps with 140 lbs.

      Just work with light weights at first and learn the form, and then increase. You’ll get your numbers within a week or two. 🙂

  • Shannon

    Hi Mike,

    Do you prefer split workout routines over full body workout routines? I read that full body workouts are better for losing weight while gaining muscle.


  • Ali

    Hi Mike,

    I just started your program about 1.5 weeks ago. Prior to starting your program, I did a lot of cardio training and consistently ate 1200 calories a day (below my RMR). I haven’t lost any weight on your program yet, but it looks like that might be normal for the first few weeks? If I don’t lose anything after that time do I need to do some reverse dieting to get my metabolism happy again before cutting? I am 115lbs and 24% body fat. I am also finding it hard to get enough protein each day and maintain my calorie count. I can’t eat gluten or dairy and so a lot of protein powders won’t work. I would appreciate any advice.

    Thank you!

    • Hey Ali, that’s great you started the program! I recommend that you first reverse diet before starting the cut because your metabolism has likely adapted to the under-eating. When on the cut, do remember to take a weekly waist and BF% measurement. The scale only tells half the story!

  • Ali

    Great. Thanks! It looks like you recommend increasing calories by 150 a week until you reach TDEE. Should this be adjusted at all to account for my overall lower calorie intake/size? Are there specific things I should do to minimize weight gain during this period? If I eat more than my RMR I generally gain weight. Also, how long should I stay at the TDEE before starting to cut.

  • Aris

    Hi Mike! I like this program and I´ll do it right away! But I have few questions: 1st Can I do all the workouts at home only with a barbell of 40 lbs and two dubmbells of 8 lbs each one? In the future I´ll buy more weights for my barbell, what´s your opinion? And 2nd: I noticed that in this program there were no workouts for the back. If I want to add back in the program which day can I put it? Or in this program I toss all the back workouts aside?

  • Miz Eloise

    hi. im doimg the tls and im confused. some muscle groups have mkre then 3 or 4 exercises. i thought this is only up to 4 exercise ? example legs has back squat front squat leg press lunge, rdl, leg curl. isnt that a lot of exercises in one go? do i have to do all that or just choose 3 or 4 prioritizing the monet makers like squat ? how many exercises is optimal ler muscle group

  • cyb pauli

    “How many marathon runners do you see with enviable bodies?”

    People don’t run marathons for enviable body aesthetics. Don’t get it twisted. They run marathons for enviable achievement of the body’s performance. Not every woman’s aim is to be considered attractive/pretty. Some of us just want to be strong/fast/conditioned in addition to being ugly. ^_^

    • Sorry for the confusion. What marathon runners do is admirable and very impressive.

      What I’m referring to is using excessive amounts of cardio to achieve your goal physique, that’s all.

  • Ali

    Hi Mike,
    I am still in the process of reverse dieting and wondering if I should be adjusting my calorie raise to minimize any potential weight gain. I started at 1300 calories and added 100 calories for 10 days and then just increased by another 100 calories to 1500. Is there any advantage to more slowly increasing calories–like say 50 calories a week? How long do I need to stay at TDEE before starting to cut?

    • Hey Ali, good work starting the RD. No need to drop it that low. 100-150 is totally fine. No advantage to increasing with only 50 cals every week. Once your weight stabilizes at TDEE (a week or two), you can cut again if you haven’t met your cutting goal the last time.

  • Marie Thiveos

    Hi Mike,

    I just started a strength training for women class. It’s two days a week, one our each session. Honestly, I have no clue how to do the exercises, so I had to start a class. That being said, I’m still not comfortable going to a gym and doing these exercises on my own. My trainer is constantly correcting my form in class, so I don’t think training on my own is a good idea. Will training at home twice a week be sufficient? I don’t have heavy weights, but could body weight exercises. How does this sound? Will I see changes or do I need to hit the gym and do heavy weights at least 4 days a week?

    Thank you!

    • Hey Marie, that’s awesome you’re starting to learn the exercises! What a great start :). If you want to see results, you’ll have to step it up to at least 3 days of weight training, though. Bodyweight exercises will only do so much. You can even practice on your own with a bare bar or light weights.

