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NOTABLE! Leangains and Kinobody: A case study of two fitness gurus

Manchild_Unbound

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I want to create this thread to analyze the popular online fitness brands Leangains and Kinobody. These brands are inseparable from their creators/owners Greg O Gallagher and Martin Berkhan so the brand names and names of the owners will be used interchangeably from here on in.

Martin Berkhan of Leangains


Greg O'Gallagher of Kinobody


For the past few months Martin Berkhan has been having success on Patreon. As of this writing, the official Leangains Patreon page has over 1800 patrons. While he keeps the income hidden I would guess that he's probably making anywhere between $1800 to $5000 a month. I find this to be a great leap for Berkhan and as a patron, I am very happy with what he has done with the page. But I also find it to be "too little too late" as it were.

Back in 2007 and 2008, Martin Berkhan wrote about his own body transformation on an ugly Blogspot blog. This young former model from Malmö, Sweden created a revolutionary fitness regimen with these components:

  • Intermittent Fasting - The Leangains iteration of intermittent fasting involves 16 hours of fasting with an 8-hour feeding window.
  • Fitness Nutrition - Specific nutrition plans catered to every individual with high protein and carb-cycling.
  • Reverse Pyramid Training - Minimalist weight training system that focuses on five major compound movements: squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, and weighted chin-ups.

And all of this wasn't just theory. Martin Berkhan implemented his own system on himself and was able to be extremely lean year-round while maintaining an impressive level of strength. There was one video that went viral where he deadlifted 630 lbs. This attracted some attention and led to a successful consulting practice. Leangains was also unique and differentiated itself from other fitness/diet programs in the following ways:

  • 2-3 large meals a day instead of 5-6 equally spaced out evenly throughout the day.

  • Meal plans with exact macros and calories, unlike other popular Intermittent Fasting programs which were either vague or very flexible.

  • A meal plan that allowed for some treats like ice cream, cereal, and candy.

  • 3 gym workouts a week. Each session lasted less than an hour. Most other fitness systems had you in the gym 5-6 days a week for almost two hours.

  • Strength gains. Not uncommon for clients to add 30-60 pounds to the major lifts over the course of 12 weeks.
It was superior to anything out there and Leangains grew from search engine traffic and word-of-mouth. It was a success for Berkhan.


At around the same time there was Greg O'Gallagher, a teenager from Toronto,Canada who started blogging and uploading videos on YouTube. His content wasn't anything groundbreaking, but he was in great shape, he was charismatic, and he posted content consistently. Because of his hard work to establish an online presence, he became quite popular. By 2011 he discovered Leangains, changed his own workout and diet, and started posting about Intermittent Fasting and Reverse Pyramid Training. It was also around this time that he established the Kinobody brand. Not long after, he released his first product called The Warrior Shredding Program, a fat loss training program in the form of an ebook. It was sold for $48. This program took many concepts from Leangains with a few tweaks, such as the removal of deadlifts and heavy squats, to differentiate it from Martin Berkhan's system and to help its readers achieve the "Hollywood Body". From that point on, Kinobody continued to grow in popularity, and over the years, he would release many more training programs and products.


Today Kinobody has grown to a million dollar business, while Leangains and Martin Berkhan have fallen way behind. Leangains still has a dedicated following, but it is a fraction of Kinobody's. Martin Berkhan is none too pleased about it…


He has every right to be angry.

However, while Leangains might be a superior product, Kinobody had superior execution in just about every other regard.

To sum up why Kinobody has been so successful, I refer to this illustration from Unscripted:


Web Design and Presentation
Leangains started out ugly and upgraded to clean but basic. Recently, at around the end of 2017, it finally upgraded to something that looked a little more professional but, once again, too little too late. For the longest time it looked like this:
https://web.archive.org/web/20171021011206/http://leangains.com

Kinobody, has looked elegant and professional from a very early stage. At the very beginning, it looked like a basic blog/affiliate site. The overall design has been improving and changing constantly. Today, it looks sleek and professional.


