Heavy Weights Low Reps

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I don’t have much time to post today, but I received an email from a girl just the other day, and she mentioned jumping back into Crossfit after resting and refeeding for about a month.  Not good.  She experienced major insomnia as so often happens when doing really grueling exercise, which seemed to only worsen as she continued. 

Research and ideas I came across touting the benefits of high intensity interval training managed to seduce me a couple of years ago.  While it may be true that higher intensity exercise (like Crossfit or HIIT) yields certain benefits, the fact of the matter is that really hard, grueling exercise has some negatives too – and I just don’t find it very sustainable.  There’s only so many times that you can realistically motivate yourself to face a bout of exercise at your absolute cardiopulmonary threshold.  Even Dr. Mercola who had great results with it and began eagerly sharing information about it, eventually found that he couldn’t keep up with the routine. 

Needless to say, in the new Diet Recovery that I’m currently finishing up, there is no talk of “MAXercise,” or pushing yourself to such an intense and uncomfortable place.  Rather, there is a focus on sustainability with exercise, and finding the minimum effective dose of exercise to continually make progress.  The combination of progress and sustainability is what actually takes someone to a really high level of strength and fitness and keeps them there – done with the minimum amount of wear, tear, struggle, and strain, which is even more important for someone with a history of a low metabolism and major dietary and weight cycling stresses than it is for an abnormal person. 

If you are looking for a safe, but productive form of exercise to do while following the rest and refeeding strategies lined out in Diet Recovery, or when you feel like you are done with that phase, or even just in general if stumbling across this post through a Google search, try heavy weights with low reps.  Do a basic few exercises with a weight that is really hard for you to move – just a few reps, or even just holding the heavy weight in place (static holds/contractions). 

In a 30-minute workout or less, without even getting winded, and doing it as infrequently as once every week or two, you can gain tremendous strength over time.  Interval training is time efficient as well, but it’s just too damn draining and grueling.  Doing heavy weightlifting with low reps?  Piece of cake, even more time efficient, and even more productive.  You can literally increase you strength by 50% or more in a year without ever getting out of breath. 

This isn’t the only physical activity people should do of course.  We should all spend time on our feet, moving around, playing and enjoying life in physical ways.  But for those wanting to do some real training, and like that kind of thing, a sustainable and effective strength training program is a great thing to prioritize.


  1. First!! And just what I wanted to hear!

    • Ohhhhhh great! I have been resting and trying to get my body temp up so I decded to try your “MAXercise”. Well, last night I had to urinate like a thousand times, worst sleep of my life, woke up in the middle of the night and literally could not sleep. This morning, i haven’t moved from my chair and am eating for heat and i’ve been able to pull up the temp just a tiny bit. I took two steps forward and two steps back i believe. Learned the hard way I guess…:( Can’t wait to read the second version as I have been playing around with it for about two weeks now and am just stunned.

      • That’s why I’m taking the time to rewrite this book. It has mistakes. Big ones.

        • How many more BIG mistakes are we talkin….:) And when does the new edition come out?

        • Matt, that’s why you need to give this update FREE to those who purchased the original version. I know 99 cents is almost nothing, but it is a matter of principle….

          • It’s not an update. It’s a completely different book rewritten from scratch. It just happens to have the same title. Originally I was going to title it something different. I still might, at least call it Diet Recovery 2.

  2. Only hitting the gym once every week or two? Makes a gym membership sound less appealing to a poor college student. I think I’ll just find some heavy rocks and leave those in my backyard.

    • I tend to get day passes these days- it may end up being pricier than a yearly membership ($10 once a week or so versus a few hundred bucks/year), but I like the flexibility it offers, and when I’m traveling or just not in my neighborhood I have options that usually cost about the same, so that’s an incentive.

    • You can do other things there. I have a free gym at the apartment complex I just moved to. I go in there and horse around at least a couple times a week, and then go in an do some real lifting once a week at the big gym. $38/month for the membership, so that’s almost $10 a workout. Cheaper than yoga, lol.

    • Check Craig’s list – I made a deal with someone selling an entire set of Olympic lifting supplies. I got well over 200# plus a nice barbell for $100. Being that I’m a small female, I will probably never max out with the weight supply I have. $100 is one month at a gym for some people…

  3. Can’t wait to get re-started with exercise once my temp is up and stable. :). The low rep/heavy weight philosophy is always what worked best for me. I’m trying out the static holds been I get back to the gym

  4. Really…interesting!

    I have been ignoring MAXercise for the last few months, favoring sleep and a regular ol’ trip to the gym to lift weights (the typical 10 or less reps for 3-4 sets, doing 5-10 different lifts total). Good idea? Bad idea? It feels good to me, so I’ll probably just do it if it “sounds good”, you know?

    As for energy and sprints: we were hiking the other day and on an uphill part I did 3 sprints as outlined in DR (30 seconds sprinting until I’m gonna barf, then recover completely between sprints). Good idea? Bad idea? I like doing sprints, but not 2-3 times a week. More like this: if I’m getting a lot of sleep and have a lot of energy, then if I WANT to do that 2-3 times a week, I do. If not, I let it slide until I feel like it again.

    Since you seem to advocate intuitive eating, intuitive sleeping, perhaps we are now getting into intuitive exercise?! :D

    • Sounds fine to me. I think sprints can be very exhilirating when you are truly feeling it. But it doesn’t take long to go from excitement to dread when doing interval training frequently, or something similarly grueling.

      • That’s exactly what I started noticing. It was feeling like “damn, I gotta do my list of healthy things…” and sprints were on there. Glad I caught myself and just stopped unless I really wanted to. I’m only committed to this if I am excited about moving around.

      • I think you’d be a lot better off joining a local pickup soccer or Ultimate league or something, if you wanted to sprint regularly, rather than just forcing yourself to sprint for no reason. Sprinting down the street with no goal or purpose is really fun, like, twice. Then it sucks. Sprinting after a frisbee to score a point for your team never gets old.

        These days I’m really more into modifying my lifestyle so that my natural motivations and desires end up causing me to exercise as a side effect, rather than scheduling “workout time” and following plans, which I find very demotivating.

        • Very true. I’ve been meaning to get back into a team sport, and I really love playing ultimate frisbee when I get the chance. I have joked for a while now that it’s the only time I like to run. Because it’s not about the running: it’s about movement and the game. It’s fun!

          And I never sprint down the street. That’s super boring. But I do seem to get the hankering whenever we are hiking. It just hits me: time to run up a frickin mountain!

  5. For people beginning to lift:

    1) Crossfit is for hipsters. (“hipster” is presently one of the nastiest things I can call a person). If you want to be an over-trained douche-bag and impress people with your Vibrams and Fendi workout suit, go to Crossfit. If you want to get strong, find another solution.

    2) Unless you can find a real “gym”, best to workout at home. Physical Fitness centers (or whatever the hell they are called) are filled with people to distract you. Your not going to get any stronger, leaning on the squat rack listening to Janet bitch about her boyfriend. They are also filled with a lot of pretty equipment (machines) that will give you the illusion of building strength. Here’s a good rule of thumb. If the bathrooms are really pretty, if the walls are not grimy, if they don’t allow you to use chalk, if they don’t allow you to deadlift, if there aren’t any stains on the floor from where somebody has puked after pulling a heavy lift, THEN RUN LIKE HELL, because it ain’t a real gym, it’s a beauty parlor.

    I used to train at the world-famous Sports Palace in San Francisco. It was a real shit-hole to look at, but the guy who owned it had been the US Olympic Coach for Weightlifting 2 or 3 times. If you asked him for help with your deadlift, he would and never ask a cent for it. It always had one of the top teams in the country. It was nothing for some past Olympic great, like Tommy Kono to come strolling in. Now THAT was a gym. I can guarantee you TODD, your personal trainer at your Pretty Gym would have got laughed out of the place or got his ass kicked.

    2) Learn how to do the lifts. Learn from a Powerlifter or somebody who knows the Olympic lifts. MOST, not all, Personal Trainers (PT) at your gym don’t know what the hell they are doing. They are either going to have you doing douche-bag lifts, like the triceps kickback or, if they do show you some good lifts, they will teach you a form that will get you hurt. Better than a PT (if you can’t find a real coach) is to get “Starting Strength” by Mark Rippetoe. He also has a DVD “Starting Strength” that’s worth the money. DON’T WASTE YOUR MONEY on any other book than this in the beginning. Especially don’t waste your money on a book written by someone wearing spandex.

    3) For progression, Rippetoe’s “Texas Method” describe in the above book and on his website is a good one for beginners. When you get to intermediate level “Westside for Skinny Bastards” or “5-3-1″ are good ones.

    4) Stretching is important. Be sure to do static stretches far from time you lift weights. You can do some dynamic stretches before lifting though.

    5) Be sure to do the big money compound lifts: deadlift, squats, military press, bench press, power clean, chin-ups etc. Avoid those machine lifts that make you flap around like a god-damn spastic bird or having a seizure.

    6) Decompress your spine at the end of your lifting session. Just hang from a tree or chin-up bar.

    7) Whatever you do, don’t use the squat rack for doing curls. If you are at a gym that is any good at all, this will make you popular and you might as well, in such a case, wear a T-shirt that reads, “Hi, I’m a douche-bag”.

