Building Strength and Muscle: An Interview with Fitness Yoda Vic Magary

Greetings from the town of 1770, Australia!  Yes, the town is called “1770.”

We’re now only two weeks away from the launch of the Rebel Strength Guide, a full diet and fitness plan designed to make you bigger (if that’s what you’re after), leaner, faster, and stronger.  Ever since I packed on a bunch of muscle after college, I’ve become obsessed with how our bodies react when combining specific diets with certain workouts – this book covers in detail every method I’ve studied, researched and experimented on myself with over the past ten years.

However, I knew this book was going to be bigger than anything I could handle by myself, so I enlisted the help of my friend, fitness mentor, and hero Vic Magary.  Vic is a former US Army soldier, has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, operated his own gym, and is the mastermind behind the 31-day fat loss cure program (non-affiliate link) which has been purchased and downloaded by over 14,000 people.

I figured today would be a good day to introduce you to Vic so that you can get to know him a little bit – he’s the man I go to when I have any strength or muscle questions; he’s also designed my strength and muscle building workouts (especially now that I’m traveling and only doing body weight routines).  He knows his stuff, has years upon years of experience in dealing with clients of every age and size, and he gets damn good results.

Most  importantly, he practices what he preaches.

If you want to know who Vic is, start with this video, because it will tell you everything you need to know about his work ethic and training capacity:

Vic Magary Training Video

Steve: Hey Vic, thanks for joining me for this interview.  And by “joining me,” I mean that in the virtual sense because you’re in Ohio and I’m in Australia.  God bless technology.  So let’s hear your origin story, Vic.  What’s your background?

Vic: Like most kids, I tried a variety of sports as a kid – soccer, flag football. . . but nothing really clicked for me. Not until my grandfather took me to his friend’s garage for my first martial arts lesson when I was 10 years old. Those early years of martial arts training were also where I had my first exposure to fitness training with the typical push ups and jumping jacks that you’ll find in most classes. Through high school and college I continued martial arts training and became more interested in fitness by trying to follow the workouts in Muscle & Fitness or some other magazine, but never really getting into what most people consider “good shape.”

After graduating college, I went to law school and finished my formal academic training with a huge pile of student loan debt. To eliminate the debt, I enlisted in the U.S. Army Infantry for three years in exchange for repayment of my student loans. It was during my time as a soldier that I developed my general philosophy on training. But it wasn’t the formal Army fitness training that made the light go off. It was the real work that I had to do as a soldier, like hauling around 50 pounds of gear for several miles or digging trenches that made me seek methods that would not simply make me look fit, but give me increased performance on the job. And the base of the pyramid of performance is strength.

Steve: Last week I talked about why I strength train.  In your opinion, what’s the most important reason people should start strength training?

Vic: That’s easy – strength training will improve nearly every other athletic attribute you have.  In fact, I’m struggling to think of a physical attribute that will not be enhanced by proper strength training: power, speed, balance, flexibility, endurance, and coordination all can be enhanced with proper strength training.  If you have any desire to get better at some physical activity (and hopefully you do if you’re reading Nerd Fitness), strength training will get you there.

Steve: This community is made up a wide range of rebels: big, small, tall, short, young, old.  How does your advice or workouts with clients change when dealing with a person trying to bulk up versus somebody trying to slim down?

Vic: Diet is the biggest difference. For someone trying to slim down I recommend sticking to a diet of lots of vegetables, some meat and fruit, and a small amount of nuts (steve’s note: sounds Paleo to me!). And that’s about it. For someone trying to bulk up, whole milk and lots of it is my weapon of choice. Often I’ll also recommend the introduction of potatoes and legumes as well. As a final resort, I’ll recommend the “see-food” diet but I’ve never had to recommend that for anyone older than 25 years old.

For both bulk up and slim down, I will start most sessions with strength training using one major movement such as squats, overhead presses, or deadlifts. After the strength training, the person seeking to get lean will then undergo some high intensity circuit training while the person trying to bulk up will go through more of a bodybuilder style workout.

Steve: How different are your workouts for guys and girls?

Vic: There is no difference what-so-ever based on gender. Adjustments to exercise selection, weight used, and repetition schemes are based solely on the current fitness capacity and goals of the client, regardless of whether they are a guy or a girl.