Content
Leangains started out with a lot of content on the main website and blog. But not too long after starting, the Leangains website would be rarely updated. But when Martin Berkhan decided to write something, it was absolute gold every time. Some classics:

The Marshmallow Test
F*ckarounditis
Consequence and Clarity

While Kinobody has slowed down on the content production, at one point it was a content machine. Of course, much of the content produced was mostly clickbait fluff such as:
Henry Cavill Workout
Christian Bale's American Psycho Workout
10 Halloween Costumes for Muscular Guys

But where Kinobody would really shine was in its YouTube channel and podcast. The podcast had many great guests on such as Stephen Amell from the television show Arrow. Kinobody also has a YouTube channel that also consistently put out videos which I'll get into more in detail below.


YouTube
This was probably the biggest missed opportunity for Martin Berkhan and Leangains. With only 6 videos, and 7 thousand subscribers, it is a puny channel.

Meanwhile, Greg O Gallagher and Kinobody are huge on YouTube. The Kinobody Youtube channel has 366,407 subscribers. The videos, besides numbering 567, are high quality, with decent picture quality and audio. Some of the videos are professional quality, but they are mostly for marketing purposes.


The Kinobody Youtube channel ranks highly for the following searches:
  • Intermittent Fasting Training
  • Intermittent Fasting and Coffee
  • Intermittent Fasting Full Day of Eating
  • Reverse Pyramid Training
  • Weighted Chinups
All of the above are topics originally brought up in Leangains. Kinobody also ranks as one of the first results for "Leangains" and "Martin Berkhan."

Products and Services
Martin Berkhan has offered his online consultation services on and off. His consultation services consisted of a training program and diet tailored to the needs of each individual client. At this moment, his consultation is closed except to his most important clients (actors and athletes). He's been working on a book since 2008.


Kinobody started with a single ebook and has since produced several other fitness programs:
  • Two fat loss programs
  • Two muscle gaining/bulking programs
  • Two programs for women
  • Bodyweight training program
  • Cardio and abdominal training program
  • Cookbook
  • Style guide
These all have landing pages with professional copywriting.

Kinobody has also expanded to physical products such as
  • Coffee
  • Gym accessories
  • Apparel
  • Supplements
Greg O Gallagher once did personal training and consulting but stopped offering those services not long after releasing its first training program.

Marketing
Martin Berkhan did very little in the way of marketing. Leangains had the claim of being a "no-bullshit approach for diet and fitness." There wasn't a specific audience in mind and was offered to anyone who wanted to either look good naked or to gain strength and muscle with minimal fat gain. Leangains never did any advertising and gained business entirely out of search engine traffic and word-of-mouth.


Kinobody started with a specific audience in mind: young men who were after the "Hollywood Body." This type of physique is characterized by low body fat and some muscle mass. Kinobody used images of fit celebrities such as Brad Pitt, Daniel Craig, and Chris Hemsworth in its marketing to great effect. While you can argue that Leangains and any number of training programs could help you achieve the Hollywood physique, it was an intelligent decision for branding and marketing.


Kinobody would also start to advertise with banner ads and video ads. Here is one of his ads that appeared before you watch a video on Youtube. It's also the most popular video on the channel:

Is it cringey? Maybe. I'm not a fan of the use of luxury cars, mansions, and attractive women but it is successful at attracting customers.


Social Media
Another area where Kinobody excels. On Instagram, Kinobody has 219,000 followers, while Martin Berkhan has 24,600. On Facebook, Kinobody has 295,000 followers, while Leangains has 29,000. This social media is a reflection of their content and marketing, and how many people they have reached and impacted. Interestingly though, Martin Berkhan's Twitter is the better of the two with 31,900 followers, since he was on there early on.


Conclusion
There are several business and marketing lessons when it comes to these two fitness brands. But, in all honesty, I created this thread because I want to vent.

I've been following Leangains and Martin Berkhan since 2008. I was also there when Kinobody started to get popular. I'm very disappointed in Martin Berkhan because I believe he deserves all the success that Kinbody has been having. But everything that made Kinobody such a successful brand was beneath Berkhan. Perhaps the marketing, the branding, the sales and copywriting, and the selling of physical products like coffee and supplements was "bullshit" to Berkhan. It lacked integrity and credibility. But his own biases made him lose out on so much attention and income. Leangains left so many holes that Greg O'Gallagher and Kinobody were more than happy to fill. Moreover, while Martin Berkhan has been working on a book for over a decade, Greg O'Gallagher released ten programs, which aren't just books but courses similar to what you would find on Udemy. I speculate that Martin Berkhan wanted to release a single comprehensive volume that encompassd everything that Knobody released as separate programs. While it would have been a quality product, it probably wouldn't have generated as much revenue as multiple $48 programs.

