[Case Study] How Michael Gained 5 Pounds Of Muscle And Lost 5% Body Fat In 18 Weeks


Aaron Thorton. Aaron is a Del Monte Pro Team member.

AGE: 35 | HEIGHT: 5′ 9″ | WEIGHT: 156


Q. You made a ton of progress in a fairly short period of time. We’re all wondering—how did you do it?

Like a lot of guys, I fell victim to the typical bro-style training split and same old cookie cutter “clean-eating” programs. What did my dedicated years of this type of dieting and training get me? Not a whole hell of a lot.

I busted my ass in the gym and ate according to what the fitness magazines constantly told me I should be doing. This just resulted in year after frustrating year of little to no improvement.

When I tried out for the Del Monte Pro Team, I knew this approach would not get the job done. Luckily, a big perk of trying out for the team was that we got early access to some of Vince’s upcoming programs (which have since been released) including Beta No Nonsense Muscle Building 2.0 and the Vanity Specialization System.

This is where I learned about the concept of overreaching and just how quickly you can get results! Vince’s programming, combined with diet cycling, allowed me to make progress faster than I’d previously thought possible! Here’s how it all came together:


Goal: Maintain body weight, add muscle and lose fat
Program: Shoulder and Arms Specialization (1st phase of Beta No Nonsense Muscle Building 2.0) 

Mon—Chest & Anterior/Lateral Shoulders (Arms touch up*)BeforeAfter3
Tue—Back & Lateral/Posterior Shoulders (Arms touch up)
Thu—Shoulders & Arms
Sat—Barbell Complex

Diet Cycling:
Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri—Maintenance** + 500 calories
Wed, Sat, Sun—Maintenance – 375 calories

*touch up means you hit the muscle with just one or two sets, which may involve a drop-set or other intensification technique
**to calculate my maintenance calories, I multiplied my then-current body weight by 14



Goal: Increase body weight, add muscle
Program: Chest Specialization (one of 9 specialization programs included in the Vanity Specialization System)
Mon—Chest (strength focus)
Tue—Chest (hypertrophy focus)
Wed—Chest (high volume)
Fri—Legs and Abs (2 sets per body part)
Sat—Upper Body (2 sets per body part)

Diet Cycling:
Mon-Wed—Maintenance + 750 calories



Goal: Get shredded!
Program: Omni Shred (3rd phase of Beta No Nonsense Muscle Building 2.0)

Mon—Chest & Back (Shoulders touch up)Michael12to18
Tue—Quads & Calves (Hamstrings touch up)
Wed—Biceps & Abs (Triceps touch up)
Thu—Shoulders (Chest & Back touch up)
Fri—Hamstrings & Calves (Quads touch up)
Sat—Triceps & Abs (Biceps touch up)

(I also did a few 30-minute steady state cardio sessions each week during this phase.)

Diet Cycling:
Mon-Thu—Maintenance – 350 calories
Fri-Sun—Maintenance – 500 calories


I keep my supplements to a few staples that I believe are beneficial for overall health.

Upon waking: 1 liter water with lemon; 1 serving greens powder (Nature’s Greens); 1 serving multivitamin (Optimum Nutrition Opti-Men)
Meals 1 & 4: 2g fish oil (NOW Sports Super Omega EPA)
Pre-workout: 200mg caffeine; 1/2 tsp. beta-alanine (NOW Sports)
Post-workout: 37g whey isolate (Optimum Nutrition); 10g glutamine (Optimum Nutrition)
Before bed:  1 serving ZMA (Now Sports)

Q. So what are you doing in your training now? You’ve been talking about taking your physique and your body to the next level throughout this year, what do you have in mind?

My overall goal is to compete in my first ever men’s physique show in November. So that’s going to be kinda scary. But my immediate goal for the next 6 weeks, I’m going to be following one of Vince’s leg specialization programs. I’m going to be hitting legs three times in the beginning of the week, and doing just 2 sets per week for all other body parts.

I’ve been wanting to do that for a little while.

My calories are going to be up just a little bit to allow myself to gain a little size.  And then I’m just going to do a lean gain phase, using either Vince’s new No Nonsense Muscle Building 2.0, or my own strength/hypertrophy mix.  I’ll be training 6 days per week and cardio is going to be at a minimum, just a couple days a week of HIIT so I can slowly add muscle.  I want to add weight, get up to about 168-175 lb range, and get no higher than 10% bodyfat.

And then starting in August I’m going to hire a physique coach for heading into the show.  I’ll play around with my numbers and try to come in with as much muscle as possible, and as lean as I can.  So, being a physique guy I’m going to have to find a way to get my side delts up, get my damn calves to grow, get my back nice and wide and make sure that my chest is swole.  My legs don’t show, thank God.  But my calves do, and I have skinny calves, so…we’ll see.

I think my ultimate goal is, and I know it’s hard to put a number on things, but if I can come into that November show somewhere in the mid to low 160s but at about 4.5% bodyfat I’ll be pretty happy with that.  I’m only about 156 lb at about 7% right now.  So to be about 10 lb heavier and a couple percent leaner that’s going to be tough.  But we’ll see man.  Hopefully I won’t get booed off stage.

Maybe I’ll just compete in the women’s bikini physique, right? They’ve got nice slender legs, now I just gotta work on my ass a little bit then I can do the women’s bikini.  That’d be way more fun back stage than a bunch of tanned and oiled up dudes.L87A2049

Q. During the 18 weeks competing for the Del Monte Pro Team did you have any major obstacles you had to overcome?

Ya know, I don’t know if they’d be major, but one thing I did find is that I had a couple health things happen. I think everybody did, especially towards the end.  I felt pretty good during the first couple phases, but the last phase man, it was kinda like back to back to back.

