on 22 May 2014
I am a perennial workout magpie. I love finding the latest things, giving them a go for two weeks, getting sick and then giving up. The most recent workout plans I have tried (aside from simply going out for a run or a bike ride) are Mark Verstegen's Core Performance plan (Essentials, Standard and Endurance) and Todd Durkin's IMPACT! plan (similar to a p90x/Insanity-type workout). While they all have their merits (Durkin's in particular will kick your backside), they all have problems - mainly due to the equipment needed to perform some of the exercises and the time needed to do a workout (I think an IMPACT! workout, on average, was taking me around 90 minutes).
Now, as I was browsing Amazon for a few intersting things, I happened acros Mike Matthews' The Shredded Chef for pennies and decided to buy it. Based on the information in that book, and on Mike's website, I thought I'd give this one a try. Now, the Kndle version has its flaws and the book itself could perhaps be laid out a little more efficiently - it suffers, as most workout books do, from containing about 60 pages on what this book will do for you before it tells you how to do it - the information given in it is honest, straightforward, well researched (whether or not you agree with that research is up to you) and well explained.
The workouts are similarly straightforward and easy to follow (BLS is very very simple - lift progressively heavy weights using effective compound exercises, check your diet and don't go mad on the cardio). If you work out at home then you may need to make a few adjustments (there are some alternatives in the book and there are a plethora of muscle forums with ideas for you to try). I like the idea one reviewer gave of combining BLS and The Shredded Chef into one book, or at least having some detailed meal plans in BLS. But, as Mike says, diet is a very personal thing so I can see why you would leave that out.
BUT, the biggest thing with BLS (and any of Mike's other books) is that you are getting way more than the book. First off you get the freebies at the end of the book which, OK, don't work on a Kindle but you can download them from the link you get emailed. Then there's Mike's excellent website which is being regularly updated with choice articles, again well-researched and well written, and his Facebook page.
Finally, you get Mike. I've messaged him a few times with questions about the workouts and his responses have always been thorough and polite. You can see from the reviews here he has taken the time to connect with everyone whether or not they have given favourable reviews, to thank them for buying the book.
I've only been following the prgram for three weeks as I write this. I can tell that it is making a difference although the results are obviously not in quite yet. But the simplicity of the plan coupled with the relative ease and time taken to do the workouts (believe me, I'm lifting as much as I can but this workout plan focuses on low reps of heavy weights, so you're never kind of gasping for breath or screaming in agony) means I am more likley to stick with it.
Bottom line is, if you had paid £20 for this book you may expect that level of service from the author (or the author's megabucks corporation), but I paid less than £5 for this Kindle copy and I am getting a great book coupled with truly outstanding customer service from the author himself. I don't think you can ask for a lot more than that.
So, if you're a real cheapskate then just follow Mike on Facebook and visit his blog. He'll still talk to you. But if you want to see the kind of workout which has given him a pretty decent body then, for the price, it would be silly not to pick up a copy of Bigger, Leaner, Stronger.
on 18 August 2015
I have been training for around 3 years, since my 1st 3-6 months I have seen no gains! I tried all sorts of wacky work outs , eating as clean as possible (usually followed by a binge on Sundays) I tried supplements and I was flogging myself into the ground 6x days a week in the gym. Moving from horrendous amounts of reps on one isolation move to another and another, followed by a gruelling cardio session I could easily be in the gym 1.5 to 2 hours a day.
Then as I was scanning the web for a new routine to finally see the gains I desire, I stumbled upon mikes website. "To hell with it I thought" as I read his quick workout routine ideas, "nothing else has worked". I enjoyed the gym so much more that session I decided to buy BLS. I read it all cover to cover in less than 2 days! It was brilliant to know someone else has had ny exact problems! Everything the author has said he's tried, I tried. Any way, I've been doing the workouts laid out in the book and following the nutrition guidance for exactly 1 week, so I'm not exactly shredded......yet! I have however beaten my personal best on bench press, squat, military press and dead lifts (simply by doing the correct warm up and vastly reducing rep range). I also get to look forward to a small dessert each night, rather than enviously looking at my wife's chocolate.
I am convinced that staying loyal to this work out I will see the results I crave. I will post an update in 3 months to confirm, in the mean time, read this book! Your workouts will be more enjoyable, shorter and your diet more varied than ever before!
Thanks to Mike, he's taken the time to cut through the horrific amount of absolute BS out there and given us the facts about fitness! 10/10
on 26 September 2015
What makes this book different from so many others is the sheer detail it goes into (particularly on the diet side of things). It's a lot of reading, but I find that very necessary in order to understand the WHY of what I'm doing. I'd previously relied on books such as 'sports nutrition', and 'strength training' by Anita Bean, and although good concise books, they simply don't make you appreciate the importance of precision in diet planning, nor provide friendly motivational words (perhaps a bit cheesy, but makes for a pleasanter read than other more sterile books).
The authors seems to have taken an objective look at all the diet and weight training studies, and presented what is probably the nearest thing to the current consensus we'll get on the optimum diet and training routines. There are no fad diets advised in this book, I could see nothing diet-related that contradicted advice you would get from the NHS patientline website - which is policed by doctors, and is not trying to sell anything.
