The Twin Experiment: A Tale of Two Types of Strength Training Regimens

I’m not sure if all of my blog readers are aware of this, but I have an identical twin brother named Joel. We’re clones. Growing up, we were often mistaken for albino Ethiopians (no disrespect intended, but during that era there was a ton of footage on the news showing malnourished Ethiopians and people would often tell my Mom that we looked like we were from Ethiopia). This is me as a kid. What’s up with the posture?

So you can see why I started lifting weights when I was fifteen years old. Despite my constant attempts to get my brother on a workout regimen, he didn’t start lifting until he was twenty-one years old. I definitely had a head-start on him, which exposes some holes in my “experiment.”

Since I started lifting, I’ve always been a little bit bigger than my brother. At times I’ve been a lot bigger. There was one point when we both weighed the same; around 230 lbs. There was another time when I had nearly 50 lbs on him when I let my weight go in an attempt to get my squat, bench, and deadlift up as high as possible. Needless to say, although I got really strong, the fat face just wasn’t working out for me. Here’s a pic from that time. What’s up with the hair?

Right now I weigh 235 lbs and Joel weighs 210 lbs. So currently, I have twenty-five pounds on him. This is what we look like more recently.

This is the 5-day body part split routine that Joel uses:

Monday – Chest
Tuesday – Back
Wednesday – Legs
Thursday – Shoulders
Friday – Arms

This is the 4-day lower/upper split routine that I use:

Monday – Lower Body
Tuesday – Upper Body
Thursday – Lower Body
Friday – Upper Body

Right now I can bench around 60 lbs more than him, squat around 70 lbs more than him, and deadlift around 220 lbs more than him.

Get to the Point Bret! Why Does Any of This Matter?

The other day we were hanging out and it occurred to me that my brother’s arms might be bigger than mine. I was a little taken back because my arms have always been bigger than his. This got me thinking…he does more arm isolation training than I do, but I do a lot more lower body training than him, especially in the form of deadlifts and hip thrusts.

A few nights ago, I went over to my brother’s house and took some measurements. Here were the results:

Luckily, as you can see, my arms are still bigger than his. It’s interesting to note that although my arms are only an inch bigger than his (cold) and my chest is only three inches bigger than his (cold), they expand to two inches bigger and four inches bigger, respectively, when flexed.

The most dramatic difference, however, is in our hips. I have five more inches around my hips than Joel, which demonstrates how much more glute mass I have on him. This makes perfect sense when you break it down. Here are the facts:

1. Joel’s goals are to just stay healthy and relatively lean
2. My goals are to keep getting stronger and more muscular over time
3. Joel does legs once per week
4. I do legs twice per week
5. Joel does pretty much the same workout week in, week out
6. I utilize progressive overload and am always trying to get stronger over time
7. Joel doesn’t do any specialized glute work
8. I do perform specialized glute work in the form of hip thrusts, barbell glute bridges, band seated abduction, and band hip rotations.

Morals of The Story

• Once you’ve accumulated your typical “beginner gains,” if you want to put an inch on your arms, you might have to gain around 25 pounds in order to do so.
• A lower/upper split routine may be more effective in putting on mass than a bodypart split routine for natural lifters.
• Progressive overload on basic compound lifts is critical for continuous gains in hypertrophy.
• The difference between the results of a regular guy who likes to lift but is rather complacent versus an obsessed meat-head/strength coach over a decade or so of training equates to 25 lbs of extra muscle, an extra inch around the arms, an extra three inches around the chest, an extra inch and a half around the thigh, and an extra five inches around the hips.
• With sound training, it is certainly possible to defy genetics and go from “Skinny Geek” to “Total Badass.” Okay, maybe “Not-So-Skinny Geek” is more appropriate.
My Glute Shit Works!

19 Comments

  • Chi says:

    Hi Bret,

    Great article again. It does raise some questions though, because I’ve trained a couple of twins before and planning a a study next year.

    You mention you were clones as children, but are you monozygotic twins, because your brother is wearing a cap and I can’t tell.

    As for the difference, is it your trainingscheme or the effort you put in. Strengthgain comes from effort. My previous attempts to ‘(dis)prove’ a superior trainingmethod got screwed up by the lesser effort of the other half. In my new study we’ll try to monitor the effort as well.

    Like to hear from you.

    ~ Chi

  • Good call Chi. We are in fact monozygotic twins. But the strength gains are definitely atrributable to my increased effort, not just the methods.