    • errata: If you are at a gym that is any good at all, this will NOT make you popular…

      • OR, maybe it will make you popular…a popular target for “douche-bag” comments LOL!

          • JonO, that comment was not directed at you :)

          • Gross

          • ow, my eyes!! What the hell did I just see…make me un-see it please…

          • I have a membership at a gym/beauty parlour (and oops, there’s a ‘u’ in there too, what a give-away …) but I’m scared to walk over to those weights because I’m not male and/or have visible muscles and an attitude. Perhaps I could tuck my hands and legs in and roll over there in disguise as a gym ball, and go undetected. Until then, my appearance visibly disappoints the Keepers of the Almighty Weights and it’s so uncomfortable I may as well cancel. I was dashing in for 12 quick minutes of BBS and hoping to get out before anyone noticed (there was a moment of cognitive dissonance when they went “What the heck was that, a gym ball with legs?” but then I was gone, leaving just a shimmer in the air, and they shook their heads and forgot about it) But now I can’t face BBS anymore. There is still one possibility. If I wore an outfit like that, I would look like a gym ball wrapped in a dustbin bag and perhaps get mistaken for rubbish collectors and be ignored (another giveaway, rubbish not garbage or trash, I’m so busted …)

          • Haha. You have such a colourful sense of humor Sue.

          • Humour, you mean

          • I bet when you spell a word incorrectly, you use a rubber.

          • That’s right. Or Tippex. Which is not something you’d want to get confused about, I don’t think.

          • Is Tippex better than a rubber? I find the latter diminishes my pleasure. Of course, I am talking about the pleasure involved in effacing mistakes of orthography.

    • Money comment here.

      Especially #5. Do those lifts, and your life quality will increase exponentially. You do not need superhuman strength, just lift a bit and you will see the benefits.

    • Mark Rippetoe is the man, he knows what he’s talking about. I would recommend basic barbell training routine to everyone regardless of age or gender. And Matt Stone is right, you don’t have to do it all the time or to exhaustion. All you need to see is continual progress, however small. Once a week would do most people.

    • Tom,
      Do you think you can do compound exercises with dumbbells? You know, like the ones I spent $$ on this fall in my basement…

      • Annie, sorry I did not see your post until now. You absolutely can do compound exercises with dumbells. In fact, you can do variations of the same exercises that you can do with dumbells: deadlift, overhead presses, deadlift, cleans, bench press, etc. There are actually some advantages to using dumbells.

        • Thanks Thomas!
          Do you think Ripptoe’s book is still applicable? or do you think it would it be best to seek out a qualified trainer?

          • Well, if you can find a qualified trainer…that’s a big “if”, that is always better than a book. However, just because somebody calls themselves a personal trainer does not mean they are qualified. For example, I was talking to a Personal Trainer at a gym one day. He had noticed me doing some Olympic lifts and informed me that he was going to take a weekend seminar in Olympic lifting so that he could teach it to his clients. Anybody here who knows the Olympic lifts knows that you can’t learn them well in one weekend…long learn them well enough to teach others.

            I think the Rippetoe book might be helpful, but the mechanics of lifting dumbells might require some adjustments. You could try this book: http://brookskubik.com/dinosaur_dumbbelltraining.html I haven’t read it, but Kubik is definitely a good source of information.

  6. Strength training is CRUCIAL to aging gracefully

    I’m probably about the same age as Matt. I turn 35 this year. I can see my parents, who are now in their mid-60’s, losing their muscle mass at an alarming rate. I have been doing low rep weight lifting (ala Leangains) for the past 2 years, and I have made HUGE GAINZ in my strength while only going to the gym one or two times per week. Deadlifts: did 285 for 4 reps yesterday, bench press 170 for 3 reps, and I can do 8 wide grip pullups. It is very simple: choose your exercise, then choose a rep range, and once you hit that rep range, increase the weight and continue the process…until you die!

    Matt had an article earlier last year about sacropenia, when people go to the hospital and they basically waste away from lack of physical and nutritional stimuli. It hurts to see this happen outside of the hospital. Think about this: when you are 70, do you want to give your grandkids horsey (or your favorite animal) rides? (ie you get on all fours and the child sits on your back while you chauffeur them around) If you do, you better have a goddamn strong back. That ain’t gonna happen if you aren’t a farm worker or something. Go to the gym, or buy a weight set and do it at home.

    Above all else…


  7. I have a good friend from high school, who now lives half a continent away in San Francisco. She’d been a trainer at a “regular” gym, but a few months ago I noticed she was getting into Crossfit… and then lo and behold, finally a few days ago she posts positive comments about “Wheat Belly” on her Facebook wall.

    Anyway, I have no plans to “stage an intervention,” because I do feel people should experiment and find out what works for them. But it just amazes me how there is this clear progression of steps into the “low carb cult,” like a blueprint.

    • No use in trying an intervention Henry and, btw, my condolences. Once a person falls into San Francisco Hipster Hell, you can only hope they hit rock bottom as soon as possible and have an epiphany. All the true bohemians are leaving San Francisco and being replaced by this scourge who are turning the place into a god-damn gluten-free Disneyland. It makes me want to cry. San Francisco used to be so cool. Here you go: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Epwumykcs8

      • Haha, that video is rich, thanks! Reminds me of my stop there last summer.

      • LOL……I like your sarcastic humor:)

        Do you eat bread/pasta/pizza(frequently/daily) and such Thomas? or what do you eat as opposer of the GF-Madness? :)

        • I eat pasta about every other day. Sometimes it is a chinese pasta made from rice, sometimes it’s good ole De Cecco or Barilla spaghetti. I only eat pizza about once a month. No particular reason for that. I just don’t eat it that often. I don’t eat much store-bought bread. I just don’t like it that much.

  8. Full agreement with Matt and with Thomas’ comment. ANY increase in strength will improve the quality of a person’s life, especially if they prioritize the posterior chain muscles. Strong posterior chain = better posture, reduction or elimination of back pain, and the ability to pick up heavy things when the need arises.

    For about a year I’ve been in love with 3-rep sets for strength gains and “dense muscle” instead of “pumped up muscles” from higher reps. Zero lactic is produced in the 3 rep range, which is a pretty big deal.

    I’m also going to explore static holds and isometrics with deadlifts once I’m done with Matt’s bench press experiment.

    • Huge deal on the lactic acid, as that seems to be what triggers a lot of those instant overtraining symptoms. I can exercise at low intensity for 10 hours and it makes me sleep better, not worse. 15 minutes of nausea-inducing intensity though and it’s a coin toss as to whether or not I’ll be able to sleep through the night.

      It amazes me how what feels like less “work” seems to lead to more strength gains.

      • I’m really enjoying the bench static holds so far. They’re fast and efficient, and it feels like I’ll be able to add 10lbs to all 3 statics for a while before I have to drop to 5lb jumps on the lower two.

        • Yeah, it’s pretty ridiculous the gains you get with such a minimal amount of work. The numbers just keep going up and up. The inspiration comes from a program that just does the hold in the strongest range. But I like the comfort of knowing that strength is improving in the other ranges as well and have done that for the past 3 workouts with good leaps in strength in all 3 ranges each workout.

        • I have done three of the workouts so far and have been able to add 5 kg (just over 10 pd) to each of the lifts so far too.
          It does seem super easy – like I havent done a workout at the end!

    • Wow, this is seriously blowing my mind a little. I’m gonna try this later today when I get to the gym. 3 reps. Who’d a thought?

      • It’s nothing new Kendahl. Olympic-Style lifters and Powerlifters almost never go over a 5-rep set, and so it’s been for a long, long time. Most common are 1 (singles), 2 (doubles) or 3 (triples) rep sets.
        Of course, you are usually putting more weight on the bar with these lower sets.

        • Yes, I “borrowed” the 3 rep thing from Oly/power lifting.

          You definitely need more weight on the bar to get in a good workout with 3 rep sets, and I usually do 4-6 sets with more weight added each set, trying to move the bar as explosively as possible on the positive and control the negative.

          When everything is going well, each of the first 3-4 sets feels easier than the previous one because my nervous system is turning on more and more fully. Then when things start getting really heavy, my focus is on keeping the bar moving quickly.

          Using that template and adding weight every week, I was able to work up to a 250lb overhead push press (no jerk) a while back, which was a pretty big deal for me. I’m lifting lighter right now, but I’ll make a run at 260 after Matt’s bench press experiment is over.

        • Thank you? It’s not so much that I have never heard of this. It’s more like I am finally letting go of the idea that less is more. And yeah, I figured that more weight would make sense for 3 reps. 0_o

      • Kendahl: For 3 rep sets, make sure you’re using a lot more weight, preferably on a barbell, and doing compound movements like overhead press, bench press, squat, deadlift, barbell rows, chin ups, power cleans, etc.

        Start with a moderate load, and work your way up to a heavy triple. If you overload and end up getting 2 reps on your top set, that’s ok too. Just use a little less next time, or stay the same and go for the triple. Don’t “grind out” slow, grueling reps. They should all move fairly quick on the concentric.

