Review: Body by Science, by Doug McGuff, MD and John Little

Body by Science, by Doug McGuff, MD and John Little

Body by Science, by Doug McGuff, MD and John Little

If you buy only one book on exercise this year, I recommend Doug McGuff, MD and John Little’s Body by Science. If you buy only two books, I recommend getting a second copy of it because you’re going to want to share it with friends, and if you’re a trainer you’re going to want to keep one at work to show clients.

Body by Science explains the how and why of high intensity training, balancing enough scientific background to convey key principles and concepts without overwhelming the lay reader, and practical in-the-gym how-to. It is well organized, well researched, and well written, and an enjoyable and informative read. Every one of its eleven chapters contains a wealth of information, clearly explained with the assistance of numerous graphs and diagrams.

The chapters include:

  1. Defining Health, Fitness, and Exercise
  2. Global Metabolic Conditioning
  3. The Dose-Response Relationship of Exercise
  4. The Big-Five Workout
  5. The Benefits of the Big-Five Workout
  6. Enhancing the Body’s Response to Exercise
  7. Tweaking the Exercise Stimulus
  8. The Genetic Factor
  9. The Science of Fat Loss
  10. The Ideal Training Programs for Athletes
  11. The Ideal Training Program for Seniors

The book thoroughly and conclusively debunks the belief that aerobics or “cardio” is necessary for cardiovascular fitness or fat loss, and provides scientific explanations for why high intensity strength training is the most effective way to accomplish both of these. For those of you still harboring doubts about this, Body by Science will put them to rest. McGuff and Little also explain why high intensity strength training is the safest and most effective exercise protocol for improving:

  • resting metabolic rate
  • glucose metabolism
  • insulin sensitivity
  • body composition
  • cholesterol levels
  • blood pressure
  • bone mineral density
  • symptoms of arthritis
  • lower-back pain
  • and enhancing flexibility

All of this is backed up by properly performed studies published in reputable, peer-reviewed scientific journals, comprising nearly 30 pages of references contained at the end of the book.

Body by Science goes into great detail on the dose-response relationship of exercise and proves just how little high intensity exercise is actually required for best results – far less than many people believe – also backed up by scientific research and the results of a combined 30 years of supervising and tracking the progress of thousands of trainees through tens of thousands of workouts.

While the book is not heavy on routines – and once you’ll read it you’ll understand why it doesn’t need to be – it offers a solid starting point along with recommendations for variations using different equipment and for more advanced trainees. It also covers advanced high intensity training methods such as static holds, SuperSlow and Max Contraction.

Body by Science also explains the numerous genetic factors determining individual muscular potential and response to exercise, and how this information can be used to fine tune your workouts to get the best results possible. The chapter on genetics also contains an interesting discussion of epigenetics – how high intensity strength training influences the expression of your genes.

Chapter 9, The Science of Fat Loss, destroys numerous myths while explaining how training, diet and other factors combined to produce discriminated fat loss. It further debunks the popular misconception that aerobics or “cardio” are effective or even necessary for fat loss.

Chapters 10 and 11 address the training requirements of athletes and seniors and how the concepts and principles explained in the book should be adapted for those populations, including specific routines for football, hockey, baseball and golf. Chapter 10, The Ideal Training Programs for Athletes, also addresses numerous popular misconceptions about skill training, conditioning, stretching, warming up, and cross-training. Chapter 11, The Ideal Training Programs for Seniors, explains the numerous benefits high intensity strength training has for seniors, including how strength training reverses the effects of aging on the expression of numerous genes.

All in all, Body by Science is one of the best HIT books I’ve read in a long time, and I highly recommend it.

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