The 9 Categories of Trainee: Their Mistakes, How to Avoid Them, and What You Can Achieve When You Get Things Right (Pt.1of3)

Andy MorganGoal Setting115 Comments

I have had to decline nearly half of all coaching applicants in the last three and a half years because the expectations on what they thought could be achieved, and my opinion on what would realistically be achieved, simply could not be reconciled.

The reason for this huge disconnect is simple – the exceptional results of the drug-enhanced or genetically elite are promoted as being normal by the industry. We are told that when results don’t pan out to the expectations we were sold on, we just need to buy a new, more specialised training program (and maybe some more equipment), along with, of course, the appropriate supplement stack  – because the one that we purchased before wasn’t right for our body type, or biology, or something like that. This process spirals out of control, people eventually get frustrated and give up, and the collective result is that we’ve all pitched in to buy Mike Chang and his friends another Lamborghini.

Unfortunately it seems to me that the effect of the industry’s marketing is so powerful that the majority of people need to go down the hard road and get screwed first, before they are willing to listen to someone with a more realistic outlook.

The goal of this serial guide is to save you from taking that hard road. Using a similar categorisation system that I use when working with clients I will help you identify your current physique condition, and then give practical recommendations on the path I think you should take (cut, bulk, slow-bulk, recomp for example) realistic expectations of what you can achieve, the common mistakes that people make, and what you should be aware of as you progress.

This is potentially going to save you time on your journey to getting the physique that you want. It’s going to get exceptionally detailed, and I sincerely hope that you find it useful.

Where This Guide Comes From

As I work online and do this full time I have been fortunate to have worked with a broad range of clientele over the relatively few years I have been doing this. I have gradually tightened up my area of focus to allow me to get even better at my niche – open-minded male strength trainees, no injuries, 20-55 age range. Of these people, I can usually identify them as being in one of 11 categories. – Now, you might consider that to be quite anal, and you’d be right. However, by being very tight and focused like this, I can get good at predictions for people, and that is what leads to happy customers and a good reputation. While the specifics often vary (everyone is an individual with their own personal challenges), the fundamentals of the action plans and the outcomes within a category usually follow the same general course.

Client categories vs Guide Categories

We’re going to use the same method in this article. However, the categories will be less tightly defined, and we will cover a broader range of people, to include beginner trainees (skinny to obese) as well. For each category I’ll give my advice on what direction I think you should go in, and what you are likely to achieve. – Basically, a more generalised version of what I do for coaching applicants.

The Categories That We Will Cover

  1. Stubborn
  2. Fat but muscled
  3. Muscled, few pounds to lose.
  4. Skinny
  5. Shredded (Clear, defined abs.)
  6. Fat & weak
  7. Obese
  8. Skinny-fat
  9. Limbo/Purgatory

Definitions of these will come at the start of each section, some of which will be subjective, as an ‘ideal physique’ will differ from person to person.

Goal Setting Fundamentals

  • Fat can be burned far quicker than muscle is gained. Muscle is denser than fat. Therefore you will measure smaller at the same weight if you have more muscle.
  • The more fat you have to lose, the quicker you can lose it without losing muscle tissue. The less fat you have to lose, the more slowly you need to lose it to preserve muscle tissue. (See the, ‘How much fat can I lose per week?‘ table.)
  • People new to serious strength training will experience the most gains in lean body-mass.
  • Gains from strength training, even with excellent programming will become less and less as the years progress. (See the, ‘Muscle growth potential‘ table.)
  • Strength gains/losses correlate reasonably well with muscle gains/losses.
  • Maintenance of strength is indicative of muscle mass retention.
  • People generally fail to achieve results, not because they have a bad plan, but often simply because it’s too hard for them to follow through with it.
  • There is no getting around the Nutritional Hierarchy of Importance for Fat Loss and Muscle Growth (picture below) despite what your aunt Betty insists after reading ‘Grain Brain‘ and ‘Wheat Belly‘.

The Pyramid Of Nutrition Priorities -

  • Stress and poor sleeping habits have the potential to mess everything up regardless of what you do. The negative impacts scale with severity.

Why we look at averages, not outliers

What we have here is a bell curve illustrating different genetic potential.

There is no point in setting expectations about what can happen for the exceptionally genetically gifted, or the genetically screwed, cause the chances are that this isn’t you. And, even if you are one of the unfortunate ones, there’s honestly nothing you can do about it except to work that patience/ diligence muscle harder. (Though I am sure there is a supplement out there claiming to help you override your genetics of course.) Some people will have a harder time losing fat than others, some people find it harder to gain muscle than others. You need to get on with creating the best you instead of worrying about everybody else out there.

One important thing to point out though – mindset has a very powerful effect on the body. If you believe that you can’t grow quickly, or get very strong, chances are that you won’t. So believe in yourself and train with the mindset that you are one of the lucky ones, as that will take you further.

I’ll be talking about average rates of progress, for the person that follows the advice on this site ‘to a T’ (instead of tweaking things). I’m not going to talk about the best possible outcomes I have seen, nor what can be achieved if unsustainable strategies are used.

Bell Curve illustrating different genetic potential

Identify Where You Are Now – Get On The Right Track – Then Go Crush It

Acknowledging your current physical condition is the only way to set up realistic expectations and build towards your long-term goals. Be honest with yourself when reading below. Everyone reading this, no matter what their body shape or size, is seeking improvement. Aside from this first classification (stubborn), I don’t see any particular category as negative and neither should you. On the contrary, correctly identifying where you are now and setting your plans accordingly is going to save you time in reaching your end goals.

Some people are going to be a mix of a couple of different categories, just do your best to read between the lines. I’ll explain the categories in roughly the order that I consider least to most complicated.

Category 1. Stubborn

‘Stubborn’ isn’t a reference to body-fat type, but to mental attitude. These people are unhappy with their lack of progress, but refuse to change their diet or training method(s) because they are stuck in some form of dogma. Until their frustration overwhelms their stubbornness these people can’t be helped.

