The Proof Is In The Details: Interview w/ AT-14 Winner Brad V. [BradnMI]

Here’s your essay interview with 9th place winner  Brad V. from the 14th Adonis Golden Ratio Transformation Contest.


Brad V.

Brad V. 9th Place AT14 –  Front Before/After Photos

Brad’s Transformation Interview:


 1.  What workout or nutrition routine did you do before Adonis Golden Ratio (AGR) System? What kind of results did you get?

For most of my adult life, the sources for most of my workouts were what I obtained from various fitness magazines and/or purchase of a few exercise books over the years.  I had OK success with adding strength but no success in obtaining a well-developed physique since I generally got tired of the routine and lost interest over time.

I had pretty good luck with Tom Venuto’s Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle around 2003-2004, but the real progress only happened when I was tracking my calorie intake.  However, since this was before on-line sites were available I had to use look-up calorie tables and spreadsheets, which eventually got kind of old.  I don’t recall the workout routine I was using at the time.  I was able to effectively lose weight and some fat but not to the point where I had visible abs.  I eventually got tired of the routine nature of the workout programs and lost interest so I never had success in obtaining a well-developed physique. The muscle I did develop was still covered by a layer of fat.

During the summer of 2009 after looking at vacation photos from July 2009 (see attached example), I decided to make a change and vowed to get in shape.  At that point in my life I was 55 years old, approximately 6 ft. tall and I weighed 226 pounds.  I consider this photo from July 2009 my before photo for my pre-AGR/ESE transformation.

Adonis Origins: Brad V. circa 2009

Adonis Origins: Brad V. circa 2009

So in August of 2009 I began the process of calorie restricted dieting and exercising.

At that time I had purchased Craig Ballentyne’s Turbulence Training programs and I began using these to complete my workouts at home; these were primarily a combination of body weight and dumbbell exercises.  My equipment consisted of a couple of sets of adjustable dumbbells, an incline bench, some resistance bands, and an exercise ball.  Through the fall of 2009, using TT workouts and regular dieting, I lost approximately 10 pounds.

2.  How did you find out about AGR?

I was introduced to Eat Stop Eat through the Turbulence Training website/interview that Craig had with Brad Pilon. I bought ESE (second edition) in October 2009, but I didn’t complete my first fast until November 9th,2009.  The first fast went well and I was hooked by how simple it was to “diet”.  By April of 2010 I had lost a total of approximately 50 pounds using ESE along with continued use of various TT programs.  I “enrolled” in ESE-University in January 2010, which I think may have been the first ESE-University, and I was “introduced” to John Barban and the AGR programs through that.

I purchased my first AGR program and signed up as a member of the forums (as an observer/reader, not a participant) in May 2010. However, that summer things got pretty busy (my father passed away) and my exercise habits really slipped, although I continued to fast at least a couple of times a week.  By the end of July I stopped exercising regularly and totally lost any type of an exercise routine.  As I mentioned in my AT-14 essay and discussed in answer #5 below, it really wasn’t until August of 2013 that I decided to fully commit to a transformation change.

3.  What was most appealing to you about AGR?

I’m a scientist (master’s degree in environmental health/toxicology), so I like, and really appreciate, the research based presentations / information that John and Brad present in the uncensored podcasts.  I’m a detail oriented person so the more scientific/research based information in the podcasts the better.

I like the variety and choices in the workout programs that are available in AGR.  I also appreciate the amount of information I’ve obtained from the uncensored podcasts and the forum.

I’m hooked on ESE (almost all of my fasts are dinner to dinner so it never interfered with family meals), and I love how I feel during and after a fast.  I rarely get colds or sick; I love not having to worry about dieting or thinking about eating breakfast/making a lunch to take to work.  In addition to the relatively painless process of eating less via fasting, I am fascinated by the beneficial health effects gained as a result of fasting, especially autophagy, and increased growth hormone & insulin sensitivity.  I have personally enjoyed seeing  (by charting/graphing) the tremendous improvement in my blood lipid results since I started ESE.

Brad V. 9th Place AT14 -  Back Before/After Photos

Brad V. 9th Place AT14 – Front Before/After Photos


4.  Were there any concepts or approaches you were skeptical about?

For my entire life I have had to “watch what I eat” . . . starting from the time I was a chubby kid.  So this spring when my waist measurements finally reached / dropped below golden and the nutrition calculator bumped up my calories above maintenance, I had a really hard time believing that I could start eating more and not gain weight/fat.  As a newly minted lean person this has been the hardest concept to accept. Trusting and following the nutrition calculator guidelines really took some getting used to.

5. When did you decide to jump on board full fledge with AGR?

As I mentioned previously, I have been hooked on fasting instead of traditional dieting since I first tried it.  However, as I mentioned in my essay, it wasn’t until I listened Brad’s 7-week experiment podcast last July/August that I decided I was going to work to reach golden in in 6 months by the time I turned 60. I generally listen to one or more of the uncensored podcasts while I’m working out, and it seems like I get something I can relate to out of every single podcast.  They are a great resource.

