It’s not often that the stars align and multiple cool things happen all at once. You rarely get to kill three birds with one stone; but today, I get to do that.
You see, with this post, I get to help my friend, myself, and even you; just a few thousand words will gain some exposure for my buddy and display his talents, all while helping me improve my existing stuff. You benefit from both, as well as a chance to save money.
I’ll stop being cryptic and just give you the complete low-down.
Here’s what happens in my world: I’m sort of a “big-idea” guy. I am not particularly detail oriented. While I think this is what makes me suited for both writing and entrepreneurial pursuits, it has some snags.
My writing, for example, is generally well thought out and emotionally charged—but I’m (ahem) a bit prone to typos.
Or, when writing training programs, my ideas and theories are, I think, particularly compelling and the programming is theoretically amazing…but can be somewhat impractical.
These things we recently brought to my attention, by my good friend Sean Hyson, who in addition to serving as the fitness editor for both Men’s Fitness and Muscle & Fitness, also has a fantastic blog where he himself is known to house “big ideas.”
Sean is a smart guy, so when he starts going on about some big ideas, I listen—because sometimes, said ideas may include chowing down on fried chicken and waffles, as evidenced below:
His most recent idea has nothing to do with food (sad face), but was pretty fantastic nonetheless: to take the most popular books and programs on the market and review them, honestly and openly, as only an editor can. Not to promote one or tear down any others—simply to help people see which, if any, would be a good fit for them.
From there, give the entire thing away for FREE.
It’s called the 2012 Buyer’s Guide to the Best Training and Nutrition Programs, and as you can tell from the name, it’s substantially awesome.
Yeah. It’s almost 130 pages, and full of information, and it costs zero dollars. (You can download it HERE.)
The incredible and undeniable generosity of the offer notwithstanding, it’s a quality read that I think you’ll enjoy.
Here’s how this all comes together, with specific regard to this blog post: In this book, the good Dr. Hyson* reviewed my program The Super Hero Workout. [[Note: He’s not a doctor. I just like the way that honorific sounds with his name. It sort of makes him sound like a villain in a comic book, which is mildly relevant to the program in question.]]
Now, when I say Dr. Hyson reviewed the SHW, that is precisely what I mean: he actually read it and gave thoughtful, engaging, exacting and above all, useful insight into the program.
This wasn’t one of my friends skimming over my book and following up with a simple, “looks good, bro”—a woefully common reaction, I’m quite sorry to report—this was one of the top editors in the fitness industry combing through my program with a red pen and a highlighter, giving criticism and praise where they were merited, and holding back neither when they were necessary.
For that, for his honesty, and moreso his attention to detail (a virtue of which I am not possessed), I thank Sean sincerely.
And you should too.
Below, you will find Sean’s review of the Super Hero Workout, in his hand. You will see what he thinks is great, and you will see where he finds it somewhat lacking.
For those of you who have the program, you may find yourself nodding in agreement; for those who have not yet read it, you will be able to ascertain, from this review, whether it’s for you. (Should you decide on that route, you will be able to save some money by picking up this week.)
Below the review, you will find a promise, an offer, and some housekeeping.
John Romaniello (known industry-wide as “Roman”) and Matt McGorry deliver a 12-week program for men and women covering body re-composition, strength, and athleticism—everything an aspiring “super hero” needs to look (and act) the part. More than any other product reviewed here, The Super Hero Workout really plays up the theatrics of its theme. It’s written with comic book fonts, and art of various justice crusaders appears throughout.
Roman has competed in bodybuilding, some modeling, and has trained clients ranging from actors to social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk. He’s appeared on several TV segments and has been a contributor to fitness ‘zines like T-muscle.com (since it’s earliest days). McGorry has won titles in bodybuilding and powerlifting and trains clients (including celebrities) at Peak Performance, a high-end facility in New York City that Men’s Health has ranked as one of the top 10 gyms in the country. Both men have written for me at the magazines for years.
The authors’ definition of a super-hero physique is in line with the aesthetic that most trainees are chasing today—muscular but lean and athletic, suggesting high performance rather than imposing mass. A super-hero body, they say, looks good in or out of clothes.