Steve: That makes me happy to hear, and I’m sure it makes a lot of the female rebels who strength train happy as well.  Now, what’s the biggest mistake people make when getting involved with strength training?

Vic: I’ll pick two – failing to learn the basic movements; and failing to stick with those basic movements until the results plateau.  You need to REALLY learn those movements – proficiency is the minimum, virtuosity is the goal.   A perfect push up is a beautiful thing to watch in my eyes (Steve’s note: reason #289 why Vic is my hero).  Too often people abandon the basics in favor of some fancy machine or the latest fad. Move your body through various planes of motion using the fullest range of motion possible against resistance that makes the movement challenging. And all that means is push, pull, and squat against a gradual but ever increasing load.

Steve: I know this answer to this now, because I’ve been following the Body Weight Brigade workouts you’ve designed for the Rebel Strength Guide and I’m definitely seeing results.  But for the uninformed: do you need a gym and weights to build muscle?

Vic: No, you do not need a gym or weights to build muscle. If the push up becomes too easy, then elevate your feet on a bench to increase the difficulty. If the body-weight squat is too easy, then start working on pistol squats. By changing the leverage and balance requirements of the basic movements, you can move across a near infinite level of challenge with body-weight movements that will continue to stimulate the body to build muscle.

Steve:  Damn straight.  I’ve been slowly increasing the difficulty on my push ups over the past few months and just did my first ever REAL handstand push up the other night – thanks for your help on getting me there.  Moving on: what do you tell somebody that says they just don’t have the motivation to exercise? (this is more for me, because I get this ALL the time).

Vic: There are very few things in life that will not be improved with a consistent exercise regimen. You’ll have more energy to work and increase your income if that motivates you. You’ll be able to keep up with your kids as they become more rambunctious if that motivates you. You’ll reduce stress and anxiety. You’ll improve bone density and resting metabolic rate. Sleep is better, sex is better, and you get to walk around without the nagging feeling that you should be taking better of yourself. In my opinion, people who lack motivation to exercise lack motivation overall for life and have bigger issues to deal with than not wanting to do a few push ups on a commercial break of their favorite sitcom.

Steve: Well said!  On to some food questions: The meal right after a workout is often considered the most important for building strength and muscle.  What’s your favorite thing to eat right after a workout?

Vic: A small can of tuna and a handful of baby carrots is what I go with when I’m trying to get lean. Whole milk is what I go with if I’m trying to put on a little size. But at my age (I turn 40 this year), I’m almost always trying to get lean. 😉

Steve: 40!?! Can I start calling you Old Man Magary?  I know you can kick my ass in a million different ways so I’ll save that nickname til you’re 50.  What’s your favorite healthy snack during the day?

Vic: Half a grapefruit and 6 almonds. And I share the grapefruit with my golden retriever – he loves it!

Steve: Your dog is awesome – I’d share with him too.  Do you have a guilty pleasure food or drink? Something you just can’t give up.

Vic: Pizza and beer, man. Pizza and beer. I’ll take a New Castle or three and a slice of peperoni thank you.

Steve: You’re welcome.  Let’s get hypothetical here.  If you could work out with anybody, living or dead, who would it be?

Vic: Dead, would definitely be Bruce Lee.  What a training machine that man was.  Alive, would be Steve Maxwell. Steve’s broad spectrum of knowledge combined with his consistent application of “practice what you preach” has him at the top of my list of fitness heroes.

Steve: I KNOW you have a nerdy side. What’s your nerd story?

Vic: Oh man, I used to rock the Atari 2600. My favorite games were Pitfall and Yar’s Revenge. I also remember seeing Star Wars in the theater with its original release when I was a kid. And over the years I collected literally a few hundred Star Wars figures. Boba Fett was the man!

Steve: Wow you ARE old.  I kid, I kid.  Thanks for taking the time to do this, and thanks for taking the time to put together some kick ass workouts for this book – I know you’re super proud of the Rebel Strength Guide too.  I can’t thank you enough for your help.

So I haven’t asked Vic about this, but he’s too nice of a guy and I’m the one who hits the publish button (muahahaha)…

If you have any questions on building strength and muscle, training, diet, etc. go ahead and leave a comment on this article.  Either Vic or I will respond as soon as we get a chance!

