This post is a Thinner, Leaner, Stronger book and program review by Michael Matthews, founder of Legion Athletics. TLS is one of the best fitness books I have ever read!
This book turned me from a person who lifted 3 times a month because I felt like I had to, to a person who believes she will lift 5 days a week for the rest of her active adult life.”
Thinner Leaner Stronger Book Review: What I loved about Thinner, Leaner, Stronger:
- Clearly designed whole body balanced lifting program that evolves and progress in phases as you get stronger
- Clearly explained macro diet requirements depending on cutting, bulking, or maintaining goals
- Easy to follow plan, I would call it sustainable a lifestyle
- Extremely informative, and I already knew a good bit on the topic!
- Extremely motivating, and I hated lifting.
Thinner Leaner Stronger Book Review: What I was neutral about:
- Meal recommendations, I mean, I like recipe ideas, but I do not need recipe ideas.
- Bonus spreadsheets to track progress, again useful, but I don’t need them. I made my own, plus the idea of tracking diet or weight or sets on a spreadsheet on my phone seems like a pain. Paper and pencil please!
- The section on supplements. I personally feel that supplements are not sustainable. I have taken vitamin, minerals, and amino acid supplements, and this and that, but I personally never keep up with it. If it is not part of a sustainable lifestyle, then why bother, IMO
Thinner Leaner Stronger Book Review:
Honestly, there is absolutely nothing negative I can say about this book or program. I have lifted before, I follow some resistance training specialists on social media, I have read plenty about it in articles through the years. But this book was DIFFERENT. It turned me from a person who lifted 3 times a month because I know it was good for me, to a person who believes she will lift 5 days a week for the rest of her active adult life. I also climb a lot, and after 4 months and 50 lifting sessions, I climb half a grade harder.
TLS Discusses Nutrition in an Extremely Informative and Personalized Way
As soon as Matthews started talking to the reader about what kind of diet you needed for your specific goal, I read faster and faster, because I wanted to start my diet right then! When I got to the section about the workout routines, I read faster and faster, because I wanted to start that day! As I read and devoured information, in mind I was saying, “I want to do this now. Tell me everything!” I read the 400+ page book in 4 days and was sad when it was over. So I bought the cookbook Shredded Chef to fill the void of M.M. reading in my life. Just take my money Mr. Matthews!
Before TLS, I Did Not Like Lifting
I always knew that I needed to have a resistance training routine, especially as I approach 40 years old, but I was so bored by lifting that I never did it consistently. Ok, so maybe like 6 years ago I lifted consistently for a few months. But for the past 6 years, my goal would be to lift twice a week, and I’d end up lifting three times a month, maybe. WEAK! But, this program provided me with so much direction, knowledge, and motivation that I am finally in it. I believe I can lift for the rest of my life on this program. I now have the tools and motivation to build and maintain muscle even as my own biology starts to work against me.
Here is proof of my beginner success using the Thinner Leaner Stronger Program!
4 weeks! Lifting 5 days a week! 20 sessions! That is more lifting sessions in 1 month than in all of 2019. In orange you can see where I added in some running for cardio health, and added in some climbing specific exercises like pull ups and hangboarding. I also took a couple of days off for surfing. But, these are results that I don’t have to stand on a scale to see. My biggest gain was my bench press. I have never bench pressed 70 lbs, and next week I will go for 75lbs. I’m almost 40. I’m just a high school English teacher who couldn’t do a pull up until she was 32. If I can do this stuff, believe me, you can do this stuff!
In a Nutshell: The Resistance Training Program
The resistance training program evolves in multiple 6 to 8 week phases. What do the phases look like? Phase 1, for example (I chose the 5 day plan) looks like this: Day 1 = lower body, Day 2 = pushing muscle work and core, Day 3 = pulling muscle work, Day 4 = upper body and core, Day 5 = lower body, followed by 2 rest days. Each day consists of 4-5 exercises that you must complete 3 heavy sets of 8-10 reps. A heavy set means that by rep 6, 7, or 8, your muscles are pretty darn close to failure. So, you are really working your muscles hard. I could stay in Phase 1 for 6-8 weeks, I am personally going for 8 weeks.
Also, you can do up to 2 hours of cardio per week in addition to this lifting. Why only 2 hours? More on that VERY INTERESTING question below! I have never had a lifting progression program spelled out so clearly!
If you don’t think you are ready for Michael Matthew’s program, don’t worry, check out these articles and you can still get started getting stronger today! If you are stoked to REALLY start lifting, keep reading!