        Generally speaking, isolation movements like bicep curls or tricep “skull crushers” should be light enough to allow 5-8 reps. (I’ve done triples with curls, but I wouldn’t recommend it to most people).

        Shrugs work well with triples, but most women don’t want big traps. :-)

          • 3×3 might be enough. It depends on the movement and load you’re using.

            On full range movements I usually do 4-6 sets starting with a moderate weight, working up to a heavy “goal” weight.

            On partial range movements, I usually do 3×3 because the weight is much higher.

  9. Here’s what I do: every so often I’ll drop and do 5 perfect form push ups, re-setting my form at the bottom of each one, and exploding up – not trying to clap my hands, but yes trying to get air. At other times I’ll do 5 perfect form jumps from an “ass to the grass squat”. Explode as high as you can and land without making a sound. When I’m at the playground with my daughter I’ll bust out a few chin ups. That’s it. Whenever you feel like it. It’s not “heavy” lifting, but from what I’ve read “explosive” movements producing the same results – obviously up to a point – as heavy lifting, and might be safer.

    • You might want to look into DDP Yoga. They do things like “slow motion pushups” where you stay 10 seconds in static positions and take 10 seconds as you move through the up/down (positive/negative) motions. I prefer doing this (as well as slow-motion pullups) to lifting. I totally mangled a rotator cuff while lifting in college. I don’t own the DDP Yoga DVDs (just watched a bit on Youtube) but may buy it.

      • Rotator Cuff injuries, somebody, please, give a definitive about them!

  10. Oh, great…
    I just started crossfit…I’m learning all of the different lifts and things right now. Which is basically why I decided to try crossfit over like Body By Science or something…because I felt like I needed someone to SHOW me how to do stuff. I’ve never been into weight lifting but I wanted to start and didn’t want to do things the wrong way.

    Right now I’m just doing it twice a week and I’m feeling fine…but sore. Can you come to Michigan and be my personal trainer? lol. But for real, what’s the best place to learn the right way to weight lift and be shown without paying a million dollars for personal training? Crossfit seemed more affordable that personal training but still with the personal attention and instruction.
    What to do now?!

    • SOMETIMES Crossfit will have a good person. If your Crossfit has an Olympic Weightlifting coach, get with him/her. When I say “coach”, I mean somebody who has actually competed. Otherwise, get the hell out of there. A lot of these people have lots of letters after their names, but don’t know shit. A lot of them will even say they teach the Olympic lifts, but actually have only taken a weekend course. Seriously. Very dangerous. Be careful. Sorry that I can’t be more encouraging. Like I said, there *MIGHT* be a good coach there (I actually know of a couple who coach at Crossfit), but you need to be very careful.

      • Where should I go to find a good coach? Maybe from your post above I’ll just go looking for hole in the wall gyms…

        • Lauren,
          Here are a few suggestions.

          Go to this website. This is THE Olympic-style Weightlifiting forum in the United States, All the knowledgeable people are up there. I would recommend this as a good way to go. Anyway, you can put up a post explaining where you live and tell them that you are looking for a coach/gym to teach you the lifts: http://goheavy.com/forums/olympic/

          Another place to ask is Greg Pendlay’s forum. He’s a big-time Oly and Strength training coach: http://www.pendlayforum.com/forumdisplay.php?f=16

          If, for some reason those don’t work, go to t-nation.com. They have several forums. Go to either the Powerlifting Forum or the Olympic Weightlifting forum and ask for a good coach/gym in your area.

          If none of those work, contact me, and I will use my network to try and find you somebody: entheogens(at)yahoo(dot)com

          • Thanks Thomas I’ll check it out!

          • You’re welcome sister. Good luck!

          • Thomas I just checked out that last site you recommended and my crossfit gym is listed there…sooo maybe that means I picked a good one? I’m still working on the intro sessions but after that it may be a good idea to start the Olympic weight training class and not do the WOD’s

          • Ok, sister, you might have lucked out. Yes, do the OLY weight training and you should do great. That’s great news!

          • Wow Thomas,you really know and thankfully share a lot of this stuff!:) (Wish I’d live near you)

            Unfortunately I can’t find any experienced (ex)Powerlifter in my neighbourhood or the ‘crummy shed’ you recommend to go to;) Don’t even know how to find such a thing,as the guys at the gym are basically the ‘hipster gymrats”. I imagine you mean something like these guys at garage strength? http://www.youtube.com/user/GarageStrength
            I’d really love to go to such a place,bc I think it’s cosier/more tightknit (I don’t mean cosy as in chitchatting;))….you’re more connected with eachother and I think that really also helps with stimulating eachother.

          • Dutchie, are you not in the U.S? If you are, then you can use the links I supplied above to find a good gym.

            If you can’t find any good gyms near you, just get that book and dvd “Starting Strength” that I mentioned above. You can workout at home. I mean, you can also work out in one of those gyms that I mock, but you just have to be careful not to get distracted by the usual gym culture (HEY GURRRRRLLLLL, did you watch Glee last night?). That said, I have to warn though that I HIGHLY RECOMMEND AGAINST joining most Crossfits. Occasionally, there will be a Crossfit that has a Olympic Weightlifting club with a good coach. That would be the one exception.

            Yes, it would be great to have some workout buds, but I have been working out alone in my backyard for the past 3 years.

          • @Thomas, nope…..from the Netherlands and the part where I live ‘trends’ only start to become known&trendy after like it’s already been trendy&out of style in the big cities in the country…..so no CF here;)

            I think I’ve downloaded the dvd’s of Starting Strength a long while ago.
            But like said,I actually would love to find something like the GarageStrength link I posted. Do you have any idea,how you might be able to find an experienced (ex)Powerlifter? bc they’re obviously not in the gym I’m in.

          • Dutchie, can you tell me (IN GENERAL) the part of the Netherlands you live in? I am guessing from the above that it’s not a big town like Amsterdam or Rotterdam. If you don’t want to put the name of your town here, you can email me at: entheogens(at)yahoo(dot)com I will try to find a powerlifting or Olympic lifting coach near you.

    • An old friend of mine sent me this message yesterday…

      “I need your advice – I have been trying to lose the same 20 to 30 lbs for 8 years with no luck. My most recent endeavor is Cross Fit (on and off since September) and Paleo (started yesterday). I hate Cross Fit – tore my quad once and hurt my lower back a few weeks ago).

      What do I need to do to be successful? Diets and exercise are getting me no where.”

      • An all too common story Matt. Well if it is a guy, you can tell him that if he wants to limp, he should join Crossfit. If he wants to go limp, he should eat Paleo.

        • I’m trying to tell everyone that. Just haven’t managed to do it as concisely as you have.

          • lol

        • Thomas you are a genuinely funny/witty man. Thank you :)

  11. Maybe someone can give me some advice? I’d love to start exercising again and lifting but I’ve had back problems since being pregnant with my now five year old. After the birth of my now ten month old things got progressively worse and a couple weeks ago I ended up in the ER with a herniated disc. I cannot lift my seventeen pound baby without pain so I’m not sure heavy lifting is safe for me. I can lift while lying down, though, as well as over my head.

    • Kim, if you have insurance I suggest speaking with a physician about physical therapy and a personal trainer (and make sure they communicate so they’re on the same page) or if you don’t have insurance get a trainer (even if it’s only once a month) and have them communicate with your doctor. It will be GREAT for your back. A strong back will prevent anymore of those herniated disc and you can get there with the right exercises and form. Whatever you do, don’t let anyone tell you that you’re too weak or at risk to make yourself better and stronger.

      • I asked my doctor for a referral to a PT and she said the first course of action is to speak to a surgeon! What is wrong with doctors?

        • That is totally backwards!!! A surgeon? who, of course, is going to want to do surgery, because that’s what he does…on your spine, no less. I’ve had my share of spine problems (neck area) while caring for a small child (the pain kicked in around my baby’s 1st birthday) and I had the good fortune of having a sensible doc who prescribed PT FIRST and then suggested if it didn’t help to go see a surgeon. It did help and the PT cautioned me about spine surgery being a serious last resort. You should try to get in to a PT somehow. Get some exercises and heat and stretching going to start feeling better and then evaluate the lifting routine as suggested above. Hang in there.

          • I’m going to insist on a referral to a PT after I have my MRI tomorrow. I’m also going to look for a new doctor. I’m just flabbergasted by her response. I’m 33 years old- why would I have back surgery now, before trying anything else?

          • I know someone who had back surgery after an injury at work. She’s had 12 surgeries now and is still housebound and on disability.

          • I’m scared I’m going to be in pain forever, but I’m not convinced surgery would help that. From what I’ve read, surgery isn’t any more successful at reducing pain than any other method.

