My name is Doug Wykstra, and this is some of the stuff I've read and watched.
This seems like a solid workout program with some good scientific backing and some excellent untangling of the conflicting accounts of what “works” in fitness and nutrition. Author Michael Matthews is focused on creating a workout philosophy that is practical rather than ideal, and is focused on getting you in the weight room above all other considerations. There are recommendations about the right types of exercises to emphasize, and the right kinds of foods to eat (and solid reasons behind both), but this is a book that seems to understand that the biggest challenge when working out, above all else, is making it a normal part of your routine.
There’s some things you could quibble with. Matthews seems allergic to paragraphs longer than three sentences. Like a lot of workout books, the writing is a bit too schematic to be particularly compelling–the whole thing seems organized into little three-paragraph blocks, with the first paragraph making a point, one or two paragraphs describing scientific evidence that supports that point, and the final paragraph describing the implications of this evidence. Teachers of freshman English will recognize the basic structure.
I was also not a fan of some of Matthews’s rhetorical techniques. He throws out citation after citation to defend his points, but then puts the citations into endnotes at the back of the book, making it more difficult for the casual reader to ascertain the usefulness of the sources. Any who do will find that some (though not all) of the sources end up having some issues, from a small sample size to the lack of a genuine experimental design (i.e. being studies instead of experiments, and therefore only showing correlation), but this is a longstanding problem in fitness research, and doesn’t seem more pronounced here than anywhere else. Matthews’s decision to repeatedly accuse people who disagree with him of taking performance-enhancing drugs is a little more cringe-worthy.
There’s also the issue of size vs. functionality–not in regards to muscle gain, which Matthews is refreshingly level-headed about, but in regards to the book’s length. Requiring people to read 300 textbook-sized pages before beginning their workout routine is a big ask, and I did wonder if more people might be willing to try Matthews’s system if they didn’t have to hack through all the prose first.
Personally, though, I enjoyed the density and breadth of information presented in the book, and it does a good job of making weightlifting feel more inviting and less daunting than a lot of people seem to consider it. The information Matthews presents has made me adjust my diet and workout routines, and when it comes to fitness books, there’s not much more you can ask of them.
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