In a Nutshell: The Nutrition Program
For a diet program, you can choose to start with cutting, maintaining, or lean bulking depending on what your goals are. Cutting, lean bulking, and maintaining all have unique meal plans and ratios of macros. So, depending on what you want to do first, your diet macros will change. I chose to start with the cutting diet, hoping to lose maybe 2% of my body fat. Michael Matthews, the author, suggests starting with cutting until you reach a certain body fat percentage. So, yes, this program has you counting calories and macros in a diet journal.
Tracking What You Eat
A lot of people really frown on diet tracking or hate the idea of having to write down what you eat, but I think it is smart and I enjoy knowing exactly what I am eating everyday. When you keep track of what you eat in a journal, you can pinpoint things that you ate that derailed you. Plus, unless you have the willpower of a monk, do we always wait until we are hungry to eat? No! How well do we really listen to our bodies? And, when you do feel hungry, do our bodies tell us what we need to eat? My body can’t tell me, “Hey Amanda, we’ve only had 30 grams of protein today, so how about some chicken with lunch?” but my diet notebook can.
I rely on counting my macros to know if I need more carbs, or protein, or some fat in the next thing I eat. You should definitely give diet journaling a try. It is not bad at all! You might even like it!
Shocking take away #1. I get to eat 100g of carbs every day.
I am pretty stoked about this! Maybe this is subconsciously why I love the book so much. I love whole wheat bread, I love whole wheat pancakes, I love whole wheat cookies, I love whole wheat muffins (oat flour and chickpea flower too). Love, love, love. WHY, HOW is this possible?! I thought carbs were kind-of dangerous. I did some rereading and some googling to understand the basics of the role carbohydrates play and how they metabolize. In a nutshell, all this reminded me how muscles work.
Remember, English teacher here, not a dietitian. I learned that your muscles turn carbohydrates into glycogen. Glycogen is what your muscles cells use to create ATP, which is energy that is used to make muscles perform. Muscles that are fed a low or no carbohydrates diet are left with little to no glycogen to create ATP to function. Thus, the muscle’s performance is greatly hindered. Less than optimum muscle performance is NOT what you want when you are trying to grow or maintain muscle mass with lifting heavy weights. If you want to be toned and healthy, then you need muscle, and that muscle needs to be fed carbohydrates so it is ready to perform at its best. So, put another slice of bread on that open faced sandwich!
Shocking take away #2. Too much cardio will hinder muscle growth.
My fellow runners might read this, and be immediately saddened like I was. I was dismayed because I love to have running in my workout toolbelt. I was also dismayed because I just got my first pair of Altra Solstice running shoes and I freaking love them. So, brand new running shoes that I love and I can’t run and build muscle? Sad face. But, this isn’t the case! The suggestion is to limit intense cardio to 1-2 hours a week. No more. So, for those who like to bang out 45 minutes on the elliptical 4 times a week, that is too much. For those who like to go on hour long runs 3 times a week, that is too much too.
Why? The reasoning behind this? Glycogen. Intense cardio burns glycogen that is better ‘spent’ lifting if you are trying to be toned and have maximum health, so just make sure that your muscles have recovery time to replenish glycogen stores for lifting.
Challenge #1. Eating enough protein.
Early on in the program, I didn’t know what to eat. (I almost don’t want to call it a program because it is more of a lifestyle, and I feel that I can call it a lifestyle because I honestly don’t think it will be terribly difficult to stick to!) I am trying to cut and maintain muscle, which is tricky. There is a lot of information online about how it is tricky to maintain muscle mass while in a calorie deficit, but the key to doing so is resistance training and lots of protein. About 1.2 grams of protein per kilo of weight. I weigh 112.4 lbs so I need to eat a whopping 134 grams of protein a day. I haven’t achieved this once.
In the first week of the program, I sat down and made a plan to make it to 130 grams of protein everyday and not exceed my needed calorie intake, and over half of my calories have to come from low calorie high protein foods. This is what the list looked like: 3 servings of egg whites (15g), 4oz chicken breast (approx. 25g), 4 oz lean red meat ( approx. 25g), one protein shake (30g), one low fat greek yogurt (15g), and 3 servings of a whole grain (15g) takes me to approximately 125 grams of protein and at about 66% of my calories for the day. So, it is doable. However, I’m going to be honest. I have rarely made it to 130 grams of protein in a day. I only make it to about 100 grams.
Setting Up a Home Gym for TLS
Below is all of the stuff in our home gym and everything that has helped me with my journey! (I am so grateful for my boyfriend who really set us up with a great home gym.) With this equipment, I have only needed to modify one exercise in phase one. Of course, you can also get a gym membership! Michael Matthews, the author of Thinner, Leaner, Stronger, also provides variations of exercises that can be completed with less equipment.
I hope this Thinner Leaner Stronger book review has helped and inspired you! Honestly, I have already picked this book up again and started re-reading sections. It is currently the best book on my fitness bookshelf.
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