I had a look at some of the 1 star reviews before buying, and after reading the book can say that they fall in two categories:
1. People saying they knew all the stuff in this book already, and that it's for 'beginners' - well, for a start this book doesn't claim not to be for beginners (there is sequel for more advanced lifters anyway), and also, if you've been getting your diet wrong for years, you still are 'a beginner'.
2. Proponents of low-carb diets, unhappy that it doesn't endorse their preferred diet. The fact is for the majority of people the ketogenic approach is bad in multiple ways, and I really think it's a passing fad (there was a lab-controlled study last month that conclusively proved low-fat diets more effective than low-carb, and also the BBC Horizon Fat vs Sugar documentary with identical twins which also proved the low-carb diet to be nonsense).
I do have two criticisms though:
1. Inconsistent use of imperial and metric measurements - would be better if there were US and non-US versions, using all imperial and metric respectively. 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight? come on.
2. Repetitive language, the number of times it said things like 'research has shown', was very noticeable and quite irritating.
on 22 August 2012
Keeping it brief this book is AMAZING never mind the 1 star review, yes for people that are gym savvy we know that compound exercises are better than isolation etc but the way this book is laid out really makes you want to train hard and eat well. This book has been a BIG help
on 20 March 2016
"Bigger, Leaner, Stronger" is the best training and nutrition resource I've found anywhere. Clearly and exhaustively written, this book explains effective workout programs, nutrition, supplementation and the science behind making gains (developing muscle, losing weight, toning up etc).
Over the last ten years I've studied hundreds of online forums and spoken to personal trainers (PTs) about the "how to" of getting the most out of the gym: I've never been satisfied with what I've been told, though. The information has always been inconsistent, incomplete or contradictory. "Bigger, Leaner, Stronger" is the first time I've ever trusted 100% the information I'd been given (and after 2 or 3 weeks, I can feel a difference in my training).
What makes this book better than what you'll find online or from a PT:
- Comprehensive: This book treats everything from physiology (how the body works and why it reacts the way it does to foods, exercise, stress, etc) to nutrition (explaining the different types of carbs, why insulin levels are so important, how proteins work, glucose, etc), to exercise (the difference between HIIT and LISS, proper weight-lifting form, bulking v. cutting v. maintaining, etc) to common exercise mistakes (myths and misunderstandings) and more. Very genuinely, this book is an authoritative source for everything you need to know for an efficient, effective training program.
- Research: Every statement that Matthews makes is backed-up with an academic reference. Matthews's opinions are informed ones.
- Clarity: This is a reader-friendly resource. Although there are several hundred academic references in "Bigger, Leaner, Stronger", the book has been written to be understood by readers without a background in any science discipline. Moreover, it's an engaging, interesting read (I read it from cover-to-cover on my work commute).
"Bigger, Leaner, Stronger" delivers the whole, holistic narrative of a training program and will be invaluable to anyone looking to maximise their training gains.
on 12 April 2016
Michael Mathews manages to break down what exactly you need to do to tackle your weight wether that be lose, maintain or gain. How to train to obtain the best results and increase strength. Describes what exercises target what parts of the body and what exercises to avoid due to them either being inefficient or have a high risk of injury.
Having read the book and put its methods into practice I have lost just under a stone in weight, reduced my body fat percentage and although Im not at the six pack stage yet I feel that it is achievable.
The best part is I have managed this training 5 days a week for at most 30 minutes a time. I have no restrictions on the types of food I eat as long as I track my intake broken down into Fat, Carbs and Protein which you can do via a free app "My Fitness Pal".
I also have the follow on book the one year challenge that does literally give you a full workout program for a year and is a very useful addition to those not wanting to have to write up their own program although the book does talk you through it
on 1 February 2016
In the interests of context - I've been training consistently for well over a decade now, have various nutritional qualifications and have read countless books on training and nutrition both well-known and relatively unheard of. Perhaps that will add value to my thoughts, perhaps not.
In any case, if you're prepared to work for a realistic strong and athletic physique this is an astonishingly comprehensive, well-written, well-researched and put-together book that covers a huge amount of ground that many books simply brush under the carpet. The chapter(s) on self-discipline and mental "game" could easily be expanded upon only slightly and sold as another book that would deserve to be just as well-received as this has. You get a huge amount of bonus content that will certainly come in useful further down the line if you stick with it.
For a beginner, maybe you'll be a little intimidated by how much there is to learn in each area but Mike is great at walking you through the major points, some of the biology behind it and the recorded evidence that backs it up. The more experienced individuals will no doubt learn at least a few things thanks to Mike's critical approach to studies and refusal to accept mainstream thinking, I know I did. Read it through again and you'll coming away knowing that it might not be easy, but building muscle and losing fat are a pair of fairly simple processes and filling in the details is a gradual process.
