Occam’s Protocol: Gaining Significant Muscle

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The 4-Hour Body" by Timothy Ferriss. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

Like this article? Sign up for a free trial here.

What is Occam’s Protocol? How can it help you build muscle?

Occam’s Protocol is a program developed by Tim Ferriss and shared in The 4-Hour Body. It is a training plan inspired by bodybuilders.

Keep reading to learn about Occam’s Protocol.

What Is Occam’s Protocol?

To gain significant muscle and a bodybuilder-like build, you’ll use a combination of exercise and diet that the author developed called Occam’s Protocol, with the option of additionally using supplements. The protocol has impressive results:

  • Example #1: Although the author was genetically predisposed to not be bulky (he had a common genetic mutation), he was able to gain 34 pounds of muscle in less than a month using the protocol. 
  • Example #2: Neil, while following Occam’s Protocol, gained ten pounds of muscle in four weeks and was able to lift 50 pounds more than when he started.

As usual, the protocol will make use of the MED and requires fewer than four hours in the gym per week. All you need to do is hit the threshold to start muscular growth and then manipulate your diet so that energy from food goes toward growing your muscles instead of being stored as fat.

(Note: The goal of Occam’s Protocol is to improve your appearance, not to become stronger. While you will become stronger because you’re building muscle, if your goal is functional strength, see Part 6 for some sports-specific strength tips.)

Exercise

Exercise is the first element of Occam’s Protocol, and the workouts are based on a routine developed by Mike Mentzer, a successful competitive bodybuilder. The program is designed to be as safe as possible and the author has never hurt himself.

First, we’ll go over the workouts in detail. Then we’ll look at some general rules for both workouts, how to choose appropriate weights, and how to schedule your training.

Workouts

Occam’s Protocol contains only two workouts. They can both be done with either machines or free weights. The author recommends machines for most people, but if you train at different gyms, free weights are easier to standardize. (Shortform note: If the author doesn’t describe how to do the exercise, we’ve included a link to a video of the generic exercise.)

Workout #1

Machine Version

Do one set of the following:

  • At least 7 pull-downs. Use a close, supinated (palms facing you) grip.
  • At least 7 shoulder presses
  • Optional: 10 myotatic crunches and 10 cat vomit exercises

Free Weight Version

Do one set of the following:

  • At least 7 Yates rows. Bend at the waist at a 20-30 degree angle. Pick up a barbell with your palms facing away from you and let it hang with your arms straight. Lift it to your hip.
  • At least 7 overhead presses with a barbell. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart or split, which protects your back. Don’t flare your elbows. When you lift the bar, pass it in front of your face, but at the top, it should be above your head.
  • Optional: 10 myotatic crunches and 10 cat vomit exercises
Workout #2

Machine Version

Do one set of the following:

  • At least 7 bench presses. (See Chapter 15 for bench press instructions.) Incline or decline the bench up to 20 degrees to protect your shoulders. If the bench isn’t adjustable, you can put a towel behind your lower back. Don’t lower the weights all the way—this will help reduce injury and increase your chest development.
  • At least 10 leg presses. (The leg set has more reps because this will increase the hormone response of the whole body and form new capillaries.)
  • Optional: 50 kettlebell swings
  • 3 minutes on a stationary bike at a pace of at least 85 rpm. This will help reduce leg soreness. You don’t need to do any additional cardio because weight lifting activates the same system—the aerobic system—as cardio. This is because the point of the aerobic system is to serve muscles. 

Free Weight Version

Do one set of the following:

  • At least 7 bench presses. (See Chapter 15 for bench press instructions.) Use a shoulder-width grip.
  • At least 10 weighted squats. Your feet should be slightly wider than shoulder-width and 12 inches in front of your hips. Sit back until your upper legs are parallel to the floor. Don’t pause or look down.
  • Optional: 50 kettlebell swings
  • 3 minutes on a stationary bike at a pace of at least 85 rpm. This will help reduce leg soreness.
Occam’s Protocol: Gaining Significant Muscle

———End of Preview———

Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Timothy Ferriss's "The 4-Hour Body" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full The 4-Hour Body summary:

  • How to do the least amount you need to do for the results you want
  • Why you need a cheat day in your diet
  • How to improve everything about your body, including sleep, sex, and longevity

Rina Shah

An avid reader for as long as she can remember, Rina’s love for books began with The Boxcar Children. Her penchant for always having a book nearby has never faded, though her reading tastes have since evolved. Rina reads around 100 books every year, with a fairly even split between fiction and non-fiction. Her favorite genres are memoirs, public health, and locked room mysteries. As an attorney, Rina can’t help analyzing and deconstructing arguments in any book she reads.

Leave a Reply

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