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Evolution: The Cutting Edge Guide to Breaking Down Mental Walls and Building the Body You've Always Wanted Kindle Edition
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Now on to my review.
First, the pros:
1) The book has extremely valuable motivational and inspirational advice. Joe Manganiello has a very powerful writing style that can make any reader feel empowered. His insistence that one can overcome mental barriers by overcoming physical barriers is particularly insightful.
2) The workouts in the books themselves are very effective and very intense. Joe advocates workouts in which two muscle groups are trained in alternate sets with no rest in between. This is a really powerful approach to getting in shape, since it combines weight lifting and cardio in a sense, and really dials up the intensity, something Joe really stresses the importance of. Which brings me to my next point...
1) As previously mentioned, Joe argues that true muscular growth lies in intensity. This is a very good argument that I believe most fitness experts would agree with, but with the schedule advocated by Joe (training 6x per week, and up to 2x per day towards the end of the program), training with intensity is just not possible for the majority of people. First of all, training twice per day 6 times per week seriously taxes one's nervous system. However, a good amount of athletes might be used to this type of training and perhaps their NERVOUS SYSTEM can handle the high frequency/high volume. However, the split used in this book does not allow for adequate muscle recovery. Joe advocated a 3 day cycle repeated twice which would be Chest and Back day 1, legs and triceps day 2, and shoulders and biceps day 3, then repeat the 3 days and rest on Sunday. Because biceps are used during back day, shoulders are used during chest day, and triceps are used during chest and shoulder day, your triceps end up being worked out 6 times per week and shoulders and biceps are worked 4 times per week! Unless if one has an unbelievable recovery ability, there is no way that one can train out intensely and still be able to keep up with this schedule. To make matters even worse, after Day 3 (shoulders and biceps), most of the movements on Day 4 are close grip bench press and close grip chin-ups + close grip supinated row variations, which heavily recruit both biceps and shoulders. The result? One ends up training their sore muscles again, when they have not had sufficient time to recover.
Although Joe does not say it, the workout split that is advocated in this book is very similar to one of the splits that Arnold Schwarzenegger used when training for Mr. Olympia. Arnold would do Chest and Back on day 1 (like Joe), Legs on day 2, and Shoulders, Biceps, and Triceps on day 3 (so Arnold left triceps for day 3 instead of day 2, unlike Joe), and would repeat the cycle again and take Sunday off. One must keep in mind that Arnold, with all the respect and credit that he deserves, was a professional bodybuilder on performance enhancing drugs when he was training on this schedule. Not only that, but it is rumored that he was constantly changing training partners because none of them could keep up with his schedule. That is to say, other professional bodybuilders on performance enhancing drugs could not train intensely and keep up with a schedule that is remarkably similar to the one advocated in this book.
If this is not enough to make it clear that the regimen advocated in this book could easily lead one to over-train, take it from Ron Mathews, Joe's trainer who put together the exact program described in the book. When asked about the program in an interview for the New York Post, Mathews said: "I put him on a really crazy workout program. To have your body fat that low is almost impossible to maintain and isn't necessarily healthy." The author of the website goes on to say that "Mathews advises such a rigorous workout only for those seeking a specific goal, with at least three months of dedication to get there." (It should be noted that the program in the book is only a 6 week program, although presumably one could continue it for 3 months.)
2) As mentioned in the previous reviews, the book lacks specific details which are integral to understanding the program. I will not repeat what others have said here, but the book seriously needs to have revisions made for both the exercise and nutritional aspects.
3) Lastly, this is perhaps the most controversial "con" that I believe the book has that I am sure will be met with criticism by others. However, I will simply present my ideas here and readers can decide for themselves if they agree or not and make their own decision: Some of the exercises that are in this book could be potentially dangerous to individuals with certain body types. The barbell upright row, for example, has been looked down upon by most fitness experts due to the dangerous position that it places the shoulders in. As I have said before, I am not a doctor nor a personal trainer, but I have heard from both doctors and physical trainers that upright rows internally rotate the humerus to a dangerous degree and place a sheering amount of force on the shoulder girdle in its most vulnerable position. Also, Joe advocates going below parallel on bar dips in order for "the exercise to count." Whereas most people are aware of the fact that upright rows can be dangerous, not many people think the same of dips. Dips have been used for years in the gym, and some people have yielded great results in terms of tricep and chest development by implementing them into their program. I do not intend to start a controversy here about whether dips are safe for people with bad shoulders (or normal shoulders) or not, but I do recommend doing a bit of research before you try them (especially if you are going below parallel). As a general rule of thumb, if an exercise does not feel right, most likely it is not doing much good for your body. I would highly recommend reading about Eric Cressey's opinion about dips. Eric Cressey is a renowned personal trainer that works with a majority of professional athletes and weightlifters. He has some popular posts online, namely "Shoulder Savers" on T-Nation.com. Cressey has argued in past posts that dips internally rotate the shoulder beyond its normal range of motion and can lead to anterior shoulder instability. The take-home point is to listen to your own body when doing the exercises.