6.  When did you first decide to enter an Adonis Transformation (AT) contest?

I entered a couple of earlier contests but didn’t finish for one or more reasons.  During AT-13, when I started tracking my calories and macronutrients using MyFitnessPal, I found that I made really good progress.  And while I did technically finish AT-13, I wasn’t satisfied with how I looked in my photos so I didn’t submit them.

Brad V. 9th Place AT14 -  Back Before/After Photos

Brad V. 9th Place AT14 – Back Before/After Photos

7.  What was your experience going through the AT contest? Challenges that came up? Things you didn’t expect? 

I learned that the most important thing was I have to be consistent both with monitoring my calories and workouts. Since February 6th I have not missed a day of tracking my calories on MyFitnessPal and I have been kind of fanatical about working out at least 5 days a week throughout this period.  I have gotten to the point where I feel like I’m missing something if I take more than two days off in a row from a good workout.

Keeping track of calories and macronutrients on a daily basis throughout this process is a huge part of the progress I made.  By doing this each day, I have a good handle on my maintenance calories at this level of exercise.  Plus MyFitnessPal provides some pretty cool report options, for example I’ve printed example reports for April to July on one of the attachments documenting some of the records I kept.

Challenges – working through family and life changes associated with separation/divorce.

Regarding things I didn’t expect, I have to say probably the biggest thing was how cool it was to see the progress / results of my DEXA scans as a results of following the AGR nutritional and workout programs; see the actual evidence of losing fat and gaining lean mass because of the hard work and effort.

DEXA results Oct 2013 to July 31 2014 (2)-page-001-shrink

Click for Full Screen View – Summary of DEXA results Oct 2013 to July 31 2014

8.  How did people react to your transformation? Positives and negatives (if any). 

I have gotten mostly positive responses, although during earlier stages of my transformation I got a number of comments about being too thin and my family was often asked whether I was sick or had cancer.

Brad V.'s AGR Transformation

Brad V.’s AGR Transformation

9.  How do you react to the “Brand New” you? Have you noticed changes in your outlook and attitude in general?

I look and feel much younger than my actual age; I have more energy and even when people around me have or get a cold or some other illness, I rarely get sick so I know the new me is lots healthier.

I’m enjoying my new look but I am still adjusting to being so lean and having a six-pack for the first time in my life.  Seeing the muscle definition in my arms/shoulders is a real kick.

Thanks again for all the great resources and program information.

Editor’s Note:

Hey Brad,

Job well done!   Thank you for your willingness to change your habits by monitoring you calories and developing a routine of incorporating daily fasts into your lifestyle.  

It was interesting to learn  how you stumbled upon AGR via Brad Pilon and Craig Ballentyne’s programs.  I’ve done both Brad’s Anabolic Again and one of Craig’s Crazy 8’s body weight cardio circuits.  They were no joke! LOL

 Nevertheless, I hope that the DEXA information you shared during your transformation journey will help further people’s visual  conception of how the proof really is in the details!  

Keep up the great work and I look forward to seeing your posts in the community.

your brother in Iron,

Formerly Hi-Jacked by H.I.I.T. – Now Golden-Ripped! : Interview w/ AT-15 Winner Elijah Smith [ezs777]

Here’s your latest essay interview with 7th place winner  Elijah Smith  from the 15th Adonis Golden Ratio Transformation Contest.

Elijah Smith 7th Place AT15 - Front Before/After Photos

Elijah Smith 7th Place AT15 – Front Before/After Photos

Elijah’s Transformation Interview:

1- What workout or nutrition routine did you do before Adonis Golden Ratio (AGR) System? What kind of results did you get?

Before doing AGR, my prior workout routine was HIIT-based; I had bought into the notion that high-intensity circuits were best for both building muscle and losing fat; and since the workouts were shorter, I thought that would give me the best of both worlds: less time and better results. As far as my nutrition routine, I mostly just ate when I wanted to, and didn’t pay any attention to calories or protein at all. The results I ending up getting from that approach were two-fold: increased frustration from being unable to stick with the workouts, and fifty pounds of excess body fat from the unlimited calorie intake.

 2- How did you find out about AGR?

I first found out about AGR somewhere around 2010, shortly after I had purchased the latest version of Eat Stop Eat. I was watching some videos about Eat Stop Eat on YouTube, when I came across a video of John Barban and Brad Pilon talking about their new workout program for men. At first, I thought it was a scam; the idea of building the “perfect” body seemed too good to be true. However, after watching the whole video, reading some reviews, and skimming the sales page, I decided to take the plunge and purchased the AGR program. I figured, “What do I have to lose? There is a money back guarantee.” When I finished reading the Main Manual, I realized that this concept of a perfect body wasn’t totally made up, and that it was, in fact, based on a large compendium of research and data.

3- What was most appealing to you about AGR?

There were two things that appealed to me most about AGR: that I didn’t have to do any HIIT style workouts, and that I didn’t have to follow any complicated dietary guidelines.

The first workouts I ever did were basic weight-training workouts; we had a class called “Fit for Life” in high school, and it was mandatory. In that class, we learned how to lift weights properly, and were then given a workout plan for every week of the semester. The thing is, those kinds of workouts were doable for me; I enjoyed them, and I made a lot of progress (I both built muscle and increased strength). In retrospect, I realize that my goals became hijacked a short time later, and I began to believe that HIIT-style training was better, even though I didn’t enjoy it very much (part of this was due to the fact that it was shortly after this that I got involved in martial arts, and I wanted to improve my work capacity so that I could spar and train longer).