    However, I’m positive that for my and my brother’s genetics and physiology, hitting the muscles twice per week works better than hitting them once per week, which I’m confident of because 1) I’m very experienced in all types of splits and systems, and 2) because in my own case without fail 100% of the time my strength diminishes if I only hit a movement pattern once per week. I’m not saying that everyone is like this, but I believe that a majority of people are like this. My workout partner actually does better on a bodypart split like the one my brother uses so I realize that there isn’t one best training protocal for everyone.

    Great points! Thanks.

  • Chi says:

    It’s an interesting debate. If there is a difference, prediction rules might be handy. Well, we’ll see what the future brings. Thanks for your reply.

  • Daniel says:

    Even though your brother’s program and effort were not optimal, he looks muscular. I don’t think the avarage person will see much difference. And if he is standing next to his hot wife, I don’t think anyone will even notice him.

  • Tom McDonald says:

    You are so right, your glute shit does work, ! am 49 years old and my butt is getting more muscular through your workouts.Love glute bridges and thrusts. I think I am the only one doing them with barbell weight in my gym.

    • Great to hear Tom! I used to do them at the gym and nobody said shit to me because I could deadlift more than most of them could leg press. (Now I only work out in my garage) I’m sure if I was wimpy looking, everyone would have made fun of me but people actually came up to me and asked me to teach them the movement every once in a while. Thanks!

  • Amanda says:

    Poor Joel. If you were not the bigger twin you’d have to watch out.

    From my female point of view, I’d say muscle past a certain point needs to be because it makes you happy (not because us ladies care about the size of any one’s bicep), which I would say in your case it does. What I notice though, is definition. I think Joel would look awesome if he was a little leaner and more defined. it would probably even make him look a little bigger…

  • Poor Joel? Don’t feel sorry for him! He got much more attention from the ladies than me throughout our lives. 🙂

    I agree with you completely. Most women seem to prefer the “Men’s Health” look, not the “Muscle & Fitness” look. Up to a certain point, it’s all about what kind of physique the body’s owner prefers and what makes him feel the most confident.

    Thanks Amanda!

  • promakeuptips says:

    Hi Bret. I have just started doing your weighted bridge poses and WOW! I have never been so aware of my glutes! I’m doing them at home and would like to do them at the gym, just a little shy as to the looks I would get..sometimes the weight room has an intense energy! As i get better at them I will do them at the gym! Your right your glute shit works!

    • Good to hear! As more people start doing these the “shock factor” will diminish. RDL’s and seated hip adductions are just as “shocking” but we’ve become accustomed to them. Thanks!!!

  • James says:

    I like how your “compare our hip and legs size” pics of both you and your brother are both involve drinking or partying in some way. Is that an essential part of the experiment, or does it just come highly recommended for the purposes of general awesomeness?

    • James, the endorphins from the partying help raise testosterone, growth hormone, and IGF-1 levels which allows the legs and glutes to reach their maximum size. Okay, I’ll quit BS’ing. You busted me! Purely for general awesomeness purposes. 🙂

      • James says:

        Little known, empirically-derived fact: partying (preferably in a “hearty” fashion) raises your awesomeness quotient by as much as 42.3%, which in turn has positive effects upon body composition, or general well-being, or not being a shut-in watching rental movies every Friday, or something. We better watch out though, the Russians are way ahead of us on this one — they train their AQs every day, sometimes multiple times per day. Someone needs to translate their top-secret training manuals, quick. (I think there’s something in there about the dynamic effort method of vodka-chugging.)

        In case you’re curious, yes, it’s true — I’m bored at work.

  • Well James, if you’re bored at work maybe you need to partake in some of that secret-Soviet vodka-chugging. Maybe that would spice things up a bit? 🙂

  • Filip says:

    Hey bret, I was just wondering how you plan your workouts.

    Do you work through one muscle group at a time until done with say the upper body, or do you mostly do compound movements, until exhausted?

    If you work through one group at a time, in what order do you do it?

    Excuse my english, It’s not my native language.

    • Filip, I’m working on a book right now that goes over my system. In general, I do lower body on Monday and Thursday and upper body on Tuesday and Friday. I start with the biggest, most basic compound movements and work down from there. My workouts usually last around an hour long.

  • Jessica says:

    Hello Bret.
    Hopefully you read this comment.
    I got the book Strong Curves and I start with this program already. As you experience this programam can help me to be ready with my third and next bikini competition in 6 WEEKS.

    Thanks for your time.

  • Matthew says:

    Are you two the same height? (Did you starting to lift at 15 and him later at 21 have an affect on height?)

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