Muscle for life

The Top 5 Things All Women Need to Know About Working Out

The Top 5 Things All Women Need to Know About Working Out

Here are 5 things all women should know before doing a single workout.


If you’re a woman wanting to get fit, you need to know this first:

Follow the bulk of mainstream diet and exercise advice and you’re going to wind up skinny fat.















Seriously. It’s that cut and dry.

Popular magazines, bloggers, and trainers, as well as clueless men and ridiculous social standards all want you to work and starve your ass off (literally) until you look like a shivery tree brutalized by a hard winter.

  • Heavy weightlifting, they say, is strictly verboten. Unless, of course, your goal is to look like a Minecraft character.
  • Food is basically your enemy, they say. A necessary evil that must be tamed through dietary asceticism.
  • This is your Stair Stepper, they say. There are many like it, but this is yours. It is your life. Without your Stair Stepper, you will be forever flabby.

The bottom line is do exactly as they say and you’ll melt away muscle, sap strength, crash your metabolism, and poleax your hormones.

Well, I don’t want those things to happen to you so I decided to write this article. In it, I’m going to discuss the five most important things women need to know about working out and getting in shape. By the end of it, you’re going to know exactly what you need to do to build a lean, toned, shapely, and healthy body, and what you absolutely don’t want to do and why.

Let’s start with a bang…

Heavy Weightlifting Doesn’t Make You “Bulky”–Being Fat Does

If there’s one lie that causes more harm to women’s physiques than any other, it’s the warning that heavy weightlifting makes you “bulky.”

At first glance, it sounds plausible. Heavy weights are for the boys that want bulging biceps, right? Why would women, who want long, lean, “toned” muscles, train in the same way? Apparent proof of this myth can be found at any local CrossFit box, where you’ll see at least a few women with builds that would make a linebacker jealous.

Well, the first thing you should know it’s very hard for women to build a big, bulky body. It doesn’t happen by accident or overnight. It takes years of intense training and eating to look like a dyed-in-the-wool weightlifter.

Trust me–even if you wanted to get big, bulky muscles, you’d have a hell of a time actually doing it. Men have about 10 to 15 times as much testosterone as women and even we have trouble getting big and bulky. That means it’s damn near impossible for you.

This heavy weightlifting fallacy is so detrimental because heavy weightlifting is actually the only way to get the look most women are after: athletic, tight muscles with curves and lines in the right places.

If this is your goal, you’re going to have to build muscle, and heavy weightlifting is great for doing just that.

The key to building muscle and not “bulk,” however, is staying lean. The more muscle you have, the more you have to pay attention to your body fat percentage.

Take an athletic woman with an enviable body. You know, shapely legs, curvy butt, tight arms, and flat stomach. Add 15 pounds of fat to her frame, however, and you might be surprised how “blocky” she looks.

This is because fat accumulates inside and on top of muscles, and the more you have of both, the larger and more amorphous your body looks. Your legs turn into logs. Your butt gets too big for your britches. Your arms fill up like sausages.

Reduce your body fat levels, however, and everything changes–the muscle you’ve built is able to shine. Instead of looking flabby and malnourished, you look lean and toned. Your butt is round and perky. Your legs have sleek curves. Your arms look defined.

What types of body fat percentages am I talking about, you’re wondering?

If you want that lean, defined, athletic look, you’re going to need to maintain a body fat percentage between 15 and 20%.

I’ve worked with thousands of women and the “sweet spot” for most seems to be around 17 to 18%. This is where they can lift weights and build muscle and look both feminine and fit, and it isn’t so low that health or lifestyle is impaired.

(If you’re not sure how to reliably reduce body fat levels and stay lean, check out this article on meal planning.)

Conquer Your Fear of Food

If you think certain foods make you fat…

If you feel guilty every time you eat carbs…

If you think people that have “cheat meals” just have no willpower

If you think obsessing over eating “clean” is the only way to ever look and feel good…

Then I’m jealous. You get to learn how diet and nutrition really work and have your mind blown.

Imagine this:

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. The end.

My storytelling skills might need some work, but that’s no fairy tale. It’s how millions of women are living their lives, unplugged from the Matrix of mainstream bullshit diet advice, and you can join them right now.

You don’t need an eating disorder to look great. In fact, you can become “that skinny bitch that gets to eat whatever she wants.” You don’t need outstanding genetics, either. Genetic windfall makes it easier for some people to get fit but nobody is genetically doomed.

So, are you ready? Here we go (click on the links to learn more about each point):

Read the articles linked above and put them into practice, and I promise you, your life will be changed.

Want to Kill Your Curves? Do a Ton of Cardio

Be honest: have you ever seen a marathon runner with an impressive body? Probably not.

