*Daft Punk plays quietly in the background*
(Ohhh, c’mon, don’t pretend you didn’t start singing — or at least humming — Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger when you read the title.)
All kidding aside, Michael Matthews’ Bigger Leaner Stronger is one of the best-selling fitness e-books on the Kindle Store with a sea of reviews singing high praises for the guide.
Matthews jam-packed 494 pages worth of aesthetic training and nutrition advice into BLS to teach every guy under the sun how to sculpt the best physique of their lives.
But will you actually come out the other side bigger, leaner, and stronger?
If you don’t have the time to swipe through nearly 500 pages worth of material (who does?), read on to learn more about the program.
About the Creator – Michael Matthews
Ah, here’s a new one. Michael Matthews is the founder of the sports supplement line Legion Athletics and the author of the best-selling book Bigger Leaner Stronger.
(Not to be confused with his other e-book — Thinner Leaner Stronger — written for us ladies.)
After years of disappointing results following the advice of trainers, fitness magazines, and fads, Matthews did what most of us would do:
give up reading thousands of pages of scientific literature.
He used his newfound knowledge to create a training & diet plan that could help hard-gainers pack on double-digit lean mass and give the 30–50-year-old crowd their best physiques ever.
Oh, yeah, and besides selling over a million copies of his books, he also shares his own tweets on Instagram. (Now, that’s a scary amount of confidence that shakes us to the core!)
What Is Michael Matthews Bigger Leaner Stronger?
Hey, we have to give the guy credit; Michael Matthews may not be a legend like Athlean-X founder, Jeff Cavaliere or Tony Horton, but he sure as hell knows how to pick an accurate program title.
Bigger Leaner Stronger is every guy’s guide to getting in the best shape of their lives — whether you’re 50 pounds overweight, 50 years old, or an All-American athlete who’s retired their jersey.
Bigger Leaner Stronger: The Simple Science of Building the Ultimate Male Body
Cut the ‘bro science’ and discover the reliable methods for building muscle that actually work. This popular book by Michael Matthews is a must-have for any aspiring gym junkie that wants an aesthetic physique
This near-500-page guide includes everything from how to shed body fat and build lean muscle to how to transform your physique without crash dieting or skipping rent to pay for supplements.
In what he dubs a “doctor-approved formula,” Matthews swears by this method’s ability to build 15+ pounds of lean mass, see results in a month, and dedicate just 5% of your time to training.
We look at it as somewhat of an anti-program … in that, it makes the same promises as every other program out there while not requiring a dramatic lifestyle overhaul to do it.
Bigger Leaner Stronger Details & Features
(Disclaimer: Bigger Leaner Stronger is literally 494 pages. We did not read every single word, and this review is only meant to capture an overview of the program minus the grainy details.)
Here’s a sneak peek at what you’ll find in Bigger Leaner Stronger:
Free Bonus Material
In one of the oddest moves we’ve seen, Matthews offers bonus material before he even gets to chapter one!
This time around, it’s a bunch of BLS freebies that require you to essentially sell your soul to the devil to access. (Just kidding, you just have to give up your email address on this page.)
If you want a full year’s worth of Bigger Leaner Stronger workouts, video demos, and every reference guide imaginable, it’s worth the *possible* weekly emails.
Part 1: What’s In This For You?
OK, we weren’t expecting it to suck us in from page one like a Charles Dickens novel, but Bigger Leaner Stronger gets off to a sloooow start. (Like, really slow.)
After a few dozen before & after shots from those who sing praises for BLS, Matthews reveals that — dun, dun, dun — ordinary guys like you love this program for its aesthetic benefits.
The trend is this: guys unhappy with their physiques and pinned against the wall by their own excuses lose 40+ pounds in a few months and add 25–100 pounds to their big three lifts.
There’s also a barrage of horn-tooting before Matthews explains that BLS goes against the grain. To sculpt a Greek God or Wolverine physique, you don’t need:
- “Muscle confusion”
- A ridiculous amount of supplements
- To quit carbs or sugars
- To turn your three square meals a day into 6–8 mini-meals
After diving into an epic multi-page monologue about how every other program let him down, he says it wasn’t until he started researching the scientific literature that he learned the “truth.”
Much of this section is an “About Me” section.
Then, he uses this momentum to call out misinformation on the internet, claim personal trainers are in it for the money and suggest supplement companies are behind your favorite magazines.
BUT … you should trust Matthews; he’s got no skin in the game (right).
Part 2: Key Things “They” Aren’t Telling You
The phrasing of this section sounds mildly conspiracy-theorist-ish (which is frightening given the ridiculous series of events that unfolded in the last few years).
Michaels insists that the biggest barrier between your currently lame physique and that of a Greek God is misunderstandings — a lot of ‘em.