I don't have anything against Greg O'Gallagher. Maybe you could argue that it wasn't very ethical of him to take most of the Leangains principles and market it as his own original product. He has many haters, and he gets attacked frequently but I won't get into that here. But the Leangains system was neither trademarked or patented, so what Greg O'Gallagher did wasn't illegal.


I'm happy that Martin Berkhan has taken steps to make Leangains popular and up-to-date. I just wished he would have done it sooner.
 

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rogue synthetic

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Maybe you could argue that it wasn't very ethical of him to take most of the Leangains principles and market it as his own original product. He has many haters, and he gets attacked frequently but I won't get into that here. But the Leangains system was neither trademarked or patented, so what Greg O'Gallagher did wasn't illegal.
You know I'm having a real hard time seeing the upside of this point. To me this looks like a classic example of everything that is broken with the Internet Marketing way of doing business.

If you have to qualify your success with "but at least it wasn't illegal", to me that says you've got a rotten fish in the glove box and you're trying to pretend it's new car scent.
 

CPisHere

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Greg O'Gallagher didn't just "steal" from Leangains, it was www.fitnessblackbook.com heavily as well (that's where he got the idea to write articles about 'how to get the (Actor in good shape) body' which was HUGE for his SEO.

Greg was in great shape, and had family money/connections that helped him repackage this information & create a huge online fitness brand.

It's true, he didn't invent fasting or lifting weights. So what? Neither did Leangains. Martin discovered what some others already knew, and promoted it to a larger audience. Greg did the same thing.

The lesson here is the value of marketing, and having a big vision. If you have a small vision, where you just help a handful of clients & update your blog once or twice a year, don't be upset when someone takes your information & puts it in a system that makes them a millionaire. It makes Martin look really pathetic. Don't be that guy.
 
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Manchild_Unbound

Manchild_Unbound

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Greg O'Gallagher didn't just "steal" from Leangains, it was www.fitnessblackbook.com heavily as well (that's where he got the idea to write articles about 'how to get the (Actor in good shape) body' which was HUGE for his SEO.

Greg was in great shape, and had family money/connections that helped him repackage this information & create a huge online fitness brand.

It's true, he didn't invent fasting or lifting weights. So what? Neither did Leangains. Martin discovered what some others already knew, and promoted it to a larger audience. Greg did the same thing.

The lesson here is the value of marketing, and having a big vision. If you have a small vision, where you just help a handful of clients & update your blog once or twice a year, don't be upset when someone takes your information & puts it in a system that makes them a millionaire. It makes Martin look really pathetic. Don't be that guy.
I thank you for mentioning Fitness Black Book and Rusty Moore. I didn't mention him in the thread just to keep it focused and succinct. You see, I also discovered Rusty Moore in 2007 and 2008. He is the one who originally came up with ways to achieve the Hollywood Body. Rusty did that because he initially did so well with bodybuilding that he was got too big. He felt that he had too much mass and that clothes couldn't fit him just right; that all that bulk didn't let him have a "GQ look."He went on to lose over 30 pounds of mass to get the look he was after. He was also looking around online for ways to achieve the Hollywood Body but found that there was very little quality information in regard to that. Most fitness online was aimed towards guys who wanted to get "big and freaky." Worst yet, when he asked around in forums, guys on there would be rude, insulting, and scoff at the idea of a leaner, sleeker look. Rusty found an underserved need and fulfilled it.

Tying it back to Greg O Gallagher, he actually once used and promoted Rusty Moore's Visual Impact fitness course on his blog and YouTube channel. Rusty Moore also directly mentored Greg O Gallagher, and in a recent post on his website he called him a friend.

Greg O Gallagher also gives credit to:
Westside Barbell
Joe de Franco
Brad Pillon

Lastly, your point about "the value of marketing and of having a big vision" was exactly the point of this thread. Couldn't have put it better myself.
 