Sure, you have the outliers, but on the whole, people that do a lot of endurance training look either emaciated and frail or skinny fat.

This is a direct result of their exercise regimen. And it shows you precisely what you don’t want to do in yours.

If you believe sacrificing inordinate amounts of your life to the treadmill is the price you have to pay to look good, allow me to disabuse you of such nonsense.

You see, when it comes to body composition (how much muscle and fat you have on your bones), cardio is a double-edged sword.

It burns energy and thus contributes to your weight loss efforts. It burns up muscle too, though, which detracts from your ultimate goal of building a lean, toned physique because that requires losing fat and not muscle. This is why so many people that focus on endurance exercise like jogging or cycling have very little to show for it in the mirror.

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 used sparingly and properly, I believe cardio is worthwhile. In fact, I actually enjoy it and have been doing 3 to 4 sessions per week for over a year now.

There’s an important footnote, though: each sessions is no more than 25 minutes of high-intensity interval cardio, which is particularly good for maximizing fat loss and minimizing muscle loss.

This simple routine “costs” no more than 1 to 1.5 hours per week and gives me the best of everything cardio has to offer–health benefits, mood enhancement, and accelerated fat loss–with none of the downsides related to muscle loss.

The bottom line is once you know how to diet properly you have no need for long, grueling sweat sessions on the Stair Master every week. Instead, you use relatively short, intense cardio sessions to speed up fat loss and get on with your day.

You Have to Train Like a Man to Look Like a Goddess

You can personify elegance and grace outside of the gym, but if you want to build a killer physique, you need to know how to get down and dirty in your training.

Forget the Barbie weights. Don’t worry about looking cute and don’t give a damn what other people might think. Show up every day with one goal in mind–to build muscle and strength–and give every workout everything you’ve got.

Yeah, that means you’re going to make some ugly faces when you grind out those last few reps. You may even let out a grunt or two. Your hair is going to get messed up and you may want to invest in some good moisture wicking clothing.

That’s how progress is made though. One ugly, shaky, sweaty facial contortion at a time.

Your workout routine itself should be just as rugged. Train like a wimp and you’ll look like a waif.

You want statuesque legs, an “Internet melting” butt, and chiseled abs, you say? Then you need to knock off the BOSU lunges, side bends, yoga poses, and Swiss ball crunches.

Instead, you need to learn to love heavy squatting, hip thrusting, deadlifting, and pressing. These are the exercises that build whole-body strength and shape. These are the exercises that take you from “grizzly” to “goddess.”

If you’re ready to train hard and make real gains, here’s the place to begin:

Thinner Leaner Stronger 2.0 cover

It’s Probably Going to Take Longer Than You Want

We live in the Age of Impatience. People want 6-minute abs, 4-hour workweeks, and 30-second meals.

Know this: building the body of your dreams is going to take longer than the magazines want you to believe.

No, you can’t lose 30 pounds of fat in 30 days. Nor can you reshape your butt or flatten your belly in a week.

Consistent, healthy fat loss is a slow process. You can expect to lose about a pound of fat per week when you know what you’re doing. As you get leaner and are going after the last holdouts of stubborn fat, it slows down to about 0.5 pounds lost per week.

If you’re new to weightlifting, you can gain about 10 pounds of muscle in a year. That may sound like a lot but, depending on your height, it’s not that significant. Many women find they need to gain about 15 to 20 pounds of muscle (and reduce body fat levels) to have the bodies they really want. That takes a few years.

The bottom line is getting fit isn’t for the weak-minded and weak-willed.

You can’t bullshit iron. It doesn’t care about your excuses or justifications. Your body doesn’t either. The only way to undo skipped workouts is to put your ass in the gym and do the work. The only way to overcome screwy dieting is to stop giving yourself the option to screw it up.

You must learn to love the process and embrace the struggle.

If you can face and fully commit to that–to a few years of dedicated work–then you’ve already won half the battle.

Want a workout program and flexible diet plan that will help you get lean, toned, and strong? Download my free no-BS “crash course” now and learn exactly how to build the body of your dreams.


What else should women know about working out? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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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.

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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.

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  • 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!

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    • dr. k

      Fyi most marathon runners are not “skinny fat”. Low body fat yes. But it takes VERY strong legs to train for and carry one 26.2 miles

      • Nate

        Skinny fat is low fat and low muscle. Marathon runners are a sort of ultra low fat variant of this as any Google image search on marathon runners will prove. Impressive and inspiring endurance athletes but, in my opinion, certainly not a body type to strive for.

  • Ivo Naves

    Are the Stairmaster ANY good (for a male)? It seems to be able to provide a way more intense (and shorter) HIIT session than the eliptical or bike, even if strenuous on them quads…

    • Ben Sargent

      Skip the stair master and find some stairs or a hill. My office has 5 stories and running up and down 5 floors for 20 minutes makes for some good HIIT.