“To the uninformed, the Super Hero’s exterior can be either immediately impressive, or completely unassuming (depending on wardrobe)…” Page 5 of The Super Hero Workout Training Manual
So, you’ll look like you can handle business without coming off like a meathead.
1. The program is laid out over several separate e-books, including a “Quick Start” guide that explains what supplements and equipment you may want to pick up before embarking on the road to heroism. The authors make it clear that you’re not required to take supplements or use specific implements, but promise that they will enhance your results. Protein powder by ProGrade is recommended, as are Fat Gripz (thick rubber sleeves you slide onto a barbell or dumbbells to fatten the handle) and ValSlides (plastic discs that can be used to make exercises more unstable). Roman and McGorry also make standard suggestions to write down your measurements before you begin, take before photos, keep a training log, and so on.
2. The workout manual itself includes four distinct training phases of varying lengths, broken up by goal. Phase I lasts three weeks and is dedicated to strength and power (for those eager to push big weights right away, you’ll be happy to know that the bench press kicks it off). You’ll train three days a week but there are four sessions total, so the fourth begins the second week. The cycle, then, looks like this: Workout A, Workout B, Workout C in Week 1. Workout D, then A, and B in Week 2.
Two sessions are done with heavy weights and the other two use complexes—a succession of exercises that flow into one another and can be done with the same load. One complex uses a barbell for low reps and the other uses dumbbells for higher reps, but the goal for each is to move explosively on each rep and quickly between exercises. You never let the weights rest on the floor.
Perform 6 reps of the following exercises in succession. Rest two minutes and then repeat for 4 total sets. The recommended weight to use is 75–95 pounds.
3. In Phase II, the emphasis shifts for two weeks to endurance, building work capacity, and fat burning. The authors use density training—a method of performing more and more work in a set time frame—and they explain its value while keeping with the super hero theme. They give you a scenario: The Joker has planted a bomb in the city and you’re chasing his henchmen to get them to give you its location. This leads you to an abandoned warehouse…
“Jumping and climbing up the slippery exposed beams in the building, you’re then forced to climb a rope 30 feet to the next flight. Exhausted from the chase, you reach deep down into your strength reserves and engage in vicious hand to hand combat with the villains. You deliver countless blows… as you pummel them into giving the whereabouts of the explosives.”
Whether or not you ever find yourself in this situation, it’s a pretty accurate description of what a density circuit feels like, and the kind of conditioning it can help you develop. By giving you a sense of urgency (even desperation), you compete with yourself to work harder without extending your stay in the gym.
A different circuit is dedicated to each of your trophy muscles (or, I suppose, “hero muscles” in this context). The one for the upper-back and traps goes as follows.
Perform 8 to 10 reps of each in sequence, resting only as little as you need to and when you need to. Repeat for 25 minutes. Your goal is to get through the circuit 3 to 4 times. If you can do it more than four times, you need to up the weights. No matter what, end the workout at the 25-minute mark. If you didn’t finish three circuits, work to remedy that next time.
4. Phase III is about maximum muscle growth, and it lasts four weeks. Now that work capacity, explosiveness, and strength have all been improved, you’re primed to grow even if you’re the type who hasn’t ever been able to before. The schedule shifts to four days of workouts in a single calendar week, and the training is now body-part splits. However, this isn’t the classic bodybuilding set-up you’re probably picturing. Roman and McGorry have cleverly paired quads with arms which, although they don’t make mention of it in the book, allows you to train arms fresh (as opposed to after you’ve done moves like presses and chin-ups). Arms are also trained on their own day for added stimulation. The sessions now look like this: chest and back in Workout A, hamstrings and calves in B, shoulders and abs in C, and quads and arms in D.
5. Phase IV combines virtually all the training you’ve done up to this point so you can peak all the qualities. Interestingly, they have a workout here dedicated to each one in turn (fat loss, mass, strength, and conditioning), which I’ll discuss more in “Things to Consider” below. This goes for three weeks.
