How Abel Used Bigger Leaner Stronger to Gain 39 Pounds of Muscle

How Abel Used Bigger Leaner Stronger to Gain 39 Pounds of Muscle

How many months’ progress do your pictures represent? What were your stats for each picture?

These pictures represent my first and last week of The Year One Challenge. I started at 143 pounds at 12% body fat and finished some 15 months later at 181.5 pounds at 14% body fat.

What has happened so far on the program?

As you can see from my before picture, I was skin and bones so I pretty much bulked from day one until the very last day of the program. What I like about my progress is that this was straight-up muscle building.

I had a hard time doing the bench press warm-up because the bar was already my heavy set so I had to grab the dumbbells for that. So yeah, I started from zero.

I gained almost 40 pounds of body weight and kept my body fat almost the same. This is by far the best case scenario I could ever expect to get from this program. To be honest, even when I was planing, I only expected to gain 20 pounds so it was an amazing surprise to have to move my target halfway through. Oh, these newbie gains are so nice!

Here’s a breakdown of my main lifts:

Deadlift: 3 sets X 6 reps, 90 pounds –> 3 sets X 4 reps, 260 pounds
Military press: 3 sets X 4 reps, 40 pounds –> 3 sets X 6 reps, 80 pounds (I had to treat a shoulder impingement for a few months)
Bench Press: 3 sets X 6 reps, 45 pounds –>3 sets X 6 reps, 135 pounds
Squat: 3 sets X 6 reps, 85 pounds –> 3 sets X 4 reps, 240 pounds

What workout split from the book did you use?

I did the 5 day split. It was a nice secondary challenge to get to the gym that many times a week. Before the end of Phase 1 (2 months in) it was second nature already. I would wake up Tuesday feeling like it’s deadlift day. 🙂

What, if anything, almost kept you from buying the book or starting the program?

During the last 10 years, I made two attempts of going to the gym. First one I was living in Italy so eating a lot became very easy but I had no structure or real objective/measuring system so both times it only lasted for 5 or 6 months and then back to square one.

It became such a pointless effort that I completely gave up. Being skinny wasn’t a real problem for me so I just accepted it as that’s what life is. Oh man, all that muscle confusion and being a “hard-gainer” really put me off.

I came across Bigger Leaner Stronger because an ex-girlfriend’s brother, who is taller than me (and almost as skinny) gained so much muscle I thought I should at least read the book. It was just great to see that this is so much simpler then they try to make it.

I guess it’s only because if people find out how simple it is then you can’t make as much money of it. So I’m so happy that Mike was like “this is all bull-crap, let me show you how effective simple can be”. (In my imagination, of course haha!)

Did it change my life for the better? You bet! So much so I have at least 6 other friends in the program now and I preach this book to anyone half interested in starting to work out.

What do you like most about the program?

It was so great to read that I don’t need to confuse my muscles and live on supplements. It was as good to read an honest opinion on how long it takes to achieve the body I always dreamed of.

Mike isn’t telling you that you’ll be ripped in 2 weeks but I know for a fact that if you eat right and do the exercises you are bound to get there (and it’s quick too! Just not magic).

Another great thing was how easy it is to see if you are making progress at the gym. Once you reach 3 sets of 6, add just 2.5 pounds next week and start again. Depending on the exercise you will add even more, especially at the very beginning which is great to keep the motivation going.

If you are stuck, check nutrition, check rest, maybe rest a few days more, and back to the gym. Again, simple. This is just great.

How does this program compare with others you’ve tried?

Straight forward, simple, and effective. Everything anyone needs to start this journey and stay in it for the long run.

How has what you’ve achieved with your body changed other areas of your life?

Ten years ago I discovered I had ventricular tachycardia, which is a non-life-threatening condition where the heart just misses a beat one in a while. It’s nothing much and it didn’t bother me (too much) but with time it became worse and worse to the point that I used to have one a minute to the point the I would have a couple of good beats a minute.

So I was naturally worried that this looked like it was going to a point where an intervention would be needed. I would get dizzy walking to work and would spend too many nights awake counting those damn beats. An evil downward spiral because stress makes it worse so you get the point.

I finally decided to do the surgery (called an ablation) after doing every single test possible to make sure my condition was still non-life-threatening. (I’m being specific here in case any reader has this and is lost in internet forums as I was)

During the surgery after the doctor found and burned the problematic area in the heart, it was like flipping a switch off. (You have to be awake during the procedure,. It’s totally fine and less scary than it sounds).


Long story short, my doctor asked me what I was looking forward to do and I said “I wanna hit the gym!”
That’s what I did. Armed with Bigger Leaner Stronger, The Year One Challenge, and Meal Plan!

Every day I feel like I’m strong, that I’m not as fragile and breakable as I used to feel. I’m happy to see that even not doing crazy weights I’m not outsourcing my health to the system. I’m responsible for my well being and that includes keeping the body in shape, eating nutritious foods, and resting properly.

I’m just so glad I had this chance encounter with Bigger Leaner Stronger and that knowledge allied with my dedication and perseverance turned me the best version of myself. Still, so much more work to do and I’m happy to get it done.

Who would you recommend this program to and why?

Everyone, every age, body type or level of experience can learn something from this.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Just a few quick things to keep in mind.

1. Form overweight. What I improved the most during this time wasn’t the weight I’m pulling, it’s how I’m pulling. Don’t challenge yourself to beat some imaginary gym nemesis. Nobody cares and if you injure yourself the fun is over.

2. Everyone in the gym has their own path. So spend your time focusing on yourself. That guy doing a half rep might be ill-informed or coming from a rip replacement procedure so be humble and do your thing.

3. Eat nutritious food. Once you get your head around macros and get used to it, start thinking of micronutrients. McDonald’s carbs are not the same as whole food carbs.

4. I’m vegan and have achieved these results with this diet. Does it matter? Not really. Why am I mentioning this? I have been to professional nutritionists and one of them (an expensive fellow who would only take people form the 1%) said that if I didn’t eat meat I wouldn’t produce testosterone and would became a feminized impotent man.

He was happy to take my money though, so good for him! So to all you vegans out there, if my progress isn’t the proof that plants also have protein, nothing will. Also, I didn’t grow boobs or became impotent so go eat your veggies and hit the gym! I do drink a lot of vegan protein shakes to keep my carbs quota in check, so you’ll need a couple of those a day for sure.

5. Recently I’ve done 4 weeks of cutting to get back to 10-11% body fat. Much respect for everyone who has to cut for months on end.

That is all! If you are reading this and have been told you are a hard gainer, fear not. Bigger Leaner Stronger is here to help.

Did you use any Legion supplements?

I did use Recharge for as long as the 3 pack I bought lasted. I’m in Canada and can’t wait to be able to buy locally and not pay the shipping costs. That will make the price on par with the others I buy.

Want to become a success story too? Here’s how he did it

The program that made this transformation possible:

The meal plan that makes building muscle and losing fat easy and enjoyable:

Mike Matthews is the founder and CEO of Legion as well as a bestselling fitness author of several books, including Bigger Leaner Stronger, Thinner Leaner Stronger, and The Shredded Chef.

His simple and science-based approach to building muscle, losing fat, and getting healthy has sold over a million books and helped thousands of people build their best bodies ever, and his work has been featured in many popular outlets including Esquire, Men’s Health, Elle, Women’s Health, Muscle & Strength, and more, as well as on FOX and ABC.

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