For the Rebellion,



PS: T-shirtWinnerFail – I still haven’t picked a winner yet from the contest last week, I’m sorry – I’m in a town where the internet cafe closes at 6:30pm and I didn’t arrive here until 4:30pm, which didn’t leave me much time to get this article posted.  I swear I haven’t forgotten.

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  • Hey Steve, I’m new on the blog, but I like what I see. Vic, it’s great to see you here, and that’s an awesome video of you! I’m going to share it with our Firepole Marketing readers on our next Best of the Web post! 🙂

  • I’m stoked for this guide to come out. I am all about the section that doesn’t need a gym.

  • Good post. Practical solutions.

    I have replaced my full fat milk option on my porridge and in my tea with soya milk (as I’m trying to lose). Can’t say I am a massive fan but sure it will become habit in a week or so.

    Have also vowed to give up bread for two weeks to see how much effect that has.

  • Good post. Practical solutions.

    I have replaced my full fat milk option on my porridge and in my tea with soya milk (as I’m trying to lose). Can’t say I am a massive fan but sure it will become habit in a week or so.

    Have also vowed to give up bread for two weeks to see how much effect that has.

  • Immediately after my workout I like to have a small protein shake consisting of whey protein powder and fruit juice to get into my muscles quickly. Then about an hour later I’ll usually eat a large beef steak or some chicken to deliver protein continuously for the next few hours to aid in muscle rebuilding.

  • Pert

    😀 Can’t wait for it!

  • This is quite embarrassing. I would like to know if it is possible to diminish breast size also with the work out and diet? I gained 2 sizes with my 2 kids and would like it to go back down because it’s hard on my back.

  • Helena




  • Hi Cynthia, I have had clients drop a cup size when losing weight. But don’t worry about trying to spot reduce in the breast area specifically. Instead, focus on overall weight loss and your body fat will drop from all around your body – including the breast area.

  • Wxycamp

    Living Proof Vic’s 31 day fat loss works I know the diet was key lst 20lbs in 31 days still on it but do a cheat day every 14 days now down another 2lbs and a total of 4″ THANK YOU VIC

  • Great stuff Steve and Vic!

    I agree – exercising improves many areas your your life. I have noticed that especially when I do my workout before hitting the office, it gives me a great start to my day.

  • Cawebb312

    If your not crazy about soy milk, you should try almond milk.

  • Mrose

    Thanks for the program Vic. I have lost 8 pounds with another weigh in tomorrow. I have also found way more energy not eating like I used to,Even if I go off the diet I have learned how to eat healthier. P.S. I will be 48 in May and be lean and healthy for the first time in yrs.

  • Trentsterling88

    Wanting to know if it’s better to work out then eat or to eat then work out about 30 mins after eating? I’m trying to loose the excess body fat that I’ve gained over the past decade. I’ve stopped eating bread and pasta and limiting myself with meats, trying to stick to fish and chicken. I also make myself a nice salad with each meal. Are olives and jalepeno peppers good for helping to loose the weight?

  • Martha

    Hi Vic,
    I am down total of 20 lbs, on the 31day diet I lost 17 lbs but more in inches and the comments I am getting from my friends are great! So I have have continue to eat the same, every now and then I will have something not on the diet but the next day I get back on it. Now my daughter is wanting me to be her personal cook and diet partner. She entered a biggest losers contest a work and she wants me as her coach. I also want to lose another 15 lbs so now I will be stepping up the exercise. My birthday is coming up April 26, I want to look and feel better on my 57th birthday!!

  • I’d workout first. Jalapeno peppers and olives are fine.

  • I’d workout first. Jalapeno peppers and olives are fine.

  • Kickass interview Steve! Thanks for the post my man…

  • Awesome to see Vic here. Great resource and a great teaser to the new eBook. Lookin forward to it Steve!

  • SammyJ

    That video was quite possibly one of the greatest, most motivating videos I’ve ever seen. Literally. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  • Anonymous

    I personally find it hard to eat a great deal after a workout, managing a quick protein shake and then a handful of nuts later and some beef jerky.  I think there’s certainly a shift from being ‘big and bulky’ to a more lean and athletic look, something that is good to see.

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