      • Marie Thiveos

        Thanks, Mike! Would using machines for my third day suffice? My two classes a week are both heavy lifting, no machines.

  • Taylor Drennan

    Hey Mike!

    I’ve read your book and have been doing the 4 day workout for almost 3 weeks and I’m starting to notice that I’m a lot stronger than I think I am. The only thing I’m confused about is calories and Macros. I’m 114lbs, 19 years old, 5′ 10″ and I’m definitely skinny fat so I’m somewhere between 20-25% body fat at least. I’ve been trying the maintenance diet for a while but I feel so tired all the time since my TDEE is so low. What should I do?

    • That’s great you picked up TLS and are on the program, Taylor! Double check your targets here:



      • Taylor Drennan

        Thank you! Also could you tell me how to alter my calorie intake to fit my activity level? I’m a hostess who usually works 4-6 days a week for 4-6 hours per shift. I also work out 4 hours per week weightlifting and about 45 min per week with cardio.

        • No problem. Adjust the activity multiplier. Start with 1.35 in your case, and adjust by adding or subtracting 100cals (25g carbs) depending on results.

          • Taylor Drennan

            Thank you so much again! One more question (sorry I ask a lot. I just really want to make sure I’m doing this right.) Do you think that the maintenance diet is the way for me to go? I’ve been pinching the skin on me and it seems that I can get a lot of it and I might me more than 25% BF. I know that it would take longer but I don’t want to look chunky.

          • YW! Haha not a bother at all. Ask away.

            If you’re more than 25%BF, I’d cut first before bulking. This is ideal for several reasons: it preserves insulin sensitivity and hormonal balance, it allows you to maintain a calorie surplus for many months before having to reduce body fat levels, and it saves you from long, grueling cuts.

          • Taylor Drennan

            The only thing I’m worried about with a cut is that I’m 114.8 lbs and my TDEE right now is somewhere around 1500 even with my activity level is would have to shoot my calories down really low. Have you ever worked with someone who had this problem and how did they deal with this? The idea of having to do this scares the daylights out of me! My BMR would be about 1150 or somewhere around there if I was about 26%…

          • It’s not a problem. Since your BMR is 1220 and 4-6hours of exercise a week brings you to 1647 TDEE, a 20% deficit works out to be 1318–assuming 24% BF. That’s just how it is because you’re smaller in size.

            Check this out to help with your BF% measurement:


          • Taylor Drennan

            Ok today I found out I was using my body fat calipers wrong and I was using the wrong point to measure so I was over on pretty much all of my measurements. I’ve been eating at about 1550 calories per day and that’s under my supposed TDEE. Should I just gradually increase my intake over the next week or so and see how my body responds, assuming that’s the case?

          • No problem if you’ve been eating under your TDEE. After all, your goal is to cut, right?

          • Taylor Drennan

            No I’ve been trying to build muscle. I was worried about my BF% because I didn’t know where to start.

          • You can build muscle while cutting. If you’re over 20% BF, I’d recommend you cut first before bulking. Otherwise, stay in a deficit and recalculate your targets:


  • Allison Weber

    Hey Mike,

    I’m wondering if you would offer different advice for woman that didn’t want to look like the woman below. But more like Jessica in the Dukes of Hazard. I was doing your plan for a few months and I HATE how huge my arms and shoulders were looking. It might be because they still have a nice layer of fat, but regardless I’m just not looking for defined arms and shoulders in the first place. Do I just need more patience? https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0c7947997486f3819210cdbf91378338ecc53b293db853da2440f68dd8f87441.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/310cc5f82e0d557f8c7915bb147e4ec49cc77c11ca21c649e60a53ccec87eb1f.jpg

    • Hey Allison, cutting down the BF% will definitely help. I also recommend that you stop increasing weight on areas where you are satisfied with the muscle development. you can even consider reducing the volume as well.