In conclusion, this book is very good for its inspirational advice and the workouts themselves. However, its schedule leads to overtraining, it is not descriptive enough, and some of the exercises in the program could be dangerous to certain individuals. No modifications are offered for these exercises.
Short version is this is a great book but just make sure you know what you are doing and as Joe says, "Check the ego."
Let me first be clear on what this book is, and what it is not. Despite the fact that Mr. Manganiello is a fine specimen of the human male by any account, he has no formal training in fitness, nutrition, or physiology, nor does he claim to be an expert in any of these fields. The book is not co-written by anyone with formal fitness credentials. What we then have is simple anecdotal examples of what works for him. There is nothing wrong with that. Sharing life lessons is part of the human experience and we can certainly learn from the example of others, but we also need to be aware of what exactly it is that we're entering into.
Manganiello's Evolution serves primarily as a motivational and inspirational tome. He shares his story of being the weakest kid on his high school sport teams and how he managed to find the best trainers and learn all that he could about changing his body into the form he was looking to inhabit. There are a lot of self-help and mindset comments, like "Don't accept yourself as a finished product. Ever." "Weaknesses don't mean that you're weak. It means you have so much more you can accomplish."
There is a major focus on mindset, and Manganiello relates the story of Roger Bannister, the first man to ever break the four minute mile. He did so by challenging the conventional wisdom and believing it could be done, and also trained in such a way to focus on the goal. It's definitely a relevant and inspirational story.
The Evolution workouts are HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), much like CrossFit, but without (thankfully) promoting the brand. Manganiello also goes way beyond CrossFit in adding cable machines, leg pres and curls and other things one need standard gym equipment to perform.
There are a few places where this book falls apart for me. Manganiello refers a few times to a former girlfriend (or perhaps two of them -it was hard to tell) who he felt held him back from reaching his true potential. One instance was that she didn't want him skydiving and the other was that the girlfriend wasn't happy living across the street from a gym. He seems to ignore what might be the real reasons behind these objections and focus on how it affected him. The skydiving story is framed within a conversation with one of his coworkers who needed multiple surgeries after a skydiving accident. The accident was so bad that the guy lost part of his foot and shattered his leg in seventy two places. Manganiello's takeaway from the conversations about this man's injuries was- find a new girlfriend who won't worry about you maiming or killing yourself. The issue with living across the street from the gym was not really elaborated. Who knew why the girl didn't like the place? I'm not sure why either anecdote was included, or why the editor felt they were relevant and left them there. They had nothing to do with anything and just felt like sour grapes and a way to vent some left over anger about old relationships. For a guy who wrote a book about focusing on being productive in life, this was certainly unnecessary and snarky.
Evolution is geared toward men. The verbiage used indicates that Manganiello is talking specifically to men here. He uses the term, "most guys" quite often throughout the book. I get that, I guess. Much of this is him sharing his own stories and experience of a journey from a skinny kid to a the image he presents today. It does seem like a missed opportunity, though. Manganiello has made his name based on his looks, and a major piece of that is his appeal to women. He, his editor, publisher, etc. had to know that a large portion of books sales would be to women, and that men are not the only half of the population interested in exercise or looking for inspiration to make life changes. The pages and pages of photos are certainly proof that the publisher was looking to sell this book across gender lines, yet, like in most of the fitness industry, the words are chosen in an effort to sell men one thing and women something else. The other day I wrote about wanting to throw a weight at the (male) instructor in my spin class after he made a comment about the hand weights being light, so the ladies didn't have to "worry about bulking up." There are a whole lot of us delicate females who completely understand that heavy weights are the way to go. While we may not want to look like Joe, that doesn't mean that the same lessons about how to make the journey don't apply to the XX chromosome set.
Motivational? Yes, if you're looking for someone to tell you you can do it.
Helpful? Perhaps. The photos and examples of form for various movements were wise to include.
Fluffy? Hell, yes. There's a chapter dedicated to how Joe gets ready for shirtless photo and film shoots. Sigh. On one hand it's all about how he's not different than anyone else, then he's talking about how he pumps up for the camera.
The bottom line is it's a celebrity workout book, not a fitness guide or text. Take it for what it's worth, absorb the motivational efforts of the author, and enjoy the photos. That's what I did!
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