I really liked the fact that AGR didn’t have a “bad foods” list, nor did it have a pre-planned menu, nor was I required to measure and weigh every gram of food, nor eat at a specific time(s) of day, nor have a specific ratio of macronutrients. One of the reasons it had been so hard for me to lose weight in the past, was that I felt I had to restrict the types of food I was eating (i.e., most of the foods that I actually liked to eat); the fact that I can eat whatever and whenever I want (keeping calories in mind, of course) made this diet so much more sustainable.

Elijah Smith 7th Place AT15 - Front Before/After Photos

Elijah Smith 7th Place AT15 – Side Before/After Photos

4- Were there any concepts or approaches you were skeptical about?

I was initially skeptical that there was such a thing as a “perfect body,” or that having one could bring all of the benefits mentioned in “The Theory of Ideal Body Proportions.” I was also skeptical about weight loss being so simple; I thought, “Surely, there has to be more to this than just eating less.”

5- When did you decide to jump on board full fledge with AGR?

I decided to jump on board full-fledge with AGR in 2013, after trying a number of other diet approaches, and seeing no noticeable results. It was then that I decided I would ride this train as far as I could, and I began the yearlong process that would culminate in where I am today. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t repeat the mistakes I made in the past, where I tried to do too much and lose the weight too fast (only to rebound later). This time, I took the tortoise approach: slow and steady, and it definitely paid off in ways greater than I ever imagined.

6- When did you first decide to enter an Adonis Transformation (AT) contest?

I have attempted to enter so many contests in the past few years, I’ve lost count; however, the earliest contest I remember entering was AT-10.

Elijah Smith 7th Place AT15 - Back Before/After Photos

Elijah Smith 7th Place AT15 – Back Before/After Photos

7- What was your experience going through the AT contest? Challenges that came up? Things you didn’t expect?

My experience going through the AT-15 contest was filled with a plethora of different emotions: fear, excitement, astonishment (at times), uncertainty, regret, and pride. There were two major challenges that came up: perfectionism and my mother. There were days when I ate double the calories that I was planning to eat, and I felt the temptation to just give up, because all was clearly lost. I had to constantly remind myself of the 80/20 principle: that staying on track 80% of the time will get me to my goals; I didn’t have to be perfect.

Another big challenge for me was the negative feedback that I received from my mother; she would constantly express concerns that I was losing too much weight, that I looked emaciated, and she even expressed concerns that I was anorexic/bulimic, despite the fact that I ate a lot, and told her that I like food (perhaps too much, which was why I had the excess fat I did in the first place). Learning to ignore her criticisms was perhaps the biggest challenge that I faced all along the way. I had to come to the realization that I was doing this for me, and no one else. Since no one else has to live my life, it doesn’t make any sense to let someone else chose what’s best for me.

In going through a transformation, I have realized the important role that environment plays in your success; if there are a lot of stressors around you, weight loss can become next to impossible. However, by either mastering or removing yourself from a stressful environment, your ability to stay on track increases exponentially.

One thing that I didn’t expect was the weight loss to be so consistent; it was like magic: I ate less, and I lost weight. Every time I stepped on the scale, I somehow expected to gain weight (even though, at the beginning, I was eating about 1,200kcal per day). I think that all of the misinformation in the diet/fitness media has tricked a lot of us into thinking that weight loss is a magical process that cannot be explained, except by an esoteric lot known as “fitness gurus.”

8- How did people react to your transformation? Positives and negatives (if any).

Most of the people I knew reacted positively. It was very encouraging when people would ask me if I’d lost weight, even though I had never mentioned to anyone that I was in the process of reshaping my body (a la covert nutrition); that’s how I knew that I was doing something right. As I mentioned before, the one person that reacted negatively was my mother.

I have also noticed that I seem to get more positive attention than I did before, both from total strangers and people that I have known for a while. Sometimes I wonder how much of this is from my increased confidence at the fact that I feel good about my own body, and how much is from the “Adonis Effect,” relative to the increase in my AI.

Elijah Smith 7th Place AT15 - Adonis Origins: Before Photo from 5-14-13

Elijah Smith 7th Place AT15 – Adonis Origins: Before Photo from 5-14-13

9- How do you react to the “Brand New” you? Have you noticed changes in your outlook and attitude in general.

To be honest, I’m still surprised when I look in the mirror. I often ask myself, “Is that really me?” It’s as if I imagine that I’m going to look in a mirror one day and magically be 50 pounds overweight again. Other than the regular reminders that this is, in fact, the real me, I am very happy with my results, and they are what motivate me to keep working hard so that I can push even further to achieve true golden.

I have noticed some profound changes in my outlook and attitude; I find that now I am much more passionate about life, about doing everything that I can to make it the best that it can be. I also find that I am able to better exercise self-control in other areas of my life, areas where I have also previously struggled (e.g., finances, delayed gratification in general).