  • Tasmin Jenner

    Hi Mike,

    I’ve been using weights with no cardio for about 2 years now. I’m a really skinny female with a high metabolism so struggle to put on weight but have found building muscle keeps my weight on. I’ve started incorporating cardio once a week to get my fitness levels back up, I do this by doing circuits of different exercises of both cardio and weights. I’ve got about 18% body fat (apparently) and 6months ago started eating far more than normal as my research tells me to do! I’m eating about 2,000 calories, pretty healthy, including as much protein as I can but found it hasn’t made much difference but just caused my abs to disappear and develop more fat on my lower stomach – Gah. So all I want to do is cut back on the food to keep my abs. Am I doing something wrong? Or do I need to do more cardio? I want more definition and that lean look but I don’t want to lose any weight as I’m skinny enough as it is!

    I’m also really struggling with my upper body strength, no matter how hard i
    push myself I just never seem to improve. I’ve tried the heavy 5×5 routine but as soon as I started I lost quite a lot of weight from it (weirdly) so went back to my usual 3/4 x 8-12 – maybe i was doing it wrong?. I also don’t have any definition in my
    arms unless I tense ridiculous hard and have the perfect lighting. Is
    this normal when i’ve been training so long? How do I get toned arms
    without losing weight from them? I want to try your programme but unsure if it’s right for me

    • Hey Tasmin, putting on more muscle can give you better tone and shape. To do that, you’ll have to bulk, which does mean you’ll temporarily stop seeing your abs. But, once you are done with the bulk and start cutting, you’ll see them again and see better tone in your arms. Check this out:


  • Taylor Drennan

    Hey Mike!

    It’s me again. On a personal note about my eating habits, have you ever dealt with binging before? This usually doesn’t happen with me but for 3 days this week I have eaten significantly more than I should and it only happens at night after I get home from work. I have a really bad sweet tooth and it doesn’t help when my mom and dad bring lots of sweets into the house. It happens when I just get overwhelmed by all the junk that’s around me and I just go nuts. I always try to put in a healthy treat in after dinner but last night that didn’t even help me. I just don’t want to gain anymore fat and I want to get everything under control. Any advice?

    Taylor Drennan

  • Ali

    Hi Mike,

    I have been following your plan for about a month now. At the gym, I am finding it hard to progress on some exercises given the weights available.
    –I am finding the weighted hip thrust uncomfortable. I have tried using barbells and dumbbells. Any tips here? Any exercise I could do as a substitute?
    –Also for the military press the barbells at my gym go from 30 to 40 pounds before then going to a regular barbell at 45 pounds. Should I use dumbbells in-between the 10 pound jump?


    • Hey Ali, that’s great you’ve been on the program!

      1. Have you tried using a barbell pad for the hip thrusts? It’ll feel much more comfortable.

      2. Yes, you can use dumbbells in-between.

  • Katie Power

    Hi Mike
    I am just completing week 8 and have read the book. 3kg lost and getting close to 20% bf ( undecided if will bulk!!). Can i find week 9-16 moves online like 1-8??

    Katie (England)

  • n parker

    Hi mike, i have been using your program , I am a female 130 pounds and 25 percent BF i am trying to loose weight and look tone. as for reps each exercise says 8 the 10 but at the end it Says 9 to 12 . I want to look like lean a i dont want my thighs to get bulky so in your opinion how much reps and sets should i be doing for upper and lower body ? And i a drinking and eating more protein is that good, I’m asking because I feel bloated at times . Does protein really help? Or is hemp or plant based protein powder better for bloated and gas than regular protein powder ? I am in my late 7 and again just the to look tone and lean but loose fat are help

  • Sophie

    Hi Mike,

    I am just about to start your 8 week plan, I’m 26 years old, 5ft 10 female and weigh 69kg and 22.5%bf. I have completely let myself slip the last few months and I would like to get back down to around 17%bf. Can you tell me roughly what I should be lifting? I was doing incline Barbell Bench Presses last night and was struggling with 2.5kg on each side and found 5kg on each side tough on the flat bench press. Is this really bad?! I feel like i should be able to lift a lot more than that!? Could you please give me a rough guideline of what i should be lifting with barbells and dumbells? Thanks for your help!