A subcategory of these folks are those that hold (fairly) firmly onto the belief that one style of dieting or training is suitable for all goals at all times. Three examples:

• The person that insists on low-carbing, at all times, despite their struggles in a lean-mass gaining phase.

• The guy that insists on keeping 5 crossfit WODs in their weekly training plan while attempting to diet. This is ostensibly in an attempt to keep up their metabolic conditioning because… that’s what their favourite MMA fighter – with their entire team of experts around them and their job on the line – manages to do. You don’t want to do this. This completely knackers your recovery capacity when it’s in short supply, ramping up physiological stress, and it’s going to set you up for failure or injury. (There’s a great article called ‘Muscle Math’ covering this principle by Greg Nuckols here.)

• People that are bulking and have started to push the boundaries of what they can physically, comfortably eat, despite moving to more calorie dense food choices that fit their macros, but remain adamant that they must eat within an 8 hour window instead of extending it. (These tend to be high NEAT responders, aka. ‘hard-gainers’.)

This subcategory of folks are sometimes saveable with a little nudge in the right direction. But as the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. Sometimes people just need to fail multiple times before changing their ways. That can be an essential part of the learning process, and trying to push people into something will just fray your friendships.

If you think you might be in this stubborn category, if what you’re doing isn’t working, open your mind to changing it. Don’t try and force a “one size fits all” on yourself. Be sensible. Dieting isn’t easy and neither is gaining muscle. At the minimum, stack the deck in your favour.

Category 2. Fat, but muscled

Strategy: Cut

These guys are among the easiest and most satisfying clients to work with. The hard work is done, as they already have a muscular base, it’s just a case of helping them to reveal it. Often it’s these guys that have never been shredded before and never believed they could be, and making this a reality for them is a great feeling. 12 weeks is rarely enough to get them down to shreds, but they often come back to me a few months after our work together with an e-mail and huge grin in the photos saying thank you.

If this is you, then shoot for the fat loss recommendations below based on your body fat percentage. I typically recommend 1-1.25lbs a week of fat loss, as higher than that tends to push the boundaries of what is sustainable in terms of adherence. Ideally I want you to feel almost like you’re not dieting for the longest time possible.

Body fat % Maximum recommended fat loss /week
20-30% ~2 lbs / 0.9kg
15-20% 1.25-1.5 lbs / 0.45-0.7kg

If you haven’t been dieting up until this start point, then there are likely to be some initial water and muscle glycogen losses due to the decreased carb intake. That will send your weight tumbling quickly in the first 7-10 days, which would have messed with your head, but now you’re prepared for it. You’re going to need to look for the average rate of weight loss over the weeks following the first week. Basically, throw out that first week of data.

Given that you’re an experienced trainee you are unlikely to make any significant muscle gains during the cut, so you can gauge progress by scale weight. I’d recommend that you still take body measurements because there may be some weeks where you don’t get changes in weight, but the stomach measurements change. A curious phenomenon but common. Some weeks you’ll lose more weight than others then, but it’s that 1-1.25lbs per week that you should shoot for.

You’ll need to reduce your training volume as your recovery capacity will be hampered due to being in a calorie deficit. Mentally that might be tough, as you’re clearly keen on training, and there still persists the bro-myth that when cutting you should increase training volume and intensity, but 3 days a week will suffice. Focus on the main compound movements and work to maintain your strength. Accessory exercises can and should be restricted more heavily than the compound exercises. This will be enough to preserve muscle mass.

In the case of some very experienced strength trainees, there will likely be a loss of strength in their top sets. This is due to the mechanical disadvantage of being leaner (which these guys likely know about anyway), and though it depends on limb-torso length ratios, a decrease of up to 10% is not unusual for the larger guys. This is not to be confused with muscle loss.

You’ll need to buy yourself a new wardrobe, so be prepared for that expense.

Client Examples Results | Peter, Ireland Results | Theis, Denmark

John S. - Results

Note that John started off at a much higher level of body fat than Peter and Theis above, hence the longer time frame. Technically he was obese, but he had a good amount of muscle mass so I put him in this section.

More ->

Category 3. Muscled, a few pounds to lose

Strategy: Cut

These guys have many similarities to the ‘fat, but muscled’, category two folks. Though due to being leaner they often take it to shreds (or very close) in our 12 week time frame. Some of these people are as lean as they have ever been and simply haven’t been able to take it further, others have been shredded before but want to do it in an easier and more sustainable fashion.

Technically there is nothing more difficult here than with those carrying more fat, though there are certain things to be aware of. For those that are struggling to get leaner, first I offer you two questions:

  1. Are you counting your calories and macros, or have you gotten to where you are now without doing so? – It may be time to start, so that you remove the guesswork from things. This will be a pain in the arse for about three weeks, but after that you’ll find it a lot easier. (Refer to my guide, “How To Count Macros“.)
  2. Have you had any diet breaks? If not then you should consider one. See here for my diet break guidelines. You’ll often find afterwards you will feel refreshed mentally, any food cravings you’ve been having are gone, and metabolically it’s beneficial for setting you up to shoot for this next level of leanness. Just note that you’ll have a large rise in body weight when you start the diet break due to the increase in carb intake (and saltier foods in likelihood) and thus water balance and glycogen stores. There is no need to panic. It will come off rapidly again when you resume the diet.

I generally recommend 0.75-1.25lbs a week as a targeted fat loss rate for these folks, the lower end of the range as they get leaner.