Editor’s Note:


Hey Elijah,

Congrats on your transformation.  I could really relate to your interview as I to was goal hi-jacked in a similar fashion.  Before AGR, I was big into running 5K’s and I thought HIIT training was the way to go to get the results I wanted, fat loss wise.  What I soon discovered was that I didn’t enjoy the workouts and it actually hindered my progress to “Golden.”

 Major kudo’s to you as well for surviving criticism from your mom. I know it must’ve been hard at times as she didn’t understand your fitness goals. It sounds like she was a strong influence and I’m sure she meant well.  At the end of it all congrats on making it to the other side and I hope that the “Adonis Effect’ continues to work in your favor on your journey of the Adonis Lifestyle.

your brother in Iron,


Clear Out Your Cupboards and Go “All In”

Today’s  post is the latest installment of the Golden Eye for the Adonis Series.

Here is another  guest post from Eric Weinbrenner.  Better know by his True Insider Handle, “eweinbrenner.”

EWeinbrenner: True Insider and One of our Top Bloggers in the Community

EWeinbrenner: True Insider and One of our Top Bloggers in the Community

Clear Out Your Cupboards and Go “All In”


The real secret to getting in great shape is much less complicated than most believe: Clearly define your goal and go all in.

The real secret to getting in great shape is much less complicated than most believe: Clearly define your goal and go all in.

Have you ever watched Extreme Weight Loss on ABC? The TV show chronicles a year in the life of a person who is struggling with obesity and hopes to transform their bodies and experience a new way of life.

While the people involved in the transformation are different individuals, and the actual challenges they face may vary; there is one underlying concept present in every episode: in order to have a successful transformation, the participants must remove the “distractions” from their lives and focus on their ultimate goal of losing weight.

In nearly all cases, the “distraction” is one (or all) of the following–a limiting belief (“I can’t do this” or “I don’t deserve this”), a bad habit (overeating/eating junk food), or a tendency to hold on to the “comfortable” life they have been living–despite that state of misery it may have placed them in.

Typically, limiting belief systems and the self-sabotaging that occurs when one struggles to choose transformation over comfort are more difficult to uncover; eating too much junk food, on the other hand, is more obvious and often the first issue dealt with.

In almost every episode of Extreme Weight Loss I have seen, and in almost every weight loss article I have read, one of the first steps is always “go into your kitchen and throw out all of the junk food in your cupboards.”

Why is this advice given? Because anyone who has tried to lose weight, has helped someone lose weight, or has watched a TV show about losing weight KNOWS that leaving that kind of temptation laying around will diminish even your best efforts to lose weight and make better decisions.

Perhaps just as important, throwing out all of the unhealthy, high calorie food in your cupboards that costs a fair amount of money and serves as one’s “comfort” signifies commitment–it shows that you are “all in.”

You can’t be “all in” when you are distracted by things that oppose your goals.

By now, you may be wondering what this has to do with you, other than the fact that you may have just realized you need to literally clean your your cupboards, or assuming this is just another weight loss article–and you would be wrong on both accounts.

In short, this idea of “cleaning out your cupboards” can be applied in a figurative manner to the fitness journey that all of us are on in a much broader, but incredibly important sense.

The Biggest Challenge of Building An Awesome Body

Ten or twenty years ago the biggest challenge of transforming your body, and when I say “transforming your body,  I mean getting an “Adonis Body”, may have been getting the right information to accomplish that goal.

However, with the boom of the internet, the biggest challenge today is not lack of information–but, rather being overloaded with  too much information, often leading to analysis paralysis.

Consider this scenario for a moment:

Let’s say a few years ago you started really getting into health and fitness. You googled “how to get a six pack” and came across a few different sites promising to deliver. You subscribe to their blog feed and apply some the advice and things are going pretty well.

As you start to see results, you realize that the challenge of transforming your body is something you thrive on, a quest that provides meaning and purpose far above “working out” for health benefits alone–you see an email promoting a new muscle-building workout and decide to give it a shot. You stick with that workout for a few weeks until you see a brand new muscle building program advertised from an up-and-coming fitness pro, promising better results than anything you’ve ever experienced and reason that it would be foolish to not give it a try.

This cycle continues over the next few months, and as you compare the three, or four (or ten) programs that have accumulated on your computer, you realize they don’t all see eye to eye: one program prescribes “heavy weights and low reps” while the other says “moderate weights and moderate reps” are the key and yet another takes a “wacky exercise” variation on all of the above.

As you continue to seek more information, sure that further “clarity” is the answer, you soon become lost in a sea of confusion, constantly frustrated about your lack of progress and, on some level, disappointed in yourself for not being able to stick with ONE program long enough to see results.

Sound familiar?

Intervention Time

The “hypothetical” scenario we just explored is often all too true. I see it almost daily on the Adonis forums–guys who are following an AGR workout but are asking questions about nutrition information from  some other supplement company. Guys who want advice on this or that program from some other “fitness pro.”

Some are completely focused on the wrong things; others are obsessing over the minutia and missing the point. And on some level, I get it: I get that adopting the AGR philosophy, an approach that is often radically different from what you are used to, takes time and is a process. At the same time, though,  I can’t help but wish that I could speed this process up and help you avoid the frustration that many, including me, have experienced on our way to revelation.