          • Kim,
            I’ve read Matt’s blogs for a while now, but only commented once, also a while ago. I usually just like to sit back & read everyone else’s comments without butting in. But I feel for you because I had horrible neck problems for a long time, probably from going on weird diets like vegetarian & then vegan. I literally couldn’t move my neck without tremendous pain for 4-5 years, & was basically home bound during that time. I refused to have surgery, but I’ve slowly recovered by improving my diet & eating the food. I still have some issues, but it’s so much better & I can actually get out & live my life now. To make a long story short, I came across EFT, which was too convoluted to do on a daily basis. Plus I tried it & didn’t think it helped much. But then I recently came across Faster EFT by Robert Smith. He’s a miracle worker. His stuff has improved my neck even more & it really is fast. I know that it may sound woo woo to some, but it truly works. You should go to his website & watch some of his videos. He has hundreds of free videos on Youtube. Anyways, use surgery as a last resort. My daughter’s a nurse & I’ve heard some horrible stories from her about things that they do in the hospital. I would never trust my life to them. I’m always telling her that if something ever happens to me, just leave me at home to die in peace. Sorry, I didn’t mean to turn this into a rant & rave. That’s why I don’t butt in & comment. LOL! Best of luck.

          • My husband has back issues, but sees a chiropractor regularly. It’s not perfect, but it’s certainly worlds better than surgery. His mom has had a couple unsuccessful back surgeries. It seems that, as you say, they never get it quite right. I only know of one person who claims it worked for them for the many others I know who had to go back for more.

          • I’m a nurse and I regularly take care of patients who’ve had back surgery. I would NEVER get this surgery unless I wasn’t going to be able to walk or something without it….even then I’d try to find other options. They surgeries are extremely painful and have some scary outcomes- and a lot of the time the pain isn’t improved after recovery.

          • That’s what I’ve read. My doctor is an idiot. She won’t even give me a referral to a PT.

    • 8 Steps to a Pain Fre Back, by Esther Gokhale

      She’s the Weston A Price of posture and back health. I am not a doctor, but her book was great for me.

      • I bought that book last week! I’ve been working on the first two steps. :)

    • Kim, I know it might sound crazy, but look into books by Dr. John Sarno. Lots of people have herniated discs and never even know it. It is not necessarily the cause of your pain. Reading Dr. Sarno’s books ended my years of back pain.

      Same thing for John Stossel:

      • I considered getting that book. I’m just not sure how I feel about it. I’m not really typical of the types of people he purposes to help (I don’t really hold back my emotions or feelings and I’m fairly straightforward with people when I have a problem).

      • Kim, I second your recommendation. At first glance, Sarno does seem crazy. But I had an injury a few years ago and I thought it was the end of my lifting career. Then I did a psychological inventory,as he suggests and POOF(!) the back injury went away like magic. If you had told me this would happen, I would never have believed you.

  12. Forget reps and sets and weights and shit – just get a dog.

  13. Matt, what about slow burn? 10 second reps? These maximize lactic acid, correct?

    • I would think the longer the set, and the more winded you are while doing the set and workout in general, the more lactic acid production.

      • its 6 reps. Time under tension is the same as doing more reps, but after that 6th rep, the muscles being worked are burning and are barely usable.

        Isn’t lactic acid supposed to spike GH?

        • Yes, but I’m leery of the GH infatuation, as GH is something secreted by the pituitary under stress. Most of the GH lovers are advocating the opposite of what has become standard, like eating carbs right after a workout, eating frequently, etc.

          Interestingly though, really high levels of glucocorticoids suppress GH. Moderate levels stimulate GH, and low levels do not stimulate GH. This looks to have a decent discussion on it… http://ajpendo.physiology.org/content/280/4/E616.long

  14. Whenever I meet men in their 80s or older I always ask them what the secret to long life is. I hear all kinds of advice, but the one common thread I always here is walking. If you want to live long and healthy, a good place to start is by walking a few miles several days per week.

  15. I think I will take the jogging and burpees out of my workout. I haven’t lifted weights in months because my w/o is still interval-ish.

  16. Do you get any of the same hormonal/metabolic benefits using low reps/heavy weights? For example – would you expect Mercola to lean up the way he did or even just some with less intensity but heavy lifting?

    I agree HIT or HIIT can be a drag but I suspect there is more potential to transform the body with a more intense stimulus. Although perhaps the heavy weight is an intense stimulus in a way.

    • Heavy weight is an intense stimulus, just not an intense cardiopulmonary stimulus.

  17. I’m intrigued by the low heavy reps for strength gains. I think I’ll tone down with my weight lifting exercise that leave me shaking and exhausted (though I recover quite well, in a day or two). I usually do 3 sets of 10 reps or so for each exercise. Would this low rep and heavy weight also yield good results in the fat loss sector?

    • It can. Many people report that. I wouldn’t count on it though. There are no sure things with fat loss other than breatharianism :)

  18. I’ve been experiment with the idea of doing this crazy thing called chronic cardio….
    Seriously, a few weeks ago, I read something about building your aerobic base. For runners, I’m pretty sure it’s old news– like Iran Hostage crisis old news. For me, however, I’m wondering, if it’s a missing link in some of my failures to see improvement despite intense workouts. I had a trainer who essentially employed a crossfit kind of routine 3x week. I was pretty deep in primal dogma at the time (even if only in my head– still loved grains) and I walked a lot during the day, went for swims with my kids, etc.. Still, the exercise made me look bad– puffed up face, upper body like the East German women’s wrestling team. Anyway, I came across a reference to Phil Maffetone and the necessity of building your aerobic base before engaging in anaerobic exercise:

    “This is where the issues get more complicated. In the short term, any activity can help build the aerobic system, even very hard efforts. But continue these kinds of exercise routines for too long and your body will break down from injury, fatigue and ill health. You’ll become a casualty of the fit but unhealthy crowd.”


    You can read more about it, but it’s basically about 30 minutes a day of moderately intense exercise (i.e. heart rate in the ‘fat burning zone’). Food for thought– I’m shooting for a 10 minute mile. Right now I could run 8 mph at a 8% incline for a minute (intense sabre-tooth tiger chasing me) but not even 15 minute mile (sabre-tooth tiger wins after one minute chase).

    • I discuss this in the new Diet Recovery, sort of, talking about increasing overall fitness in a progressive-way. But keep in mind that speed and endurance are OPPOSITE adaptations. What increases speed will generally decrease endurance. What increases endurance generally decreases speed. What you’re talking about doing is putting a 4-cylinder engine in a race car in hopes that it won’t slow you down.

      To be a great endurance athlete, it’s best to do long duration cardio on a low protein diet to strip off as much mass as possible. That’s what increases performance there.

      • Totally agree and and I think you and Maffetone are on the same page in that less is definitely more– take a step back and make slow progress; always taking inventory of how you feel, how you recover (and, in Maffetone’s case, your heart rate). Most people are getting fit at the expense of their health. I know that I have. It’s the Biggest Loser boot camp , total transformation that is the brass ring everyone’s reaching for.

        I ran across a site called the soc-doc that promotes running & paleo and tries to school those Paleo people that pooh-pooh cardio. He was arguing that most people are not doing ‘aerobics’ even if it’s called that. Most people on the treadmill or elliptical or in zumba class are doing more anaerobic than aerobic and that they’re breaking they’re body down this way–so the Paleo antipathy to cardio is wrong-headed b/c what is referred to as chronic cardio is essentially crossfit type training (albeit less intense) even on the elliptica. It is weaving in and out of aerobic/ anaerobic training. He referred to Maffetone and his training principles.

        I knew about him (and Stu Mittelman) thanks to an old Tony Robbins book I had — I know, cheesy (but awesome)– but I remember thinking it was wrong because I *knew* all you needed to do was sprint a couple of times and throw a rock and you’d be a god/ess. Chronic cardio was lame and fat promoting. But, reading further into it– they are not arguing for hour long sweat sessions or 10ks (in fact, he advises against it for most people) what they’re saying is that if you get your aerobic base in place, you will be a fat burner and you will have consistent energy and burn calories and fat easily and that will set you up to do whatever kind of training you wish. In fact, it was one sarcastic comment on a paleo workout site (that called endurance athletes fatties) that really made me think– weight lifters (in general, not 180, of course) watch every calorie they eat. Michael Phelps scarfs down 12,000 calories a day. He’s a furnace and he has top notch aerobic conditioning. Most weightlifters are not actually healthy and we all know they often have a low metabolic rate.

        I guess I’m saying that they’re may be people like me (early middle age) that have lost some basic abilities and are jumping too quickly into more specialized training — running before they learn to walk. Or weightlifting before they can even run a mile.

        • I’ve done a ton of aerobic exercise in my life, hiking over 10,000 miles since age 18 and doing quite a bit of cycling in my early 20’s as well. There are benefits to doing light intensity exercise all day no doubt, including almost unfathomable physical fitness and rapid fat loss eating to appetite. Body temperature, libido, etc. always plummeted though. I don’t get any of those benefits (or drawbacks) by doing 30 minutes a day though, but I wouldn’t deter anyone from doing a large quantity of light exercise. It’s better than a large quantity of video games and facebook.