Body fat % Loss /week
12-15% 1-1.25 lbs / 0.45-0.6kg
9-12% 0.75-1 lbs / 0.35-0.45kg
7-9% 0.5-0.75 lbs / 0.2-0.35kg
<7% ~0.5lbs / 0.2kg

Body measurements become increasingly important as you get leaner, as the mirror will mess with your head. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, with the cyclical nature of the diet you’ll likely see yourself looking leaner on some days than others which can send some folks into a panic if they are not prepared for it. Secondly, as you start to get to 10% and under the fat will often come from places that you can’t easily see, like the lower back and thighs. Assuming you’ve been using my recommended 9 points of measurement, you’ll notice that you start to see more changes on the lower stomach measurements than at the navel and above.

Diet breaks should be more frequent the leaner you get, every 6-8 weeks or so.

Assuming you aren’t stressed at home or work, and are sleeping well, fat loss should be fairly linear down to shreds. The difficulty is simply in tracking it, so I highly recommend taking your weight as an average of each day for the week, as well as using the tape measure. Patience and consistency is all that is required.

As with the ‘fat, but muscled’ category, you will likely need to reduce training volume. Again, three days a week should be plenty for muscle mass retention.

Client Examples

12 Weeks

Intermittent Fasting - Leangains - Kenneth N. - Cut Results | Scott T.



Intermittent Fasting Leangains Results Phil N Results | Katsu Before:after

For Phil  (second from bottom) note how slowly it is necessary to cut at this point of leanness in order to maintain muscle mass. The changes were subtle, but these are the differences in levels of conditioning that judges look for. The bigger story here was his switching from 6 meals a day, training 6 days a week to 3 days training, two meals. 


There was a long time in my life when I was stuck spinning my wheels – I wasn’t making any progress and I just couldn’t see it. Or maybe I just couldn’t admit it. It took a very honest comments wake me up so that reality. Waking up to reality and knowing had to get yourself out of that situation a two very different things though. In the next part I’ll explain exactly how I got myself out of the skinny trap and you can too.

Thank you for reading. Questions welcomed in the comments.

Physigue Goal Setting | Part 2In Part 2:

  • Why You Are Still Skinny, What You Need to Change, and What Pitfalls You Need to Avoid.
  • How to Slow-Bulk – Avoiding the Dream-Bulk Trap

Read Part 2 →

Get The Starter Kit:


1. Macro calculator
2. 'The Complete Guide To Setting Up Your Diet' book
3. Email course on the 5 biggest set-up mistakes people make.

(Yes, it's all free.)

Powered by ConvertKit

The Last Shred 3D Cover - Large

Find my 'Complete Guide To Setting Up Your Diet' book useful?

↓ Take your physique to the next level ↓

The Last Shred: How To Adjust Your Diet Like A Pro To Achieve Single Digit Body Fat

Stop second guessing yourself.

→ 77 pages, Real data from 5 clients guided to shreds

You owe it to yourself to at least take a look →

About the Author

Andy Morgan

I'm an online nutritional and training coach living in Tokyo, Japan. After seeing one too many people get ripped off by supplement and training industry lies I decided to try and do something about it. The site you see here is the result of a lot of Starbucks-fuelled, two-fingered typing. It's had a lot of love poured into it, and I hope you find the guides to the diet and training methods I use on this site useful. When I'm not helping clients you'll likely find me crashing down a mountain on a snowboard, racing around Suzuka circuit, or staring at watches I can't afford. (Read more about me →)

115 Comments on “The 9 Categories of Trainee: Their Mistakes, How to Avoid Them, and What You Can Achieve When You Get Things Right (Pt.1of3)”

  1. Andy,
    Thank you for all the great info. You’ve helped me tremendously.

    Would you change any aspect based on age? I’m 54 and the chart for calipers indicates that I have a higher body fat at the same measure for someone younger. I’m currently at an estimated 14%. I understand that I need to cut to have a better ratio when building. At my age, should I push through to 12% or lower?

    Are there any adjustments of other aspects due to age?


    1. Doug, thanks for the question. Your ability to recover and respond to training will be lower now than when you were younger, which is worth considering (as are any injuries you have) but just because you’re older doesn’t change of the principles change. There’s huge inter-individual variability in this that is in a large part down to the genetic lottery. There are 54 year olds that will respond to training better than 24 year olds. So don’t let the fact that you’re 54 hold you back.

      If you’d like to read more about the genetic aspect, fantastic article by Greg Nuckols here:
      Genetics and Strength Training: Just How Different Are We?

  2. Hey Andy,

    Love the guides, been eating it up. Trying to get as much info as I can. I’ve been on a 2k cal/day cut for a while now, and haven’t been seeing progress. All your calculators and others have suggested that perhaps I should be eating a bit more on average per day (2300 or so). Can you talk to the science behind how eating more could potentially improve my physique?

  3. Hey Andy,

    First of all thank you for your work and the free guide i really love it, I did dowonload your excel calculation and i was impressed. I found a small mistake which can lead long term to a bad result, maybe you can fix it, it wont take long. You did the calculation for the carbs Protein and fat with 4,4,9 in reall it is 4.1 4.1 and 9.3 in my case it leads me to 100 Calories more per day in a month thats close to 500 Gramm fat more. For people with a biger Calorie intake it can lead to 200-250 Calories more a day.

    1. Hi Jaci. Thanks for pointing that out. It’s a purposeful simplification, the difference is not worth worrying about.
      – You can’t track your food intake perfectly anyway.
      – Metabolism is adaptive, so you need to adjust based on actual progress rather than calculation anyway.
      Don’t worry about it.

  4. Pingback: How to Calculate your Leangains Macros |

  5. Pingback: The Nutritional Hierarchy of Importance - #1 Calories |

  6. Pingback: The 9 Categories of Physique Trainee - Part 3 |

  7. Pingback: How To Adjust Your Diet To Successfully Bulk |

  8. Great thanks for the reply I think ill take the diet break as I have meticulously counted calories for 4 years staright. Ill move slowwly into a bulk after this. Thank you!!

