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15 Little Life Hacks

Sample: The 4-Hour Body: From Geek to Freak

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Tim Ferriss’s new book, The 4-Hour Body, is out, and it is superb.

It’s about hacking the human body, including bulking up, losing weight, engineering the perfect night’s sleep, improving sex, and more. I’ve had it for about 6 weeks now and have been sampling the book extensively.

I like it because instead of spouting off generic advice (“Don’t eat carbs!”) he actually spent years testing virtually every aspect of his diet, sleep, bloodwork, workout regimen, and more.

In fact, a few months ago, he and I were out with a few friends for dinner. After we’d all finished our huge meals — I’m talking big steaks — he goes, “Hey, do you guys mind if I order something else?” He then ordered an entire steak again…literally, I’ve never seen someone eat so much….and then pulled up his shirt to show up some weird glucose monitor he was using to test who-knows-what.

I love testing. And I love anyone who is rigorous enough to put common misconceptions to the test in order to find out what really works.

You guys know that Tim and I are friends, so here’s what I’m doing:

Free stuff
1. There’s a sample from his book below on “How to Gain 34 Pounds in 28 Days.” Read it, check it out, enjoy it. (Note that I’m in his book on this very topic — bulking up by 25lbs in one year.)

2. Join my email list by tomorrow (Thurs, 12/16) at 12:16pm EST. I am giving away another chapter from the book — “Engineering the Perfect Night’s Sleep — along with a chance to meet me and Tim for dinner.

This is only for I Will Teach You To Be Rich readers and you can’t find the stuff we’re doing for you anywhere else.

Here’s the sample chapter.


How to Gain 34 Pounds in 28 Days

On July 6, 65-year-old John’s biceps measured 14½” in circumference. Six weeks later, his biceps measured a full ¾” larger at 15¼”.

It seems like magic, but it wasn’t.

He reduced his workouts from three per week to two per week.  It was all planned.  Progressive reduction.

You see, most of the conventional wisdom about muscular growth is just dead wrong.

Prelude: On Being Genetically Screwed

I come from a family of lightly muscled males. The only exception is a dramatic bubble butt on my mom’s side. Not a bad look if you’re a Brazilian woman.

In August 2009, to confirm the obvious, I mailed DNA samples to the Gist Sports Profile laboratory in Australia for testing of the ACTN3 gene, which codes proteins for fast- twitch muscle fiber.  Fast-twitch muscle fibers have the greatest potential for growth, whereas slow-twitch fibers have the least potential.

It turns out that both of my chromosomes (one from Mammy and one from Pappy Ferriss) contain the R577X variant of the ACTN3 gene, a mutation that results in a complete deficiency of our most desired ACTN3.  This variant, amusingly called a “nonsense allele,” is found in more than a billion humans worldwide.

Sad Christmas.

The cover letter from Gist Sports began with the following headline, which, in good humor, lacks an exclamation point:

Congratulations Tim Ferriss. Your Genetic Advantage: Endurance Sports.

This is a diplomatic way of telling me (1) I’m not likely to win an Olympic gold medal in sprinting, and (2) I am not genetically pre-programmed to gain a lot of muscular mass.

I hadn’t won the fast-twitch lottery for bodybuilding, and chances are that you haven’t either. Looking at family photos, this result wasn’t surprising.  What is surprising is how well you can override genetics.

I have gained more than 20 pounds of fat- free mass within four weeks on at least four occasions, the most recent in 2005. Two of these experiments were done in 1995 and 1996 at Princeton University, where Matt Brzycki, then Coordinator of Health Fitness, Strength and Conditioning, nicknamed me “Growth.”

This chapter details the exact methods I used in 2005 to gain 34 pounds of fat- free mass in 28 days.

For the ladies not interested in becoming the Hulk, if you follow a Slow-Carb Diet and reduce rest periods between exercises to 30 seconds, this exact workout protocol can help you lose 10–20 pounds of fat in the same 28-day time span.


I weighed 152 pounds throughout high school, but after training in tango in Buenos Aires in 2005, I had withered to 146 pounds. I remedied the situation with a 28-day schedule based primarily on the work of Arthur Jones, Mike Mentzer, and Ken Hutchins.

Before-and-after measurements, including underwater hydrostatic weightings, were taken by Dr. Peggy Plato at the Human Performance Laboratory at San Jose State University. Though this ridiculous experiment might seem unhealthy, I tracked blood variables and dropped my total cholesterol count from 222 to 147 without the use of statins (see pre-bed supplementation).

Here are the results:

Age: 27 (in 2005)

Weight before: 146 lbs

Weight after: 177 lbs (183 lbs three days later)

Bodyfat percentage before: 16.72%

Bodyfat percentage after: 12.23%

Total muscle gained: 34 lbs

Total fat-loss: 3 lbs

Time elapsed: 4 weeks

To put 34 pounds in perspective, below is exactly one pound of lean grass-fed beef sirloin next to my fist.