    • Hey Sophie, welcome back on the wagon! Don’t worry about your starting point. Just do the best you can, and as long as you can lift the weights in the 8-10 rep range, you’re doing fine! Adjust accordingly.

  • Andria M.

    Hi Mike. I am trying to buy The Year One Challenge on amazon. There is a spiral edition and a paperback edition. I want to make sure I grab the most recent one. Can you help me on this? BTW, love your diet set up. I have dropped 5 pounds in 2.5 weeks and I was pretty small to begin with (5’6″, 125 now 117.8lb) and am not minding the cutting at all. Decided to start in on the workout plan now. My only concern is I have had back surgery (herniated disc, L5S1) and it is still injured. No pain, but I have been advised no weights above my shoulders when doing legs/back. What should I do instead of squats? Lunges? Thanks in advance and thanks again for the amazing program!

    • Hey Andria! The newest edition is the spiral edition 🙂

      Nice work on your cut so far. Instead of squats, you can do lunges, split-squats, goblet squats, and the leg press. Hope that helps, and keep it up!

  • Marilyn Griffin

    HI mike,I’m a 58 female I have been lifting heavy for a few yrs. I am 5’6 189lbs stats. Bench 135 squat 165 dead lift 225. I can’t seem to lose the fat I eat Lchf diet. Do you think your program will work for me? Do you have any other advice that might help?

  • Ali


    I started your program about 10 weeks ago. For the first 8 weeks I lifted 4x a week and did cardio 4x a week. I also reversed dieted as I had been undereating for awhile. I started out at 115 pounds with 24% body fat. I gained about 2 pounds when I reverse dieted. 2 weeks ago I started to cut. I have lost no weight on the cut and know that I am not overeating as I track my calories very closely. My body composition may have changed a little, but not much. I am a little more muscular, but still have fat covering the muscle. How should I proceed. I am almost to my RMR of 1250 calories (I am currently at 1300) and can’t fit in any more exercise (4x cardio and 4x weightlifting per week). Do I just need to give it more time or try a different approach? Do I need to reverse diet again? I would really appreciate your advice.



    • Hey Ali, did you RD fully up to your TDEE? Did you recalculate your macro targets?



      How intense is the HIIT cardio?

      • Ali

        I did RD up to my TDEE and held there for 2 weeks. I also recalculated my macro targets. I generally do sprints 1min on/off for 25 min 3x a week and biking with springs 1min on/off 1x a week. My sprints are probably about 70-80% of max.

        • Let’s run through this real quick. You’d be surprised how easy it is to let something slip past:


          • Ali

            Hi Mike,
            The only thing I see that could be happening is that my TDEE calculation is too high. I am counting calories very carefully, measuring body fat and waist as well as weight, lifting 4x week and doing cardio 4x a week. I am almost at my BMR right now. I can see that I have put some muscle on, but I still have the same body fat percentage and have not lost any weight. Any ideas what might be happening? Do I need to reverse diet again?

          • Ali

            I actually seem to be gaining weight while eating fewer calories. Not quite sure what is happening here as my body fat percentages aren’t going down. Perhaps my body is holding onto the fat and my metabolism has slowed?

          • You could be hanging onto water weight as well:


            You dropped from TDEE straight into BMR so soon after the RD? Increase your exercise activity first before you reduce cals. Max out your cardio at 2.5hrs/week and increase the intensity. Throw in some LISS as well.

  • Nicola Elvin

    Hi Mike, we don’t have any calf machines in my gym. Is there any other excercise you’d recommend instead?

    • No problem. You can use the leg press, dumbbells, or a barbell for seated or standing calf raises.

      • Nicola Elvin

        Great thanks for the info :). I’ve been doing a bit of reading and a lot of places say you can’t lose fat and gain muscle at the same time, but your technique seems to say otherwise. Or have I got it wrong? There’s so much info out there, it’s hard to know what to believe and whether I’m understanding it right

  • Angela Hoag

    Hi Mike,

    I don’t have to time or money to get to the gym, however, I have a set of Powerblocks and a weight bench with barbell and weight plates at home. I also have an elliptical and just recently purchased a rowing machine. Can I do your program with what I have? I just had my body comp done at the doctors office and my body fat is at a whopping 46%. I am 5’7″ and 207 lbs. I really would love to get to 20% bodyfat. Can I get there? Thank you.

