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Monday, January 22, 2018

Review: Bigger Leaner Stronger

Bigger Leaner Stronger was available for $1, so I bought it because most of the reviews said that it was actually scientifically correct. And indeed, it's fully of interesting facts that I didn't know, though the ultimate goal of the book is about as relevant to me as say, the Cyclist's Training Bible.

Here are a few interesting facts I got out of the book:

  • You can't gain muscle without gaining fat as well. Basically, the only way to build muscle is to gain weight. Hence, body builders and people who are trying to "get big" go through cycles of "building" and "cutting." During the "build" phase you deliberately gain weight by over-eating by about 100 calories per day or so. During the "cutting" phase you deliberately lose weight by eating about 100 calories per day while exercising at intensity so that you don't lose as much muscle.
  • Free weights are better than weight machines. There are only about four exercises worth doing: the bench press (and variants), the squat, the deadlift, the military press. Don't bother with isolation exercises. Obviously, form is very important in doing those exercises with heavy weights. If you do them wrong you can injure yourself. This is where a book sucks. Pages of description are probably worthless compared to a YouTube video.
  • 3 sets of 4-6 reps at maximum capacity is what you'd want to do. In other words lift the heaviest weights you can still lift 4-6 times. Warm up by doing 8-10 reps at half your normal weight so you don't injure yourself.
  • Unlike many weight-lifting/gym gurus, he doesn't say "Cardio is evil."  He just recommends doing it just 3 times a week and for no more than 20-30 minutes each. (The author would probably never survive a tour of the alps)
  • As with the Cyclist's Training Bible: the emphasis is on rest. The author still wants you to go to the gym 5 days a week for an hour each, but each time you'll work a different part of the body so that there's recovery time for the muscles. 
Ultimately, the test of the book would be to try the program for a few months to see whether it actually gets results. But I'm probably not going to do so: getting "bigger" isn't on my list of things I want to do, and an hour a day in the gym is not my idea of fun. Being an extremist, the author doesn't have any programs for someone like me, but I'm probably not the audience for body-sculpting gym-time-heavy books like this.

Most of the book is actually spent on nutrition and eating habits. These are all covered well by courses such as Nutrition Made Clear. What I read in this book doesn't contradict existing research. There are no magic pills, magic supplements and diets. It's all just calories in and out, though of course, junk food doesn't tend to have sufficient nutrition to keep you healthy, and the author points that out.

For $1, this is a great book. Can't beat the price. The program: well, I'll admit it. I'm way too lazy to follow it. This is an exercise program for people who're way more mentally tough than I am. The thought of spending 5 hours a week in a gym gives me the shivers. I hate exercise!
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