So that’s why I follow with this reality check: You will NEVER see the results you want until you stop flip-flopping between workout programs, reading 10 different fitness blogs, and buying every new program that comes across your email.

I know because I have been there. Until about a year ago I was constantly going back and forth between AGR and a few other workout communities across the web.

Information from both sources was credible and quality–the problem was that there were competing ideals. AGR stresses a very specific look that is all about proportion and definition; the other sources focused on “getting big” and being a “real man” which was associated with certain levels of strength or by weighing a certain amount. This left me going back and forth between focusing on achieving the Golden Ratio as outlined here and trying to “get big”; in the end I just continued to spin my wheels, making little progress toward either ideal.

The issue isn’t necessarily “good” vs. “bad” inforamtion. The issue is, tucked within each segment of the fitness industry, hidden within each respective goal–whether it be to build a proportional physique without being a slave to the process or to increase maximal strength–is a “culture”, a framework of beliefs and ideals that drive everything you and inevitably lead to your success or failure, or at the very least, the rate at which you will find success.

From the language used to the measure of an “effective” workout or even what it means to “look good”, the culture defines your thought process and determines where your focus is directed.

Trying to combine the frameworks that lie within each goal, frameworks that clash at their core,  leads to confusion and frustration that will derail your progress. Soon you aren’t even sure what your goal is anymore, which often leads to even more program hopping as you go from trying to become more athletic one month to trying to build a proportional physique the next.

The Epiphany

Today, as a committed AGR  member, I feel like I am in the best shape of my life and know exactly what  I need to do to achieve my goals. This is no accident–this is because I clearly defined what I wanted to achieve and zeroed in on that goal.

I went all “all in”:

I unsubscribed from all other fitness related blogs.

I cancelled my subscription to the other online forum I had been involved with; where I had been shelling out $20 per month for workout programs that sat stagnant on my computer.

I took all of the workout programs I had purchased over the past five years (probably in the range of 15-20 programs costing thousands of dollars in total), dropped them on a jump drive, which I filed away in a safe place and then deleted them off of my computer.

In a manner of speaking, I “cleaned out the cupboards.”

All that was left standing was AGR.

As I did this I felt a sense of relief and clarity: I no longer had to wonder if what I was doing was as good or interesting or comparable to any other program. I was no longer confused about what I was trying to accomplish with fitness– I knew exactly what my goals were (Golden Ratio) and all of the other distracting, competing information no longer mattered.

Wrapping Things Up: A Call To Action

People often want to talk about the “secret” to building muscle, losing fat, or getting in great shape. Typically, this will be an ever-elusive quest without a clear answer, even when it’s delivery is promised with “one easy payment of $67.”

The real secret to getting in great shape is much less complicated than most believe: Clearly define your goal and go all in.

In the fitness realm, there are a number of possible goals one could pursue; improving athleticism, increasing maximal strength, or building an awesome looking body.

You must decide what your primary goal is and remove all distractions that stand in your way, which for many, often means all distracting (or competing) information.

Get rid of all the other workout programs you have on  your computer. If you can’t stand the idea of “wasting” all of that money and deleting them; at least put them on a jump drive or find a way to remove them from immediate accessibility.

Stop reading fitness blogs outside the Adonis community (this includes being a part of other forums as well).

Consider investing in Immersion–when JB, Brad, or Allen say “you will never need to buy another fitness product in your life, it’s TRUE. Everyone who identifies their primary goal as building an awesome body in the most efficient and effective way possible should have Immersion.

Many will read this and keep grinding away, helpless to their vices of chasing the “secret” promised by the newest workout program–and they will continue to struggle, wasting money they often don’t have and drowning in the confusion.

But for few, something will click; they will take action and go “all in”, and they will find success, they will find peace of mind–they will be the ones featured at the end of the next Adonis transformation contest while others hopelessly wonder what their “secret” is.

Be one who takes action.

-Eric Weinbrenner

eweinbrenner's Transformation Pics

eweinbrenner’s Transformation Pics


Focus on What Matters: Muscle vs. Movement

Hope everyone here in the U.S. celebrated a Happy Thanksgiving with  friends & family yesterday.

As the infamous “Black Friday” is now upon us, I would encourage those brave shoppers who dare venture out into the “savings wilderness” to shop safe.

Alternatively,  to some of you who might be heading to the gym, might I suggest making it a “Back Friday.” (Pun Intended)

Nevertheless, today’s  post is the latest installment of the Golden Eye for the Adonis Series. 

Here is another  guest post from Eric Weinbrenner.  Better know by his True Insider Handle, “eweinbrenner.”

EWeinbrenner: True Insider and One of our Top Bloggers in the Community

EWeinbrenner: True Insider and One of our Top Bloggers in the Community

Focus on What Matters:

Muscle vs. Movement

I struggled through a few more reps, dropped the dumbbells, and sat up.

Having just finished my third set of Incline Dumbbell Press, my chest (especially the upper portion) should have been fried… but as I sat there thinking about the set I had just performed, I realized I couldn’t really feel any specific muscle working.

Sure, my arms, chest, and shoulders were fatigued- but as far as feeling a specific muscle?- nothing.

