The difference between the photos above are 6 months and 16kg. It doesn't look like much in a photo, but I can tell you that for the first time in my life, people have asked me if I am on steroids, because I've gained so much muscle so fast.
This is going to be a long blog post - remember that I'm an author, so writing a short blog post is difficult for me! But I guarantee you will get something out of it. This is not one of those "I've never missed a day of gym for 10 years" bullshit stories that make you feel like you just don't work hard enough.
Nope, you probably do. You probably spend more time in the gym than I do. You probably go more often than I do.
Do I have lots of sex?
Here's the first big clue, and it's about my sex life.
Most people, when they hear that Sharny (my wife) is pregnant with our 6th baby, say to us "geez, you must have a lot of sex!"
Well, the truth is, you don't need to have sex often at all to get 6 kids. You just have to do it 6 times. Ever. But each of those times has to be effective.
It's the same with weights.
You can spend 3 hours a day, doing thousands of reps, lifting tons of weight and not gain muscle fast.
I'm convinced that I put on weight easily because I'm always getting beginner gains.
I'm fickle when it comes to fitness. I immerse myself into one type, like lifting weights, then when I've conquered it, I drop it completely. Gaining muscle is like that for me. My entire adult life, I've been around weights. But I just don't get the motivation to do it day in and day out for longer than about 8 weeks or so.
Partly because I get too big, and partly because I just get bored. So I move onto something else, like running.
But the fact is, the gains I get are always like beginner gains. Good quality, fast muscle growth.
So my first tip, if you're struggling to gain size, is to just stop going to the gym for a while. Do something else. Stay away long enough that when you get back you feel like a beginner again.
Before and After
The photo on the left was taken at the end of the Fitdad program. I loved every single moment of that program, because it was the first time in my life that I had incorporated my two greatest loves - fitness and family. I lost a whole bunch of weight and ended up in a photo shoot (left).
FitDad is incredible, I've been blessed and lucky to be the person held responsible for so many dads reconnecting with their kids through fitness. If you're a fat dad with no time, I urge you to check it out. I guarantee you'll love it.
A history of helping guys gain muscle fast
Until Fitdad, one of the things I loved to do was to help young guys to get bigger.
Wherever I’ve been in the world, it has always been around rugby. Every rugby player wants to get bigger. I have in my time helped a whole bunch of young guys pack on weight so they could play up a grade, or get picked up by a professional team.
While I was doing this, I helped older, skinny guys to just put on some decent size. Just so they could fill out their T-shirt or impress their more masculine physique onto their wives.
Check out this video from way back in 2010... Yes, our PT studio was called Stripfit.
The problem for me though, was that by the time I had helped each of the guys for the day, I was just plain burnt out, and wanted to play with my kids. I avoided the gym outside of work. Every now and then, I’d slip under the bench press between clients, or do some pull-ups, but mostly I just did nothing.
Then Came FitDad
Then came FitDad, and I basically cut most of the fat off me, and exposed what was underneath.
For someone in the fitness industry, it’s like taking off your clothes and looking at what you really look like. You see, for male “athletes” muscle size determines your shape, once all the fat has come off.
While I didn’t have tiny muscles, I could certainly pick some areas that I wanted to improve on. (notice in the above photos how I never showed my legs?)
This, combined with a whole bunch of once-fat-now-skinny FitDads who had reached the end of the FitDad fairytale, prompted me to document what I’d learnt over the past 20 years of helping men get bigger.
I didn't want to do it
Initially I was just going to “tell” the skinny dads what to do, I worked so hard to get lighter, and enjoyed running at such a light weight. I loved chasing my kids around all day, and I just didn’t think I had the capacity to put the time into physically fatiguing my body every night.
4 of my 5 kids are too young for school and don’t go to daycare.
To get bigger, you have to train to complete exhaustion and rest/recovery is essential.
It’s said you’re meant to sleep for 9 hours a day to get the right conditions for size gains. I sleep a maximum of 6. I’d love more, but I have to get work done while the kids sleep, so I get up at 2AM to work.