I don’t know if it was just getting lean, or my body just wanted a break because, man there for that last phase I tweaked a muscle in my lower back pretty bad. I had to lay off training for a bit. Anybody who’s tweaked their back knows that it pretty much shuts you down.  It was the right side of my lower back, it got me pretty good.  Upper back I can deal with a little more cause I can just stabilize sometimes and do stuff, but lower back and I’m done. That set me back a little bit.

Then, I had some health issues where I got really sick, but not sick, like my throat swelled up and I was still able to eat and drink ok without too much pain.  But it hurt like hell otherwise.  Then I got some kind of urinary tract infection or something, I don’t know what that was about.  That hurt like hell for like a week and a half.  It was kinda like all these things were clustered in together right in the end.  But, it is what it is.

That’s what’s nice about having a deadline, or a goal that matters to you.  Usually if that stuff had happened I would have just backed off for a while, or taken off more time, but I wasn’t able to.  So I was still able to just kinda push through with minimal amount of change.  I was still able to find ways to stay on track and come in leaner than I’ve ever been before.  Where a lot of times stuff like that can, ya know, set you off track for a month or a couple months.

So that was really it, typical personal stuff that happens here or there.  But when you’re focused, it helps push you through any obstacle that comes your way.  That’s one of the things I learned from Vince.

A. Very good.
M. I wish I had a cooler story, dude.  Like I broke my leg and kept training.  Yeah, that’s why my calves are so small, I trained the whole 18 weeks on two broken legs.  Ha ha.

Q. Ok, I have a couple rapid fire questions for you. What’s your favorite meat?


Q. Favorite cheat meal?

It’s probably pretty boring, but just a really good quality deep dish pizza. I’m on a pizza kick right now, I don’t know why..

Q. Favorite book? Or what are you reading right now?

I have two, the one I’m reading right now and the one I’m about to read.  The one I’m reading right now is “The Way of the Seal” by Mark Divine.  And the one I’m about to read was recommended by Vince’s brother Michael, it’s called “Muscle: Confessions of an Unlikely Bodybuilder” by Samuel Wilson Fussell.

This is a guy who, I guess, his parents were authors, he had his PhD, he was designed to be an author and at age 26 just felt really insecure in the city he was in and just stumbled into a gym, and liked the feeling of being stronger, and just how it took over his life.

How the drug use, and the unhealthy obsession with the physical part of it, and how it devours everything.  It devoured his life, his marriage, his family relationships.  So Michael recommended it and said it’s fantastic.  So that’s what I’m going to read next.

Typical meathead answer, right? “What book are you reading?” Muscle..

Q. Nice. Ok, favorite movie?

Man, my favorite movie probably nobody knows.  Um, I’ll say it, “Eddie and the Cruisers.”  Nobody probably knows what the hell that is, but….

Q. Alright. Favorite kids TV show?

Uh…All time, probably Spongebob.  Current, there’s a cartoon called Gravity Falls.  I like that one.

Q. What do you want to be remembered for?

Having the best beard in the fitness industry. Haha, no similar to you man, my dad passed away when I was 19. He was very much into physical fitness, very much into mindset development, taking control of your life, and a self made man, and I was always drawn to that. And conversely my mom passed away also when I was in my 20s, and she lived a very unhealthy life.

Her unhealthy lifestyle caused her to accelerate the illness that she had.  And then seeing her try to turn things around too late in life, to where it was too much, too many habits, too big a hill to climb at that point. Whereas if she’d been maybe more physically fit, she would have had a better footing to fight the illnesses that she had.

Those two together just, I was always trying to reconcile in my head those two lifestyles because they’re so different. One was pessimistic, circumstances dictate your lifestyle, where you let the world tell you what you’re gonna be. And the other was a very uplifting, positive, you can make anything out of this world that you want. And trying marrying those two together was difficult.

I want to take my health seriously so I’m not trying to play catch up at the end. I’m going to be proactive about my health, and I want to see how far I can push my body.

Spartan Cover

And I just want to share that with other people. I want to be remembered for helping people see that there’s still hope. Whether that be physical, relationship, financial, that it’s never too late. I know it’s cliche, but that there’s always a chance. One of my favorite sayings is “every passing second is another chance to turn it all around.”

And it really is that true, no matter where you’re at, what you’ve been through, how old you are, how far you have to go, at this very moment you can turn everything around. And you can still achieve what you want to achieve. And I want to just reach as many people as I can and make them feel that way.

Because that’s what changing my life, and going through what I’ve gone through seeing my parents has shown me. And I want to show people the same thing.  It doesn’t matter what you’re going through, circumstances don’t dictate where you’re going to go, or what you can get out of life. It’s always been up to you, you just have to realize that it’s up to you. That’s the first step.

Q. Any other closing words, or closing thoughts?Renee and I on Christmas

What I always tell people, and I tell this to people because it’s what helped me turn myself around from a very dark spot when I was very overwhelmed…

And it’s just this, every day when you get up ask two questions: where can I get a just a little bit better today, whether that’s reading a page of a book or get one more rep at the gym; and how can I be the favorite part of someone’s day?

I wake up every morning with the idea that if I can be the favorite part of someone’s day, that is a successful day.  I’ve improved my life, I’ve made someone smile and helped them to have a good day.

More from Michael:

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