Article last updated: January 2019 by Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Trainer
Note: Mike Joplin has sadly passed away on 29 November 2017 at age 72. (Full details here). I’m sending my condolences to his family and loved ones.
In the mid 1960’s a young US NAVY medic named Mike Joplin was stationed in Puerto Rico (Roosevelt Roads: aka – Roosey Roads).
Like most young men, he craved the attention of beautiful women, and he got it, but for the wrong reasons.
At a mere 155 pounds and at 6’1 height, he was known as “the skinny guy”.
Despite his low bodyweight, he was unable to complete a single pull up!
Fortunately for Mike, all of this changed…
After just 12 months of training, Mike was a lean mean 200 pounds of muscle at 6’1.
At the time, Mike didn’t even know what sets and reps were. He just followed his gut and trained and ate in a way he thought would get him results.
The Motivation Behind Mike’s Transformation: WOMEN
When I first arrived in Puerto Rico, I quickly discovered that Puerto Rican women will tell you what they think… whether you ask or not. The girls would call me “skinny” (in Spanish) right to my face. They would yell at me: “How Skinny!” in Spanish. I hated that. As a matter of fact, THAT is why I started exercising. But by the time I left Puerto Rico, I had girls coming right up to me to feel my muscles…girls that I didn’t even know…girls that I would meet just walking down a street. They would call me “How Big!” in Spanish. What an amazing transformation…in just 12 months. – Mike Joplin
A lot of people will scoff at you when you mention that you do something to get the attention of the opposite sex, but Mike used women as his motivation to succeed. His intention was not to get “stronger”. His intention was simply to “look better”. He got both!
He succeeded because attracting higher quality women can be one of the biggest motivations for a man to succeed in whatever area of life he chooses to focus on.
In the book Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill states that sexual energy is the single best natural stimulant that is given to a man.
Sexual energy can stimulate a man to achieve massive success or it can break him. In Mike’s case, he directed his sexual energy into transforming his body, and it paid off big time.
Greasing the Groove: Pull Ups Every Day
Mike was determined to make a change in his life, therefore he would do pull ups every single day – except on weekends where he partied in San Juan or in small towns close to the base.
His pull ups were always done on an open doorframe, since he had no other choice. This makes the exercise much harder and activates the lats more. (The navy base had a gym, but it was very small and had one bench, one barbell, and one set of dumbbells. So he just started doing bodyweight exercises).
When Mike trained, he would make sure to never exhaust himself too much. He would always stop his sets one or two reps before failure and feel fresh after his training sessions. He never maxed out and kept each pull ups set to a maximum of 12 reps. However, he always did partial reps and static holds on the negative reps.
This strategy has connotations of “grease-the-groove” which means that you train the same exercise often (sometimes several times a day), but you never go to failure. By doing this you avoid the daily fatigue that comes from high intensity training where you go to muscular failure.
The idea behind this strategy is that by staying away from failure you can train the same exercise often and over time you will be able to increase your reps since your body gets accustomed to the exercise.
In other words, Mike trained his pull ups as a “skill”, where he focused on getting good at them by practicing them often.
Besides pull ups he would occasionally do push ups (and a couple of other upper bodyweight exercises, like inverted rows – with a pole over the backs of two chairs). He also did leg raises for his core. And two or three times a week, he would do 30 minutes of hill sprints for legs (sprint 20 seconds, rest 2-3 minutes).
Nutrition: 4,000-6,000 Calories a Day
(During the weekdays)
The most interesting part about Mike’s amazing 1 year transformation was his nutrition.
When he was on base (Monday-Friday) he would eat like a starved dog. He would eat EVERYTHING he could get his hands on, except for bread, deserts, and sugary snacks — which he would never touch.
Besides eating everything in sight, Mike estimates that he drank 1 gallon of milk on the days where he was on base, and he would also drink beer/rum & coke with a slice of lime (aka: Cuba Libre, meaning “Free Cuba”) at least 2-3 nights while on base.
With that amount of milk, food and alcohol it’s fair to estimate that Mike got in approximately 4,000-6,000 calories on the 5 days of the week where he was staying in the base.
However, when the weekends rolled around his nutrition would change… drastically. His last meal of the week was usually Friday night where he would eat dinner on base, and then leave for San Juan to party the whole weekend.
While being in San Juan, he would go out, drink and have fun, but he would rarely eat. When he did eat, he would get a quick Puerto Rican meal like chicken and potatoes, or rice and beans. In the smaller towns of Puerto Rico, cold coconut water from fresh, young coconut shells (high in potassium) was available from street vendors.
You Can Get Away With A Lot When You’re Young
When you’re a young man (around age 18-25) you can get away with a lot.
Mike is an example of that. He ate an enormous amount of calories, partied all weekend, often skipped his sleep, and drank 3-5 nights a week — yet he was able to gain 45 pounds of quality mass in just 1 year while maintaining a trim core.
However, to “get away with a lot” you have to start your transformation from a lean base, and you have to train often.
When you’re lean, your body is better at partitioning nutrients (using food for muscle gains), therefore it is primed to pack on quality mass as long as you train often and eat enough to support muscle gains.
And this doesn’t just apply for the young guys reading this. It applies to everyone.
Mike still uses many of the principles he used during his early 20’s, and is in AMAZING shape at age 70!
Mike Joplin’s Massive Back at Age 70!