Unfortunately, this was not an isolated case: this was a system-wide issue. With nearly every exercise, be it biceps curls or seated rows, I could lift “heavy” weights, but getting a pump and really feeling the target muscle work just was not happening.

To make matters worse, I felt like my muscles were lacking that hard, defined look that I was after. I had put on a decent amount of size, but even at a pretty low body fat (near golden waist), definition was not what I wanted, especially in my chest and arms–where I struggled to feel the muscles working the most.

How a Set Should “feel”

When you are lifting to achieve a certain look–note: I said “to achieve a certain look”; not “to get strong”; not “to improve conditioning”–each set you perform in the gym should feel a certain way.

At the most basic level, during each rep of each set, you should feel the target muscle working. There will be stabilizing muscles contributing, but overall, on any given lift, there should be one muscle (or muscle group) that you feel above all else. When you set the weight down, you should know, without a doubt, that you just worked the target muscle.

But… wait… what does that feel like?

Feeling the target muscle work produces a significant “pump” in the muscle; you should be able to squeeze the muscle and feel tension in the “belly” of the muscle, rather than in the joints around it; you should be able to isolate and flex the target muscle without feeling distraction from surrounding muscles.

In addition to describing what a good set feels like; it is also helpful to describe a bad set. Let me use the biceps curl as an example.


Focus On What Matters: Muscle vs. Movement
At the most basic level, during each rep of each set, you should feel the target muscle working.

When you do a biceps curl, you should get an insane pump in your biceps and you should have limited contribution from any other muscles. Every guy in the world who has ever been in a weight room has done curls. For some guys, their workout looks like the following:

Monday: Curls

Tuesday: Bench press, curls

Wednesday: Think about doing legs but actually do curls

…You get the point.

I’m using curls and this ridiculous example to show that everyone knows (or thinks they know) how to do a curl.

Yet, I know guys, and have personally experienced doing curls and struggling to actually feel the biceps doing most of the work. For a long time, I would do curls and feel my front deltoids getting a lot of the action and notice that my elbow joints would hurt the next day.

It wasn’t that I was doing curls wrong–I just didn’t know how to target the biceps muscle and make it do the work. I’ve noticed this is especially true, for a lot of muscles, when people have a background in powerlifting or working out primarily to get stronger. They come over to Adonis, where it is about working the muscles, not the movement, and find that they struggle to do that efficiently.

 Work the Muscle, Not the Movement

If you find that you struggle to really feel the muscle working on any given exercise; you have joint pain following certain movements; or you lack the hard, fully developed look in any of your muscles– you very well may be focusing too much on the movement and not enough on the muscle.  

This often stems from the “more weight = more muscle” mantra preached so often in the fitness industry. There are also a lot of experts that suggest things like, “you must lift heavy weights in order to build muscle”, and that “lifting light weights will never stimulate enough muscle for growth.”

There are two major problems with both of these ideas: First, “heavy” and “light” are relative; a weight that is “heavy” to me may be “light” to someone else, and vice versa. Second, this kind of thinking places tends to cause focus to fall on lifting maximum weight, thus focusing more on the movement, rather than the muscle.

This whole idea of working the muscle is not new to the AGR community, but it is so important, it is worth repeating–this is THE focus of our workouts. John Barban himself has described the ability to contract and relax each muscle at will as the “key to full muscle development”– this is how important working the muscle is.

So how can you get better at working the muscle and avoid just slinging weight around?

There are a few ways to do this and nearly all revolve around improving your mind to muscle connection. The best way to do this without overcomplicating things is to align your lifting with your breathing.

This means you will need to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n and use light(er) weights. Remember: “light” weight is relative, choose a weight that allows you to complete the prescribed amount of reps with perfect form using the target muscle.

When I say “slow down”, I am referring to the tempo of each rep. AGR members know that this is built into some of the more advanced programs where specific tempos are prescribed. If you are following one of those programs, just stick with the tempo as written. 

During each rep, lower the rep while inhaling and counting  1 one thousand, 2 one thousand; pause for a second at the bottom of the lift; then complete the “lifting” portion of the lift while exhaling to the count of 1 one thousand, 2 one thousand. The entire motion should be controlled (i.e. you controlling the weight; not the other way around).

 Final Thoughts

The strategies above can be applied to any and all exercises where you struggle to feel the target muscle work or simply as a way to improve mind to muscle connection overall and refocus on what is most important during our work outs: working the muscle.

Be careful to assume that this is for “beginners” and that you are too advanced for this. Remember: John Barban has noted the ability to target a muscle at will is the advanced stage of muscle building–this is something that will take years or practice and consistency to achieve. I can personally attest to the difference this has made for my physique as I have made improving mind muscle connection the focus over the past year or two–I have noticed a much more dense, hard look to my muscles and my ability to work the target muscle has noticed incredible improvements.

 While I wanted to make sure I provided some applicable strategies that you can use at the gym within this article; I also want you to use this article as a way to adjust your mindset, if need be. Becoming distracted and getting caught up worrying about lifting heavy enough weights or feeling like you must “prove” yourself will distract you from what is truly important.

