Mike Thiga is the author of “The Muscle Experiment,” a bodyweight-only muscle building workout program.
I caught up with Mike to ask him a few questions about his eBook, and about muscle building in general. I learned a great deal from talking to Mike, and I’m sure you’ll learn a few lessons too:
Parth: So, Mike. What exactly is the Muscle Experiment?
Mike: The Muscle Experiment is a training program designed to pack on muscle on even the skinniest person, with the use of Bodyweight Training Exercises. The reason I decided to call it “The Muscle Experiment” is because it all came about after a little ’experiment’ I decided to try on myself in 2008.
You see, I was born with a withered right arm, which has one finger. And because of this people used to treat me like a helpless weakling. And whenever I tried to go to a gym to workout, nobody really wanted to train me because they though I’d be ‘excess baggage’ and slow them down.
So I decided to get into bodyweight training. I had heard stories of people who had built impressive physiques without lifting weights. The warriors of ancient days had amazing physiques…long before weightlifting was invented. My uncle who was in the military was also a pretty big guy, and as I recall he never trained with weights.
And with this, my bodyweight training muscle building journey began. I knew I was going to build muscle without weights, and nothing was going to stop me. At the end of my first 23 week training cycle, I had gained 39 pounds of muscle.
Parth: That’s really cool that you were able to overcome your genetic abilities and pack on so much muscle mass. I feel this is a huge problem with hardgainers – they don’t seem to know how to get past their genetic abilities. And because they walk into the gym so skinny, no one wants to help them. So I congratulate you on that. But on top of that, any other specific benefits to packing on muscle mass with bodyweight exercise alone?
Mike: Using bodyweight exercises to build lean muscle mass has countless benefits. Let me give you a few:
1. You’ll save time and money – You’ll save money by not having to pay for gym memberships or personal trainers. You’ll save time, because bodyweight exercises can literally be done anywhere and so you don’t have travel around.
2. Enhanced physical functionality – Bodyweight training works the body in its natural lines of motion. Unlike the typical up-down movements that gym machines provide, bodyweight exercises work the muscles in all possible planes of motion, and therefore making you more fit, agile and muscular.
3. Greater Muscle stimulation – Research shows that using bodyweight exercises will fire more muscle fibers than weightlifting exercises. So when used properly, bodyweight exercises will help you pack on some amazing amounts of muscle mass.
On top of the muscle building capabilities, you will also greatly increase your overall physical well being. I’ve never heard anyone in their old age say that using bodyweight exercises ruined their joints. In fact, using bodyweight exercises will help you protect your joints as you grow older. But if you look at avid weightlifters as they age, you’ll get a whole different story.
Parth: There are tons of great muscle building programs out there. They all promise exactly what you’re promising. What makes the Muscle Experiment so different from all the rest?
Mike: Unlike literally 99% of muscle building programs out there, The Muscle Experiment actually shows people how to build muscle WITHOUT the use of weights. The thing is, not everyone has access to a set of weights. Some people can’t afford to go to the gym. Some are too busy to go to the gym. Some just love bodyweight training. But the important thing is that you don’t need iron to build muscle. I’m living proof of that fact, and I want to show people how to do it.
Parth: True. I didn’t have access to a gym growing up either. I wish your program was around back then. Anyways, going through the eBook, I noticed you spend a lot of time on nutrition. Could you briefly explain your nutritional philosophy?
Mike: I like to use the analogy of building a house: You see, if you want to build a small house, then you’ll need just a few bricks. But if you want to build a massive house, you’ll need a ton of bricks. When building muscle, your body is the ‘house’, and the food you eat is the ‘bricks’. So if you want to build a bigger ‘house’ you need to start consuming more bricks. It’s that simple.
Most people fear increasing their caloric intake for fear of getting ‘fat’. But your body needs the extra materials for it to build muscle, and if you don’t provide it with that extra material then it simply won’t grow. That’s why nutrition is very important when it comes to building muscle.