          • I think it’s probably different for a fit male– but I agree, I have seen no improvement in the past from the ‘reading a magazine on the elliptical pace’ — at least I don’t think I have, but maybe I was too impatient. Maffetone has a prescribed slow pace method though to improve your aerobic function — we’ll see. My plan is to try it for a couple of months, then start incorporating some “180” weight training. You would probably like that he addresses stress, body temperature, less is more and is very conservative in his recommendations. He does strike me as a paleo guy, though– Oh well, no one’s perfect…

  19. Finally!
    Heavy resistance, low reps. That’s the right direction!
    I’m 37 now ( male ), my whole life I did all kinds of sports / training / exercise. The low-carb-paleo-shit a few years ago led to my metabolic breakdown. Nothing new here, I know :-) Finally this experience brought me to 180D :-)
    Since my breakdown I was always trying to find the perfect workout, studied all kinds of exercise obsessively. What’s the holy grail? What is the training a person with a damaged metabolism / health can tolerate? Better; what training can lead to significant strength gains – without drawbacks? Yeah, I was just like Matt: Not reading few hundreds books about medicine, health, nutrition – but exercise. I’m serious, my bookshelf looks like the sports book warehouse from Amazon…
    The answer? It’s individual ( what a surprise!!! ). Highly individual.
    For me it’s definitely the “classic strength training approach”. Never more than 5 reps – if any. The last few months I was experimenting with isometric exercises exclusively – with incredible results.
    I think one of the main problems is that most people approach exercise from a cosmetic viewpoint. That’s wrong. It’s as wrong as to approach nutrition from a cosmetic viewpoint.
    People want muscles, they don’t realize that strength comes first.
    Train for strength! Everything else comes naturally!
    On the other hand, most people are far too focused on lifting weights and finding a gym. That’s ridiculous. It’s like thinking that you have to own a Ferrari to use the highway.
    You can have extremely effective and progressive workouts using bodyweight only. Your body is your gym. That’s not exaggerated.
    I recommend a gymnastic oriented strength training. You can’t go wrong. And very important: It can be real fun!

    • Great post Lars. It is incredible what one can do with just your own bodyweight. There is a great book out there ( author’s initials ML) that makes that very reference in it’s title to your body being your own gym.

      I have done it all over the years and am now completely sold on the way Scott Abel approaches things with his metabolic training approach. I do not need any gym, commercial or hole-in-the-wall, to get an incredible workout in. At home, I use my Power Blocks and heavy duty resistance bands. And one does not even need those. Using Abel’s principles and the aforementioned book, I could design a program with strictly bodyweight moves.

      Train for strength and all else follows. True. I also believe one can train for cosmetic reasons and strength will follow from that. I am n=1, but in the past 15 months or so, have not done a heavy weights/low reps routine at all (no gym time) and know that I am functionally day-to-day stronger. I helped someone move house back in the fall and noticed that things just felt lighter.

    • “People want muscles, they don’t realize that strength comes first.
      Train for strength! Everything else comes naturally!”

      What do people mean when they say “strength”, anyway? It’s such an ambiguous term. Max (i.e. limit) strength? Strength density? Speed strength, which is composed of starting strength and explosiveness?

      The thing is, strength –particularly limit strength– and development are correlated only up to a point. For beginners strength correlates pretty solidly with gains in lean mass. And how long this correlation lasts depends on the individual (it is almost always very short lived). I can guarantee, however, that all individuals will reach a point where their strength can keep increasing but their lean mass gains will decline precipitously.

      I’ve gone to the same gym for the last two years. There are about 10 or so “regulars” whom I have casually kept observed and kept tabs on during that time. There are 4 who have indulged the foolish fantasy that heavy low reps or HIT will change their physique; three of them have not made any significant progress in that regard, the fourth acknowledges using steriods and has indeed gained muscle mass. There are three others who workout with intensity, moderate weights, multiple sets, often to failure (another ambiguous term). Two of them have made somewhat noticeable gains in physique development; the remaining one uses AAS so of course he has gained significant muscle. There is another fellow whom I have conversed with some who understands that heavy weights, low reps is mostly about limit strength and not hypertrophy; he understands program design and implements proper periodization, deload weeks, etc. He is one of the strongest people I know, but has no significant lean mass development (he doesn’t care). Finally, the last two: They are workout partners and they are the two that I have mentioned before that work with Scott Abel. Both of them have transformed their physiques tremendously under Abel’s guidance (I might even say tutelage). They have also stated with surprise that their maxes have increased on many lifts, although they are not lifting “heavy”. Scott Abel says “Train for development, and strength will come.” And he’s right. As I have stated before, neither one of them is on performance drugs, nor are they genetically blessed.

      In fact, one of them, I am going to call him “Joe” (not his real name), has a history of a moderately low metabolism and poor work capacity. Under Abel’s coaching Joe has vastly improved his health and work capacity. I don’t know all the details of the diet and program that Abel put him on to get him to recover; I do know, nevertheless, that it did not involve some half-assed, ill informed “heavy weight, low rep, once or twice per week” approach. It did involve calorie spiking (no, not the cycle diet) and some form of Abel’s Innervation Training. At least initially.

      In sum: 1.)Infrequent, heavy weight, low rep training is mostly for limit (max ) strength. It will NOT put significant muscle mass on most individuals. (There are people who current “needs state” coincides with such training in terms of hypertrophy. This is only true if this approach is part of proper progressive programing that involved other forms of training). 2.) Intensity, reps higher than 5, moderate weights, multiple sets and consistency: This will generally lead to at least some development for most people; more so than heavy weights, low reps or HIT generally will. 3.) However, for long term, significant cosmetic gains, proper progressive programing is key; some people have an instinctive feel for this, others can teach themselves this over time, still others will need to hire a knowledgeable coach. 4.) It is simply not true not true at all that people with a history of low metabolism and low work capacity are forever stuck doing some half-assed infrequent, once or twice per for week heavy weight, low rep scheme. Proper programing can improve their health and work capacity, as the example of “Joe” demonstrates.
      5.) To emphasize to the point of overreaching redundancy: Proper programing is key!

      • Thanks DML. As you probably know I’ve discussed all this in the past and hit (pun intended) all of the major points you mentioned with a hearty Scott Abel endorsement.

        I think each form of training has its pros and cons. The drawbacks of Abel’s approach is the complexity, the intensity, the frequency, and the duration. Even if I felt I could recover properly from it and still make progress, that doesn’t mean I would have the willpower to keep facing grueling workouts day in and day out. I can’t even stick with HIT because it’s too taxing.

        I just don’t have it in me. So conversations about less than ideal forms of exercise that are efficient and still effective (the limit strength increases I’m currently seeing were unimaginable to me two months ago before I began doing static holds with maximal weight) are happening.

        Thanks for your input.

      • DML , would you maybe willing to ask “Joe” what his exercise&nutrition regimen were/are like? as I unfortunately am not able to hire a coach,bc I’d love to work with Billy Craig otherwise :'(

  20. Hello Lars! Great input! Any bodyweight exercise suggestions to share?

  21. Been lurking forever, time to post.
    Stumbled onto 180 just like the others…discovered Paleo, thought it was the Holy Grail, proceeded to run into issues, began reading Ray Peat, tried a modified version of his ‘diet’, started getting terrible heartburn, found myself reading more Matt Stone articles, ditched the diet obsession, finally started sleeping better and feeling better, now its time to get back to serious training.
    Started with a 5/3/1 template along with assistance work. Got strong, but felt beat up most of the time. Searched around and came across Jason Ferruggia’s site, renegade fitness (as I was researching IF b/c I was intrigued by ChiefRoks principles).
    Ferruggia offers a free ebook, Mass Building sins. I perused this, thinking it was your typical get big quick internet scam. Not so much, a lot of gems in this little book. Especially if you are the typical skinny guy trying to put on some muscle or new weight lifting. Decided to jump on one of his programs MGS 2.0 (not affiliated with Ferruggia or his site, just wanted to share as this has been helpful to me)
    Some things to note:
    1. NEVER train to failure, no grinding sets, once your form starts to break, or the rep speed decreases rack the weight. (this has been the most important thing that I’ve focused on lately with great results; I was always the no pain-no gain idiot taking sets way too far thinking this would benefit me)
    2. Four workouts a week, each one starts with a big compound lift (think Deads, Squats, Bench, Overhead press), followed by a few assistance exercises that include bodyweight movements
    3. Finish a few workouts a week with some brief conditioning (10 minutes or so, think Sprints, prowler work, heavy bag, farmers walk etc)
    4. Workouts should be an hour or less
    5. Total work sets should be about 15-20 per workout (also, track everything with a journal)
    6. Slow, steady progression (also key, make sure you are ‘owning’ the weight you are currently at before deciding to up the resistance; either by adding additional reps, another set, or actually adding more weight to the bar)
    You get the idea, I was always stuck in the old mentality that you have to stay in the 4-6 rep range, lift to failure, and stay away from higher reps if you want to get big and strong. Not so much; once it clicked and I finally identified what the issue was, training has been progressive, and FUN again! Once this happens, you don’t have to worry about diet so much as you will be eating to support your training, instead of eating to stay ripped. Turns out, you end up getting ripped anyways so win/win.

    • Wait a minute. Everybody knows that Ray Peat offers a “philosophy”, not a “diet”. LOL. Never could figure out what was meant by that :)

      Interested to know what about this workout makes it less grueling than 5-3-1 (not wanting to challenge that, just curious). Most of the 5-3-1 workouts, I can finish in less than 45 minutes. Usually will have the one compound lift and maybe two assistance exercises. When I am short of time, I will sometimes ditch the assistance exercises and just do the main lift. My point is that 4 one-hour workouts per week sounds like a lot more volume than 5-3-1.