He kicks this section off with a fun vocabulary section, defining terms like chemical, skeletal muscle, celsius, amino acid, metabolism, nutrition, lactose, glycogen, and glycemic index.
(For those of you who haven’t had the honor of taking an 8 AM Exercise Science 101 lecture in a totally random building on campus, this is it in a nutshell.)
The rest of this section spirals into:
- The top ten myths about weight loss, including Michaels doubling-down on calories in vs. calories out (CICO) and insisting carbs aren’t our mortal enemy
- Reasons diets don’t work (supposedly), such as the fact that most people couldn’t count their calories if their lives depended on it (800 vs. 3,000 is a huge difference)
- A myth-busting session, pushing back against the idea that smaller, more frequent meals are the secret to weight loss and appetite control
- The leading myths about building muscle, such as blaming genetics for stalled progress and assuming muscle gains and fat loss can’t happen concurrently
Even though this section drags on for-ev-er (100% a Sandlot reference), we have to applaud Matthews: the number of studies he cites to back his claims is wildly impressive.
Part 3: How to Win the “Inner Game” of Getting Fit
Do you like self-help books? If the thought of taking accountability for your own failures makes you nauseous, you’ll want to “accidentally” scroll past section three.
Matthews references Tim Gallwey’s book — The Inner Game of Tennis — to back his idea that building a Greek God physique requires discipline, willpower, and reprogramming your brain.
We have to give Matthews another round of applause here, too. Deep down, most of us know how to build a more aesthetic physique, but taking steps to build one is where we fail.
Here, Matthews discusses:
- Will vs. won’t vs. want (and overcoming your body’s chemical desire to do things)
- 13 ways to boost your willpower and self-control, such as aromatherapy and sleep
- How to visualize your future
- Discovering what your dream physique both looks and feels like
- Using positive affirmations to train your brain
- Deciding why you want to get in shape, build muscle, or lose weight
This section blows if you aren’t in the mood to be called out. But if your biggest obstacle to training and dieting is you and your mind, don’t skip this section.
Part 4: The Last Diet Advice You’ll Ever Need
Whether it’s Athlean-X or Bigger Leaner Stronger, whenever a trainer or fitness personality claims anything is the “last we’ll need,” we get a bit skeptical.
(Really, everyone these days claims to have the “key” to unlocking your dream body.)
But Matthews throws us for a sudden curveball here. Instead of crash dieting or 100% clean eating (bleh), BLS introduces four key pillars to nutrition — flexible dieting:
- The amount you’re eating mattering more than what you’re eating
- Continue to eat the foods you love (within moderation!)
- Choose nutritious whole foods 80%+ of the time
- Eat on a schedule that matches your lifestyle
Whether it’s truly the last diet advice you’ll ever need is still up in the air.
It doesn’t even end there! (Although by now, he’s already done twice as much as other mainstream fitness personalities.)
For the record, the order goes pre-and post-workout, protein, fruits and vegetables, carbohydrates, and then calorie-rich beverages.
(He also lays out guidelines for cheating on your diet because, if you’re even remotely human, you’ll splurge on a cheat meal once a week. Questionable, but it reduces the need for “perfect.”)
Part 5: The Last Exercise Advice You’ll Ever Need
Along similar lines, Matthews also rattles off a whole line of numbers that seemingly mean nothing, but here are the basics of the Bigger Leaner Stronger program:
After a few tips on avoiding injuries, suggesting 1:2 HIIT cardio to maximize fat loss, and offering walking as a cardio alternative, Matthews divides his favorite exercises into six groups:
- Legs (including calves)
He also added a list of “approved” BLS exercises, like bench presses, overhead presses, deadlifts, close-grip bench presses, captain’s chair leg raises, and barbell squats.
Matthews ends part five by recommending compound exercises over isolation training and describing step-by-step how to perform the three major lifts — bench, squat, and deadlift.
Part 6: Don’t Buy Another Supplement Until You Read This
OK, this is where things take a completely unwanted detour. After railing on other supplement companies for using articles and guides to drive sales, Matthews does exactly that.
Earlier, he scolded the lack of oversight over fitness supplements. Now, he’s recommending a list of supplements (all of which are branded with his Legion Athletics logo):
- Whey protein powder (with at least 80% protein by weight)
- Fish oil, since most of us are severely lacking in omega-3
- Vitamin D
- Fat-burners (to potentially boost weight loss by 30–50%)
- Muscle-builders like beta-alanine, creatine, and L-citrulline
Matthews’ deep-dive into the scientific literature also led him to a few somewhat controversial opinions: avoid BCAAs, ZMA, and growth hormone or testosterone boosters (they don’t work).
Part 7: The Bigger Leaner Stronger Program
At least it only took (*checks notes*) 334 pages to get to the actual program. (Kudos to anyone with the patience of a saint who made it this far.)