    • Probably not the best choice for your knees. I prefer biking or rowing…

  • Lisa

    Thank you Mike for you all your awesome advice. I just finished reading Thinner Leaner Stronger, and was extremely impressed with the wealth of information provided. I have a few questions I would like to ask…
    Firstly, I currently use MyFitnessPal to track my calories, what are your thoughts on this app? Secondly, although I think I have been doing a great job at sticking to my calorie goal, I still think I would like to try your meal plan. My question though is, would the different Legion products be incorporated in the meal plan? Lastly, I am currently part of the womens boot camp, where we meet 3 days/week. The exercises are both cardio and weights, with a different workout routine each day. In my plan set out for TLS, I decided to do the three day split. Do you think this would be an overload?

    Thanks much for your time.

    • Thanks Lisa! I really appreciate it.

      MFP is good but you have to set custom macros on their site.

      Yes we can work supplements into the meal plans but we don’t “hard sell” them. If people want to take supplements, we can help. If not, no problem.

      I would say yes 5 days of TLS PLUS that is too much but you could probably swing 3 days of TLS and 3 days of it…


      • Lisa

        Thanks Mike! I started the “3 day” routine, today. I think it works best with my schedule for now, being a part-time grad student and full time auditor.

        I signed up for the meal plan yesterday and I can’t wait to see some results.

        Thanks again.

        • Great! Let me know how it goes! We’ll take good care of you with the meal plan! 🙂

  • Maria M. Castillo

    Hey Mike,
    Thanks for this article

  • Pingback: The Top 5 Things All Women Need to Know About Working Out | georgeherman205()

  • Zahra Ayubi

    Thanks for all the great info Mike and for backing it all up with research. I’ve been following your guide and meal plan for about 6 months now and love it. I used to be one of those ‘2 hours of cardio a day and starving myself’ women. I love lifting heavy and eating well and have been converting all the women in my life as they see me get leaner and fitter rather than big and bulky. More than just the physical aspect, this style of training feeds my mind and soul too 🙂 I’ll never go back to any other way! I hope you never stop educating.
    PS I am really really looking forward to seeing material from you about training and eating through pregnancy 🙂

    • YW! Really glad to hear you’re doing so well! Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

      I will add that to my list!

  • Karen

    I am in a similiar situation as Lisa who posted yesterday. I lead a workout group 2 times a week and I love to run. I started lifting a couple of years ago with P90X and have seen nice muscle gains. I just finished reading TLS and I am excited to try this new lifting routine. My frustration lies with my goal of wanting to look more sculpted. I have my own body fat callipers and measure myself at 17%, yet I am not happy with the definition on my body. I am now starting to gauge my macronutrients but I have a hard time getting over 1300 calories a day. Advice?

  • Christian

    Always on point, Mike. Love it!

  • Maria M. Castillo

    Hey Mike, I want to know if I can take my Phoenix with Dong Quai( chinese root used to regulate hormones). I don’t want to stop taking my Phoenix, thoughts?…..

  • Gabriel Cortez

    Just bought TLS for my wife. I keep telling her what she needs to do but I think it will mean more coming from you, lol.

  • Emily Anne Robidoux

    Im sort of a novice to lifting and I’m trying to gauge how my strength stands against the “average” woman to see where my weaker lifts are to work on those. If I’m calculating the percentage of my body weight that I’m using for a lift, should I use the weight of my lean body mass, or my total mass?

    For example: I weigh 140 and have a 100lb lean body mass. My working weight for deadlifts is 185 so that would be 185% or 139%. Which one should be used?

    • Use your body weight because that is a better reflection of overall fitness (the goal is to be strong AND lean).

  • Kristen

    As always, great advice! That model at the very beginning of the article did not get those muscles lifting that light of a weight 🙂 I do have a question about potassium. I’ve been tracking mine in myfitnesspal and I’m way under almost every day (like over 2,000 mg shy of my goal of 3,500). I’d like to see if supplementing would help with water retention. Does it matter what form of potassium (citrate/gluconate) or brand/company? I try to buy quality supplements, but it seems that the reputable companies only have 99 mg in theirs while the more inexpensive brands have 550 mg. I need 2,000 more a day to make my 3500 goal–99 mg isn’t going to cut it :/

  • Awesome article Mike 🙂

  • Brian Dungey

    Hey mike, I like your articles and your books. You break down the “science” and information so anyone can get it.

    I showed this article to my gf and her first question was “if I’m supposed to lift heavy to look like the girl at the top of the article, why is that girl lifting a 5lb weight” lol. I had a hard time explaining fitness models and pictures vs what she needed to do to actually look like that. Just food for thought on some of what I think are silly little details but it made her think twice.