  9. Pingback: When to have diet whey protein?

  10. Hey man lovin all these articles sorry to bump an old thread.

    I did my first Men’s Physique shows last year and really nailed my condition but was too small, I was 155-160lbs on stage at 5’11.5 so definitely need to grow. I was forced to take some time off due to a surgery I had to do, I am 100% recovered now and been cutting for about 8 weeks now. I am 170lbs as of now but feel like I have crushed my metabolism and still not shredded again.

    I got impatient and macros have been 1800 calories training days <100 g of carbs <50g of fat and 245 protein 60min hard weight training and 20 min liss 3 of the 5 days. And rest days twice a week are 50g og of fat, same protein and 0 carbs with 40 min of fasted LISS. Saturdays are a high carbs refeed/cheat meal uncounted.

    My simple question is how lean should I be before going into slow bulk or recomp. I am probably 9-10% now, fully visibible abs but holding water so not as shredded as your " shredded pics" or should I take a diet break and cut down to shredded?

    I am known for overdoing exercises and deficits and making cortisol a problem

    1. Hi Michael. 9-10% is fine to start bulking from, no real benefit in going lower.
      Next time you come to cut, take it slow, be patient and you’ll be able to eat more and do far less, yet still get shredded.

      1. Hey thanks for the quick reply. One last question should I do a diet break between this aggresive cut and a sloww bulk.
        I just feel that going into a slow gain phase with a tanked metabolism wouldn’t give me the best results.

        Thanks very much for your time and this site!!

        1. If you feel that mentally you need it then you can and should. Otherwise you’re fine as the increases to the macros with the slow bulk will bring the hormones/metabolism back up to normal. Don’t aggressively cut though unless you must, you’ll just lose muscle mass.

  11. Hey Andy, im in category 2 could you give me 3 quick thing to add and three things to subtract from my diet?

    1. Hi Patrick, thanks for the question. You mean, “Eat this, don’t eat that,” kind of thing, right? – Without knowing what your diet currently looks like I have no ability to answer that. What I’d base it on though is what changes would be necessary to bring you in line with an appropriate diet set up for your goal. Here’s my guide for that and will help you answer these questions:
      How To Set Up Your Diet: The Nutritional Hierarchy of Importance for Fat Loss & Muscle Growth

  12. Pingback: Intermittent Fasting & Leangains Guide |

  13. Hi Andy,

    Thank you for the great information! I’m currently on the 5th week into my cut and am divided regarding the carbs portion of my daily macros. I fit into the muscled, but few pounds to lose category. I was a college football/baseball player and have always been strong & muscled, but have never been sub 10% BF, which is my current goal. My current diet is about as clean as one could get, 6 meals a day with all 3 MACROS hit per meal. The first 4 weeks into the cut, I cut back my starchy complex carbs considerably and relied strictly on fruits and vegetables for carbs (except real oats w/breakfast). However, I’ve recently incorporated more brown rice and starchy carbs back into my diet as my workout sessions just suffered immensely last week and I’ve definitely lost strength even though I’ve kept my protein at 1-1.5 g/bw. I am very motivated and disciplined, but my question is am I on the right path with increasing the starchy carbs? I do feel better and my workout yesterday was very much improved with the higher carb intake. When I say higher carbs, I mean a cup of brown rice added to my dinner and maybe another ½ cup with lunch? I’m currently doing the 3 day split with 2-3 HIIT cardio sessions/week. I’m 5’9 ½” and around 172lbs (started at 185 before cut). I’m also in this for the long haul as I would like to ideally stay relatively lean throughout the year. Any info or help would be greatly appreciated!

    Thank you

    Jonny A.

    1. Hi Johnny. Allow me to summarize: You added carbs back into your diet, and your strength, “suffered immensely”. Your question is whether you should have added the carbs into your diet.

      ^ Highly unusual. Unless you ate a ton of carbs before your workout and that send you into an energy slump I can’t see how increasing your carb intake, other things being equal, would have a negative impact. However, if that’s what you have isolated it to then you have your answer – take them back out.

      I’m sure you’ll find this series useful:
      The Nutritional Hierarchy of Importance (for Fat Loss & Muscle Growth) – Overview

      1. Thanks for responding. I apologize if I wasn’t very clear…it was the other way around. I reduced starchy carbs from the beginning and decided to add them back in and have felt better with my training. Thank you for the link. I’ve currently decided to increase my starchy carbs on weight training days and reduce on off/cardio days and see how my body responds. I will reassess in two more weeks. Going to stay patient and stay the course. Please let me know if you think the carb cycling is counterproductive. Thanks again Andy. I appreciate it!

        Jonny A.

  14. Hi Andy,

    Just wondering, I sort of fall in the 3rd category (~17% bf) you discussed according to a comparison of your clients’ images. I noticed your recommended weight loss per week and if I was looking to retain as much muscle mass as possible, may I ask what sort of LG deficit/surplus ratio you would generally suggest? I was thinking of something like -30/+10 (rest/workout), however do you think this would be relatively inefficient?

    To be honest, I am just wanting to get down to ~12% bf so that I can get back into slow bulking. Any advice/suggestions would be great as there is a profound base of information and I am really looking forward to hearing what you have to say.

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Danny.
      “What sort of LG deficit/surplus ratio you would generally suggest?I was thinking of something like -30/+10 (rest/workout), however do you think this would be relatively inefficient?”
      1. Do that, track things, then adjust calorie intake upwards or downwards if necessary to bring yourself on target.
      “Any advice/suggestions would be great as there is a profound base of information and I am really looking forward to hearing what you have to say.”
      2. There is really nothing especially complicated about getting down to 12% body fat. Just patience and consistency.

      1. Thanks Andy.

        Another concern I had is is it ok to move around the eating frame? i.e. Can I frequently move between a 12-8 and 1-9 eating frame? Or does this reduce the effectiveness of LG and in fact, is not doing LG properly?