  • Sue me

    What do you suggest for a beginner that wishes to look more like the toned woman under the “skinny fat” woman? Right now I look more like the “skinny fat” woman with at least twenty pounds extra. I am 5’7” at 135 lbs. I think I honestly have very little muscle development. I have dumbbells and a barbell at home. I started a diet, but it all bounced back after two days of eating during a camping trip. I feel that if I were “doing it right” my weight wouldn’t fluctuate so much. My body seems to want to stay at 140 lbs of pure chubby. I feel that I want to get more healthy, and I am sure that even if I looked “skinny fat,” I would still not achieve a more healthy body.

    I want to get some level of fitness before I attempt the gym. What would you suggest for home workouts? I tried a few and found myself sore for days afterwards. Any advice, please!

  • Anuradha Rao

    Hi Mike,

    I am currently 160 pounds(5’2”). I am a grad student and I really want to lose a lot of fat and gain muscle. What would you suggest I start with and is cardio really going to help me shed weight? Also, I play squash occasionally. How helpful is getting involved in a sport? Any advice, please! Thanks in advance!

  • Rachel

    Thank you so much for all this information. I am a little confused on what my caloric intake and macros should be. I’m 5’6″, 126 lb, and 18% bf. I want to lose fat and gain muscle, but am unsure whether I should be eating to cut or bulk. I am in the gym 5x each week, cardio 1.5 hr each week, and on municipal feet for my job 8 hr/5 days each week.

  • Agnes


    I read your article and I have a few questions on how to proceed 🙂

    First thing is, I don’t have any means of measuring my body fat percentage but comparing myself to pictures I estimate it to be around 22-23% ( I’m 5’2″ and weigh 110.5 pounds, never had any weight problems and I have a slender frame with majority of excess body fat being on the lower part of my belly, butt and a bit on my thighs and upper arms )

    Right now I’m cutting and I would like to reach 18-19% body fat. I work out 6 days a week with 4 days weight lifting ( 2 lower 2 upper ) and on the two remaining days I do some kind of HIIT ( this is the program I mostly stick to when maintaining )
    My question is if I should increase HIIT for the cutting phase? For example: 3 day weightlifting – 3 day HIIT a week, or the current program I’m doing is good enough as it is.

    When I’ll reach the desired BF% I’ll immediately get to bulking. I would like to try out your 5 day program you described above. That will leave just 1 day for HIIT as I can’t fit anymore in due to my other schedules and I would like to take one day off each week to rest. Will that amount of HIIT be enough for the bulking phase?
    Also, concerning ab exercises, are there any alternatives for Captain’s Chair Leg Raise and Cable Crunches?…Since I don’t have access to a gym.

    Thank you for the reply and for the great articles, keep up the good work! 🙂

    • It sounds like you’re doing well with your current plan, so great job!

      I’d stick to what you are currently doing until you reach your goal of 18% body fat. I’m not sure how you’ve calculated your caloric intake, but check this out:


      1 day of HIIT is fine for bulking. Check this out for how to maintain your conditioning, while increasing to bulking calories:


      You can do lying leg raises to replace Captain’s Chair Leg Raises (lie down on the floor and raise/lower your legs with a slow and controlled movement).

      Any weighted crunch variation can replace cable crunches.

      I definitely recommend getting a gym membership, so you can lift heavy and maximize your results!

      Hope this helps!

      • Agnes

        Thank you for the reply Mike, it sure did clear a lot of things up 🙂

        I calculated my intake based on your macronutrient calculator, I set it to 20% deficit and went with 130g P / 130g C / 30g F combination.