    Thanks for writing,

    • Thanks Brian!

      Hahah that’s just a stock photo. 😉 That girl did NOT get her body lifting tiny weights. 🙂

  • Doug

    Hi Mike,

    My wife and I are both in our 50’s. We’ve found that it takes us longer to recover along with a few other caveats that make age a real factor in how we work out. We would love it if you would address age a bit more in your articles. We find ourselves guessing a bit, not knowing if the advice is for 20-40 yr olds or if they apply to us too. We are in pretty good shape. Doing 5×5’s, eating plenty of protein etc. but we get so sore sometimes that we have to take a couple of weeks off. Then when we start again, we have to back off the weight and by the time we get back to our last high point, we have to stop again. Seems to be a ceiling we keep bouncing off of in terms of weight in our lifts…
    Thanks for addressing however you think appropriate.

    All the best,


    • Carol

      I’m also in my fifties, and would like to build more lean muscle and reduce body fat, so I’m really interested in your response to Doug.

    • Hey Doug,

      Yes more recovery time is needed as you age. That said, you can still train very hard and do well. I have quite a few people in their 50s kicking ass on my programs. Like you they just need to deload a bit more often.

      Check this out:


  • Kayla Danielle

    i enjoyed this! i agree with it completely. is it too mcuh to do 5-6 hiit sessions a week? (treadmill sprints) 20-30 minutes depending on the day. I lifet 5x a week based on your book and im eating about 1600 calories a day (5’2″ 106lbs). Ive been doing this for about 3 weeks. previously i was doing cardio 2x a day and lifting and eating only 1400 with binges eeeek. Im just curious as to if this is still too muc cardio? i dont want to lose muscle, but i also dont wnt to gain fat. i would like more learn muscle….

    • bregje

      Hey Mike,
      This article is just coming for me in time as wel, so thanks, it is good motivation! One question about cardio en lifting. How much time would you recommend to keep minimally in between the 2 sessions?
      Thanks, Bregje

    • Thanks! It may be. It would be for me but I also lift weights 4 to 5 x per week.

      Check this out:


      • Kayla Danielle

        I lift 5x a week as well. I’ve read your article, and i suppose im just wondering if this extra cardio will negatively impact my lifts, or if i stop doing a couple hiit sessions, will i gain fat? If i keep my food the same.

        • Too much cardio will get in the way of lifting, yes. Personally I would limit to 3-4 HIIT sessions per week and just reduce food intake accordingly…

  • Emily

    This is great as usual Mike. I already ready the first edition of TLS and I’m in the middle of the second edition right now. I always learn something new when I take another look. This book really helps me tune out all the other fitness noise. Thanks for doing you.


  • Charlotte Grøftehauge

    Hi Mike.
    Again you are spot on. I have been lifting for a little over a year now and even though I felt like a fish out of water in the beginning I now love the heavy lifting ❤️. And the guys at my gym no longer ask me if I need help with the weights because they know I train just as hard and serious as they do.

  • Erika

    I am a bikini competitor in my 40s. My first competition, I am pretty sure I ruined my metabolism. I lost all 4 pounds of muscle I had just put on and vowed to never do it again. I am just under a month from my competition and things seem to have stalled. I don’t want to lose precious muscle and I read that you said that cortisol doesn’t make you fat, but what if cortisol levels are high, is it possible they can stall progress? I am also probably in menopause and I know the body does everything it can to hold on to fat. My macros I am working off of are 40% Protein, 35% Carbs, 25% fat. I eat about 1,700-1,900 calories per day. I am 129 pounds and I estimate about 17-18% bodyfat. I workout 6 days per week with 4 heavy lifting and 3 cardio (I burn 400-600 calories per session). I have about 5-7 meals a day. How would you change what I am doing to kick start my progress?

  • SLennon

    “That’s how progress is made though. One ugly, shaky, sweaty facial contortion at a time.” Lol, I love this quote!!! I bought your book & couldn’t put it down! I had my second baby 7 months ago & I’m just starting to lift heavy after reading your book. I have a lot of weight to lose, (60 lbs!) & recently had a very high body fat percentage- on the verge of obesity 🙁 so embarrassing to admit it but I’m doing something about it. Im also using your method of macro counting- low carbs. My question is, do I just keep on lifting heavy & adding hiit to my exercise routine to get all the excess body fat off or should I focus more on HIIT cardio?

  • meredith

    Hey! I’m a die hard workout-A-Holic with little gains over the years so I’m new to TLS and learning so much! My question is, I regularly use MyPlate to track my calories, fat, carbs, and protein. It also tracks my workouts, and subtracts those calories from my daily total. So when my goal is around 1450 calories, I take in more than that with these calculations. Is that wrong? Should I not subtract my workout calorie from my daily total? Confused!