6. Many of the workouts make use of lifting tempos—the speed at which your reps are done. This is a controversial subject and, from everything I’ve read and heard, there isn’t a clear and convincing reason to follow or not follow them, but Roman and McGorry strongly suggest it. Controlling (or, really, extending) the time your muscles spend under tension during a set has been shown in some research to increase muscle growth. Still, the vast majority of big, strong lifters throughout history have simply pumped out their reps. Unquestionably, performing the concentric, upward phase of a lift as fast as possible recruits a greater amount of muscle fibers than doing so slowly, and the authors have included lots of fast concentrics. It’s the pausing and slow lowering of reps that coaches disagree on. My guess is that, at the very least, tempos are useful for beginners who simply need to learn how to coordinate their muscles on reps and master good form. But like most things in training, if it’s new to you, it will likely be beneficial. Follow the tempos as prescribed.
The authors assign most of the exercises a four-digit tempo. The first number is the time (in seconds) you should lower the weight. The second number is the length of the pause in the bottom position. The third digit is the time you should take to lift the weight (usually a second or less), and the fourth is time you spend in the lockout position. An “X” means to move explosively and “0” means to go on to the next digit. A tempo of 41X0 on a chin-up, for example, would mean to lower your body from the bar for four seconds, hang for one, pull yourself up as fast as you can, and then lower again.
7. The program was written for both men and women, but the authors admit that much of it (so much time devoted to building mass) will appeal only to men. For the ladies, they offer another fat-loss plan—written by trainer Flavia Del Monte—to replace Phase III. Roman and McGorry reinforce that it’s nearly impossible for women to get “hyoooge”, due to a lack of testosterone in their bodies, but since there’s no point in training for a goal you’re not interested in and probably can’t accomplish anyway, it’s wise that they have a back-up plan here. The circuits Del Monte offers are akin to what you see in the original program.
8. The accompanying nutrition plan employs the newly trendy concept of intermittent fasting (discussed in more detail in the nutrition section of this book). You’ll generally go 16 hours without food and then consume all your meals in an eight-hour window. This fluctuates a bit throughout the phases and is abandoned on workout days in Phase III when maximizing muscle mass is the goal (a more typical bodybuilding schedule of frequent eating is given). Fasting has been shown to help burn more fat, increase levels of hormones that build muscle, decrease water retention (so at least you’ll look leaner!), and reduce inflammation. Roman and McGorry’s plan is very similar to Jason Ferruggia’s in The Renegade Diet.
Formulas for determining calorie intakes are available for each phase (and the female training book), so there’s no need to crunch numbers yourself. You will, however, need to know your body fat percentage, which might require some figuring. There are many calculators available online to help you. Below is a sample schedule for a person who trains in the morning and uses the intermittent fasting approach.
Training day (morning)
A general rundown of what protein, carbs, and fat are and do is also included, along with the warning that carbs and fat should not be combined in excess in the same meal. Most meals should consist mainly of protein and fat sources with carbs kept under 10 grams. Protein and carb meals can be eaten around workouts (their fat content should be less than 10 grams). Tables of food choices appear.
9. In an effort to placate rabid fans of the TRX and other suspension training devices, the authors also offer an all-suspension workout e-book that goes with the Super Hero plan. You can use it in place of the gym workouts they’ve prescribed if you’re away traveling and can only use your hotel room to train, or you can plug it in to replace Phase II if you choose to repeat the program. (That is, use it in your second go-round if you choose to take one, not your first time through all the phases.) The workouts include all the popular body-weight moves the TRX people have made famous, and some use a method of descending reps and rest periods. For instance, a set of 14 reps on each exercise followed by 45 seconds rest. Then 12 reps and 40 seconds, 10 reps and 30 seconds, and so on down.
It’s a great value. You get a lot of workouts. Unlike with many programs, the authors welcome you to re-boot the plan after 12 weeks and show you how to re-order and re-combine it to emphasize different goals. On top of that you get the suspension workouts, the workouts specifically for the ladies, workout logs, calculators, and the nutrition and supplement guides. Though the core bases are covered with training and nutrition, be aware that there is no discussion of proper warm-ups or mobility work.
Supplements are discussed candidly. Roman and McGorry recommend brand-name products like Athletic Greens and Blue Star Nutraceuticals and even tell you how much of each you should need to complete the program. They’re careful to endorse products while still maintaining that good nutrition habits reign supreme. A good addition here is their hierarchy of supplements list, so you can prioritize what you buy based on the cash you have to spend.