        Also, I don’t have access to a gym at all, but I have weights at home: 4 sets of dumbbells and a barbell. I’m also planning to buy another set of heavy dumbbells and more weights for the barbell.
        I’ve been lifting for a while, so now I feel comfortable to use even heavier weights for compound exercises and lower the reps to 4-6, I hope that’s okay 🙂

  • Samantha Persavich

    HI –
    I am 33 years old, 5’4″ 165#. I have about 30% bodyfat and I am currently in a cutting phase. I have been lifting heavy for several years. 240# Back Squat, 300# DL 190# Front Squat. My current focus is competing in Olympic Lifting and leaning out. I have read your book and implemented the diet aspects already but I wanted suggestions on how best to incorporate your weight training with Oly specific training. My current Oly programming is 5 days a week (Sun, Mon, Tue, Thur, Fri). I think It could be modified and still be effective at 3 days to do weight training other days. I have also modified my cardio to your HIIT recommendations and do cardio 3x per week. I think if I do 5 days of Oly and 5 Days of your weightlifting I will be half-assing all of it as the Oly training is difficult by itsself.

    • Hey Samantha,

      You have a few options here, but one would be to do Olympic lifts 3 times per week before your regular BLS workouts. Try to organize your workouts so that the Olympic lifts are hitting the same muscle groups you’ll be training in that workout. For example, if you’re doing clean & jerks, do that right before you do deadlifts. If you have trouble recovering from your workouts, consider cutting back on your total training volume by eliminating a few of the accessory movements from those days as well.

  • May

    Hi! I’m a skinny fat female – 5′ 3″, 110lb, ~ 25% body fat (I’m guessing, from the photo guide on the body composition article). I bought TLS and your fat loss supplements, and I work out 6 – 7 days a week, doing a “bootcamp” group class that consists of 1 hour of cardio and weights (typically 2 sets of each, so 15 minutes per interval). I’ve also restricted my calories to 1200 a day, although I have a “cheat” meal at least once a week, due to social activities. I’m slooowly losing weight, maybe 0.5lb – 1lb a week. I admit, I’m scared of hitting a plateau, because I’m already petite, and I’ve just started (which means this is the “easiest” part – but it’s anything but easy!), so we’ll see … The calorie restriction/counting, in particular, is torturous.

    My question is, after I reach my goal, do I still need to do my bootcamp classes while reverse dieting, and then even after? (I kind of don’t love them … But they seem to be working thus far, and they combine cardio and weights in one, thus making my life simpler.) My wish is to be able to maintain my ultimate weight while trying out other fitness activities, but those fitness activities will most likely be less intense and less frequent than my current exercise regime. In that case, in order to maintain my goal weight, would I basically have to lower my calories?

    Thanks for your help!

    • Hey May, I do recommend working out while reverse dieting and maintaining. I’d highly suggest following a routine like the one mentioned in this article, and adding in the cardio you need to support your weight loss efforts. Losing 0.5-1lb per week is good, especially if you’re new and gaining muscle simultaneously. As long as you can maintain that, stick with that calorie level. If you reach a plateau, you’ll need to increase activity or lower cals. However, your BMR is around 1180, so I wouldn’t eat below that. Check out this article: https://legionathletics.com/body-recomposition/

  • Hélène

    I spent quite a time on your website and bought TLS and I’m about to start the program 🙂 I got a membership at a gym where there is squat rack and everything I need. However, I feel a bit at loss about how to proceed during my first time since I don’t know what is my RM? Any advice?

    • Hey there, honestly it’s just trial and error for your first week or two. As a general rule, for every 5 lbs you add to a dumbbell exercise, you’ll lose 2 reps. The same for every 10 lbs added to a barbell exercise. So if you put 100 lbs on the squat bar and do 10 reps, you should be able to get about 6 reps with 140 lbs.

      Just work with light weights at first and learn the form, and then increase. You’ll get your numbers within a week or two. 🙂

  • xxyy

    Hi 🙂

    I really liked your article, since I am a firm beliver in high intensity training (I really hate wasting my time).
    I was for about 10 years in professional soccer, but I had to quit. Back then I had around 16 % BF. Now, two years later, I am probably between 20% and 22%(8,7 feet / 137lbs). I guess right now I am skinny fat, but I still have muscles and I feel like I gain muscles rather fast. I love sports such as golf, tennis, swimming and climbing which I do 3-4 times a week leisurley.
    As I would prefer to do an actual sport and not to just lift weights, I would like to know if you have any suggestions what kind of sport I could do and with what intensity, to achieve around 18% BF.