          1. Thanks for that Andy.

            I have not found a solid answer to whether I can workout 4 times a week (instead of 3)? Would this not be advocated for under leangains as it impedes on the recovery time (and consequently also, misses one calorie deficit day)? Am I not going to see the same results in doing so, or have you ever had any clients been successful with a similar schedule?

            So far I am 1 week in, however I am not entirely sure if I am being effective with my time by working out 4 times a week instead of 3. Any comments would be greatly appreciated.

            Thank you Andy.

            1. You can if you get the balance training stress-recovery balance right. However in all seriousness here, I write put that link here for others reading, not yourself.

              You’re one week in. You have the classic case of wanting to fiddle with things instead of following the guidelines as they are, which will likely to your own detriment.I’ve seen hundreds of people like you in the comments, don’t be that guy.

              If it ain’t broken…

              By all means, fiddle with things when you know very well what you are doing though. But based on these three comments so far you’re not at that point yet.

  15. Hi Andy,

    Great site! Found you from Leangains,com. The 16/8 IF protocol seems to fit my lifestyle and my need to keep things as simple as possible, also why I am in the middle of Dan John’s 40 day workout, just so I can get in the gym everyday and get work done.

    Anyway 3 years ago I was in crossfit for a while and had decent but not great strength numbers I was 5’11 204 with a 420# Dl and a 335# back squat, could ring muscle-up for reps and do 12 consecutive pull ups. I meet a girl , went broke, stop going to crossfit, ate like a 13 year old and now 3 years later I am engaged to that same girl but am weighing in at 245# and 26% BF (based on tape measure and calculator) I just turned 30 years old.

    >>>When I started the 40 day program about 2 1/2-3 weeks ago I weighed in at 250#, so just eating clean and going to the gym I am down 5# but have been stuck at exactly 245.6# for 10 days! No fluctuation at all??? Is this a bad scale or is it possible while in deficit to no go up or down even by a tenth or a pound for 10 days?? – Should I not worry about this and give the IF a couple weeks before I start thinking my scale is bad??? Could this be a water retention thing <<<

    I am only on day 2 of the 16/8 IF and after all the equations it says I should eat 2500cals for 2lb/week loss?? Does that sound right?

    At 205# I was at an athletic peak but still not as lean as I could have been, I think for my body type 185# would reveal the 6 pack and get me lean and mean.

    Thanks for any guidance you can give me, love the site, I think I found a simple plan I can easily follow and get results, just wondering about your thoughts on the scale weight and my calorie count?

    Thanks again,


    1. Hi Jay. I know exactly where you are, you’re one of those subcategories of trainee that I mentioned in the opening paragraphs.

      Here’s the deal, in the first few weeks you’re seeing less than your targeted weight loss rate due to shifts in glycogen and water. Also, your muscles will grow – kind of anyway, ‘reactivate’ might be a better description to use – this is the muscle memory effect as you get back into the training and up to your previous lifts. (See the “myonuclear domain theory” part in this article for a more sciency explanation of that.)

      Let’s say you’re targeting 1.25-1.5lbs per week of fat loss at the moment. These first four weeks might be frustrating if you’re only looking at the scale weight, but that’ll change once you get past the fourth the 4 week point*, and the scale weight will come down fairly linearly. The issue you’ve probably got is that you’re basing progress on scale weight alone, and not taking the measurements. No worries, you probably just haven’t come to that guide yet right?

      How To Track Your Progress When Dieting

      *The length the recomp effect (fat loss + muscle re-gain) continues depends on the extent of the past lifting experience and how reconditioned you are now. You were very decently strong, and it’s been a three year lay-off, so you might see that effect longer then just four weeks. So make sure you’re taking body measurements as per that guide.

      1. Thank you for taking the time Andy I really appreciate it! I was thinking it was something like that but really needed to hear it from someone who knows what they are talking about. I will stay focused and dial in my macros even more and just stick with it.

        I bought one of those tapes at GNC so I will make sure to use that every couple of weeks to see where I am at. Even though the scale hasn’t shown much progress the way I feel has changed dramatically in these past couple weeks. Just eliminating all the junk I ate on a daily basis has done so much for my energy.

        Thank you again I will probably be reading your whole site 3x just to soak it all in.

        Enjoy your break btw!


  16. I’m at 132lbs, 17 years, 5ft7. Went from 176lbs to 132 (slow-bulked then cut) in a year. Currently at 12-13%bf, slightly toned, but still with some fat around the low abs and chest area. Should I continue my cut by dropping my daily calories or have a recomp then cut again ? Thanks.

  17. Audio versions are a great idea. Consider publishing them as podcasts so that you could easily listen to them using podcast apps with mobile.

  18. Andy,

    Discovered your site about 6 weeks ago and has been a real eye opener for me. I’ve suffered through years of f-arounditis, so I thank your for your site and info. I have 2 questions.

    1) Right now I’m doing a slow bulk with even calories and carbs per day. When I go into my cut, I’m going to integrate carb portioning. I train early morning fasted and I fear coming off a low carb day Ill have no gas in the tank for my workouts. How long does your body store all those carbs from your high carb day?

    2) Due to years of ignoring squats and deadlifts I have been left with very disportionate lifts. I bench 260 and squat 260 at 190lbs bodyweight 6′ 1″ tall.It’s been a grind (4 months) just to get my squats to that point. A lot of retooling of form. When I go to do my first cut will the lack of squat power show in my upper body or will I just be dealing with bird legs until I get that squat up?

    Thanks again for the great site!


    1. Hi Chris, thanks for the questions.
      1. It will take a maximum of 24 hours and the glycogen will stay there in the muscles until it is used. Your energy won’t be an issue.
      2. You can’t chisel down what you haven’t built in the first place. So, if you’ve been ignoring to train your legs completely (squats is just one way) then you can’t expect to have a good amount of muscle there when you cut down to shredded. However, if you are new to training them then all the beginner rules apply to that area of your body. So if you take the cut slowly and start training your legs then you will get some growth there despite being in a calorie deficit overall.