      Anyway, I will check out the Ferrugia site. Thanks for that.

      • 5-3-1 is a great program. Didn’t mean to imply that it is not, I think I was just too focused on beating my last PR and didn’t take into account going to failure on assistance exercises so was feeling all around beat up after a while (consequently starting missing on the 5-3-1 lifts and just stalled out). I think an excellent approach would be to combine 5-3-1 with some of Ferruggia’s concepts and you would have a good balanced workout (Ferruggias workouts are very similar to what Wendler recommends as far as having a big main lift followed by assistance plus bodyweight movements). Volume wise they are very similar. I think it just recently all fell into place and I am training smarter which has produced very positive results in less time than previous attempts.

    • This is a lot like Bryan Haycock’s Hypertrophy Specific Training (HST) which I have done and it does work.

  22. Any chance to get “just” the update (Chapter on exercise?) of the new version of “Diet Recovery”? I have just bought the old version for my kindle not knowing that a newer version is about to come out and I do not want to be buy the entire book…?

    • Yes you do. And it’s only going to be 99 cents the first couple of days it’s released. I hope that’s in your budget, haha.

  23. I agree that low-reps are good, but for the uninitiated, that doesn’t mean doing max weight for 2 or 3 reps. You can burn out on using max weight just as you can by doing too many Crossfit metabolic conditioning (read: makes you wanna puke) workouts. The key, especially for those of your recoverying from metabolic problems should be: “Stimulate, don’t annihilate.”

    Susan, to your point, i beleive that having a cardio base is very healthy and it might help with energy production by getting oxygen to cells. But like everything else, don’t over do it. Most people should be walking (which points to Troy’s post), but easy jogging is great as well. The problem with “cardio” is when people start working out hard, running mile after mile as fast as they can. Just slow down, and train at an enjoyable pace. Stop thinking you need to “push” yourself forward in your workouts. Try “nudging” yourself forward.

    And stop being competitve. the last thing most people need is to 1) add emotional stress to their exercise or 2) feel the need to constantly push themselves past their comfort zone to win. Try exercising inside your comfort zone for a while.

    • I’m a different David than who answered Lars. I’ll call myself David/David.

    • Thanks, David. I just left my usual long -winded reply following up with those principles a few comments above. I’ve been reading Phil Maffetone and he emphasizes what you’re saying. Jog, walk, take it easy and make sure your heart rate is not jacking up. I’m trying to start over from the ground up and just get some basic aerobic fitness and patiently build this, because I know I don’t have it, before focusing on the finer tuning stuff.

    • I recommend using max weight, but not doing any reps with it (not taxing, safe, more effective). You won’t catch me doing really heavy weights for full reps. I’ll snap some shit up. I’ve always been super injury prone and my spine started degenerating in my teens.

  24. jsol, what rep ranges does your program recommend? When you said “total work sets are 15-20″, did you mean that to be your rep ranges?

  25. @David: Rep ranges vary depending on what stage of the program you are in. For the compound lifts (the ‘big four’ done at the start of your workout), rep ranges are from 3-8 reps. All assistance work is in the 6-20 rep range (depending on the exercise, and if it is a bodyweight exercise). Total work sets for your workout should be in the range of 15-20. Example:
    Bench Press – 3x8reps
    Dumbell Military – 3×6-8reps
    Inverted Row – 3×6-8reps (bodyweight)
    Face Pull – 2x12reps
    Diamond Push Ups – 1xMax Reps (bodyweight)
    Ferruggia’s free ebook explains this in greater detail. http://www.jasonferruggia.com
    (again, not affilliated with the site, just found this to be a pretty complete workout, no-nonsense type approach) Get in, get the work done, go eat and enjoy life.

  26. wow you’d have a field day with me Matt! I’m 25 year old girl, was anorexic from age 11-23, have had two menstruations in my entire life and have currently lost them again, am four feet 11 inches tall and 6 stone 8 pounds, exercise 5 times a week with a trainer- he trained olympians and football teams so he’s all about not completely exhausting the body- rest and recover- bit different to my constant gym membership of doing double cardio and weights classes five times a week a s i have done for YEARS. Was paleo then primal for 2 years in total, and am still a touch primal but trying to incorporate oats or rice bread- its hard i do it then freak out and retreat, convince myself of all ailments… haven’t had wheat for three years, hummus and beans for two years… veg oils i can live without :) but your utopia post was excellent and helpful, and the f@!k it diet also, my question to you: I have skin rashes, no periods or irregular periods and am wondering what foods to eat

    • The ones with the most calories per bite that you enjoy the most. Pizza, ice cream, soda, cheeseburgers, and french fries are a good place to start.

      • Haha ok… I think it would give my husband and family the shock of their lives if I started eating cheeseburgers! Because- get this- I have NEVER tasted/eaten a cheeseburger in my life! – that’s what having parents with a McDonald’s and fast food ban from young age to developing anorexha at 11 does to you! Never eaten a takeaway pizza either! Of couse I’ve had homemade low card versions if pizza and cheeseburgers! But will be interesting to incorporate the real deal…! Am working to get fertile as husband and I want to have children! So icecream I know I can do! Will have to prepare myself for the others… Thanks!

        • Lucy, if you have the money to do so, I encourage you to have pizza delivered to your house tonight! Please have your camera ready to take pictures of the look on your families face when the delivery guy shows up and/or when you open the box on a big fat Pizza Supreme for all to see.

          Just go for it.

          • haha will have to be selective not to invite elderly family members for the occasion do not want to be causing any heart attacks!

            been invited out with big load of lads tomorrow evening who are going to a burger restaurant in five star hotel…. if there ever was a time to test the waters… hmmm, who knows!

  27. Hi Matt, I’m trying to digest some of the stuff on Billy Craig’s website. I have heard people mentioning here that once you understand his philosophies and how the body works, his system really makes sense. I’m having trouble understanding exactly what his principles are however, although they seem very similar to Chief’s. I’m wondering if calorie surplus is necessary for true weight loss or just for diet recovery and rehabilitation. I see Billy Craig talks about 4000 calories a day based on a quote from Ancel Keys. The whole thing seems to imply you need to monitor calories are at least eat a lot to make sure you don’t go below a minimum. But could total ad libitum eating work as well the way it did with Margaret Cho, or are some people stuck unless they follow Billy Craig’s advice. (By stuck I mean reduced metabolism and reduced hunger requiring eating beyond appetite to undo.) And also, if people do follow an overeating regimen and gain fat, how do we know it’s a protective phase or what? Why do some people then not lose weight following HED or RRARF? These are the things I would really like to understand. Chief, I’m looking at you as well.

    • Ah, very good questions,
      I would like to know the answers to all these things too!

      • Me too!

          • me 5!

          • I think there are so many factors which make a person obese– a persons stress state, their over all happiness in work, relationships, etc, past traumas which could affect them to not follow their bodies natural hunger cues from a young age, medical issues/genetic disorders they are not aware of or cannot afford to get tested for, food intolerances, a metabolic shift after pregnancy– the list goes on. I was people watching today at my work and every overweight person was eating healthy food, and in normal portions (most eating wayyyy less than I was). Really made it click that food is definetly NOT the only issue in the obesity epidemic.

            But, if someone is in good health (aside from the side affects they are feeling from low metabolism), and is in a good position rest, relax and refeed, I think you have a better shot at fixing your metabolism and not keep gaining the weight. All the factors have to be in line though, not just the refeeding part.

            Just my 2 cents. I’m in the process of refeeding (only about 10 days in) and hoping to get good results by rehabilitating both my body and mind!

          • I guess there’s indeed many factors,amongst some: ‘lack of Vit.D/sunligth’ , food toxins/leaky gut/cravings towards foods by the wrong gut flora,parasites,yeasts etc.

    • Cant wait myself to get that information.
      Its like why that are getting obese are eating more calories that they need right? they cant be in repair mode forever? since they are just getting fatter and fatter. So there has to be something that is off

      • Yes, please, some insight on this! Why do some keep getting bigger? Is it lack of consistency that keeps bumping up the set point and lowering metabolism? Or just poor luck re: genes? I’m up two sizes, hoping that’s the end of that, juuuuust getting that nice itch to exercise. Things seem to be happening according to the accounts I’ve read here. But the siren song of dieting is strong. I really don’t want to go there. Can I trust that as I eat intuitively and exercise moderately, I should find a stable place that is healthy and reasonable?

        • I’m strongly considering some counseling with Chief or Billy Craig to clear up some ongoing health issues and get some inside perspective.

          • I’d love to be able to afford working with Billy bc he seems like a genuine nice guy and good consultant,or Josh Rubin but he/his Metabolic Blueprint is way too expensive for me:'( (Btw,has anyone else noticed Josh looking more buff over the course of his videos?)

            Also always devouring Chief’s posts as it is all still a big mystery to me…and he comes across as a goodhearted person too.

        • No one here just “keeps getting bigger.” Weight gain lasts from 2 weeks to 2-3 months before it stops.

          • Alrighty, then! I’m staying with the plan. Just needed a little confidence boost.


            PS By “some keep getting bigger” I meant in the world at large, not on 180, in case that was not clear.