    Thanks a lot in advance 🙂

  • Sophie Gates

    I have been doing this now for about 16 weeks I am 2 stone lighter and my shape has changed completely and I am VERY happy with this! But now do I just carry on and on doing this plan?? What is the next stage???
    I am happy to carry on but this really just says 8 weeks and I am on about week 17 consistently upping weights/reps when I can, so I’m just thinking is there something after this ???

  • Natalie Caterina Alickolli

    Hi there! This article looks like its a great way to begin an amazing journey, but do you have any suggestions for someone like me that does not have access to a gym at this time? Is it still possible to achieve the same results at home?

    • Hey Natalie! If you get the right equipment, you could do the workouts at home. All you really need to follow the program is a power cage or multi-press rack for squatting and benching, a barbell with plates, a set of dumbbells (I prefer adjustables), and an adjustable bench. If you want, you can get a utility bench for your Military Press.

      Check this out:


      Really the only limitation you have is not being able to do a few things like lat pulldowns, triceps pushdowns, and captain’s chair leg raises. All can just be substituted for other “approved” exercises, though.

      For instance, barbell rows instead of lat pulldowns, skullcrushers instead of tris pushdowns, more dumbbell or barbell pressing instead of dips, more squats or barbell lunges instead of leg press, and flat bench lying leg raises instead of cap’s chair raises. You can definitely do the program with only free weights.

      If that doesn’t work for you, you also have the option of including bodyweight exercises as talked about here:


      I hope this helps!

  • Samantha Bear Hayward

    Hi!! I am on week 4! I bought your TLS book and love it! My husband and I are doing the 3 day/week cutting routine. My question is, I know I’m getting stronger I can see some changes, but I haven’t lost much weight.
    Should I expect to lose weight or should I be doing something different.
    I’m 5’4 at 150#

  • Michelle Romero

    Hey Mike, thanks so much for writing the book, just finished it on audible and these blog posts are great for getting the info in written form. Loved the book and counting my calories, feel so in control.

    one thing i wanted to clarify around the reps. the first exercise in a workout, it says “3 sets of 4 to 6 reps (8 to 10 reps if you’re new to weightlifting)”

    im not new to weightlifting, so i would then do 4 to 6, as per your guideline.

    but the following exercises in the workout it says “3 sets of 8 to 10 reps”
    so do i do 4 to 6, since i’m not new to weightlifting or do exactly what it says for that exercise?


    • Hey Michelle! Once you feel strong and stable in the 8-10 rep range, you can start incorporating heavier work. What I recommend is using the 4-6 rep range on your main compound lift for the day. So, your squat, deadlift, military press, and bench press will be in the 4-6 range, while the rest of your workout will remain in the 8-10 rep range. Make sense?

      • Michelle Romero

        yep THANKS.

  • A ****

    Hello Mike,
    I am 29 5’6 and at 218lbs HATE my body I have 3 kids born 08,09 & 2010 and my body is so frustrating I’ve been running 2 miles a day for 3 months and I only lost a couple pounds my eating portions are getting smaller but still eat the same UGH!!! my mid section is so bad I have so much loose skin!!! WHAT CAN I DO IT FEELS LIKENOTHING WILL EVER MAKE IT GO AWAY!!!!!????

  • Abby Fereday

    If anyone is interested… I have a facebook group set up specifically for bodyweight workouts you can do from your home. It’s a whole community of women following similar workout plans and sharing together. It’s an awesome way to stay motivated. Most workouts take less than 20 mins a day. The membership is dirt cheap and you get access to daily workouts (programmed at 3 ability levels) + access to fun, community building bi-annual challenges (for a chance at cash prizes) + free or discounted meal plans and nutrition info + more! It’s a steal of a deal, and we’d love to add more ladies to the community 🙂 http://www.abbyfereday.com/workouts-women/

  • Amber Jewell

    I’m 5’8″ female 135 lbs and have been a marathon runner/active for most of my life. In preparation for spring break vacation, I’ve decided to cut the cardio and focus on building muscle mass. I was planning on lifting 5x/week for 3 months with a calorie surplus and cutting for 2 months before the vacation. Everything I’m reading says 3 months of bulking will make very little difference –Any advice? Also, in the time between the vacation in March and summer, should I just maintain and start bulking for 6 months or more starting in August again?