One Pound Steak

Imagine 34 of those placed on you. It’s no small addition.

Here are some select stats on the four-week change (September 21 to October 23), using combined measurements from Dr. Plato and Brooks Brothers:

  • Suit size: 40 short to 44 regular (measured at Brooks Brothers at Santana Row in San Jose)
  • Neck: 15.8″ to 18″
  • Chest: 37.5″ to 43″
  • Shoulders: 43″ to 52″
  • Thigh: 21.5″ to 25.5″
  • Calf: 13.5″ to 14.9″
  • Upper arm: 12″ to 14.6″
  • Forearm: 10.8″ to 12″
  • Waist: 29.5″ to 33.1″
  • Hips (ass at widest): 34″ to 38.23″ (J. Lo, eat your heart out)

Oh, and I forgot to mention, all of this was done with two 30-minute workouts per week, for a total of 4 hours of gym time.

How Did I Do It?

First, I followed a simple supplement regimen:

Morning: NO-Xplode (2 scoops), Slo-Niacin (or timed-release niacinamide, 500 mg)

Each meal: ChromeMate (chromium polynicotinate, not picolinate, 200 mcg), alpha-lipoic acid (200 mg)

Pre-workout: BodyQUICK (2 capsules 30 mins. prior)

Post-workout: Micellean (30 g micellar casein protein)

Prior to bed: policosanol (23 mg), ChromeMate (200 mcg), alpha-lipoic acid (200 mg), Slo-Niacin (500 mg)

No anabolics were used.

From a training standpoint, there were four basic principles that made it happen, all of which will be expanded upon in the next chapter:


Follow Arthur Jones’s general recommendation of one- set- to- failure (i.e., reaching the point where you can no longer move the weight) for 80–120 seconds of total time under tension per exercise. Take at least three minutes of rest between exercises.


Perform every repetition with a 5/5 cadence (five seconds up, five seconds down) to eliminate momentum and ensure constant load.


Focus on 2–10 exercises per workout (including at least one multi- joint exercise for pressing, pulling, and leg movements). I chose to exercise my entire body each workout to elicit a heightened hormonal response (testosterone, growth hormone, IGF-1, etc.).

Here is the sequence I used during this experiment (“+” = superset, which means no rest between exercises):

  • Pullover + Yates’s bent row
  • Shoulder- width leg press
  • Pec-deck + weighted dips
  • Leg curl
  • Reverse thick-bar curl (purchase cut 2″ piping from Home Depot If needed, which you can then slide plates onto)
  • Seated calf raises
  • Manual neck resistance
  • Machine crunches

All of these exercises can be found at


This is described at length in the next chapter, which describes the most reductionist and refined approach to overriding stubborn genetics: Occam’s Protocol.

Occam’s Protocol is what I suggest almost all trainees start with for mass gains.


The Concise Book of Muscles by Chris Jarmey ( World- class strength coach Charles Poliquin introduced me to this outstanding book. It is the best anatomy book for nonmedical students that I’ve ever seen, and I’ve looked at them all. Get it.

“Strength Training Methods and the Work of Arthur Jones,” D. Smith, S. Bruce-Low, and J. E. Ponline, Journal of Exercise Physiology ( This research review compares single- set and multiple- set strength gains. The authors incorporate 112 sources to answer the question: are multiple sets really better than single sets? For muscular growth, it’s hard to beat the economy of single sets. For pure strength with little weight gain (see “Effortless Superhuman”), different approaches are more effective.

“Cartman and Weight Gain 4000” ( Inspirational weight-gain video from our friends at South Park. Good pre-dinner motivation for overfeeding.

Arthur Jones Collection ( This site, compiled by Brian Johnston, is a collection of the writing and photographs of the legendary Arthur Jones, including the original Nautilus Bulletins, “The Future of Exercise,” and unpublished works.

* * *

What now?

1. If you want to buy the book, here’s the link. I recommend it 100%.

2. Join my email list by tomorrow (12/16) at 12:16pm EST. I’ll be sending out ANOTHER chapter — “Engineering the Perfect Night’s Sleep” — and showing you how you can get your specific questions on health, losing weight, gaining weight, productivity, time management, and personal finances — answered by Tim and me. And how a couple of you can come have dinner with us. (These bonuses are only going out via email — not the blog.)

Can’t see the form above? Click here to sign up for Tim Ferriss bonuses by tomorrow, 12/16, at 12:16pm

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  1. HA! Love all this cross promotion. I preordered the book just to get “find your first profitable idea”

  2. “In fact, a few months ago, he and I were out with a few friends last year and we…”

    Which was it? A few months ago or last year? I stopped reading after this…

    • Ha, sorry, I fixed it. It was a few months ago. I don’t remember exactly how long as I don’t track exactly when I have dinner with friends.