Training of course is the ultimate determinant and I deal with that extensively as well, but I’ve actually seen some people train themselves thin…literally. And these aren’t guys who wanted to lose weight; they were skinny to start with. But because they neglected their diet, they trained and burned off the little muscle they had in the beginning. In the book I go into more detail on things like super-absorption techniques and so forth, but it all hinges around the fact that in order to get big, you must eat big.
Parth: Women usually don’t think about muscle building. I personally love a woman with a little bit of strength and muscle on her frame, but maybe that’s just me. If a woman were to ask me which is the best muscle building program for her, why should recommend the Muscle Experiment?
Mike: A little bit of muscle tone will improve anyone’s appearance; whether you’re a man or a woman. And while it’s true that most women don’t exactly want to look like muscle-heads, they can use the techniques given in the book to develop a lean, sexy tone. For women thinking of using the program, my advice would be that you just follow the program until the point where you are satisfied with your personal results.
Parth: You have a great 6-Month beginner program. But what about advanced trainees who’ve been training with their bodyweight for quite some time?
Mike: There are two 6 month training programs provided: The first one is for people in the beginner-intermediate level, who don’t have very much training under their belt. And then there is the Advanced 6 month training program which caters for those people who have been using bodyweight exercises for longer and are on the more advanced level of training. So both programs are designed to build muscle, depending on your current level of training and fitness.
Parth: In one of your reports, you state that burpees are not a good mass building exercise. The movement activates a lot of muscle fibers, so why isn’t good in a mass building plan?
Mike: To perform an exercise, your body recruits only as many fibers are necessary to perform that particular task. The greater the recruitment, the higher the cellular damage, and hence the greater the muscle stimulation. And while burpees do recruit a decent amount of fibers, they fail to do it in the required volume to produce great enough cellular damage. And it is this cellular damage that is needed to bring about new muscle growth.
Our aim is to build as much muscle mass as possible. Therefore we should utilize exercises that achieve the most fiber recruitment within a single workout. Don’t get me wrong – burpees are a great exercise for conditioning, and they are an amazing cardiovascular exercise. But they just don’t cut it when it comes to mass building.
Parth: Interesting. So where did you learn about bodyweight training? What’s your background?
Mike: I learned a lot about bodyweight training from my uncle who was in the military. He was a pretty big and muscular guy, and he never once lifted weights. I asked him about this and he began to give me his theories on training using bodyweight exercises as well as the routines he personally used so as to improve his physique.
I also did some of my own research, trying to see exactly how people of ancient times used to train before weightlifting came around. And after gathering all the data, I began to apply it for myself and see what worked and what didn’t. And the results were simply amazing.
As for my background, I am not a fitness “guru” or anything like that. I’m actually a graphic designer by profession who just happens to have an incredible love for bodyweight training.
Parth: Same here! So, most muscle building plans tell you not to do any cardio. Although I still feel that training the heart is important. What are your thoughts on cardio?
Mike: I definitely do not have a problem with cardio, although I really believe it depends on the trainee’s current stand. If a trainee is overweight and they want to build muscle, then it would be a good idea to add some kind of cardiovascular exercises to their training program. But if the trainee is skinny to begin with, they really don’t need to perform cardio. So it would really depend on the trainee’s current fitness goals.
Parth: Ok, I can see this program being great for average guys who just want to get bigger. But what about people who want to achieve bodybuilder-like mass?
Mike: As we speak, I’m currently moving past the 200lb mark, using the very same bodyweight training methods I teach in my book. My initial goal was to hit the 180lb mark which I did, and now that I’ve seen the possibilities and learned so much more, I have all the tools to achieve that massive physique.
But just to make things clear, every single competitive bodybuilder within the 270lb+ range is on steroids. Fact. And there is no form of training in the world which can get you to that level without getting on the juice.
Therefore my personal definition of “bodybuilder like mass” would be having a muscular bodyweight of between 200 pounds to 220 pounds. And yes, you CAN pass the 200lb mark using bodyweight training techniques, and especially is you follow the anabolic/catabolic and training protocols given in the book. That’s for sure.
Parth: Wow. That’s some hardcore muscle there. I will definitely be telling my bodybuilder friends about your program. Glad to speak to you Mike!
Mike: Been a pleasure.
PS – On the next page, you’ll learn more about Mike’s program…