    • Hey Amber! I like to stretch out my bulks as long as possible. This is because I feel like I get in a groove and increase my weights every week. But there’s no reason you can’t bulk for 3 months.

      And yeah, if you reach the level of leanness you want, but don’t want to start bulking until August, you can just maintain. I hope this helps!

  • Sonya Elliott

    This is a great article, I thought Cardio, cardio, cardio! Now I know the importance of weights to transform. My question is I use to workout (most defiently not properly)but I did. Let’s call me skinny fat. What is the best start out weight for dumbells, and using any kind of weight machines? I don’t want to hurt myself, but I don’t want to exhaust my efforts my starting out wrong. Thanks.

    • Hey Sonya! There’s no standard weight or dumbbells to start out with. It’s a matter of finding where you’re at strength-wise and it’s just a bit of trial and error for your first week.

      As a general rule, for every 5 lbs you add to a dumbbell exercise, you’ll lose 2 reps. The same for every 10 lbs added to a barbell exercise. So if you put 100 lbs on the squat bar and do 10 reps, you should be able to get about 6 reps with 140 lbs.

      Just work with light weights at first and learn the form, and then increase. You’ll get your numbers within a week or two. 🙂

      Keep me posted on your progress!

  • Lana

    I love your book, And cookbook too. Thank you for being so thorough with the info. I’m doing workout plan and in 4 weeks I already see lots difference.

    • Hey Lana, that’s great to hear! I’d love to feature you as a Success Story whenever you reach your goal. Shoot me an email if you’re interested: [email protected]

      Keep me posted on your progress!

  • Courtney Tait

    Hi there! I have just a couple of questions.

    1) I see you mention pull-ups and tricep dips in the article but they aren’t listed in the workouts, should they be?

    2) Should I be doing 4-6 reps on all exercises if I am not a beginner? Or is the 8-10 rep set the norm for everyone?


    • Hey Courtney! Good questions 🙂

      Pull ups and dips are great exercises, but in this particular routine they’re optional. If you want to do them, they’d come after the main listed exercises for that muscle group. By the way, I’d suggest the chest variation of the dip (put it after your incline and flat pressing).

      If you’re experienced, you can use the 4-6 rep range on the main compounds (squats, deadlifts, bench, military press), and 8-10 for the other lifts.

      Keep me posted on your progress!

  • LK

    Can you give us the body fat percent of the 2 girls in black with the same body fat percentage (one on the beach in a swimsuit, one who looks like she’s stretching after a run)?? I thought you had to have lower body fat % the more muscle you have in order to look good/not bulky, but this example seems to show the opposite case. Thanks!!

    • They have around the same body fat percentage (somewhere in the 18% to 20% range), but the second one has much more muscle. She’s lean, so she doesn’t look bulky at all.

  • DG

    Hi Mike,

    I just came accross your article and I found it very motivating (much more than others I’ve read) so I am definitely interested in following your plan. I am a 41 year old, 5’4 pre-diabetic female weighing 200# with over 40% body fat. While I am definitely interested in loosing weight my primary goal is to get to a healthy weight to prevent disease.
    I’ll admit that I eat a lot of fast food and as well as frozen meals because it’s just easier. I am also a total couch potato and the only exercise I get is walking my 14 year old dogs which is less that a 1/4 mile (they get tired as fast as I do). While your program seems wonderful, I know I will find it difficult to get started so I am concerned that I won’t have the disipline to stick to it. Do you have any suggestions for me? Any help would be much appreciated. Thanks.

Sign in to Muscle For Life
or use your MFL Account