  19. Hi Andy! I’ve been reading this thread since it started and I must say, your content is AMAZING. just a question,
    i myself am currently on a body recomposition phase, but not really sure if these are the right steps to take. I took a vacation in the states last december for the holidays, and prior to making the trip, I was following consistent macros on a surplus complimented by high volume training for 7 weeks prior. My body stats at the time (last december 21, 2014 before i left) was at 153.4lbs with a bf% of 15.4. I was contented and was in a good place for making gains with a decent acceptable bodyfat %. This January though, with all the binges and lack of training and macros, i lost my gains and am currently 150.4lbs with bodyfat increased to 18.6 (close to 20%) LBM dropped pretty much. I’m not really sure if the right step would be in a body recomposition phase which is just acclimating my maintenance cals for my current bodyweight for at least 2weeks and then go for a deficit to get rid of the fat and then when i’m at least back to 15% or below, slowly go back to a surplus. (sounds like reverse diet, but i dunno the exact steps) Training wise, volume would decrease but overall outline of exercises are pretty much the same. I’m just frustrated if these are the correct steps, then strength gains would suffer for the meantime because of the deficit that will be implemented..and this is not even taking into account cardio..please help!!! Thanks so much for taking the time to read…CHEERS!!!

    1. Hi Francis. With the time off training you will have lost a little muscle protein, but the nuclei will remain, and the muscle will come back quickly as you get back into the training.

      The crux of the problem here though is that you’ve been trying to gauge your progress with a body-fat measurement device. They are rarely accurate or consistent and it’s sent you into a flap unnecessarily by giving you a skewed result. Don’t feel bad though. If I has $1 for every time this happened I may well have my Lamborghini by now. So, do me a favour, read the guide below, burn the machine that you used to try and measure your body fat on, and then share it far and wide.

      The 3 Reasons You Need To Forget About Body-fat Percentage

      The better alternative:
      How To Track Your Progress When Dieting

  20. Hi Andy, I stumbled onto your program while on reddit and I’ve been reading the pages for a few days. I’d classify myself as a mix between 1-stubborn and 2- fat but muscled. I’ve been working out for years and years lately 5 days a weeks, I’m sore almost daily and drip with sweat when I leave the gym but can’t get rid of a small belly. I understand the concept and started the recommended training but I am struggling with how many calories I should be having each day. I’m 37 y/o 5’11 192lbs and would love to see abs for the first time in my life 🙂 . is there a particular page I missed that would help me with the # of calories and macros per day? Thanks and keep up the great work

  21. Hi Andy. You actually helped me set up a diet ages ago, probably around 2 years back? I’m happy to let you know that I have made great gains on an IF-style eating protocol. I’m female and recently tested at 9.9% on a DEXA scan (taken 3 weeks ago). I’ve managed to remain lean while improving my strength (and bear in mind, I’m not even on a cutting diet, just happily maintaining this current state. I’d be happy to share some info especially with the females out there who are interested in IF. Thanks for all your help!

    1. Hi Feng, I remember well, great to hear from you!
      9.9% is, well, exceptional [to others reading, women have 5-7% more essential fat than men]. Thanks for sharing.

  22. Pingback: Definindo Objetivos: Os 9 Tipos de MarombeirosDieta & Malhação

  23. Hi, Andy

    New to this info and find it interesting! I just wanted to mention that you can download you audio by clicking on the arrow with the line underneath, it’s under the Soundcloud name (in case no one knew).

    Keep up the good work, I’ll be listening to this as well while in transit.


  24. Regarding the audio bit can you download or subscribe to it directly through a podcast app (such as pocketcasts)?. Cause it would be useful to be able to listen to it enroute to work in the MRT or something but getting it should be hassle free such as just subscribing to the podcast channel or something….

    1. There’s probably a way through the RSS feed but that isn’t something I’ve looked into yet. They’re hosted on Soundcloud, so if that’s something you’re keen to do right now then you could try googling it.

  25. Hi Andy,

    Thank you very much for all of the information. I have one question please – you said that as you do the cut, you get leaner and as you get leaner you lose the mechanical advantage thereby lowering strength? Could you please expand on that? How does exactly mechanical advantage change?

    All the best!

    Thank you

  26. Hi Andy,

    I can’t tell you how grateful I am for this site. It’s a godsend after so many years of doing the wrong thing!

    I wondered if you might be able to tell me Joe’s height (Joe from the photos above). My body currently looks exactly like his before pic.

    Thanks again,


  27. Pingback: What To Expect | Physique Goal Setting (pt3) |

  28. Hi Andy,
    Just wanted to drop by and tell how much I appreciate the audio versions. The only way I can get my chores done is with my headphones on. 🙂 Your audios are an excellent addition to the podcasts I follow. Now I don’t have to struggle whether to spend my time reading this (amazing!) site or doing the chores. Thank you!!

  29. Hi, Andy. I love that you are rewriting these articles. They seem really polished now. I just wanted to double check something with you. Although strength classifications can be misleading I think my strength goals are very well summed up by what Martin Berkhan calls the “intermediate” level.

    – Bench press: body weight x 1.2
    – Chin-ups or pull-ups: body weight x 1.2 or 8 reps with body weight.
    – Squat: body weight x 1.6
    – Deadlift: body weight x 2
    (All these are 1-rep max)

    You’ve worked with a lot of people. Do you have any estimate of roughly how many workouts it would take for the average newbie to achieve these goals? Martin’s “Fuckarounditis” article says it takes 2 years on a “decent training routine”. At three workouts a week, that would be about 300 workouts. Does that seem reasonable? I’m a numbers kind of guy and it would really help me to keep my mind off the progress I’m making from day to day so I can stick to my routine for the long term.


    1. Hi Patrick. Glad you’re finding these re-writes useful. This series is one I’m really enjoying writing an the third and final part will be up soon.