It’s fun. The workouts are challenging and, sooner or later, they put you through pretty much every kind of weight training known to man. There’s enough variety here to keep the most ADD gym-goer entertained, and will help anyone to figure out which styles of training he gets the best results with. Some of the calf training in Phase III impressed me. The bottom, stretched, position of a calf raise is held for 15 seconds—a brutal but effective means of making room in the fascia of this commonly tight muscle for growth.
Apart from that, the tongue-in-cheek voice Roman and McGorry use will keep you chuckling even while you read about sets, reps, and calories. The authors’ sincere love of the subject matter (comic book heroes, not just training) is readily apparent.
It gives you the “why” before the “how”. Lots of workout programs just hand you the training and set you loose. If you’re interested in some of the science behind why you’re doing what you’re doing—if you don’t like to blindly follow directions without some reason to back it—you’ll find it’s provided here. The authors explain how each phase of the program builds on the previous one and what effect certain training styles have and why they’re timed the way they are.
The workouts can be hard to do in a commercial gym. The circuits often call for exercises that could have you running back and forth in a typical public gym, competing for equipment. This can be especially problematic when training at a busy time of day. Substitutions are given for many exercises to accommodate a variety of situations, but the fact remains that you might need super speed to get through the workouts before someone interrupts your flow.
Typos and missing words make some crucial directions hard to read. Unfortunately, a slight lack of attention at the printer has its repercussions. You may find you have to contact the authors through their websites to clarify some of the directions.
Phase IV may be too tough. Any knowledgeable trainer will tell you that training for muscle size, strength, fat loss, and conditioning in one week can cause gains to halt in each of those departments. Generally speaking, that’s just too many disparate adaptations for the body to make at one time. It’s only because of the credibility and real-world experience that Roman and McGorry have that I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt here. Try it and see what happens. Fortunately, there are still elements of conditioning in the muscle-building phases and power in the fat-loss ones so that you never get away from training any one quality for very long. The periodization is shrewd enough that you should maintain specific gains to a large degree throughout the program.
The six-component package is sold at HERE for $87 (currently 47.) Roman can be reached at romanfitnesssystems.com and McGorry at mattmcgtraining.com.
Oh, hai guyz!1! Roman again.
Now that you’ve read the review, I think it’s clear without me having to say it that, on the whole, the Super Hero Workout is a fantastic program at a fantastic value; however, it is by no means perfect.
While I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t believe there is such a thing as the “perfect” program, I will also tell you that every program can be made better. I’ll say also the difference between a “good” fitness book and “bad” one should be the results that can be had by following it—not the carelessness of the authors.
I say this because I mean to fix a few of the “errors” in this program.
The Super Hero Workout can never be perfect, but it can be flawless—and by that I mean that I can take time and address all of the obvious flaws.
And that is what I am going to do.
I am going to make SHW a better program by addressing some of the issues above, and creating alternate programs that are more easily doable in a commercial gym.
I am going to make SHW a better book by hiring Sean as an editor to clean up any of my messiness, and go through and correct and spelling errors, missing pieces, or otherwise confusing aspects of the book where I slipped too deeply into comic inspire prose and too far away from simply expounding the necessities of the program.
And I am going to hook you up with it—at a great savings.
If you DO NOT own the Super Hero Workout, you can pick it up HERE for just $47 at any point this week; a sizeable discount over the normal price of $87.
I offer this to you because I know the program has some issues. I am going to correct them, and then send you the new, updated program, completely for free.
As a complete side not, because I really appreciate Sean’s help on this one, I’ve gone ahead and done something sneaky: I’ve inserted his affiliate link into the post here—which means that when you buy, Dr. Hyson makes the majority of the money, not me. As I said, I just want do right by the people who help me out.
If you ALREADY OWN the Super Hero Workout, all you need to do…is nothing. I already have your email, and as soon as the corrections are made, you’ll get the new program for free, as well; just my way of thanking you for putting up with my obliviousness to my own errant keystrokes.
Again to pick up the Super Hero Workout at an incredible discount just click HERE.
In addition to that, I want to remind you that Sean’s FREE e-book, the 2012 Buyer’s Guide to the Best Training and Nutrition Programs, is available for download now. Just click HERE to pick it up.