Matthews divides section seven into four main sections:
The Diet Plan
Here, Matthews answers quite a few of your burning questions, from how to know if you should cut or bulk first to how to maximize your bulks and cuts with a few slick tricks.
(Drink lots of water on a cut, drink high-calorie drinks in a bulk, end your cut at 8–10% body fat, stop bulking at 15–17% body fat, and dedicate 10–16 weeks to each phase.)
You’ll also find multiple diet plans for bulking and cutting at 20-pound weight increments. If nothing else, you have a diet plan ready to go with only slight variations needed!
The Training Plan
We know what you’re thinking, “Finally, we’ve made it to the training plan!” Matthews breaks BLS up into 9-week blocks — 8 weeks of hard training followed by a single deload week.
He also offers a gift for your patience (OK, we made that up): three splits to choose from — 5 days, 4 days, and 3 days.
Matthews recommends the five-day split that looks like this:
- Pull and calves
- Upper body and core
- Upper body and core
Without totally ruining the surprise, each workout includes about four exercises, all requiring three “hard sets” each — like the regular, incline, and dumbbell bench plus triceps pushdowns.
(Or, you can replace his preferred exercises with other “approved” ones from earlier.)
This is where Matthews explains the concept of double progression. If you can hit the rep goal, increase the weight by 5–10 pounds, and continue with this weight if you can record 4+ reps.
The Supplement Plan
We’d love to tell you all about the Bigger Leaner Stronger supplement plan … but it’s basically a Legion Athletics advertisement to ramp up sales.
Swolverine Whey Protein Isolate
This is one of our top recommended whey protein powders because of it’s high protein content per serving, extreme deliciousness, and the fact that all Swolverine products are sourced from GMP-certified facilities
Last but not least, Matthews details how to track your progress and apply flexibility to Michael Matthews’ Bigger Leaner Stronger.
On top of weighing yourself daily and recording weekly measurements and progress pics, you’ll also learn how to bust through both weight gain and weight loss plateaus (calorie adjustments).
Part 8: The Beginning
The final section of the e-book basically explains how to start the program without crashing and burning. If you plan to attempt this feat from your own basement or garage, you’ll need a(n):
Otherwise, all you really need is a gym membership, scale, and measuring tape.
Bigger Leaner Stronger Pros
- When we say Matthews provides a lot of scientific evidence, we mean a lot. If anything he says sounds questionable, there’s a study (or two or three) to back it up.
- Bigger Leaner Stronger proves that you don’t have to dedicate your entire world to training and dieting to see noticeable results.
- Matthews clearly explains how to cut, bulk, and maintain from both the dietary and training angles.
- The sample cutting and bulking meal plans give you a great starting point.
- If you’re convinced that carb cycling or five-day-split are the only ways to build an aesthetic physique, Matthews will (thankfully) prove you wrong.
- Anyone who wants to learn and grow from this program will have a wealth of information to bring forward into their next program.
- Explaining the science behind fat loss, muscle gains, and body recomposition might just convince you that your current routine isn’t working as promised.
- There are more than enough success stories to suggest it actually works.
- You don’t need to completely overhaul your lifestyle to make this program work for you.
- If you have a basic home gym set-up, it’s doable (with modifications).
- Cardio — particularly HIIT — is an option if you want to shred body fat.
- It’s an incredibly easy read if you don’t have the time or patience to memorize crazy fitness concepts or change every aspect of your life.
Bigger Leaner Stronger Cons
- A good chunk of the book is “what if I told you …?” type statements as if he’s still trying to sell you on the program. It takes entirely too long to get to the program itself.
- Matthews convinces you to read 300-something e-book pages before introducing you to an 8-week program (literally). If you want a year’s worth of training, all you have to do is toss Matthews your email address.
- He shames other supplement brands for using guides like this to advertise their products and then does the same exact thing.
- If Matthews calling you out on your excuses and lack of willpower doesn’t convince you to change, you’ll probably quit the program before it even begins.
- The actual workout is only a few pages out of the near-500 page-book.
- Signing up for his email list will likely give you access to more information than this entire book, but it could also open you up to an inbox full of spam.
Wrapping Up This Review of Bigger Leaner Stronger
Bigger Leaner Stronger is one of the more detailed aesthetic plans we’ve seen (though, to a fault at points).
It has tons of scientific backing, doesn’t require you to eat cardboard and train for hours a day, and provides a decent amount of newbie information.
If you’re a health nut looking to sculpt a Greek God physique, this is one of the best plans out there to bring that vision to life.
But Bigger Leaner Stronger also has plenty of downsides.
Not only is it a disguised Legion Athletics advertisement, but accessing a full year of workouts requires you to give out your email address, and the e-book is ridiculously wordy.
Overall, BLS is worth a try if nothing you’ve tried works. But it’s probably not as much of an anti-program as Matthews advertises.