1-2-3 Grow!!™

I officially finished 1-2-3-Grow today and I received a lot of questions about this program so, as promised, here are my thoughts about this program.

1-2-3-Grow is a 12-week weight lifting program designed by James Wilson for muscle growth consisting of five workouts every week:

  • Chest and triceps
  • Back and biceps
  • Shoulders and abs
  • Legs
  • Chest/Back/Shoulders/Legs

The order varies each week and we’re basically training each muscle group once a week, plus the fifth day is an extra workout for one muscle group, every week being a different one.

One workout consists usually of 3-4 supersets and it took me about 45-60 minutes to complete i warmup (usually 5 minutes incline walk on the treadmill). There is no active rest or cardio with this program, although you could add some if you wanted to. I didn’t, I was happy not having to do any and to just lift. 😉

I trained 5 times per week for 12 weeks. I did each workout every week as planned, completing all 5 workouts in the given week. I did not skip any workouts and I did not postpone any workouts to the next week. There were however a couple of weeks where I did two workouts on one day which took me about 1.5 hours in total on that day and it was very intense but still manageable. I do not recommend this, unless you are absolutely ready for it.

So what did I like about this program?

The workouts are a lot of fun and there is a lot of variety so I never got bored. The workouts are relatively short but still intense. My muscles were sore most of the time, from the first workout until the last week of the program.

This program is a great example of how you can achieve more with less. You don’t need to be in the gym daily for 2 hours, sometimes even twice a day, which I see a lot on social media.

I see lots of gains! I feel overall more toned, tight and firm everywhere, I have more strength and, most importantly, less jiggle!

I have packed on some significant muscle in all the right places. I (and other people close to me) noticed changes in my arms, shoulders, back, legs, thighs and booty but my chest and calves seem more muscular too. I have a smaller waist, flatter tummy and smaller muffin top.

I lost a lot of fluff on my forearms, I can actually see veins now and my biceps and triceps have a nice form (no more arm jiggle! yaay!). My quads and hamstrings have grown (my jeans are now tight in the legs and loose on the waist), I definitely have more muscle and less fluff in these areas. I lost a lot of fluff on my thighs as well, the outer thighs being my biggest trouble area and they finally have a nice shape.

I finally have a booty! I like to think that I had one before too but I think this program helped shape it nice and round. 😀

I haven’t gained much weight and my measurements haven’t changed much, although I see more muscle where fat used to be.

I increased my strength and the weights on many exercises, sometimes even adding more weight every week. Some muscle groups respond slower for me and I found it hard to go up in weights when training shoulders.

The exercises in the new updated version of the program have links to James Wilson’s YouTube videos on how to do the particular exercise. This is a great help to check the proper form to avoid injuries and to become familiar with the exercises for those new to weight lifting.

James is always available online for questions or problems regarding the program and nutrition. He gives advice on how many calories to eat, which macros to use and so much more. The closed group on Facebook is also a great resource for information and the people there are so helpful and supportive.

What did I find challenging? (Keep in mind that most of these arguments apply to all similar fitness programs in general)

As with all programs that consist of 5 workouts per week, this might also sometimes feel like it’s too much, especially if you work full-time like me. There were times when I felt exhausted and over-trained, but I was again totally fine on the next day and excited for the next workout.

With that said, I usually trained on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday because I had more time on the weekend and I felt more rested. I felt definitely more tired than usual when I trained strictly on workdays.

You have to invest a lot of your free time. The workouts take me an average of 4.5 hours per week but with going to the gym, shower and going home, I am probably looking at a total of 8 hours weekly. This has a great impact on your social and family life. It’s difficult for example to spontaneously meet with friends when you work 5 days a week and train on 5 evenings out of 7. By the time you are done with work and the workout, all you want to do is go home and rest because the next day you will have to do it all over again. And the next day as well…

It is very important to have the support and understanding of everyone close to you. You need to be committed and motivated, otherwise you will find so many excuses not to work out. The biggest challenge for me was getting to the gym on some days when I wasn’t really feeling it, but I was super excited once I was there.