In terms of my personal criticisms:
- Perhaps there could been a few less pages of before/after shots of successful readers
- In these days of online study-wars I personally would have liked to have seen critical breakdowns of studies that contradict Mike's advice, and why Mike's chosen studies are preferred in each case
- A bit more consensus opinion on things like exercise choices would be interesting, eg. Mike seems to personally dislike dips for chest development but some of his peers will swear by them. In the interests of keeping the guidelines as generic as possible for issues where body types or preferences come into play, rather than where hard science proves an approach is optimal.
....all minor points, in other words. Honesty can't think of anything else immediately.
If you're new to training, get this book, apply the principles and see for yourself how a lot of advice dealt out by professionals will lead nowhere. Something that won't be immediately obvious unless you read a lot of fitness blogs is how Mike doesn't tend to mindlessly repeat the things everyone else does and instead blends his personal experience with supporting science; this is INCREDIBLY rare and Mike deserves a huge amount of credit for it.
NB: In these days of glossy magazines, huge tubs of overpriced sugary "weight gain" powders and bottled placebos, Mike's honesty and open attitude towards supplements are exactly what is needed and I am more than happy to support him in his mission to clean up the supplement industry, you should too. Perhaps the only supplement company owner telling you to eat comparatively LESS protein.
on 17 November 2015
I don't often write reviews but I've made an exception for this book!
It's a fantastic product. Being an absolute newbie to nutrition, fitness and weight lifting I think I've been lucky to find such great resource. There is so much information out there on all of the topics, the internet and magazines have such conflicting information - which diet, what program, how many supplements? Mike writes about how he's been there, done that and got the t-shirt or vest :-)! He break's the whole topic down into simple areas (or pillars) as he refers to them and gives a detailed breakdown of each. There is quite a bit of information to take in so I'm currently re-reading the book for the second time and at the same time taking a few notes. Mike obviously has a considerable amount of knowledge and experience and backs up what he is saying with research from multiple sources which gives not only him, but what he is saying credibility.
Armed with the book, I've calculated my body fat %, I have an idea of how many calories I need to consume, I know how to put a diet plan together, the supplements I need to boost protein intake and the exercise I need to perform to build my core strength. I've also being studying the info from Mark Rippetoe on YouTube to ensure I get my form correct when performing these exercises.
For a guy with a lean build, 6ft and 154lbs a free weight area of a gym can be a intimidating place, However, now armed with the knowledge from this book I'll not feel as overwhelmed in that environment, especially now I have a plan and with my knowledge and notes there is no reason why I won't get results. I'll sure I'll be asking Mike a few Q's along the way (he's gives lots of ways to get in contact with him) Great book!! Thanks Mike! A*
on 19 September 2015
this is an incredibly useful book if your interested in really changing your physique, it's really informative and well explained. It goes very deeply into detail about every aspect of building muscle and losing fat and has been extremely useful for me.
All the information ( and there is a lot) is all based on scientific evidence and well referenced and having done my own research, this book really does tell the truth and busts the nonsense information and the useless advise most people read or hear at the gym. If you stick to the program you will get the results you want. I've only been following the programme for about 12 weeks and have already experienced huge strength improvement in all exercises, up a 50% increase on some lifts after previously working my but off in the gym for 2 years with little results. This book tells you literally everything you need to know about dropping fat and building muscle the proper way and it's really easy to start following as it includes links to a years worth of workout routines, all the supplements you should and shouldn't use and why and tells you everything without bias and 100% based on science.
Also having corresponded with Mike recently via email I can whole heartedly say that this guy is a really legit, knowledgable, genuine and helpful guy. He answers your messages and really helps you out if you need to ask a question or need some advise and he will take the time to answer you in detail which I really appreciate as I'm sure he gets tonnes of emails and is probably very busy.
Buy it, read it, follow it.
on 3 December 2014
I bought this book looking for some ideas to freshen up my training regime. I have been going to the gym typically about three times a week for the last 12 years and while I am in reasonable shape and strength for my age (37), given the amount of time and effort I have put in over the years, I thought I should be a lot bigger and leaner.
Coming from this experience and a reasonable knowledge of training, the book was an easy read and I am hoping that by switching my training to follow Mike's advice, I can move on to the next level. I think that I have tried most of the things covered in the book, but from reading, I think Mike has highlighted where I have been going wrong. I guess we will see. I wish I had this book 12 years ago when I was just starting as it has a lot of really useful information, and although I had acquired much of this knowledge through the years, Mike has put it all together in an easily readable and digestible book and corrected me in a number of areas, especially regarding nutrition.
Don't expect this to be a meal by meal guide, or a "how to" on every exercise, but use it as an excellent reference on which to base your training and diet. If you are completely new to training, buy this book, but use it in conjunction with the basic guides on how to perform each exercise. Even if you are an experienced gym goer, I think you will find some useful information in here.
I have also contacted Mike to ask a question regarding diet and he replied promptly and I will certainly be using his muscle for life website as a reference.
Finally, as a scientist, I appreciate the work that must have been involved in researching all the data and it is good to see the information in this book reference original scientific data. I haven't had opportunity to look up any of the original references myself yet, although I intend to when I get chance. Don't get me wrong, the book doesn't read like a scientific literature review but does reference any statements and claims.
For the price, you can't go wrong. Highly recommended.