Dun, dun, dun! It’s time for yet another Noob Gains showdown.
In the red corner … we have Athlean-X’s Max Size, a 12-week German Volume Training program designed to test your willpower and reactivate slowed growth in hard-gaining muscles.
In the blue corner … we have Bigger Leaner Stronger, a 494-page science-backed e-book designed to build mass and burn fat with an easy-to-follow “doctor-approved” formula.
But which competitor wins the match-up as the best for size?
Check out the results of our Athlean-X Max Size vs. Michael Matthews’ Bigger Leaner Stronger showdown below.
What is Athlean-X’s Max Size?
(Heh, take a wild guess!) Max Size is for the gain-hungry Athlean-X addict prepared for double the hypertrophy: sarcoplasmic (size) and myofibrillar (strength).
The 12-week journey begins in the “Ignition phase.”
With a user base of hard-gainers desperate to add inches, Jeff Cavaliere will rev your gains from day one with his spin on German Volume Training. Or a 10×10 regimen popularized by Charles Poliquin in the 80s as a way to maximize training volume with hundreds of reps.
But Max Size is still much more than a rep overload routine.
With its “Pro-Pain Finishers” to failure in phase one, supersets in phase two (“Growth”), concentric and eccentric training in the third “Max Development” phase, and monthly challenges, lean growth is inevitable.
The customizable X-Factor meal plan’s “Size Swaps” for hard (like hard, hard) gainers will help to pull you out of the most frustrating plateaus.
Here’s a sneak peek at Jeff Cavaliere’s Max Size program!
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5 Athlean-X’s Max Size Pros
- Jeff Cavaliere has a proven track record with more than two decades in the industry. A biomechanics, exercise science, and physical therapy genius, the Athlean-X founder is also one of the most well-respected trainers in the fitness world (aside from, y’know, the whole “fake weights” saga).
- Really, you’re destined for results with this one. If you’re convinced you’re “built different” in the hard-gainer-type way, Max Size should finally spark growth. The negatives, slow reps, supersets, German Volume Training, and finisher circuits can get your gains back on track as you overcome plateaus (2019 research).
- Better Leaner Stronger doesn’t stand a chance against the Max Size meal plan. The hidden gem of Max Size is the X-Factor meal plan. Stuffed inside this diet plan is 12 weeks’ worth of meals broken down by ingredient and macronutrient. There’s also a “bonus” — “Size Swaps” for each meal for hard-gainers battling the scale.
- Every Max Size workout is absolutely draining (mentally & physically). Honestly, Max Size is downright brutal. On top of being drenched in sweat and ending each workout with jello-y muscles, it’ll drain whatever fuel’s left in the tank. There’ll be no doubt in your mind that you “did enough” and didn’t waste your time in the gym.
- This program comes with supplemental resources. The Athlean-X portal is still a few years behind in the technological sense. But Max Size still thrives with the detail it provides — introductory videos, equipment lists, rep and weight-tracking tools, exercise demos, and “Instruxions” detailing the specifics of each exercise.
5 Athlean-X’s Max Size Cons
- Two words: failure training. Don’t get us wrong; there’s nothing “wrong” with training to failure. But studies — like this one published in the Biology of Sport in 2020 — show that it’s no better for building strength or size than stopping a few reps shy of failure.
- Athlean-X has a no refund policy (sorry, suckas). Hey, we totally get the logic. There’s no way to tell who’s screenshotting an entire program before “returning” it for a full refund with digital-only programs. If you’re still not sold on Max Size, you’ll likely be disappointed and out nearly $100.
- Many rate it one of the hardest Athlean-X programs ever. On top of being an insanely tough Athlean-X program, it’s also among the least beginner-friendly. We suggest holding off on this one until you have a few months of training under your belt.
- There’s a sloooow lead-up to a twice-a-week frequency. Sure, a once-a-week frequency can be just as effective as more frequent training, assuming your weekly training volume is similar (2021 study). But if you have a favorite muscle to train (and we all do), it’ll be about 57-some-odd days before you train it twice a week.
- German Volume Training (GVT) isn’t necessarily better for lean gains. Cavaliere offers his own take on GVT, but there’s not much scientific proof this training style works. This 2018 pilot study discovered that hypertrophy and strength benefits level off after five sets — making ten straight sets overkill.
What is Bigger Leaner Stronger?
