Top critical review
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Definitely NOT a 12 week plan for an average Joe.
on 14 March 2014
Frankly, I don't understand the raving reviews here and after having had this book for some time, I honestly wonder who the authors are.
Here is just a bit of background. Myself and my boyfriend decided to take the gym a bit more seriously this year and go for a proper workout plan. We’ve never been gym freaks going 5 times a week, but when we do go we work with weights rather than running for an hour on a treadmill. I guess that’s close enough to “average Joe” for the purposes of this review. I was given a "Strong Curves" book, which turned out to be an amazing book but it’s very focused on female strength training. I also own Strength Training Anatomy which is great in terms of describing exercises and how they work certain muscle groups, but that's ALL there is in the book. I thought getting something specifically aimed at giving a proper, defined workout plan will be a good starting point until we learn how to compose our own programs, with emphasis on whatever it is we want to achieve. I bought this book after seeing the incredible reviews – should have known better and read the one- and two-stars reviews first…
Here is what is incredibly disappointing about this book and makes it simply not fit-for-purpose:
1) Contrary to the hype, this book is NOT for the average Joe (and to those saying this is not what the book intends to be, please clarify what the “in just 12 weeks, to turn an ordinary Joe into the cover star of the Men s Fitness magazine” part of the product description is supposed to mean). Exercises even in the first workout are way too hard for what most from-the-street people are capable of. You can't do a full pull-up? Well, bad luck, as it's your first exercise on the first day of training. If you're not in the gym that has a machine for assisted pull-ups then you're totally stuck, left wondering what else you can do instead, which leads me to...
2) Lack of explanation of progression mechanisms. Even on the first two weeks there is absolutely no mention "oh by the way, if this is too hard/there is no machine for this in your gym, try this variation instead". No explanation of how to vary the intensity of the workout, how to adjust it to what you can do when you start. Not even indication how to find your starting point weights and when to go heavier. There is no explanation which muscle groups are the focus of any given exercise so you don’t know what can be swapped for what. Perhaps in Nick's world all this is obvious, but it is NOT obvious to average Joe who just starts proper strength training. We are getting around this by referring to other books when needed – but it should be part of what claims to be “the definitive guide”.
3) My biggest issue, the descriptions of the exercises are *very* poor. You get two pictures “before-and-after” and a handful of notes (mostly in a form of tips) – but in weight training it is incredibly important to perform the exercise with proper form, and although Nick mentions it is important in one of the chapters, the book doesn’t actually contain information on what a “proper form” for any given exercise means. You’re left guessing what should be the correct posture, what muscles you should feel in the exercise if performed correctly – and so on. Sometimes simple things like changing how wide your feet are, or whether your toes are parallel or point out, can make a big difference – yet you’ll find hardly any of that in the book. We are continuously going to the other books to make sure my boyfriend doesn’t hurt himself – simply because this book is so vague and lacking important information on the execution details. Again, perhaps that is obvious to proper weight lifters – but not to average Joe and frankly, when I see the number of guys in the gym who e.g. round their back when doing heavy deadlifts, or arch their back or let collapse their knees on heavy squats, I start to suspect they all may have had similar ways of learning it as this book. It’s simply dangerous.
4) Way too big emphasis on supplements, especially ones of questionable reputation. There is still a big debate regarding supplements and there is good amount of research indicating that they are placebo at best, and actually may be harmful in the worst case. Yet none of that is mentioned and all the supplements are presented as a “must-have”. To me, a book strongly recommending taking anything beyond protein powder (which indeed is a fantastic and tested thing) and not saying “well, by the way, how well these work is still under research” gets a yellow card.
5) Other minor gripes, like ads in a book (seriously?!), poor quality of print, and the worrying trend of trashing any negative reviews here only add to the rather grim picture.
Most of this book could be summarized in 10 pages: eat a lot of protein, some fats, reduce carbs. Take this long list of supplements. Plus the workout plan – just a list of exercises by name for those who know them already as frankly, if you don’t know them you won’t learn from this book anyway. You can easily get all that information and example workout plans from pretty much any fitness site.
In other words, if you know what you’re doing in the gym and you truly understand the nature of the exercises, then this won’t hurt – but frankly, can’t see it massively helping either. If you need a book that will actually properly introduce you to strength training, go for a combination of Strength Training Anatomy + Strength Training Anatomy Workout. STA is absolutely fabulous, but it’s purely a collection of exercises with very detailed description, and no background on how to build a workout plan of this. Contrary to what I thought, the Workout STA is not simply a repetition of the main STA, but they work greatly in combination. I wish I just went straight for this as it’s exactly what I was hoping for when buying Nick’s book.