    Thanks so much!! Love the books!

  • Julie

    Another 50 year old here. I’ve lost 19 pounds in the last 8 weeks and I have 35 to go before I meet my first goal (starting weight 212). I’m very concerned about muscle loss and my weight loss coming to a screeching halt, and also injury. I’ve read TLS. Although I’m intimidated by the weight lifting routine as I’ve never done that before, I’m doing to give it a shot (probably with the help of a personal trainer at the beginning). I’ve upped my protein intake and my calories (from 1200 to 1500) following your recommended formulas. Yesterday, I had a protein shake with plenty of fruit before I did HIIT followed by yoga and that seemed to keep my energy up for the 1 1/2 workout. I was thinking of doing that 3 days a week and then doing the weights on the 3 other days. Then one day of rest. Does this seem like a good routine? I still feel like the calories are a bit high for someone with 40% body fat but I’m trusting that I’m going to gain muscle and will need the extra energy from those calories for the process of gaining muscle. Appreciate your advice.

    • I like what you’re doing. That calorie intake may be a little low but if you have a lot of fat to lose, you can get away with it.

      I think you’re going to do well. Keep me posted.

  • ankita

    Hi mike..a really nyc article for d fairer sex from ur side!!just want ur advice.as mostly females tend to gain fat in lower body,Wats d best way exercise + diet to lose stubborn fat from dis area.anything specific we cud do.I.knw spot reduction is a myth..

  • Jules

    Hi mike, I weigh 140 lbs and I think I have about 100 lbs of lean mass. I’m 5’6… How much weight should expect to lose each week? 2 lbs? If I follow your plan, would My goal be to lose the fat first and then gain muscle? Or would both be possible? I weight train for 5 days a week and do light cardio for about 25 min (walking uphill) 4 days a week. I used to weigh 115 and I still didn’t have the muscle definition I had hoped for. Thanks!

    • Great! 1 to 2 lbs per week yes. As you get leaner it slows down to about 0.5 pounds per week.

      If you’re new to weightlifting then yes you can build muscle and lose fat at the same time:


      • Jules

        Thank you. I’m very new to weightlifting. Here’s to hoping I can gain some nice lean mass. I should just make sure I get about 140-150 g of protein correct? And I’d be able to lose 20 lbs in 4 to 5 months if I’m losing about 4-5 lbs a month? Or should I expect it to take longer than that ? Thanks again. I like lifting, but I get impatient because I feel flabby at this weight. Definitely not going to give up though!

        • YW! You definitely can. Yes that’s correct on protein and fat loss. 1 pound per week is a good goal.

          • Jules

            How about carbs? I’ve restricted them before because I find that extra carbs(not vegetables, I eat a lot of low GI ones) have made me gain fat. Even adding a piece of Ezekiel bread has caused my weightloss to stall. What would be an appropriate amount for me? I’ve seen 140g recommended, but it seems awfully high. Should I try 80-100g gluten free? I might be gluten sensitive, but I’m not sure. Can I keep protein at 140-150g?

          • Jules

            Thanks. Also, what about body fat percentage vs weight loss?

            Let’s say I lose those 20 lbs in five months(if I’m weight training 4-5 times per week for about 60 min each session &Keeping protein levels high) can most of it be from fat? I really want to avoid losing the little muscle I have and I want to add more.

            Hope this isn’t too confusing….Can I expect to go from around 26-27%bf at 136lb to about 118lbs with 15%bf or is that reaching too far? (Or would 17-18% bf at 120lbs be the expected number at that new weight? )

          • Definitely. Water and glycogen will come out as well but you should lose very little actual muscle tissue.

            I’m not sure if you can do that in one go. More likely is hit 18-20%, then reverse diet, then make the run for super lean.

  • Kimbo

    This is the best article I have read about women’s fat/weight loss – and I’ve read A LOT! (Bravo)
    My biggest recommendation to any ladies wanting to start this new life style is measure your body fat % everytime you step on the scales! I’m lucky enough to have a body fat machine at work (but most gyms will have them) so I’m able to do it first thing in the morning alongside my weigh in. It’s more difficult to stay motivated if you don’t see results, and you can’t always see results on the scales alone. I’ve been following my macro’s and workout plan for almost 5 weeks now, and lost 2lbs in that time (I can’t count the amount of times it’s gone up and down!) but my body fat percentage has gone from 24% to 19% (based on my weight, that’s over 5lbs of pure fat loss!). Although I can definitely tell the difference in the mirror, I really don’t think I’d be so motivated to continue if I hadn’t been able to see the digits dropping and my hard work paying off 🙂
    PS. If you’re experiencing the same water retention as me, there’s a great article on here about how to combat it!

