The big daddy: Michael Ashford bulked up after getting sick of being skinny

Michael Ashford didn’t like the body he saw in a picture with his two year-old son. From that day forward, he committed to being a healthy and fit dad for his family.

Beach-side epiphany

I started my fitness journey in 2012 after I went to the beach with my wife and two-year-old son. While we were there, my wife took a picture of me with my shirt off next to my son. I saw it afterwards and decided right then and there that I was sick of being the skinny guy. Not just because I was skinny with no muscle definition, but because I didn’t look healthy, and truth be told, I didn’t really feel healthy either. Seeing that photo with my son made me want to work as hard as I could in order to be as fit and healthy for my family, for as long as I can possibly control.

Mindset and physique shift

Since that day, I’ve dedicated myself to living a healthy, active lifestyle by working out 5-6 times a week. I’ve changed my nutrition for health reasons (gluten intolerance) and because I realized so much of our health is directly linked to the foods we consume. I have added nearly 30lb of muscle to my frame, and I feel incredible. This passion led me to starting fitdadfitness.com where I run a weekly podcast and offer programs to create more fit dads.

Transformative eating

My nutrition philosophy is quite simple: Eat real food. I don’t obsess over hitting my macros every single day; though I do have a general sense of my macronutrient breakdown and what works for my body and what doesn’t, based on testing and trying things out. But for me, it really is about fueling my body with food that is as close to the way nature produced it as possible. Lots of leans meats, veggies, fruit, and non-processed carbohydrates.

Sage advice

My late grandfather once told me, “Michael, a tomato that is given to you will never taste as good as one that you grow yourself.” He wasn’t talking about how to grow tasty vegetables. He was explaining to me – in his own unique way – the value of hard work. My grandfather wanted me to know how something you’ve fought, struggled, worked hard and endured pain for, will always give you more satisfaction than that which is simply given to you.

I live my life by these words in the memory of my grandfather: Grow your own tomatoes. Put in the hard work, commitment, consistency, and effort yourself. If you don’t take any shortcuts – in the gym or in life – you will always bear fruit that creates a lasting impact.

VITAL STATS

Before

• Age: 28

• Height: 5’9”

• Weight: 132lb

• Body Fat: 8-9%

After

• Age: 33

• Weight: 158lb

• Body Fat: 6-7%

Training Regime

I traditionally do a typical body part split where I hit each major body part a couple of times a week. However, I have just started a total-body circuit training and HIIT-style workout regimen just to mix things up and give my body a new challenge.

I love switching up my routine every 4-8 weeks to avoid stagnation and burnout.

Here’s a sample weekly breakdown:

Monday – Legs

Squats5 x 8-10
Circuit - 4 times through Dumbbell squat, curl, to overhead press
Jump lunges to squat10 reps
Dumbbell row to tricep extension10 reps
Hex press10 reps
Dumbbell step-ups10 reps
Bicycle crunches20 reps
Dumbbell thrusters10 reps
Trap bar deadlifts5 x 8-10

Tuesday – Back

Bent-over barbell rows5 x 8-10 reps
Circuit – 4 times through Dumbbell renegade rows with push-ups 10 reps
Elbow plank extensions10 reps
Lat pulldowns10 reps
Single-arm dumbbell chest press10 reps
Reverse dumbbell flys (delts)10 reps
Seated cable rows10 reps
Man-makers10 reps
Landmine row5 x 8-10 reps

Wednesday – Chest

Dumbbell bench press5 x 8-10
Circuit – 4 times through Incline dumbbell chest press
Hanging leg raises10 reps
Standing ez bar curls10 reps
Incline dumbbell flys to hex press10 reps
Dumbbell overhead press10 reps
Reverse-grip straight-bar cable tricep extensions10 reps
Low-to-high cable flys10 reps
Incline barbell bench press5 x 8-10

Thursday – HIIT

HIIT circuit – 6 times through:

Air-Dyne Bike45 seconds
Rest1 minute
Wall Balls45 seconds
Rest1 minute
Burpees45 seconds
Rest1 minute
Medicine Ball Slams45 seconds
Rest1 minute
Push-ups45 seconds
Rest1 minute
Jump Rope 45 seconds

Friday – Legs

Leg press5 x 8-10
Circuit – 4 times through
Leg extensions10 reps
Standing calf raises10 reps
Banded lateral walks10 reps in each direction
Dumbbell straight-leg deadlifts10 reps
Dumbbell goblet squats10 reps
Bodyweight squats20 reps
Barbell walking lunges10 reps
Lying leg curls10 reps
Hip thrusters5 x 8-10

Saturday – HIIT

HIIT circuit – 6 times through:

Row machine45 seconds
Rest1 minute
Dumbbell burpees to upright rows 45 seconds
Rest1 minute
Jump lunges45 seconds
Rest1 minute
Mountain climbers45 seconds
Rest1 minute
Medicine ball pick-ups to overhead press45 seconds
Rest1 minute
High knee runs45 seconds

Supplementing all over

I am serious about supplementation in that I am very concerned about making sure that the supplements I take have been scientifically proven to work and not just broscience. So I’m pretty basic here:

  • Dymatize Natural Whey (1 scoop/day)
  • Creatine (5g day)
  • Organic greens mix (creatine and greens are mixed in to whey)
  • Fish oil
  • Turmeric
  • Calcium / magnesium / D3 supplement
  • Glucosamine / chondroitin / msm supplement for joint health.
TRAIN

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