It’s easier to build a great physique when you are between 18 and 25 years old. However, anyone who is willing to commit to an (adjustable) training program can change his or her life in a matter of a few months. I actually built more muscle and had a more massive physique when I was in my late 30’s and early 40’s than when I was in my 20’s. And now that I am in my 70’s, I’m still in great shape. – Mike Joplin
The picture shows Mike’s massive back TODAY at age 70. He’s still doing his pull ups religiously, but he has made a few adjustments since his young years where he could get away with a lot of drinking and eating:
I’ve never counted calories, and I rarely count reps. My training is mostly effort based. And I always finish my training sessions feeling fresh. I never change my exercises. I’m not (and never have been) into the ‘muscle confusion’ theory. I never change my exercises, but I do change the way I do them. Regarding my nutrition, I usually eat the same kind of meals over and over. However, it’s not boring, because I can mix and match all kinds of ingredients, etc. Because I abused my stomach with alcohol as a youth, I have also found that the older I get the more supplements I use… mostly for digestion purposes (Probiotics, HCL w/ Pepsin, Greens, etc.). I also drink smoothies, and I juice every now and then. – Mike Joplin
Current Exercise, Nutrition and Supplement Regimen
Resistance Training Exercises (all bodyweight exercises except for one):
- Pull ups
- Inverted rows
- Deadlifts (once a week, 1 set of 3 reps — just to lift something heavier than my body weight once a week)
- Chest and Triceps push ups (feet always slightly elevated)
- Leg raises
- Ab wheel
- Windshield vipers for abs
- Bicycles for abs
- Sissy squats
- Bodyweight ham curls
- Wall sits
- Intermittent fasting
- Paleo diet
- Poliquin’s meat and nuts diet
- Tim Ferris’ slow carb diet
- Vince Gironda’s Meat and Eggs Diet
(And lots of water throughout the day).
I don’t mix them (diet strategies) through-out the day. What I do is maybe follow one for a whole week (or longer, sometimes), and then another. I don’t eat many different meals. I usually eat the “same” meals over and over. It’s so simple to do that. And for me, because, even at 70, my days are filled with things to do, I don’t have time to prepare new meals all the time. It’s just not necessary. – Mike Joplin
- Fish Oil (#1 supplement): Reduce inflammation inside your body.
- Multi-vitamin with minerals: Minerals are just as important as the vitamins – maybe more.
- Protein powder (only for convenience)
- Coconut Oil (organic, cold pressed) or MCT Oil
- Greens (if not juicing): Cover your daily vegetable needs.
Getting In Shape After A Decade of Drinking
After reading this article you may think that Mike has been in shape for his entire life, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Once Mike was discharged from the navy he continued his drinking and partying, but he slacked on his exercise regimen.
As time went by he got out of shape, gained weight and became “really FAT” — with a 46″ belly.
He managed to turn this around again though. At around age 39-40 when he settled down and got married, he resumed his training (he did pull ups and a few other exercises). However, he first dropped down to 175 pounds to lean out and prepare his body for massive muscle gains.
(Mike hasn’t consumed alcohol for over 30 years!)
Once he had leaned out, he rebuilt his body to a massive 220 pounds of muscle, which is 20 pounds heavier than he was in his early 20’s!
I was HUGE. I turned heads everywhere I went. – Mike Joplin
This is just one of many examples of Mike being in-and-out of shape since his early 20’s. He even got skinny again (below 160 pounds)… and then skinny-fat.
The lesson here is that once you have built your body it’s easy to rebuild it because of muscle memory. (Your body remembers it used to carry a certain amount of muscle mass so once you resume exercise it does everything it can to regain that muscle mass quickly and adapt to the demands imposed by exercise).
Another lesson is that you shouldn’t let yourself get out of shape.
Once you build a muscular physique you can maintain it with as little as 2-3 short training sessions a week (max 45 minutes):
After being in and out of shape most of his life, Mike understands that maintaining the physique that you have worked so hard to build is easier than the building process. (Maintenance is defined as keeping the “look” that you want while continually increasing your strength…in very small,but steady increments).
Final Words of Advice by Mike Joplin
The advice below is written by Mike Joplin:
After 70 years of life I can tell you with certainty that no matter what your condition is now, and no matter how old you are… you CAN build a great physique and KEEP it. You just have to decide to do it and then follow through.
If you have never attempted to transform your body, or if you have tried in the past without success, and if you are confused by all the hype on the Internet… then hiring a professional may be your best bet — at least for the first few months of your transformation.
And-by-the-way, as I look back on my life, having a BIG physique (200 pounds) or a HUGE physique (220 pounds) was not the best physique for me.
I looked best and felt best at 185 pounds. Actually, I could have lost another five pounds (at least) and looked and felt even better.
So don’t think that you have to build a big or huge physique, because you really don’t.
See my picture below, at 185 pounds.
Conclusion written by Oskar Faarkrog:
Even though Mike isn’t naturally skinny-fat like most of you reading this, he had 2 huge obstacles that are not present in the modern world:
- He didn’t have access to a fully equipped gym or even a pull up bar. (In the mid 1960’s, the navy base had a gym, but it was very small and had one bench, one barbell, and one set of dumbbells).
- He didn’t have access to countless FREE fitness programs, articles and videos made by the best fitness coaches in the world. (Click here to download my free 63-page bodyweight program)
Despite that, he managed to gain an impressive 45 pounds in 1 year of training while staying lean.
I believe that his success can be boiled down to 3 key things:
- Consistency: He was consistent with his training and trained often without any excuses.
- Simplicity: He focused on getting good at just ONE exercise: Pull ups done from a doorframe.
- Balance: He didn’t make his entire life revolve around fitness. Just like me, he had fun and partied throughout his entire (initial) transformation. (He now — and has for many years — attends church regularly with his wife, daughter, and granddaughter).
To conclude this article, I would like to thank Mike for taking the time to discuss his training, diet and life with me and if you have any questions for Mike, feel free to leave a comment below and he will get back to you.
Be proud but stay hungry,
PS: Check out more tips and wisdom from Mike’s 50 years of calisthenics at HomeMadeMuscle.com