  3. Although I’ve never desired to gain 34 pounds in 28 days, I appreciate you and Tim emphasizing the importance of taking a step back and thinking about the quality of what you’re doing, not just the quantity.

    So often I see that thinking about what really matters and then completely engaging in that activity when you invest time in it creates far greater results-and peacefulness-than frantically trying to complete an overwhelming amount of activities.

    To your brilliance!

  4. It’s one thing to gain or lose x amount of lbs in a short period, but I’d really like to know if he was able to maintain that for the long term. If you’re just going to go back to your regular body type a year from now then what’s really the point? It becomes another crash diet/weight gain plan.

    • Agree 100%. See this article I wrote on a similar topic. I have kept my weight on for something like 2 years, almost to the pound. I don’t know about Tim but neither of us are into crash diets. It’s always about sustainable change (unless done strategically, like for a weight check-in).

  5. Not that Tim Ferris isn’t brilliant, but there’s many trainers who have dedicated their lives to testing and documenting their client’s results with mass gain/fat loss/body recomp programs. They read and decode the studies (so we dont have to) and are actively involved in helping people. Their input comes from a huge variety of clients, not just bros(curls get girls!) or newbie gains. I’m interested in Tim’s angle about his fitness regimen but I’m not 100% sure about a program that starts it’s day with 2 scoops of NO-Xplode (that only has the benefit of making you feel jittery and having to go to the bathroom. trust.)

    Other reads – Dan John’s “Never Let Go”(be wicked strong) and blogs like (be very lean)


  6. I look at this and just think, if this regimen works so well, why does he resort to the same cheap infomercial tricks in the photographs of wearing more revealing clothing and shaving his chest and legs in the “after” photos so there’s no real way to compare them to the “before” photos?

    Personally, I find his physique significantly more sexually appealing in the “before” photos, anyway.

    • Agreed, and agreed! Men who think they should to be all bulky to be attractive are like women who think they need to be twig-thin. Lean and strong is where it’s at.

  7. Frank Mocerino Link to this comment

    @Hilary – I’ve read the majority of the book, and I think that you’ll find that there’s something in there for everyone. Tim helps Neil Strauss gain muscle for the first time in his life, recounts how he helped (or observed) numerous software engineers lose weight.

    I’m not really interested in gaining 34 pounds in a month, but I did come away happy that I head read the book, for a few reasons:

    1. I know things about the female orgasm that I didn’t know before. That’s always a plus

    2. Kettlebells are neat. I plan to experiment with them.

    3. As is common in Tim’s work, it’s rich with awesome suggestions and further learning opportunities. He cites hundreds of other works, products and studies. There’s lots to explore after you close the book.

    Probably not as “revolutionary,” as the 4HWW, but as he mentions – the 4HWW is what gave him access to all the awesome people that influenced the experiments conducted in that book.

    Long story short – it’s worth the money to read it.

    • @Frank

      It is very easy to get results in people who have never lifted weights. They are called newbie gains and trainers and clubs use those people as examples of their awesome training powers all the time. On the same note, it’s very easy to get someone who is very overweight with poor nutrition to lose a lot of weight very quickly.

      1. Not really relevant to me 😉
      2. I’ve been using Kettle bells for 4 years . They ARE awesome. <3

      As I said, I am interested in his methodology and philosophy so the third point might be what I get the most benefit from. Thanks for the review! 😀

  8. Agreed on the better before pic. Its probably like when women dress to impress other women & men bulk up for other men. I don’t think body builder triangle is women’s preference in general.

  9. The key sentence is: “I have gained more than 20 pounds of fat- free mass within four weeks on at least four occasions, the most recent in 2005.” It is well known that it is much easier to regain muscle strength and mass that one’s body has had previously. Tim doesn’t describe the work (at least in the text shared here) required to add that muscle mass the first 3 times he accomplished it. It was certainly more than 60 minutes a week. It’s misleading to omit this aspect of the discussion.

  10. looks really gimmicky. financial porn-esque gimmicky. a lot of people have made a lot of money flipping real estate or trading currency futures. a lot of people have gotten in shape using gimmick laden training programs (all claiming to be backed by scientific research, but really based on a lot of misinterpreted studies).

    his gains also don’t really impress me. i’ve seen people gain more by following the stronglifts 5×5 program. years ago i gained about 30lbs in half a year (on my tiny 110lb frame) eating hamburgers and following the dinosaur training program by brooks kubik. that doesn’t mean it’s the most effective method for everyone.

    tim ferris should stick to his work week stuff. selling a new fitness program makes him look like a really slimy salesman.