      As for your question there really is no answer. Some people are going to get there within 6 months if not sooner, others will take a couple of years. It all comes down to where you are on that genetic spectrum, as well as any physical/sporting background that will have built you up.

  30. I’m planning to do a recomp. My maintenance is 2200. I train 3x/ week. I plan to do -200cal on rest/ +300 on training. Will this work? What would you advice me to do?

    1. Hi Carlo. See my guide to calorie setting, then work your way through to the macros and then timing sections for specific calculation guides.

      As to whether a recomp will “work”? That’s down to individual circumstance. A cut, slow-bulk, or bulk might be more suitable approaches. You’ll see at the start of each section I’ve written “Strategy: bulk/cut/slow-bulk“. If nothing written so far relates to you, then you’re likely in a different category and I’ll have you covered in the next part.

      1. My goals are 10% BF and Advanced lifts (based on Fuckarounditis article). I’m currently 12-15%BF and Intermediate lifts. I would guess I’m in the Muscled, Few Pounds to Lose category, but with less muscle (when I get down to 8% BF, I’ll be skinny). Recomp is a good strategy? Although in the links you linked, I don’t see any recomping strategy.

        1. If you’re in that category, then your best bet is to cut, as you’re not likely to achieve both. If you’ll be skinny at 8%, then you’re not likely in that category, you’re somewhere in-between. A recomp may work, or it might not. As you’re clearly too keen to wait for the third part covering this, have a good read through the comments of the second part as I’ve gone into your situation there bud.

  31. Hi Andy.

    After going through the post I would say that I’m a category 3 person. Today I weigh 78kg and I’m 174cm tall. I’m planning to do a 12 week cut (-30 rest days and +10 on training days) and then start a slow bulk. Should I do a diet break under the first 12 weeks or should I just go for the same calories as I’ve calculated for the cut period?

    If the weight loss would be more than the recommendation should I alter the calorie intake on rest days or training days first? I think I have read it somewhere on the homepage but I cannot find it right now.



      1. Hi Andy.

        Thank you for coming back so quick.

        I wouldn’t say I have been dieting very strict. I have had the leangains approach to calorie intake during training days and rest days, never counted macros though.

        I e-mailed you last week with questions if I should go for a recomp or a cut.(forgot to mention it in the first post) but then I started reading a bit more and got more questions on my mind on which approach I should do as I mentioned that I haven’t been lifting since 2005. Mostly bodyweight training has been done. (But was surprised that I was able to lift 100kg x 2rep in the bench press last week when I tried it)

        But I think I’ll try to go for the Big-3 with a 12 week cutting and see what happens as you mention in the articles. Track my progress and make adjustments when so needed. And after that I will go with a slow-bulk progress (-10/+30) to try pack on more lean mass.

        Would you say this could be a solid base to start with?

        // Patrik

        1. Not knowing you Partik, I can’t answer that. If after carefully reading this post and the new one, that this is the conclusion you have come to, then it is likely the right course.

          1. Thank you for the reply Andy. I’ll go for my initial plan that I have and see what happens,

            I really like the homepage and the way you work in educating and get people to think a bit for themselves about training and nutrition. There is a ton of information to find here, it’s like “the mohervein” in a gold mine. :o)

            Have a really nice day and keep it up.

            // Patrik

  32. Pingback: What To Expect | Physique Goal Setting (pt2)

  33. hey Andy, I weigh and measure same time same day every week and also train (therefore eat more carbs) on same days every week….still necessary to weigh everyday and average the week do you think? I always though the fact I did it on the same day and therefore same length of time since carb load was ok enough , cheers pal

    1. Hi Aidan. If you can weigh every day then do it and take an average. If you’re not likely to be able to do that (whether due to forgetfulness or practical limitations) then stick with once a week, at the same time, under the same conditions. Often the best way to do that is immediately after waking, after emptying your bladder. Check out my progress tracking guide if you haven’t seen it already.

  34. Pingback: What To Expect | Physique Goal Setting pt2 |

  35. Hi! Awesome post! Really love your site!

    But regarding the audio version! Would it be possible to somehow get it in a podcast format? I use pocket casts on my android phone and it would be awesome to listen to it there!
    I think that you can activate rss feed in soundcloud and choose to automatically add new audio clips to it! Would be awesome!

    Thanks again!

  36. Yo Andy,

    Kenji here. We worked together about 3 years ago. I just wanted to tell you that I have been using your template that came with the 3-month consultation for all of 2012 (and took two Novice National Powerlifting records in the process bwahaha).

    I got off the diet grid for a year or so and have resumed using your template and tracking method and am down 5kgs in 2 months, strength increases with visible abs now. I’m pretty flexible with my dieting and eyeball and track everything I eat very easily now, which was one of my goals back when I started with you.

    I just wanted to say thanks as nothing has helped me to stay in shape (and get back to shape) as much as your template and measuring method have in the excel – even when I mess around with my training and diet. If you still need before and after pics for the japanese site, I’m very happy to send you a pic post cut.

    Again, big ups man. Still following the site and happy to see you doing cool things.

    Best regards,

    1. Kenji, I remember well, great to hear from you! Well done! Would love to see the pictures, I can put them up on the results page. Just send me a mail, you know the address. 🙂
      Ah and if you know your weight and measurements pre and post that would be good. 😀

  37. Thank you for the detailed respond, Andy. Appreciate as always!

    All of it does make perfect sense. I guess that “try, make mistake, and adjust” is the only approach here. It looks that for someone like (or myself for example) it might be a long journey to get to the ~10%bf point and to the next step of supporting it with some light muscle gains along the way. Meaning years of work which will easily can be lifetime journey. But it is fine by me, though:)

    Is there any chance that you will be expanding your training section? The RPT routine is great, no questions.
    I am just curious if you are planning to post and discuss some other routines.