  • Louise Warburton

    Hi I have been following you thinner leaner stronger for around 6 months now- and loving it!!
    I’ve had a major op on my foot and 3 months down the line I’m still not able to do squats, dead lifts or cardio!

  • Mike

    Great article. Will share with some of my lady friends.

  • Mike

    By any chance do you have any articles on crossfit? Judging by your books i can assume your not a fan.

  • col

    If you don’t make a decent macronutrients/calorie counter app for android soon I’m going to be so mad at you. Lmao! I’m new at this but I’m all in. P90X has me skinny fat. I’m around 116lbs. 22% body fat. 5″3. I almost miss being 130lbs. At least I had an ass! I did this for 7 weeks. About half way through. Then, there was thinner, leaner, stronger. I have the book, the year challenge, and the shredded chef. Thanks Amazon!!! I have my man convinced and we are going to invest in a home gym with in the week. Great! I haven’t touched my workouts because I am exhausted and weak. I’m a LMT by professionals and I can tell I’m totally falling away. Aside from 60 plus minutes of cardio 3 times a week and crazy reps the other 3 days… (crazy)… I have zero appetite now. I sleep like crappola. And I’m drinking so much coffee just to keep up with my 6 year old. This just won’t do. So, if I had a decent app I feel like it would take the leg work out of fixing my BMR. Just adjusting as I go from there. The apps I downloaded always aim too high. I can never adjust for just what I need. Sorry if I’m being cranky and demanding. It’s the lack of sleep, over working, and lacking of proper nutrition. Please just make it and save my life. 🙂 Thank you.

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  • Sunny

    Hi Mike. I’m new around here and just have a quick question for you….
    I am a female training based on plans in ‘TLS’. I will be in a hotel for a month that basically has an elliptical and treadmill as well as one of those ‘all-in-one’ pulley type machines for strength training (ugh, can’t do much on those). If I continue my current cardio HIIT schedule and just continue strength training by doing bodyweight exercises will that carry me until I can get back into a gym with free weights? I’ve been searching and there aren’t any gyms within reasonable driving distance. *frustrated*

    • Welcome! 🙂

      Damn. Yeah hotel gyms are basically useless haha.

      If isn’t at all workable to get to a gym, then the bodyweight routine will do. Check this one out:


      I’d stick to maintenance cals while doing this too.

      • Sunny

        Mike, thank you for such a quick response and for being so communicative with forum members/questions. I appreciate the tips and *sigh* I WILL endure haha!

        Best 🙂

        • YW! I’m happy to do 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.

  • Toni

    True about building some muscle takes a few years. I’ve been lifting weights for about 5 years now, and I’m just starting to be satisfied with my overall look. It definitely took a lot longer than I expected to really see a difference in my overall look.

  • AJS

    Hi Mike! I love reading your articles, especially this one. I’m very new to lifting and reverse dieting and am trying to gain as much information on it as I can. I’m 24yo, 165 pounds, and 5’8”. I don’t necessarily care about my weight but I want to look strong! I played volleyball and soccer in HS and still have some left over muscle, but I can for sure see how my college years added fat! I generally stay between 1,800 and 2,000 calories a day and am trying to get more protein and a little less carbs and fat. I’ve also started lifting weights four times a week for about an hour each session. I’m just wondering if I’m going in the right direction. The reverse dieting “math” is still a bit confusing to me (I try to follow your 80% 20% idea) and I want to make sure I’m not gaining fat or verging on skinny fat either! I want muscle! Thanks!

    • Happy to hear you’re enjoying the articles!

      Cool on everything you’re doing. You’re definitely on the right track.

      The next and key step is the diet. I recommend setting up a meal plan, but you need to figure out what you’re trying to do. Get leaner, build muscle or maintain.

      Once you decide, you can use this to set up the cals and macros:


  • Sam

    “One ugly, shaky, sweaty facial contortion at a time.”
    lol. Erryday

  • Morgan Whitlock

    I am trying to improve my body composition – decrease fat %, gain muscle. I wondered if it is detrimental to replace some lifting workouts with plyometric workouts (lots of box jumps, burpees, squat-jumps, etc. + pull-ups, calf-raises daily)

    My current regimen is:
    1 5K/week
    2 days of interval training or
    1 day interval and 1 day 2.5Ks for time
    2-3 days of weight training (on which I like to do plyo)
    1 2-a-day halfway through the week

    • Hey Morgan!

      Cool on what you’re doing. Personally I wouldn’t replace lifting with plyo but I would do both.

      Many people lift and then do their plyo after or lift on certain days and do plyo on others.

      Check this out BTW:


      It may help you!

      • Morgan Whitlock

        Thank you for the link! After reading several of your articles this past week, I did the math on how I should eat, & my brother has introduced me to my first heavy lifting.

        I have a question concerning this statement in the article: “Your body must now shift to “fat burning mode” to survive while it waits for its next meal.”

        In other reading, I learned the body uses glycogen (carbs) stores to fuel the body. After these stores are depleted (up to an hour after the meal?) the body doesn’t break down fat – which apparently doesn’t have as much potential energy as protein, and is harder to break down. According to this other source, the body breaks down protein/muscle for energy…

        Is this misinformation? Or is it a different function altogether?

        Four years beyond any consistent athletic training, I’m trying to train and eat smart after a year of bad habits.

        • Great!

          That’s not true.

          Check this out:


          • Morgan Whitlock

            Thanks! So what I gathered is that the body does cannibalise muscle at upwards of 50% during gluconeogenesis, but only after 16+ hours. That’s good to know! (Though it didn’t mention percentages preceding 16 hours)

            This is all very helpful! I’m gaining direction. Though I doubt I’ll take on IF in the foreseeable future, I’ve received priceless insights on the systems of the body and how to sustain them!

          • Yeah it leads up to that. Glad you liked the article!

  • Mo Zuks

    Hi Mike,
    I have been following the program in your book now for almost a year and I feel like i am ready to up the weight and move to the 4-6 rep range. I am just confused- should I be doing all of the sets in this range now? For ex- I would do 3 working sets of 4-6 reps for each exercise or should I still be doing it some in the 8-10 range?

    • Great! Let’s move to the 4-6 rep range on the following exercises:


      Military Press

      Bench Press


      All other exercises you can stick to the 8-10 rep range.

      LMK how it goes!

  • Christina Crawford

    Hi Michael,

    I purchased your book Bigger, Leaner, and Stronger and your workout journal for men. I have really enjoyed not having to think to much about what I need to do at the gym and love that I am keeping track of the weight I am lifting.

    I am at 16% body fat and am feeling, after 4 weeks, that I may be needing more leg work. Is this a common thing for women? I am definitely seeing results in my upper body but not as much in my lower body, which is where i need it more. Is the women’s workout plan the same as the one that you have written for men?

    Thanks for taking the time out to reply! Of course everyone asks me what plan I am doing ( because of the book I carry around on the floor…can’t wait for your app) and I am definitely singing your praises!


    • Thanks for picking up my books! Glad you’ve been enjoying the routine! However, for women, I recommend TLS:


      TLS has more focus on the legs as well. 🙂

      My pleasure! Check it out and LMK what you think.

      Thanks for all the support, and I’m excited for the app too, believe me!

      Shooting to release it in April. Stay tuned!

  • Roz Blahaha

    You have no idea how much this helps. I get the weirdest looks in the gym, the only girl in the free weights and barbells section. I’m out of shape, over 30, and have been trying the cardio/starvation route for years. All it has done is plateau me and leave me exhausted and hungry (at 800 calories a day, man!). I’ve been following your 40/40/20 and started compound lifting for 2 weeks now. I’m eating more than I have in at least 6 years, feeling much better, and dropped 4lbs so far. Every time I’m on your page, I find some new bit of info I wish I’d known when I started trying to get fit.

    • Happy to hear it, and great job on the results so far! That’s what proper training and dieting will do for you. 🙂

      Keep up the good work and 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.

  • BW

    Hi Mike,
    I am a 19 year old female playing college softball. I am 170 pounds, 5’11. We workout and lift at college obviously at the D1 level, but summertime is where I can work even more and come back with an even better body. I can front squat 140 max, bench press 110 max, but sadly cannot do pullups without help. You can see a little bit of my abs, but they are a little masked by some belly fat, and I also have thicker thighs. I really need advice on how to get 5 things achieved:
    1. 4 pack abs (toned stomach)
    2. thinner thighs
    3. even muscular arms (toned and noticeable)
    4. lost weight hopefully to around 150
    5. able to do 10-15 pull-ups without help

    Thanks and I really appreciate advice Mike!


  • Marianela Pereyra

    Cardio is great for toning up fast. Thanks for these awesome tips =)

    • HIIT Cardio, especially.

      No need to slave away for hours on a treadmill!

  • Madelyn


    I loved this article. I’m a young adult Musical Theatre performer, which means I do a lot of traditional Musical Theatre dance, Tap dance, Ballet, Hip-Hop, and stretch exercises. I have some muscle, and I’m not overweight (I’m 5’3 and 115 pounds,) but I would love to know how to add to that dance training (which would be considered strength and cardio?) to tone up my thighs, calves and stomach a bit, and get a little more of a leanly muscular physique.