-Eric Weinbrenner

eweinbrenner's Transformation Pics

eweinbrenner’s Transformation Pics

Unstoppable Confidence & The New “Me”: Interview w/ AT-14 Winner Adam G. [driftbouncer]

Here’s your latest essay interview with 3rd place winner  Adam G. from the 14th Adonis Golden Ratio Transformation Contest.

Adam G. 3rd Place AT14 - Front Before/After Photos

Adam G. 3rd Place AT14 – Front Before/After Photos


Adam’s Transformation Interview:

1- What workout or nutrition routine did you do before Adonis Golden Ratio (AGR) System? What kind of results did you get?

Before finding the AGR system I really didn’t follow any nutrition plan. I simply tried to eat foods that were healthy and limit those that were not. Over time this strategy did not work as I continued to slowly put on fat. As far as workout routines are concerned I followed many different ones over the years with minimal results. The real problem was not necessarily the routines themselves rather it was the fact that I never gave any one routine 100% dedication. I either did not follow the routine long enough or tried combining several routines into one.


Side BnA

Adam G. 3rd Place AT14 – Side Before/After Photos

 2- How did you find out about AGR?

I found out about AGR from a fellow named Kyle Leon. I had been following his work out and nutrition routine ( very loosely might I add) and it was a good routine just not for me. Kyle sent an email out with a link to AGR and the rest is history.

3- What was most appealing to you about AGR?

The most appealing thing to me about AGR was it’s simplicity. Food wise you could eat most things you want within reason as long as I stayed withing my weekly caloric needs. As well all the workouts are laid out for you focusing on the areas that really mattered to me to get the body I desire.

Adam G. 3rd Place AT14 - Back Before/After Photos

Adam G. 3rd Place AT14 – Back Before/After Photos

4- Were there any concepts or approaches you were skeptical about?

I think in the beginning I was a little skeptical about the idea of not bulking up first in order to put on muscle. I was of the mindset that what I weighed was really important and had some reservations about losing a lot of weight fearing I would lose muscle as well. In the end this was not the case and I have learned weight is only a number, what I look like is really what matters.

Adam G. 3rd Place AT14 - Transformation Image

Adam G. 3rd Place AT14 – Transformation Image

5- When did you decide to jump on board full fledge with AGR?

When I discovered AGR I spent a lot of time reading everything I could about the system and the people behind it. The more I read the more interested I got. The philosophy behind the nutrition and workout plans just really appealed to me. The AGR system just made sense. It focuses on the body parts that matter in order to achieve the body I desire and the nutrition plan allowed me not you give up the foods I love. For me it felt like a recipe for success.

6- When did you first decide to enter an Adonis Transformation (AT) contest?

This was not the first time I entered an AGR contest, I believe this was my fourth try. But this is the first time I actually submitted my after photos. All the other times I pretty much talked myself out of submitting the photos. I told myself that I was not good enough and it was not worth sending in the after pictures. Those other times I looked much the same as in these after photos the only difference this time was was my mental approach to the situation. Even though I am still not happy with my after photos (I am truly my biggest critic) I said what the hell, what do I really have to lose? Now after the fact I am so happy I followed through and sent in the photos.


Adam G. 3rd Place AT14 - Transformation Image

Adam G. 3rd Place AT14 – Transformation Image

7- What was your experience going through the AT contest? Challenges that came up? Things you didn’t expect?

My experience going through the AGR contest was generally a good one. The hardest part for me by far was how light I was getting. Even though I was looking better and better in the mirror I felt like I was pushing to hard and could be losing muscle mass. In the end I realized  I was still as strong as ever (perhaps a little stronger) and that weight is just a number. I have never felt better.

Adam G. 3rd Place AT14 - Transformation Image

Adam G. 3rd Place AT14 – Transformation Image

8- How did people react to your transformation? Positives and negatives (if any).

Family and friends by far are the harshest critics. Many family members have told me that I look sick and need to put weight back on. Even my wife thinks I am to thin and would like me to put more weight on. Let me tell you, when the people closest to you are all telling you over and over how bad you look it was tough at times not to give in and just quit what I was doing. But I was not about to give up and used the negative comments as fuel to keep going because as far as I was concerned I looked and felt great. I also realized these comments were not meant to be hurtful my family and friends were just not used to the new me. As soon as I looked different than people around me were used to they thought I did not look right. On the other hand anyone who does not know me would not think I look sick at all. I know it will take time for those around me to adjust but I can assure them that I am healthy and feel great.

Adam G. 3rd Place AT14 - Transformation Image

Adam G. 3rd Place AT14 – Transformation Image

9- How do you react to the “Brand New” you? Have you noticed changes in your outlook and attitude in general.

I like the new “me” very much. I still have a little fat to lose and some muscle to gain before my physique is golden but I know I will get there. Over all I feel great and my confidence is higher than ever. I may not be the biggest guy around but when the shirt comes off I think I look pretty good. Also completing the competition and placing third is a huge boost to my confidence and helps justify to myself all the hard work I have put in and that there are others out there that think I look good too.

Adam G. 3rd Place AT14 - Transformation Image

Adam G. 3rd Place AT14 – Transformation Image


Editor’s Note:

Hey Adam,

Congratulations on your transformation to a brand new “you”!  It was refreshing to hear how your mindset changed for this particular contest and you decided to submit your “after” photos.  A decision well made, earning yourself a “Top 3” finish in contest AT-14.  Also big kudos to you on hitting some of the bodybuilding “mandatory” poses.