          • My weight gain has lasted for 6 months to this point. I seem to be stabilizing though, I think (definitely not gaining like I did at first), but only time will tell. I know others have mentioned gaining weight beyond 2-3 months as well.

          • Beg to differ .. I started RRAARF Aug 15th 2012, follwing 6 months of low carb at 148lb (way underweight looking back, but 3lb heavier than my recommended weight according to BMI lol). I am 5ft 8″ tall.

            To date I have gained almost in a straight line upward, to 202lb!!! This is 14lb heavier than my previous max, so I am still hoping for the gain to finally stop. Maybe some signs that that’s beginning to happen, but nothing concrete yet.

            I’ve got a couple of years of weights stored on Nintendo Wii Fit for reference, and have taken videos of myself topless since beginning RRAARF. It may make an interesting case study at some point.

            FWIW I’ve eaten to appetite and occasionally slightly beyond since August. Plenty of sugar, starch and (himalayan) salt, with (loose) avoidance of PUFAS and (strict) avoidance of HFCS being the only major restrictions. Almost no alcohol in the 6 month period.

          • Usually the weight gain starts to slow and then stops altogether. The farther you take the weight gaining phase usually the higher the percentage of gains are lean gains at the end, so I wouldn’t turn your back on it quite yet.

            I can see you getting into great shape and building a lot of strength over the next year while continuing to eat well, and looking like one diesel mofo at 5’8″ 200+ by this time next year. Would be really interested to see body comp changes over an extended period of time. Others would really appreciate seeing it and knowing the timeline.

          • Yeah, no worries Matt. I’ve appreciated your work as a lurker for a while now, so more than happy to share in return, as things (hopefully) take shape. I’ve the 33 week turning point in mind from the Ancel Keys study (currently at 24), but either way, am too deep in now to think about jumping ship :-)

          • Ya stick with it. When I started RRARFing 3yrs ago after VLC. I went from 178lbs to 188lbs, real quick. Now I am approaching 210lbs, but wearing all the same clothes. I am about 6’2. Some real nice lean gains and increase in strength. I have been doing SS (starting strength) for the last year, focusing on form and healing some back and knee issues I had. Works like a charm.

            I love being able to stuff my face with delicious food and get leaner and stronger. Now with the tweaks of fluid intake and increasing sodium, I am seeing my morning basal temps coming up, took them a long time to budge, be patient if they don’t move quickly.

            I say this all the time, but thanks Matt! I still read every single post, comment, and ebook.

          • Paul, I didn’t even think about the 33 week turning point. That’s right around the corner for me. Thanks for pointing that out. I’m going to make a point of paying attention to how my body changes from that point forward. Thanks.

          • That’s encouraging to hear, Matt. I know for myself, I have low muscle (“muscle-less” legs, etc.), and I have no idea how my bone density is, so it could very well be that my bones and muscles are increasing, etc. I assume my body knows what it’s doing, so I haven’t been concerned that I gained for that length of time.

          • Very True. I’m at a solid maximum weight.

        • I’m relying on the minimum 2500 calorie amount and consistency to finally see a turnaround.

          As far as people “getting bigger”, I would put my money on a lifetime of dieting that sees them continue to gain and gain as a result. Of course, there are many other factors.

          • It would be good to have a page with all the different experiences of people who have gone this route –
            with over feeding, rrarf, or similar.
            And to document gains, how much , how long for:
            and the aftermath- losses or not, how long it took till loss started etc ;
            and to look at the trends in peoples experiences,
            and what seemed to work better in terms of the approach of eating, etc etc.

            The question I have been wondering for a while is is it better to go a medium route and eat to appetite in an overfeeding approach;
            or to truly go overboard with a huge increase of calories.
            I wonder if a higher calorie regime would in the long term, trigger a better weight loss at the end.
            Or would it just be overkill and result in unneccessary gain?

            ( And when I talk about eating to appetite, I more mean people like me who have been hungry for almost all of their dieting life, and have large appetites;
            as opposed to those like EmmaW who had a lowered appetite and not much hunger to start with.)

    • “(By stuck I mean reduced metabolism and reduced hunger requiring eating beyond appetite to undo.)”

      This part is proving to be very true for me. I’m amazed at how much more I’m eating, and how quickly my body is adjusting to the larger amount of food.

      • EmmaW – this is happening to me, too. I am trying to be super consistent with 2500 a day. At first I felt overfull and my digestion had trouble adjusting (like one day huge poops, and the next day not much…wtf, where does all that food go?). I’m up a few pounds but still fit in all of my pants (it’s been 2 weeks now). I’m starting to feel real hunger and fullness signals, and I just feel so damned satisfied and happy eating this amount, consistently. I’m starting to experience other signs of increased metabolism as well: my temps are always over 98.4, I feel hot a lot, my hands and fingers can melt butter (lol! true!) and I feel happier, and am noticing a lot more spontaneous movement (don’t feel so sluggish). i have a lifetime of eating disorders and dieting and over-exercising. Have some edema. Hope some of the long standing myxodema will go away (my socks make dents around my legs, disgusting).

        How’s it going for you?

        • I’m doing really good. My body seems to be really happy with my current level of 3250 calories. I had to eat two of my meals away from home today and had to guess my calorie intake and was happy to discover when I got home and logged my food that I had hit my calorie target for both meals, actually going over just a little bit. That gave me confidence that I’m beginning to know how much I need to eat on my own.

          • EmmaW & Jessica, do you girls mind sharing how much youve gained since upping the calories?

          • I’ve gained around 20-25 lbs. I won’t be able to say beyond this point though, as I’ve decided to stop weighing myself. Maybe I’ll weigh myself once I’ve settled into my body’s natural weight just to see where the process brings me to at the end of all this. I’ve decided that weighing myself is pointless, especially during this healing phase.

          • thats my issue, weighing myself is a huge trigger for me, i made the mistake of weighing already and it said I gained 20lbs! but all my clothes still fit so it must be a lot of water retention. Although Id like to keep track of my gaining and see when I level out, I just cant right now as I feel too vulnerable and am afraid seeing high numbers will make me cut calories!

          • Yea, there’s nothing we can do about recovery weight gain, so why torture ourselves? That’s why I decided to stop weighing; it wasn’t doing anything positive for me. It was only making it harder for me to stay focused on the healing process by focusing on a stupid number, which really doesn’t mean anything anyhow. I have been good about reminding myself that the number is a reflection of healing, etc., so that I wouldn’t get too overwhelmed by it, but it was still leaving me feel stressed about it, so I just decided it wasn’t worth it. If anything, weighing will cause me to gain even more weight because of the stress.

            Beyond that though, considering that I’m learning to trust my body and allowing my body to take care of itself again, including settling to a weight that it wants to be at, it doesn’t matter what the number is, and I don’t need to know it, because my body is taking care of that. Also, I don’t want to be a slave to a number for the rest of my life. I truly want the freedom of letting my body take care of itself and just living and enjoying life, whatever size I end up at. A huge part of this process is mental healing as well; to be free in the mind with food, calories, scales, numbers, etc. just like we were when we were children, before a calorie, scale, or anything diet related ever entered our consciousness. That’s where I want to get back to.

          • Speak it, EmmaW!

            Pretty much ditto. It’s funny, too, once I started eating so consistently, I have felt so much happier. My mind works better and my body feels so good. Since I’m in such a better mood. Deciding to break that calorie barrier was tough, no doubt, after 25 years of obsessing, restricting, etc., but the transformation in my mind and how I feel was amazingly quick. I gained about 15 lbs over a few years of intermittent RRARFing, with multiple detours and relapsing back to restricting/overexercising. Since committing to 2500 minimum consistently 2 weeks ago I’ve gained maybe 4-5 lbs (don’t know for sure haven’t weighed). But I don’t feel out of control or like I’m ballooning up. I’m about 5’7” and about 170. But I can feel my body moving more spontaneously (what’s that called, NEAT?) and I have a spring in my step, and I keep my workouts to what feels good and is fun and I know I can recover from. Sometimes i push harder than other times, but the consistency is what i’m working on. It all came together with Eat for Heat, Gwenth’s site, and Go Kaleo’s ideas. I wish we had a discussion forum so we could all talk about our experiences together. Does anybody know of a forum where this discussion would work? or maybe we could start an email group.

          • I would join a discussion or email group about it.

            I think it would be good for people to join and compare their experiences on the refeeding/healing path;
            also because is it so against mainstream wisdom, and few understand it (most will judge it like crazy!).

            It is hard to struggle on your own with weight gain and no support from people who might understand the overall picture and wisdom of what you are doing.

          • Yay! Woot!

          • I can do that. Do you want me to set it up on Yahoo Groups or Facebook?

          • what do you all prefer? I can go either way. as long as my mom can’t read my posts or employers see boobie pictures ;-) haha!

          • great idea! can we do yahoo groups? I dont have facebook…

            Also, another ? for you all: have you been sticking to Matts suggestion of refeeding with whole foods only? Gwyn suggests that processed foods and fast foods are actually good to eat in refeeding because the energy from the foods is more easily absorbed by the body, and that it will not make a difference in the long run of what kind of weight you end up at.

          • That’s basically the direction I’m taking this new book. I’m discouraging people from eating whole foods, particularly those in really rough metabolic condition.