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Perhaps the marketing, the branding, the sales and copywriting, and the selling of physical products like coffee and supplements was "bullshit" to Berkhan. It lacked integrity and credibility. But his own biases made him lose out on so much attention and income. Leangains left so many holes that Greg O'Gallagher and Kinobody were more than happy to fill. Moreover, while Martin Berkhan has been working on a book for over a decade, Greg O'Gallagher released ten programs, which aren't just books but courses similar to what you would find on Udemy. I speculate that Martin Berkhan wanted to release a single comprehensive volume that encompassd everything that Knobody released as separate programs. While it would have been a quality product, it probably wouldn't have generated as much revenue as multiple $48 programs.
This guy has spent ten years writing his book? He deserves to get crushed.

He left his market highly underserved. Imagine all the people who would have happily paid a few dollars to get the advice and guidance they needed. No one is going to remain loyal to a fitness brand for ten years while they work on a book (with no other product to offer them in the meantime). Fitness is a niche where people want help today - he left the niche wide open for someone else who could follow through.

 

J.Sark

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I discovered Leangains around 2011, and it has been a huge influence in my life. I really admire Martin, and his material is fantastic.

That being said, the other guy took working and solid principles and executed on them. Basically, he won. Reminds me a bit to the Facebook story. Zuckerberg took a good idea, improved it, made it better/bigger, changed society (for better or worse) and made millions for everyone. An idea is dust in the wind, you could argue forever that the person that came up with it would have done similar things, but that's just hypothetical.

At the end of the day, one guy did and the other didn't (or did less).
 

TonyStark

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Martin Berkhan, no.

Greg O Gallagher has done martial arts. Seen him practicing with a training dummy.
Not hating on your post, it’s well written.

I just get fed up with these glorified Instagram models.

You want a real fitness routine? Go to an mma gym/boxing gym/Muay Thai gym/wrestling gym 4 days a week and get your a$$ beaten for 2 hours a day.

You wanna see the perfect male body?
20141225122355_IMG_1684.JPG
:rofl::rofl:
 
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NanoDrake

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Sadly, Martin did a terrible and poor marketing job.
While he really did great stuff, he couldn't keep up with Kinobody marketing strategies

I do remember seeing Greg in videos with Tai Lopez where they were doing "masterminds"
Now, whether of what you think of Tai Lopez, he knows how to use the internet and get the money...I wouldn't be surprised if Greg used some "KNOWLEDGE" to get these results

EDIT: I'm a big fan of Lean gains and I have to thank Martin for the 16-8 IF style. although this doesn't change the fact that being a great "creator" doesn't make you a great "distributor"
 

Young Money

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Yep Kinobody is a marketing wiz no doubt.. When i was looking for a solution to lose weight his youtube channel was one of the 1st that popped up. Needless to say, I got hooked on his content, watched all his free videos about nutrition and weight lifting and started implementing his strategies. It worked! I lost a bunch of weight and put on some nice hard muscle!

There certainly was a need in the industry for building the "Hollywood Physique" and props to Greg for filling it. It's too bad for LeanGains but Greg simply took what he was selling, improved it a bit and made it more accessible to people like me. And now I'm Kinobody for life! haha
 

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MJ DeMarco

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Great write up, thread upgraded to NOTABLE.
 

ZF Lee

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This guy has spent ten years writing his book? He deserves to get crushed.

He left his market highly underserved. Imagine all the people who would have happily paid a few dollars to get the advice and guidance they needed. No one is going to remain loyal to a fitness brand for ten years while they work on a book (with no other product to offer them in the meantime). Fitness is a niche where people want help today - he left the niche wide open for someone else who could follow through.
He could have thrown the content for the book into a series of small blog posts or videos. That would be more up-to-date. And one can always come back to update online content as well, to keep up with the relevance.

Great case study. Love it when business gets played multi-dimensionally, instead of just one front.

I hope much of the content production is not reliant on Kinobody though.
 

Maxboost

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Great write up, thread upgraded to NOTABLE.
Umm..MJ, you do realize bro marketers on Youtube are stealing your content right? I've come across bro marketers that have taken your concepts, reworded it and basically claimed it as their own. Some of these guys have over 100k subscribers on youtube and growing.

I always thought MJ should start his own youtube/podcast like the Joe Rogan Experience. Who knows how big it can get?
 
