“A researched-based program for strength training, body building, and complete fitness in 12 minutes a week”
This is the bold statement on the front cover of Body by Science by Doug McGuff MD and John Little. It really does sound outlandish, but the following 248 pages deconstruct it nicely for the reader, and for those less convinced there are 26 pages of references at the back to follow up on!
I stumbled upon this book when exploring HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) & Heavy LIfting, after reading The Primal Blueprint (which I shall review soon). The authors have taken these precepts and played with them over many years; testing on themselves, private training clients, and delving into medical research. The result is “take it all the way”:
super heavy + super intense + super recovery = super improvement.
Beginning with definitions of ‘health’ and ‘fitness’, social misconceptions, and the role of genetics (why women who strength train won’t look like Arnie, nor will 99.9% of men for that matter), the book moves on to define the true ‘cardio’ system in the body, the various muscle fibres and their functions, and how stimulus drives the catabolic (breaking down) and anabolic (building up) states.
By progressively tiring the various muscle fibres until the point of complete fatigue, they are each given a maximum stimulus to become stronger. The lactic acid back-log from this continues to work through at a cellular level long after the workout is complete, optimising the aerobic capabilities of the cells (it’s like going for a 45min run) as well as the anaerobic (like going for a sprint). For total body health, a “Big 5” workout is suggested: 5 compound exercises that hit all the major muscle groups in the body.
As mentioned the exercises are performed at a slower rate than normal so as not to fatigue the fastest twitch fibres before the slower fibres. One set is performed to complete positive failure (machines are advised over free weights), before moving on as quickly as possible to the next exercise. This maximises the metabolic load, but requires great determination to continue! For some people, the really hard part then comes: staying away from the gym for at least 7 days! You leave weaker than you walked in, and over the next few days your body will extract the wastes before starting to repair the damage and make some improvements. The book states that if you cannot lift more weight or for a longer time at your next workout, you did not have sufficient recovery.
The elderly, the infirm and pro athletes are all discussed in relation to training. There are also sections on epi-genetics and weight loss.
Having done A-level Biology, I really enjoyed the book, but I think the non-scientific reader will still get along fine. This is a good thing, because everybody should read this book. In a world of precious free time, increasing numbers of people living longer but incapacitated lives, not to mention legions of people unsuccessfully trying to lose weight, the authors have served up a simple, proven, yet to us – remarkable solution. I have begun training using these methods and will post about my progress and experiences over the next few months.