Within the physical fitness community, Body By Science was one of the most eagerly anticipated books of the last decade or so. Its authors, Doug McGuff, M.D., and John Little, have a record of producing thought-provoking ideas and a combined pedigree that encompasses medical expertise, insider status in the fitness industry, and countless muscle-building studies. Overall, this book lived up to its advance building, providing hardcore lifters with food for thought and turning many of the popular notions about exercise upside down. Some of the unusual or controversial topics covered include:
Biochemistry and Physiology
Body By Science digs deep into the physiology and biochemistry of muscular contraction, energy systems, insulin sensitivity, and other matters related to what’s happening within the body during or around the time of exercise. This is a fairly unusual approach for a mainstream book, but it lays the groundwork for the authors’ training approach.
The “Cardio” Fallacy
McGuff and Little make a compelling case that so-called “cardio” exercise is highly specific to the mode of application, like all other physical activity. In other words, they contend that there is no carryover from the training effect from riding a bike to fitness for running, for example. They also discuss how it’s impossible to activate one energy system (aerobic) to the exclusion of another (anaerobic) and conclude that a properly performed weight training program is the only requirement for total fitness.
Bodybuilding training aficionados know that McGuff has long been associated with the “SuperSlow” type of exercise performance, and that bias comes through loud and clear in Body By Science . In particular, McGuff and Little recommend that weight training exercises be performed slowly and with perfect form. In this case, slowly means 10 seconds to raise the weight and 10 seconds to lower it, repeated until the weight can no longer be moved.
As a physician, McGuff is acutely aware of the dose-response mechanism of drugs in the body, and he sees exercise as another external stressor with which the body must deal. Consequently, the authors insist that exercise must be strictly limited based on the body’s capacity to recover from each bout. In particular, they recommend that trainees begin by performing five exercises for one set each once a week. If progress is not forthcoming, then adjustments must be made (usually by decreasing training frequency) to accommodate the individual’s recovery ability.
While some of the ideas in Body By Science have ruffled feathers in the industry, the book brings important information to the average trainee seeking to improve fitness without spending hour upon hour in the gym. On the downside, some of the technical sections are a bit dry and may be somewhat hard to follow for those without a burning passion for the subject matter. The subtitle, “A Research Based Program to Get the Results You Want in 12 Minutes a Week,” also lends the book somewhat of a snake-oil feeling. Overall, though, Body By Science is worth the read and highly recommended for anyone who wants to achieve a better body in a safe, rational manner.