    Thanks again!


    1. Most welcome Ark.

      “Is there any chance that you will be expanding your training section? The RPT routine is great, no questions. I am just curious if you are planning to post and discuss some other routines.”

      Teach, don't feed.
      My goal is to teach people to fish, rather then just give them one. This way, should suffer some unfortunate misfortune (e.g. be hit by a truck tomorrow and leave this world prematurely), I will have made a meaningful long-term impact rather than a temporary one.

      I will expand the sections where I see necessary in order to do so, but no more.

      If I only tell people exactly what to eat and exactly how they should train, then I screw them over for the long term – what do they do when they are either bored of their meal template (fine to start, but useless longer term) or need to change things to keep progressing? They then have to either ask again or blindly guess at what they should do. Dependence rather than independence is the not what I want to create in clients, or the readers of this site.

      If all you see in the training section thus far is the RPT routine, then you need to read between the lines Ark. What I have given you is a framework from which you can not only base decisions on how to adjust your training as per your goals as you progress (specifically I’m thinking of this, this and this article), but also a lens through which you can judge training programs you see.

      Now, from what you’re asking, it’s more than likely that you don’t actually need to be worried about that yet and just need to stick with what you’re doing. The irony is that it’s the people that can afford the distractions the least that get distracted by shiny things the most (a new program, diet strategy or supplement), that keep them in that perpetual beginner stage.

      Teach yourself the principles and set yourself free.

  38. Hi Andy! I’m loving the changes you’ve been making to the site to make it easier to navigate. I came here a couple of weeks ago with some q’s. I’m in week 3 of my cut, I loss 1 lb in week 1 and 2, and they’re back this week after doing the same things. Is this normal? I have lost 1/2″ in the waist, but the weight thing is kind of messing with me.
    I’m sorry too if this q had been asked a million times. I just haven’t been able to browse enough to find it.

    1. Hi KJ.
      Always look to gauge progress by looking at data over a four week period and assessing the trend, never before. There will always be fluctuations initially.
      You’re right. I should display that more prominently and will add it to the tracking article right now.

  39. Andy – this is a great article. The bell curve of genetic potential is great!

    I feel honoured to be one of the half the you did take on and hope you are well.


  40. Hi Andy,
    Very interesting, I’m looking forward to the rest of this series as I have no idea which category I fall into (so I’ll probably be asking in tomorrow’s email!).

    1. Though I can understand the curiosity, the category game is not one that I am going to play with clients Matt. This is merely a guide to help people who are doing it on their own.

      1. Yes, whichever category you put me in might be arbitrary to my success on the diet, but it would still be interesting to know how I appear in someone else’s eyes compared to my own. Anyway, if it’s not important I don’t need to know.

  41. How would these change for women? Assuming the same level of strength training, Is it only the body fat % and muscle amount that would need to be adjusted?

    1. Hi D. The decision to stick with men here is a purposeful one to keep me on point with what I know best, and to spare making something that is quite complex even more so. The biggest point being that ladies will have to bear in mind is water weight fluctuations due to the menstrual cycle that will mask progress. Leigh Peele’s work and Lyle McDonald’s work will be useful for further info on the diet side of things. Bret Contreras on the training side of things. Again, that’s only if you wish to dig deeper into the rabbit hole.

  42. Pingback: 12 Weeks: What You Can Expect to Achieve |

  43. Great read! This is going to be an awesome series. I’ve been having a bit of fun trying to figure out where you might have put me. Here’s to the beginning of week 4 tomorrow!

    P.S. You mentioned in your last coaching email you wanted me to use that different email address. I don’t know how the email thread switched over to the other one, but somehow one of the emails you sent me back was from the different address. Did you want me to copy the entire chain of emails and send a “new” message so we can start a fresh chain at the right address? Just want to make sure everything is sorted out before our next check-in.

    1. Will probably put that all in one post given that the intros are over. Not a fan of spreading things out unnecessary. Entirely depends on the length things run.

  44. Andy,

    Thanks again for the great post! Looking forward for the part 2. I am finishing 12wks cut run using your guides with the great results. Appreciate that.

    Quick question. For somebody in category#2: How long can person be on the cut without compromising health?
    Assuming the path is: 12wks cut->2wks diet break->12wks cut->2wks diet break etc. And the goal is to get and to keep about 5-7% bf on the “regular” basis.

    Can one stay on the such program for years?


    1. Hi Ark.
      “How long can person be on the cut without compromising health?”
      Clearly this depends on your definition of health. If you are fat, your health is arguably already compromised, so you’re going to want to diet until you are at a lower body fat (15% let’s say) so that you reduce those health risks.

      “Assuming the path is: 12wks cut->2wks diet break->12wks cut->2wks diet break etc.”
      That is the right way to do so, but as said above, the leaner you get the more frequent the diet breaks.
      “And the goal is to get and to keep about 5-7% bf on the “regular” basis.”
      The goal is to get lean first. Then to get to the point that you are happy with. That might be 12%, it might be 10%. Nobody walks around at 5-6% all year round without compromising health (both physiological and psychological). 7-12% is the realistic maximum range where people can maintain at. Where you are in that range, once you’ve got everything dialled in, will depend on genetics and social factors.

      Bear in mind here that:
      1. Most people claim 3-5 percentage points under what they actually are*.
      2. A lot of people will claim they look shredded “year round” when in fact that’s utter nonsense. – This is usually accompanied by them trying to sell you something.

      *For points of comparison, the ‘Andy Morgan Body Fat Percentage Scale’ is as follows:
      Peter/Theis ~20%
      John ~11%
      Kenneth 9%
      Scott ~8%
      Joe ~9%
      Phil ~7-8%
      Katsu ~8%

  45. What a great post. This really helps clarify the approaches as different goals have different pitfalls. Great work and can#t wait for the second installement

Questions welcomed. (Over 16,000 answered)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *