Few people can lift more than me, whether they’re on steroids or not. My buddy Stefan is one of them.
When he talks about weightlifting, I listen.
A couple of years ago, Stefan completed Menno Henselmans 34-week online PT course. Over the next several months, I asked his opinion on some weightlifting and diet questions. I was impressed with all of his answers based on this course.
So I started following Menno on Instagram without intentions of buying anything from him.
Previously, I’d paid for two online trainers. One was ok. One was horrendous. Both were cheap. Neither were science based.
Plus, I was happy with the results I have achieved on my own. Sure, I wanted to be a little bigger and lift a little more, and lose a little more fat just like everyone else…
That’s when the lightbulb hit me. Can I do better? Am I really at my natty max? By chance, did I find the best expert in the space? Should I take advantage of this opportunity?
Fast forward to April 14, 2020, and I began my first day on the Menno Henselmans online coaching program.
I decided in advance that I would give it my all. Although I considered myself an expert, I would submit to the expert.
Over the next 8-months, and $7,000 later comes this review of the Menno Henselmans online coaching program.
It was an unusual and wild ride.
Menno’s program started with a groin injury on one of the first training days that I still feel today. I go into details in the “Cons” section.
At the gym in Canggu, Body Factory, I suffered a head, shoulder, and right knee injury due to the weight machines not being bolted down and falling on me.
That came at a time when I was just about to break through my personal record on the deadlift forcing me out of the gym for a week and even longer off the key lifts like the deadlift.
One month later in August, I ended up leaving Bali for Jakarta. When I arrived, the city went into lockdown forcing me to be gymless for an entire week. When you’re paying $1200 per month for an online trainer and with a metabolism that sheds 1kg per day, this was an issue. I had no choice but to leave.
I went to Istanbul with a plan to stay there for three months.
After one-month, I had enough and decided to go to Sao Paulo, Brazil. Initially I was denied entry to Sao Paulo causing me to purchase a roundtrip flight to the USA for $1300. This caused me to lose an additional 3-days plus an additional few days to recover from sleeping on a plane three nights in a row.
While in Sao Paulo, after an entire month, I realized all the barbells actually weighed 15kg and not the normal 20kg.
Doesn’t seem like a big deal, but what it meant was that for over a month I thought I was making big gains, but I was actually just starting 5kg lighter.
Needless to say, these 8-months weren’t ideal for an expensive online coaching program, but given I have fewer demands on my time than the average person, all of these issues probably put me in line with the average person who is considering Menno Henselmans online coaching program (ie, you, the reader).
Please keep this all in mind throughout my review.
Menno’s program is complex and detailed. It includes a 38-page program dcouemtation guide, an 8-page progressions guideline, and an online tracker.
It covers everything from what to eat, when to eat, when to train, minut details of how to train including warmups, and how to track progress.
For example, here’s one of the dietary guidelines, “I highly recommend consuming at least 600 g salmon or another type of fatty fish per week. If you don’t want to do this, the next best thing is supplementing 2 g combined DHA and EPA natural triglyceride fish oil daily along with your highest fat meal of the day.”
That was a dietary guideline for Omega-3s, but there was also guidelines for Zinc, Magnesium, Iodine, and more that I was required to track on a dialy basis.
Nevertheless, during one of my phone calls, I attempted to summarize Menno Henselmans main training tenants, and here they are:
As an advanced weightlifter who tracks his bodyweight, calories, and muscle size, I knew very specifically what my goals are. We went over my goals during our first video call which would be our measuring stick in how effective his program was.
General goal: To increase muscle size and decrease body fat percentage. To increase my personal records on certain lifts.
Here are my specific goals:
Before I started with Menno, I did a 2-month slow cut, getting down to 77kg while eating 2,000 calories per day. I also measured the size of all my muscles, my bodyfat, and waist circumference.
I started at 77kg with a body fat caliper measurement of 11mm and a waist circumference of 31 inches.
The ultimate test was going to be known only at the end of the program when I re-measured my muscles after the bulk/cut phases to see if they grew at while staying at same bodyfat percentage (or ideally below).
Ideally, I would end with a bodyweight significantly above 77kg while still measuring 15mm bodyfat or less.
Max weight: 86kg / 189lbs
Max Squat: Due to groin injury early on, I did not squat
Maximum Deadlift: 207.5kg x 1
Max Bench: 127.5kg x 3
All of the specific goals were failed based on the above, but there’s some good news.
I increased my personal best on two lifts:
Barbell military press: 67.5kg / 148.5lbs x 3 reps (previous best was 60kg / 135lbs x 6 reps)
Front squat: 140kg / 308lbs x 3 reps (previous best was 120kg x 4 reps)
As a reminder, I started on April 14th
I bulked for 6 months until the middle of October at which point I did 2-months of a cut until the middle of December.
Interestingly, my cut ended at 3,052 calories per day on Menno’s plan. All of my prior cuts, I ate 1,800-2,000 calories per day at the same weight.
Over the following 3 weeks after our program ended and before I started my own bulk, I subsequently lost an additional 4kg / 10lbs because I brought my own calories down to 2,000.
On December 22nd, my last weigh-in on Menno’s plan I was:
I did measure a 0.9% increase in the size of my muscles, but I attribute this to a higher bodyfat percentage and not to increased muscle size.
Essentially, I was the same weight, slightly fatter, but almost identical from start to finish.
Tell me in the comments, do I look bigger from ‘Start’ to ‘End’ photo?