          • I was going to say that I have yet to hear Matt tell people they need to eat whole foods; the opposite has actually been the case. He’s been telling people to eat foods that are the easiest to digest, preferably with real ingredients. For example, Haagen Dazs ice cream over color, preservative, and gum filled ice creams. BUT, and this is a BIG BUT, don’t obsess over it. If you can’t afford Haagen Dazs, or other real ingredient varieties, do the best you can with what you can afford/do, etc. The same is true for all foods – real ingredients (not necessarily whole foods) when possible, including white sugar and white flour. Whole grains do a number on a lot of people, including myself. I can’t eat whole grains, even soaked, sprouted, or sourdough. I’ve tried them all ways, and I still can’t tolerate them.

          • I’m not on Facebook, or any other social media outlets, so I would need for it to be a yahoo group, or something in that vein. Matt, if we do start a support group, could it be an offshoot of your website with a link so that others coming here know about it and can join in and/or continue to follow the journey of those who wish to share? It would be nice to have all these conversations be contained in one place instead of spread throughout various blog posts.

          • Ok, here’s the link to the Yahoo Group. I am willing to make anybody else a moderator and make changes to the byline, etc. Go to this link to join:

          • It just occured to me that I should have asked Matt. Matt if you don’t like us setting up this group with that name, let me know and I will delete it or change the name.

          • I wouldn’t get too involved in it. I’m planning on finally adding a forum to the site later this month.

          • Thanks Thomas! I just joined (as wish4victory).

          • That’s great, Matt. I’ll just wait until the forum is up then. Thanks.

          • BTW, I decided to start a blog in order to do my part in getting the anti-diet message out there. It’s not an interactive blog, just one where information is available to those who stumble upon my blog. I still need to link Billy’s articles, but it’s a good start I think. Matt, please let me know if anything I said was incorrect in the paragraph on you and your site, or if there’s anything you would like me to add.

          • Hey EmmaW, I just checked out your blog. Nicely done.

          • Thanks, JonO. I appreciate that.

          • I’ve had a confusing day today. I’ve been doing really good at my 3250 calories (5 in all at this point). Today though, my body is rebelling against eating that much. I was just short of being nauseous eating my 3rd meal, and I skipped my 4th meal altogether because I just couldn’t bring myself to eat. I’m wondering if my hunger and appetite cues are starting to work on their own again. I’m not sure if this has anything to do with the 33 week turnaround mark that Paul mentioned, but something is definitely changing in me.

            I’m thinking about spacing my meal times out just a little bit and to put my calories back to 3000, or do you think I should try to follow my hunger and appetite cues and log my food after I eat to be sure that by the end of the day I’m above 2500? I’m not totally comfortable not logging my calories at all at this point, because I want to be sure that I’m consistently hitting above 2500 calories on my own. The only way to know that is to continue to log my food, but after I eat instead of before so that I can test myself on it. What do you think?

          • I meant to say 5 meals in all.

          • I would be reluctant to eat food if I was feeling so nauseous about it.
            Maybe you are at your food saturation point,
            maybe it is just a temporary blip. Just see.
            I wouldnt continually force food if your body is rebelling.

            I have noticed over the past 10 days of 4000 cals that there have been times when my body is totally full of food and it is nauseating to think of eating more.
            This to me is a clear sign my body doesnt need it at that time.
            My hunger/full signals work very well.
            Conversely, yesterday I was inexplicably more hungry and able to naturally eat more- up to 4500, so I did so..

            I would just drop your calories back a bit and see what happens,
            your hunger may naturally bounce back again, or not.

            If your body is feeling nauseous around food, it is a sign to me that it has had enough for the moment in terms of what it needs and healing ;
            and the only point of forcing it at this point would be to try and get it to a hyper-metabolic state as per Billy..

            But it may not be a permanent state- the hunger may come and go to varying degrees….

          • Maybe you’re right about the saturation point. I don’t recall feeling this way so far. I’ve felt full, but not nauseous. I don’t want to get into a hyper-metabolic state though, so I think I’ll follow my cues and just be sure not to go below 2500 calories. Thanks for your input.

          • I was just rereading Why Calories Matter by Marion Nestle the other day. She has a really good chapter on calorie measurement and BMR measurement. Studies with double labeld water, which seem to be the most up to date and most accurate, seem to indicate that a lightly active woman between about 5’2” and 5’8” has a total energy expenditure of about 2400 calories….still lovin’ the 2500 minimum. :-)

            If you are nauseus maybe try lying down or going outside for a breath of fresh air. :-)

  28. I’ve noticed that my left arm is way weaker than my right arm,though I don’t train them seperately. How is this possible? (My arm strength in general doesn’t seem to increase). I accidentally noticed when I tried to raise a kettlebell above my head,I basically had to use my right hand to push my left arm up :s……whereas I managed to raise the kettlebell ‘unassisted’ with my right arm.

    Also for HIIT, would a kind of Martial Arts sports like MMA,boxing,Krav Maga do well regarding this?
    On a sidenote I spoke to a Judo/Karate teacher a while ago and he said heavy strength training has some non-beneficial effects for Judo/Karate as it would make one slower reflexwise?

    • Depends. The Olympic lifts, which require explosiveness as much as strength, could actually help with the martial arts. Some types of weight-training, like ones that ask you to lift slowly *MIGHT* have this effect. I don’t know if what your teacher claims is factual or just a meme that he’s picked up and that he’s passing on to you.

    • Just make sure that you do your “positive” portion of exercises quickly (explosively) and control it on the way down without going too slow. This will develop your explosiveness and will make you faster and stronger for MMA. Just keep in mind that the explosive fibers tire out quickly, so don’t do high reps.

      Or find someone to teach you the olympic lifts like Thomas says. Oly lifts are great for building explosive, powerful athletes.

      • Oh sorry if I wasn’t clear on that…..I don’t do any MMA/Martial Arts as it’s too expensive for me to pay for next to the gym,which already is the most cheapest I could find&afford. But I do ‘fantasize’ about it,also hearing stories from a girl at my voluntary job that started Krav Maga. She’s really active kinda ADHD-like btw,making long gruelling hours at work and then doing lots of stuff after work.

  29. Is it possible to do this kind of exercise at home? I seriously can’t stand (and can’t afford) gyms anymore…

    • Sister, plenty of options for doing bodyweight exercises. You can probably put together a routine, just checking out this guys site: http://www.rosstraining.com
      However, if you want a book, his book is great:

      This one is also good: “http://www.amazon.com/Pushing-Yourself-Power-Ultimate-Transformation/dp/1932458018

      You can build great strength and fitness with push-ups, chin-ups, handstand pushups, hanging leg raises, pistol squats, bridges, isometric and isotonic exercises, etc. And you don’t have to spend a cent, unless you want to invest in one of the above books or spend a couple of dollars on a skip rope.

      • Thanks Thomas!

  30. This conversation is on exercise is so confusing to a stay at home mum like myself, who can’t get to the gym and learn anything about anything. Please, some simple advice on how to exercise at home? Like, pick up something heavy and just hold it? In what position and for how long????????????

    • Lars have you read the book they sell at Gymnastic Bodies, I’m interested to know what you thought if you have.

      • Hi Lauren,

        I bought the book in 2009. It’s great and highly recommended.
        But it is very “raw” – it has a lot of great progressions to learn the various skills, but looking back I would say it’s for the more experienced. But it’s definitely an eye-opener!
        I think Coach Sommer will release his new ( digital ) book this week:


        I would buy this one ( I’ll do it anyway :-)) !

        • Okay thanks!

  31. I’ve been RRARFing now for about 5 weeks. I’m 6′ tall and about 170 lbs, up from 157 when I first started RRARFing. My morning temp has come up but still at the low end. I’m somewhere around 97.8 on most days i check. 97.7 some days. It’s been like that for about 3 weeks now. I’m really ready to start some exercise again but I’m wondering should I give it another few weeks or start back with some weight training and see how it effects my temps. What about the 5×5 Stronglifts Program?

  32. Matt-

    How do you feel about creatine supplementation? Would it help get someone who is “overhydrated” back to a healthy metabolism because it pulls water into the cells? My urine is clear and I frequently feel cold and I wanted to know if this would help in addition to using the princples that you recommend.


  33. I have a question about my son, who is medically complex and currently on a ventilator (since birth, he’s 3 now.)

    We are weaning him from the ventilator, and have hit a wall with his stamina. He quickly ramped up to 2.5 hrs when we started about 4 weeks ago, and just as quickly plateaued there.

    I keep wishing there was someone knowledgable, not just about pulmonology, but about building both endurance AND (diaphramatic) muscle strength, who had some insight into how we might pace him most effectively from a physiological/strength training POV.

    I feel silly posting here, but if anyone has any thoughts directly, or thoughts on who I could speak to, I’m all ears : )

  34. Thanks Lars, one more question. Is Tabata training bad for us then??? I have just gotten used to Tabata and enjoy it and coz it is so quick I can fit it in to my day. Does it have any benefits??

  35. This blog is so awesome and very informative it really helps a lot. It may help more to a person who read this blog. Read this carefully and must understand what you have read in order to know its use.


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