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Manchild_Unbound

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Umm..MJ, you do realize bro marketers on Youtube are stealing your content right? I've come across bro marketers that have taken your concepts, reworded it and basically claimed it as their own. Some of these guys have over 100k subscribers on youtube and growing.

I always thought MJ should start his own youtube/podcast like the Joe Rogan Experience. Who knows how big it can get?
HELL YES!

Let's see if we can get enough demand for this.
 

annagreenang

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I thank you for mentioning Fitness Black Book and Rusty Moore. I didn't mention him in the thread just to keep it focused and succinct. You see, I also discovered Rusty Moore in 2007 and 2008. He is the one who originally came up with ways to achieve the Hollywood Body. Rusty did that because he initially did so well with bodybuilding that he was got too big. He felt that he had too much mass and that clothes couldn't fit him just right; that all that bulk didn't let him have a "GQ look."He went on to lose over 30 pounds of mass to get the look he was after. He was also looking around online for ways to achieve the Hollywood Body but found that there was very little quality information in regard to that. Most fitness online was aimed towards guys who wanted to get "big and freaky." Worst yet, when he asked around in forums, guys on there would be rude, insulting, and scoff at the idea of a leaner, sleeker look. Rusty found an underserved need and fulfilled it.

Tying it back to Greg O Gallagher, he actually once used and promoted Rusty Moore's Visual Impact fitness course on his blog and YouTube channel. Rusty Moore also directly mentored Greg O Gallagher, and in a recent post on his website he called him a friend.

Greg O Gallagher also gives credit to:
Westside Barbell
Joe de Franco
Brad Pillon

Lastly, your point about "the value of marketing and of having a big vision" was exactly the point of this thread. Couldn't have put it better myself.
Thank you for sharing such valuable suggestions
 

Xeon

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I always thought MJ should start his own youtube/podcast like the Joe Rogan Experience. Who knows how big it can get?
Probably doesn't suit his personality. I remember he used to post somewhere here that he's more of an introvert guy and that he could achieve even more if not for the introversion (praise and glory be upon him)
 

James Klymus

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Good case study of why execution is so hugely important. Greg is much much more of an opportunist.

I've been following him for around 2-3 years now, just since before he started pushing his supplement line. I remember watching a video of his literally called "why I dont use supplements" a while before he launched his supplement line haha.

He saw that even though he didnt personally use supplements, there was a huge demand in the market for supplements (namely preworkouts), so he hopped on the bandwagon and created some.

Greg is a good marketer, and his programs are good even if they are "borrowed" ideas. He inspired me to really study fitness, so in my book hes like a mentor to me.
 

Kevin88660

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Thanks the OP for such a wonderful study.

I like Greg and always watch his videos. i never heard about about Martin! I think he should have brushed up on his marketing!
 

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I don't know these guys but to me this seems the typical story of someone going in halfheartedly, gaining some traction then doing the bare minimum, either because they are lazy or they are arrogant enough to think the world will lap up any crumbs they see fit to server them. Then, when someone 'steals' their content and takes it to a whole new level they cry 'no fair'.

From what I read here all Berkhan did was combine techniques that were already in existence.

One of the book reviews here recently was James Clear's Atomic Habits. There was nothing new or groundbreaking in that book. He just put his own spin on habit formation and change using information gleaned from the likes of Tim Pychyl etc. He has followed up on that success by launching a 'Habit Journal'. Again nothing new or groundbreaking.

Some people here seem to hold Sam Ovens in high regard. He is just adapting stuff he has picked up from others who trod the boards before him with is own spin and marketing.

Tony Robbins learnt a great deal from his mentor Jim Rohn and combined it with what basically amounts to NLP. Jim Rohn was in turn influenced by Earl Nightingale.

Very few people re-invent the wheel, they just package it up in a different guise, and the clever ones add what extra value they can and market the hell out of it.

So many companies, big and small have been crushed by a late starter that executed with enthusiasm and innovation while they sat back on their laurels, unknowingly basking in the memories of their former glory days, oblivious to the fact that their world was about to come to an end.

Blockbuster comes to mind. They had the chance to purchase Netflix 3 times but turned them down flat at every opportunity. Kodak could see the world was changing to Digital but did very little to pivot their business while they still had strong sales and profits from film and photographic paper.
 