Even though all of my initial objectives were failed during Menno’s program, I can’t say I’m unsatisfied. Confusingly, that doesn’t mean I’m satisfied either.
To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about the program. Let’s dive into the positives.
He’s An Expert. He was truly knowledgeable and, for the most part, was able to distill his vast information to be understood in layman’s terms. I do believe that he knows his stuff on a scientific level which is what’s most important. He often cites science and studies to back up his recommendations. None of my questions went unanswered.
New Mindset. I learned unique new exercises like the effective wide-grip barbell shrugs, butterfly lateral raise, and bayesian fly. I learned a whole new and complex routine and I learned some other things about nutrition like antinutrients.
Unlimited Video Calls. This is only part of the Premium package, but they truly are unlimited and I never feel rushed. I had a LOT of questions, as usual, and I felt he took his time in explaining them to me even the ones I asked more than once.
Increases Some Lifts. Though none of my initial goals were met, he did increase my front squat and overhead military press as mentioned in the previous section.
Accessibility By Email. When I shifted to email-only communication, I recall him answering almost always within 24-hours no matter the day. Though the answers in the email communication was inferior to the video calls.
Over the course of 8-months, I kept notes on my general thoughts of the program without much regard to the pros and cons. Turns out I had felt more cons than pros during my time with Menno. Here they are:
Dangerous Initial Mesocycle. At the beginning of the program, Menno will measure your strength in an extraordinarily dangerous way. He will ask you to go to maximum strength with low reps on brand new exercises. I do not recommend you follow his procedure. It caused a significant groin injury in me that I’m still recovering from today, 10+ months later. It’s a bad idea to try to max out lifts on new exercises where you lack proper form and when specific muscles aren’t used to being worked out. It’s a very, very bad idea. I’m surprised this is even part of his program. I never do this in my own training and I’ve never injured myself in the gym. I should have known better, but I went into his program submitting to the expert.
Lack Of Oversight. He did not actively monitor my online tracker. This issue came up a few times, but the most egregious was during mesocycles 42-44, a period of about 2 weeks when he didn’t check my tracker. When I finally asked, he made a plethora of changes proving that he hadn’t looked. The alternative is to take his 34-week $1,500 course. Instead, I decided to save my time and pay the expert. At his prices, I expect the tracker to be checked routinely, especially with such a detailed program. In August/September there was a point when I didn’t gain any weight. This was unacceptable knowing our goals and my rapid metabolism. You can’t get bigger without gaining weight.
Online Coaching Has Limitations. This is not specific to Menno’s program, but an online trainer is going to have some deficiencies and is not appropriate for advanced weightlifters. While an online trainer, in theory, would work better for a more beginner-level weightlifter, they could also benefit from an in-person session. At the same time, an online trainer will be more affordable.
The Program Is Super Specific And Detailed. To me, it’s too much. From eating every day at the same times (8am, 11am, 4pm, 8pm) to training at the same time to counting calories to learning new dietary rules to a new gym routine, etc. Such a stringent schedule drains motivation. I stuck with it, but this was only because I knew there was an end date. At one point, I told him I was going to add in some cardio, three 30-second sprints on a bicycle which Menno high advised against as it would affect muscle growth. Additionally, midday through I asked to do a week of cut because I really don’t like eating so much and he also highly advised against that. For long-term adherence, you need more flexibility in the schedule.
There are three options to choose from. I chose Premium Coaching for two months and the rest I went with Online Coaching.
Premium Coaching ($1,200 per month) – Everything from Online Coaching plus unlimited video calls.
Online Coaching ($700 monthly) – Email communication only.
Do-It-Yourself ($400 total) – One week of email contact where you individualize your program.
What to say here…
I’m somewhat neutral. I guess I proved to myself that what I’ve been doing over the past 18 years training myself has been correct. I’ve maxed out my potential on my own. Maybe…
Maybe the right question is “knowing what I know now would I do it again?” No. I would not. But I also don’t regret the prior 8-months.
If you’re a beginner or intermediate weightlifter, this could be a good option for you, especially if you have the money and time to dedicate to a complex program. On the other hand, as a beginner or intermediate weightlifter, almost anything you do will result in gains as long as you remain consistent.
Overall, I think Menno over-complicates the process. That’s our biggest point of difference. You can get caught up in the latest science (which is always in flux) or you can stick to the basics.
For example, meal timing was huge for Menno. For me, I’ve eaten 2 meals per day as part of an intermittent fasting schedule and looked just as good as I did on his program. To me, there’s really only one main tenant as it relates to health: consistency.
It wasn’t an easy 8-months. I changed my entire schedule to adhere as much to his program as possible. At the end of the day, I did all that for an experience only as it didn’t affect my body in any meaningful way.
However, at the end of this program, I did realize that my number one priority is gaining weight. If I want to build more muscle, it starts with gaining more weight than my previous high of 92kg / 202lbs. Menno should have known this and prioritized this, not letting me go one full month with zero weight gain.
I also confirmed, based on Mennos experience and confirmation, that my metabolism is as high as he’s ever seen. Only anorexic women rival my speedy metabolism he said. For reference, I’ll have to eat 5,000 on a bulk and my maintenance is 3,000+. That was insightful to understand.
Finally, I know for certain, that I prefer to weigh heavier, even if that means a higher bodyfat percentage. I wouldn’t have known these things if it wasn’t for Menno’s online coaching program.
Knowing all this I’m going to start another bulk in February 2021 to eke out any additional gains in terms of muscle. At the very least, I enjoy lifting heavy weights at the gym.
I’ll report back in another 8-months..