(Hey, we’re two for two on obvious program names!) Bigger Leaner Stronger isn’t in the Athlean-X line-up, but it does zero in on the same few concepts: size, muscle, and strength.
The near-500-page e-book is your one-stop-shop for everything “aesthetics.” Legion Athletics founder Michael Matthews built Bigger Leaner Stronger on the scientifically proven pillars of dieting and training (enough to give even Jeff Nippard a run for his money).
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
In this hefty read, Matthews details the science behind bulking and cutting, a short list of legitimately useful supplements, and the undisputed (sort of) principles of building mass without making it your entire world.
But at the heart of Bigger Leaner Stronger is the nine-week program.
With 4–6 reps per set (at 80–85% intensity), 2–4 minutes of rest between sets, 3–5 days of rest between workouts, and a 1–1–1 tempo, BLS is size and strength training to the max.
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5 Bigger Leaner Stronger Pros
- Michael Matthews backs everything he says with scientific literature (to the point of being mildly annoying). Bigger Leaner Stronger is the furthest thing from “bro-science,” halle-freakin-lujah. Matthews dispels myth after myth and backs every out-of-the-norm idea with a sea of scientific studies. (AKA: You don’t have to put your physique in some random internet stranger’s hands.)
- The diet plan is customizable to your current goals — bulk, cut, or maintenance. Matthews explains how to cut and bulk (and for how long), calculate your TDEE and ideal deficit or surplus, select the right combination of supplements, and decide whether you should add HIIT cardio to your routine. Bigger Leaner Stronger isn’t one-size-fits-all.
- It addresses the often-hidden psychological part of training & dieting, too. Parts of Bigger Leaner Stronger will feel like one long, suspiciously personal call-out. Matthews zeros in on the psychology of training and how to overcome the mental roadblocks, from controlling your impulses to repeating positive affirmations.
- Without naming a number, BLS is a lot more affordable than Max Size. With so many free programs out there, do you really “need” to buy one? If the price factor is your #1 deal-breaker, here’s a doozy: Bigger Leaner Stronger is about 12x less expensive.
- It’s your turn, genius. Hypothetically speaking, let’s say you don’t try the program, or it doesn’t bring the “wow” factor you were expecting. At least you’ll walk away with one thing: the smarts. The studies Matthews presents in Bigger Leaner Stronger will build your fitness knowledge base and help you choose the right program.
5 Bigger Leaner Stronger Cons
- Ah, another slow-starter, but to an even greater degree. Bigger Leaner Stronger sits at 494 pages on the Kindle. But to get to the actual diet, training, and supplement plan, you’ll have to swipe through 334 of those pages. That’s right; he wants you to read over 300 pages of myth-busting and science talk before showing you a nine-week program.
- The Bigger Leaner Stronger program lasts just nine weeks (sort of). Phase one — and the only phase in the e-book — lasts just nine weeks (eight weeks of training plus a one-week deload). Cycling through the same 3–5 weekly workouts could feel repetitive, and it makes little sense to offer the remaining nine months of workouts for free if you sign up for his email list.
- Matthews spends page after page explaining what doesn’t work. We aren’t hating on his dispelling of widespread fitness myths; the fitness industry actually needs more of that. But most of the book has “here’s why I didn’t include this” vibes instead of “here’s why you should be doing this.”
- Oddly enough, he packs the most meat into the free bonus materials. BLS is one of those books where you shouldn’t gloss over the “junk” that comes before chapter one. For whatever reason, the program’s Bonus Materials (which you can access here) are deeper than the program you paid for — including 20 meal plans, demonstration videos, and a year’s worth of workouts laid out in Excel documents.
- Matthews doesn’t have the background of Cavaliere. It’s true; there are tens of thousands of positive reviews from those happy with their results after trying BLS. But despite the fanfare, his personal trainer status doesn’t compare to Cavaliere’s experience as a physical therapist and trainer for the New York Mets (whoops).
Athlean-X’s Max Size vs Bigger Leaner Stronger Conclusion
Athlean-X’s Max Size is these two programs, even though it’s about twelve steps beyond “newbie-friendly.” This Jeff Cavaliere program brings the heat and will help you bust through plateaus with easy-to-follow workouts and a 12-week ready-made meal plan.
It’s less customizable than Bigger Leaner Stronger and will empty your wallet. But Max Size also brings the training variety, pure size focus, and resources noticeably missing from BLS.
Winner: Athlean-X Max Size
Want to go deeper? Check out our extended review of Athlean-X’s Max Size program.