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Dehatu

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I discovered Martin Berkhan and Brad Pilon in 2010. I discovered Kinobody in 2013.
You did a great job putting into words what I've always thought.

IMHO, Greg's "home run" comes down to watering down (and framing) the Leangains program for the masses instead of catering to the online bodybuilding/strength training community.

Some examples (Martin vs. Greg):
1) You need to carb cycle VS. Just hit your proteins and calories
2) Heavy Lower Body exercises VS. Do something about it but focus on your Upper Body
3) If you train more than 3 days a week you're F*cking around** VS. You train 3 days a week because you have a life outside of the gym

Is sticking too close to Martin Berkhan's guidelines debatable? Yes. But the fitness industry has always cannibalized itself and weightlifting hasn't progressed much in the last 40 years. We can link StrongLifts and GreySkull to Starting Strength, we can link DoggCrapp to HIT/Heavy Duty, etc.

My biggest gripe with Greg is that he started a supplement line. In the earlier days, he spent a lot of time disqualifying them (even making fun of other YouTubers who sold them). His stuff isn't so special to warrant such a drastic change of plans/opinion.

Also, while Berkhan took too long to grow his online presence, he was always very busy with clients. He used to charge like 700-800USD for a 1-week consult and had a waiting list of SEVERAL months. Maybe he felt that was good enough for him before feeling "cheated" by a former client.

**Martin has become more flexible with programming
 

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Kevin88660

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Greg has good marketing.

He insert the cheesy marketing tactics such as girls and cars into fitness, something no one else do. I think it is fantastic because he has found a target audience- young guys who want to train to impress others.

He was watered down the things he learnt to get it more friendly to a bigger audience.

I personally prefer lyle Macdonald more academic kind of researcher on fat loss. Just my wonkish personality.

Well can someone also correct me if I am wrong on this. I do not believe if you just train three times a day you can get to Greg’s level of fitness. Surely he is using that to maintain but I am sure he trained a lot more intensively in the early days.
 

Dehatu

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Greg has good marketing.

He insert the cheesy marketing tactics such as girls and cars into fitness, something no one else do. I think it is fantastic because he has found a target audience- young guys who want to train to impress others.

He was watered down the things he learnt to get it more friendly to a bigger audience.

I personally prefer lyle Macdonald more academic kind of researcher on fat loss. Just my wonkish personality.

Well can someone also correct me if I am wrong on this. I do not believe if you just train three times a day you can get to Greg’s level of fitness. Surely he is using that to maintain but I am sure he trained a lot more intensively in the early days.
I've been lifting for 10 years and x3/week (with adequate volume) is the point where the curve of diminishing returns starts to get steeper.

You can build a phenomenal physique with x3/week training. Just take a look at the top posts in the Leangains sub on Reddit and you'll see some amazing transformations from people following Berkhan's advice. As long as one's eating according to their goals and achieving progressive overload, they'll progress.

That being said, most natural lifters will reach their peak at around 2-3 years of SERIOUS dieting/training. WYSIWYG.

Regarding your last paragraph, the problem with fitness celeb physiques is that there's always the possibility of some "external assistance". Nevertheless, Greg has great genetics, good muscle insertions and has been lifting pretty much since his early teens. If I'm not mistaken, he went from Starting Strength to generic BBing routine to Rusty Moore to Martin Berkhan (therefore, the majority of his training has been done in the high-intensity/x3-week fashion).

You may never get to his level, but you can definitely build an AMAZING body by most people's standards (9-12% BF with decent muscle mass) training three times a week.
 
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Kevin88660

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You may never get to his level, but you can definitely build an AMAZING body by most people's standards (9-12% BF with decent muscle mass) training three times a week.
Does it mean that training more than three times a week has no marginal benefit in accelerating the process? Or worse it could backfire?
 

jon.M

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I feel like it's an unfair comparison. It's like telling a plumber why he didn't turn out to be the next Bill Gates. He probably knows why, he just wanted to do some plumbing.

That said, Berkhan's never been a people-pleaser. Which is probably why the Leangains community has steadily grown out of style and is now more dead than ever, despite his recent book.
 

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