“Body by Science” – Book Review

bodybyscienceSo folks, I’ve finally finished it and as promised here’s my review of “Body by Science” by Doug McGuff & John Little..

The book focuses almost exclusively on strength training & the benefits thereof, namely:

– Increased Insulin Sensitivity.
– Improved Metabolism.
– Improved Gene Expression Profile (epigenetics)
– Reduced Inflammation, Increased Longevity.
– Suitability for ALL ages, esp seniors with virtually no risk of injury

The book is based on the authors’ combined & extensive experience in both body building and medicine. Right from the start it builds the very strong case as to why as far as your metabolism and aerobic conditioning are concerned, strength training is superior to “steady state” exercise such as running or cycling. The principal argument throughout the book is that it’s the body’s muscles (size) that determine your metabolic and aerobic conditioning. This flies against the popularly held belief that exercising your cardio-vascular system “in isolation” will improve your health & conditioning.  The book cites several compelling studies supporting this view & is extensively cross-referenced throughout.

The book starts out by (re)defining Health, Fitness & Exercise (this in itself was a real eye-opener for me!). It then goes on to discuss metabolic conditioning, the dose-response relationship in exercise before finally moving on to the core theme of the book: “The Big-Five Workout”. The Big Five are 5 workout regimes for the entire body incorporating very slow movements, deliberately designed to “selectively recruit” muscle fibres right up to complete failure i.e. inability to move any further. It is only through complete failure, the authors argue, that you finally make muscle “inroad” and hence also increase your strength & enhance your metabolism. Further, this type of in-roading can be achieved in minutes, rather than hours spent in the gym. The exercises may be short in duration but they are very intense; they are meant to be! Indeed, it’s only through applying high intensity that you get the required results.

After covering “The Big 5” in detail, the book goes on to discuss how to enhance your personal response to exercise, how genetics determine your personal limits to this response and the science of fat loss. Finally, the book ends by discussing ideal strength training programs for athletes & seniors.

My Personal Experience

Regular readers of this blog will know that I started calisthenics training in May of this year. My personal exercise routine already covered the entire body muscle groups. Since reading this book however, I have started to incorporate the specific techniques advocated by the authors i.e. selective muscle recruitment to failure under a slow and prolonged “time under load”. I have to say that it has allowed me to be very relaxed about my training, knowing that I only have to dedicate a few short, sharp minutes of training each day to achieve my goals. It’s still early days but I am, so far at least, very happy with the results..


Overall, the book is well structured and an easy read for all audiences. There is some detailed bio-chemistry to get through but this is thankfully kept to a minimum. The book’s case for strength training is well-presented and difficult to argue against. The concepts and themes that it lays out plus my personal experience support this e.g. I can easily run up a flight of stairs without being out of breath simply because of the improvements in my leg muscles and NOT my cardio vascular system in isolation. Develop your muscles by making in-road and your cardio vascular system supporting them will automatically develop with them, NOT  necessarily the other way round. The intensity involved in these exercises is such that you will be left breathing HARD! Its concepts are suitable for EVERYONE, athletes and non-athletes alike. It fully supports & embraces the concepts of low inflammation & longevity and so, by definition, I’m a fan. If your goals are the same as mine then this is a must on your bookshelf!


5 thoughts on ““Body by Science” – Book Review

  1. I also read book a short while ago and have started to incorporate some of the training ideas in my workouts (I lift weights). And am excited to see how it works. Listened to Doug Mcguff on several podcasts lately and enjoy his insights and experience. Good stuff. (I am a 43 yo female, MD by profession, two kids and 2 dogs, who found keto and weight lifting near 3 years ago and have never been healthier or felt better in my life. Trying to convince myself to quit cheese … 😁 😁)

  2. Super article – loved the read! Have you ever thought about a whole food plant based diet? I train hard too & it’s been an awesome compliment to it!

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