Still 1-2-3-Grow is the less time intensive program that I have done so far. Looking back at the last 12 weeks and actually seeing the results of my hard work, I now feel so happy and proud that I took this time. I consider the gym to be my me-time, my therapy. This is when I disconnect and forget about everything. I just concentrate on myself and on the workout and I always feel so refreshed afterwards.

This is not a fat-loss program, if it is done as intended, and this is the first time that I committed myself to lift and eat to grow for a longer time. This was really challenging for me: having to eat so much is scary, seeing my jeans and my shirts getting thighter, my weight going slightly up…

1-2-3-Grow is a muscle-building program (no cardio, no active rests, no low calorie/low carb/low fat/… diets). People will see more muscle definition and possibly also decrease of fat due to the increase of muscle and consequently higher calorie burn over time. Usually the calorie intake is increased frequently during the program (eat above maintenance level to grow as opposed to eat below maintenance to lose). If done properly combined with a higher calorie nutrition, there will be some weight gain, the expected muscle gain but also fat gain and overall increase in size. This is not always the case though, it really depends on your nutrition and calorie intake.

Say good bye to your six pack. I built some serious muscle underneath all that fluff. I definitely like what I am seeing if I flex my abs like my life depended on it. My tummy is flat but there is not much definition unflexed right now. I am fine with that. It’s part of the bulking process.

I feel bigger and some of my clothes feel tighter but I counted with this when I started reverse dieting with this program. It’s a mind game. There are good days when I love how my body has changed and then there are bad days where I just feel huge and fluffy. I try to overcome these negative feelings and just trust the process.

I had to eat a lot! I felt like I was eating all the time and I was getting funny looks from my colleagues during lunch when they saw my big tray of food.

I usually survive quite well on 1500-1600 calories, which is my calorie goal for fat-loss,  but I was stuck in a plateau for a long time and I wasn’t seeing results anymore. The next best step was to reverse diet to repair my metabolism, increase my calorie intake and this program is perfect for that. My highest was daily 2250 calories and 350 g carbs on this program and I did not gain much. So do not be afraid to gradually increase your calories and carbs. In my experience, we need to eat more when weight lifting or working out in general, otherwise we can’t perform well.

It takes a lot of time to build muscles. Patience!

What would I do different?

This was the first time that I did this program and I wanted to do all the workouts as they were planned out. When I will do the program again (and I will!), I might skip the 5th day and train only 4 times per week, this already covers all muscle groups. It really depends on how much time and energy I have. If you are considering doing this program and you don’t have a lot of time or you are afraid of exhausting/over-training yourself, start with the four workouts per week and see how it goes.

I will be more consistent with eating and I will pay more attention to nutrition. I ate cheat meals like bread, cakes, pasta,… more often than I should have. My nutrition is based on IIFYM but I didn’t always stick to the 80-20 rule (80% clean nutrient dense food, 20% cheats) and to my macros (I always ended up too high on fat :(). Next time I would stick to the food list recommended by James, keep the fat intake in check and I think that would make a big difference with the results at the end.

I will go even heavier on the weights. Lifting heavy builds more muscles, more strength, burns more calories and fat. Just stay safe and pay attention to form to avoid injuries. Quality over quantity!

I have tried every possible type of exercises in the past: aerobic classes, Zumba, yoga, running, biking, swimming, … I committed myself to those exercises for months and years and I enjoyed each very much but I have never seen such good results like with weight lifting. After lifting weights seriously for 6 months, it completely changed the shape of my body and of my posture for the better and I feel more confident.

Overall, I enjoyed doing this program a lot, it was absolutely worth it and I will do it again. I can honestly say that 1-2-3 Grow is my favorite program so far.

Do I recommend this program? Yes!
You don’t have much time? Just skip the fifth workout and do four each week.
Will you build muscles? Absolutely! Just stick to the program, lift heavy and eat to grow.
Can you lose weight with this program? Sure! Incorporate some cardio and/or active rest and eat in calorie deficit.

Keep in mind that with all programs the key to success is dedication and motivation. You have to invest time, trust the process and in the end it will be worth it. Remember that you do this not only for your looks but also for your health.

PS: one last advice, stop worrying about the scale, instead take progress pictures (and measurements) and check how your clothes fit.