    Thanks in advance!

  • Bridget M.

    I just started the TLS 5 day lifting plan for women as well as a custom meal plan. I was eating limited carbs but the meal plan has me increasing that which is fine. However after 4 days of lifting (yep, I’m sore) and 2 sessions of HIIT, I feel HUGE and fat. I’ve actually gained a couple of pounds. I’m not freaking out yet because I just started but is this normal?

    • Hey Bridget, that’s great you’re on the program and the meal plan. About two pounds in just 4 days? Some fluctuation is normal, and a lot has to do with consistency of when you are taking your measurements.. For example before vs after meals, before vs after bathroom, or even drinking a lot of water can make quite a difference.

      There’s no way to gain that much fat in 4 days, rest assured. Stay the course, and you will see weight starting to drop. I also recommend not only daily weight tracking, but also weekly bf% and waist measurements.

  • Nina

    Can I email you if I have questions about how to train so it fits me??

  • Maria

    Hello, thanks for the great article! Right now i’d call myself skinny fat with around 25-30% body fat. Based on your conclusions, does it mean it is going to take me years to get a toned and flat stomach?

    • YW! Not at all. You can get a toned flat stomach in just a few months provided that you follow the program exactly and consistently.

  • Lisa Skidmore

    I’m a 52 year old woman, probably 35 pounds overweight. I have been “trying” to run for over 10 years and done various classes that I haven’t stuck at, although my favourites have been kettlercise and boxercise. Is it too late for me to start your program?

  • faeze

    hi, i’m a 21 years old girl, i am in a good shape but not the one i want, i am 54 kg and 167 cm i do resistence workout 3 times per weak as well as 4 times cardio , i have a little lower belly and a little fat on my inner thighs, i want a muscular body, so here is my question i don’t know now i have to take extra calorie and build muscle or decrease calorie and lose fat!!! i mean if i take extra calorie and build muscle can i get rid of my little lower belly and have sixpack or i need to lose fat?

    • Hey there! To get rid of the lower belly fat, you have to cut first. I recommend cutting to 20%, then bulking to 25% before cutting back down again. Repeat as many times as necessary to reach your goal.

      If you take in extra cals now, you will not get rid of the lower belly. A surplus will only add fat (along with muscle).

      • faeze

        thanks for answering🌹 it was really usefull

  • Tanya

    A few questions: Can you recommend some HITT cardio options that are easier on the knees, back, and hips? Also, what are your thoughts on cutting calories? I’m 5’9″, 155 lbs, and I’d like to lose a bit of fat. I’m aiming to eat 150 grams of protein per day, add more veggies, and keep carbs around 100-112 grams per day. I usually eat around 1500 – 1600 calories a day (before exercise). I did some high-intensity weights with cardio bursts (a few years ago), and I saw great results from that. I really toned up and slimmed down. I’m working on upping my weights and stepping away from the elliptical. Does that all sound good? Any else to keep in mind? Also, I use cardio for stress management. Getting my heart rate up is so important to my well-being.

    • No problem, Tanya. You can try the rowing machine and the recumbent bike.

  • Monika

    Hello Mike, I have a few questions. First, it was my new year’s resolution to lose weight and i did over the course of the first few months but then I hit a plateau, my question is how do I get over the plateau? Second, although I lost weight and my body changed, my body fat percentage did not. This really confused me. I dieted and worked hard, but no change. What could be the cause of this? Third, I see in the article, you mentioned that to get the lean look one will have to be in the 15-20% body fat range, is this range for everyone, because I feel that it may not be the case for me. Some information about me is, I am 22, 149 lbs, and 5 feet. I know I am big for my height, but I am pretty muscular.

  • Jessica Outdoors

    Awesome article; more women need to know this!!

  • ann

    Hi Mike!
    im trying to improve SHAPE. i started out skinny fat at 105lbs and 5″3 and now 118 pounds at around 21% body fat. what i want is to be the same “size” but firm and toned and muscular and fit. before i was very skinny but everything jiggled.
    my question is: i was training 5 days a week but would train the same areas sometimes back to back or with only one day in between. i started to feel that my shape only changed with more days in between. so i decided to shift from 5 days a week tackling almost everything, to lower body one day, back one day, arms and shoulders one day, then back to legs, etc. is this a better approach or should i be doing full body workouts everyday like i was?

  • souka

    hey loved your article!! i have a question, i’ve been training for almost a year in fitness i’ve made some gains but not enough for me, i want to add size to my glutes, i’ve tried bulking i train SO HARD and heavy (3 times a week only legs) but still not eating enough cuz im scared of gaining fat, and sometimes i still look bloated and i feel horrible cuz i dont eat much but still looking like i hold fat PLZ PLZ HELP!!!

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