I can tell you’ve been practicing them. Because of this, we look forward to featuring you on some of our upcoming AGR covers.  Keep pushing on towards your quest to “Golden” and I’m sure your unstoppable confidence will guide the way!

your brother in Iron,


Train Hard, Finish Strong! Interview w/ AT-14 Winner Michael De Oliveira [Mike]

Here’s your latest essay interview with 2nd place winner  Michael De Oliveira from the 14th Adonis Golden Ratio Transformation Contest.

Mike De Oliveira 2nd Place - Front Before/After Photos

Mike De Oliveira 2nd Place AT 14 – Front Before/After Photos


Michael’s Transformation Interview:


1- What workout or nutrition routine did you do before Adonis Golden Ratio (AGR) System? What kind of results did you get?

I followed my own training programs that I had designed myself (I am a qualified personal trainer). I got fairly good results with these, but it was nice to follow another workout routine that I hadn’t designed in order to do something different, as well as get good results with that too, of course.

 2- How did you find out about AGR?

I first found out about AGR through Brad Pilon. I subscribe to his emails and was a follower of Eat Stop Eat so received an email with a link about AGR one day. I read through the site and thought it sounded good so bought the product to check it out and I’m glad that I did!

3- What was most appealing to you about AGR?

I liked the fact that there was a specific goal to aim towards. With most bodybuilding programs, even though proportions do matter to a certain extent, the goal is to just try and get as big you can with no real set numbers to aim for. It’s obvious that certain body shapes are more aesthetically pleasing than others, so it just made sense that there was an ultimate finite goal to try and achieve rather than just aiming to get as big as possible.

4- Were there any concepts or approaches you were skeptical about?

Not really, no. As I say, it made perfect sense whilst reading about it, and everything was thoroughly explained and backed up by evidence so there was nothing I felt particularly skeptical of.

Mike De Oliveira 2nd Place AT 14 - Back Before/After Photos

Mike De Oliveira 2nd Place AT 14 – Back Before/After Photos

5- When did you decide to jump on board full fledge with AGR?

Probably a few years ago (I can’t remember the exact date but I’ve been following for quite some time now). I still do go back to my own programs every now and then, but I’ve agreed with the AGR principles ever since first hearing about them so I will always pay close attention to any updates and things going on within the community.

6- When did you first decide to enter an Adonis Transformation (AT) contest?

I believe it was AT2 if I remember rightly? I must admit that I have actually entered quite a few contests, but this is only the second one I have managed to properly see through to the end. For some of the contests I had genuine reasons for not being able to finish, but most of the time I just couldn’t seem to find the willpower to stick with the diet. I somehow managed to find it for this contest however, and so it goes to show that perseverance does pay off in the end!

7- What was your experience going through the AT contest? Challenges that came up? Things you didn’t expect?

During the first few weeks of the contest I followed the workout but didn’t start dieting too hard (if at all, really). I actually went on a clubbing holiday to Ibiza for a week at the beginning of June, but once I came back I properly got into my nutrition and resumed training hard for the remainder of the contest. It was all fairly manageable until the last two or three weeks when being in a caloric deficit, training hard, starting a new job and my diminishing social life started to take it’s toll. Thankfully I was able to stick it through to the end this time though before succumbing to four bits of birthday cake at a friend’s birthday BBQ!

Mike De Oliveira 2nd Place AT 14 - Side Before/After Photos

Mike De Oliveira 2nd Place AT 14 – Side Before/After Photos

8- How did people react to your transformation? Positives and negatives (if any).

Surprisingly enough, I have found that I’ve actually received a lot more negative comments/remarks/etc. from my transformation than I was expecting to get. Nothing too horrendous; just not always the positive comments I would have thought I would have received (especially from family and friends). Thankfully a big amount of the feedback has been good though, with most people not even commenting at all as I don’t really look any different until I take my shirt off.

9- How do you react to the “Brand New” you? Have you noticed changes in your outlook and attitude in general.

To be honest I don’t really see this as the “brand new” me. I see it more of a stepping stone to where I want to be, and that I still have a bit of a way to go before I get there yet. With that being said, I’m definitely feeling more positive in general and happy that I’m no longer carrying as much fat around as I once was. I haven’t decided whether to enter the next contest or not yet as I’m enjoying the break from dieting and will probably just try and maintain as much of these results as I can for now. I do know, however, that I definitely want to have another go at a contest in the future, and am determined to eventually reach my golden A.I.!

Editor’s Note:

Hey Michael,

Glad to learn that you’ve been with us for a while.  I commend you for never losing site of your goal despite not finishing previous transformation contests.  It seems like the right alignment kicked in for you during this contest to allow you to continue training hard and sticking to your nutrition despite attending an overseas trip and cake & BBQ back home.  Too bad to hear some reacted negatively to your transformation.  People often put-down or dismiss things they do not understand.  Nevertheless, you have an awesome transformation to show for it and we look forward to seeing your “Golden” physique in an upcoming contest.

your brother in Iron,