Getting fit GIVES you energy. You can survive on less sleep, the endorphins turn you into a cocaine fairy. Always high, always ready for a challenge.
Getting big, on the other hand, requires full concentration and full use of your energy. It burns you out.
I train in the gym at night after the kids go to sleep. I tried to train in the morning, but I’d be asleep on the couch by 9am.
So I’d get the kids to bed at 6PM, lie there with them for half an hour to make sure they actually were asleep. Most of the time I’d fall asleep, remember that this all happened in winter.
That delicious end of day exhausted sleep? I had to wake myself out of it every single night. While it was hard to get up, it worked out to be the best pre workout. By the time I had stumbled to the kitchen, I was ready to hit the iron.
Eating for size
You can get big and fat quite easily, but if you want to maintain some sort of definition, whilst gaining solid muscle, you have to split your day into two phases. The diet phase and the growth phase.
For me, the diet phase starts when I wake up, until around 2PM. I find I can stay pretty lean on food for the first 12 hours of the day. But by 2PM, I’m not only hungry, but I’m actually pretty sore. The DOMS is already there.
Back to the eating...
Part 1: The Diet Phase
Until 2 O’clock, all that matters is that I have antioxidants (veggies), water and a steady stream of amino acids (protein). The protein came from eggs, left over chicken breast or BCAA, and sometimes a protein shake.
I am also very partial to Sharny's banana bread recipe, made with Banana flour (a really healthy resistant starch).
Calories are kept quite low. I wanted all the calories I ate to be put toward muscle growth.
After 2, it was time to eat for the nights workout.
Part 2: The Growth Phase
I think of everything analytically. It’s how I’m wired. Here's something I think about all the time:
If you are doing a body part once a week, then that means you have only 4 opportunities to change that body part each month.
I really, really hated to waste any of those opportunities (still do). I know all too well that one of the biggest killers of a good workout is not having enough fuel.
So I ate a good, solid meal at 2PM, with lots of sweet potato, but no sugars, starchy carbs or fat. I would definitely include a lean protein source, for example chicken breast, tuna, beef round, barramundi.
By the time I worked out at 6pm, the meal would all be in my system, ready to be used.
If I was still hungry at around 4PM, I'd smash some oats or some more sweet potato.
With each of these meals, I’d have as little fat as possible, only what was in my meat and I cooked with coconut oil if I had to. Coconut oil is dynamite for fat loss.
Immediately after my workout, I'd have my post workout cocktail, then a massive feast of carbs and protein. Basically I'd aim to eat at least half my day's calories after my workout, and then go straight to bed (around 8).
At 2AM, I'd wake up, take a big ol' shit, measure myself (weight, gut circumference, skin folds and body fat), then go for a 30 minute walk or do some intervals to wake me up so I could work.
Supplements for muscle gain
I made the following pics for you to save to your phone. It's my way of saving cash on some pretty heavy expenses. You can get pre made stuff, which is fine, but just look at the ingredients list to see if it has the right amount of each key ingredient. If not, you may need to buy a filler bottle of the missing ingredient.
This is a great way to get your pre workout to taste good, but still be effective.
I buy all of my supplements from the guys at Nutrition Warehouse. Their house brand is called Genetix Nutrition, and it's cheap. If you email me, I'll give you a code that will give you a 25% discount on any genetix nutrition product, plus a free shaker bottle.
save these photos and post them to instagram/facebook so you have them handy.
The pictures are quite self explanatory, but in case, LMM means Lean Muscle Mass. Dextrose is just brewing sugar that you can buy from the supermarket for about $3 per kilo.
So I decided I'd have a damn go at it, I'm going to see where I can get with what I know.
So I did. I decided I'd do EVERYTHING that I expected the IronDads to do.
At first, it sucked. I wanted to quit. I did quit. On the basic lifts, by focussing on proper form, I could barely lift a child’s weight. On the bench press, I shook like a leaf on 40kg at around 6 reps. (The tempo I find best is a 3010 or 4010.)
But worst of all was that I just literally couldn’t get my arms to let my chest do any work. I was so pissed off. I would burn out in my triceps, and my chest was still flat and cold. Like it wasn’t even being used. Because it wasn’t.
Still now, 6 months on, I have to concentrate really, really hard to get my chest to do any work. I’m getting better at it, sure, but it takes SO MUCH concentration.
Another thing that I sucked at was squats. I could do body weight squats or burpees at speed infinitum, but put a weight on my shoulders and I’d buckle in the knees like a baby giraffe.
In the past 6 months though, legs have become my favourite workout. It’s still not easy, I have to hang off the chinup bar after every single set and cannot do more than about 20 squats total before my lower back flares up too much. But I can report that last week I did a 180kg squat with good clean form, and then tried a 200kg squat.
If you look at the photos, you can see the difference that working legs has made. My quads are not good yet, but they’re better. I’ve purposefully trained them every 3rd day to complete failure and beyond for the entire 6 months. My calves are actually my favourite muscle to train - I do them every second night (alternating with abs).
I still hate doing abs. I don’t like the burn, but they feel harder, so that’s something. I know my abs have something to do with my back problems, so I’ve been working them quite hard.
This is how I do abs:
and this, when the kids are asleep:
While my body fat percentage has stayed about the same, it's a percentage. This means that I have put on fat. The illusion of being ripped is actually because my abs are just bigger, so poke through the fat better.
I'm hoping that by the end of my cut, I'll still have the bigger abs, but less fat - so they may some day look good. Hopefully!
I’m very fortunate that I didn’t get injured, but I know from years of training footy players that ego causes injury, so lucky for me in my home gym, I have nobody to impress. I also know that one of the limiters to size is the tightness of the sheath around the muscle, called the fascia.
Rolling out the muscles really, really slowly on a foam roller has helped me to reduce the risk of injury, as well as stretching the fascia. Try it yourself. Lay one of your quads on the roller with your full weight like the photo above. Then try to relax the muscle. Keep relaxing until you feel the quads separate.
It's a weird 'slipping' feeling inside the muscle, and when you're done you’ll feel like you’re resting directly on the bone. Now inch ever so slowly up (or down) while trying to keep your muscle as relaxed as possible. The pain is intense, but it radiates away and you’ll feel a million dollars when you stand up.
What I enjoyed or didn't enjoy about muscle gain
I really, really enjoyed the following:
- quiet time at night
- Getting stronger
- having a routine
- tracking myself
- the pump!
- seeing new veins appear on my calves
- my front delt definition
- eating a lot
I didn't enjoy this:
- days where I felt flat or weak
- Getting heavy
- Comparing myself to fitness models on instagram
- 6 hours sleep after a workout
- elbow pain
- getting obsessive (catching myself thinking my entire life was about lifting!)
Well, it's summer here now, so it's back to FitDad workouts with the kids. I will do weights at night still until I get bored, and for now I'm not giving up on my supplement addiction!
FitDad is awesome, absolutely awesome. I really think though, that IronDad is my best work yet. There are subtle nuances to the program that literally turn it into a masterclass on fat free muscle gain.
FitDad is all about exercising with your kids, and being a better dad. But with IronDad, I had a clean slate to create the perfect program, using everything I had learnt over nearly 2 decades. I literally picked the best parts of the best programs I had created or used in the past.
If this is something you might be interested in, then go here... everyone who signs up gets lifetime access (for less than you would pay a personal trainer), as well as that massive NW discount.
PS it's not just for dads. While filming it and programming it, I thought about all the young guys that have asked me for help. IronDad is for anyone wanting to learn how to gain muscle, without getting fat or taking steroids.
If you see me out on the Sunshine Coast, Australia, I'll be at one of the playgrounds, or at Point Cartwright with my kids... I don't have a pram.