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Many of the reviews on here seem to be from people who are just starting or who gave up on Scrawny to Brawny. I went in determined to do the whole four month program and am proud that I finished it up through the last day.
Phase I is the Corrective Phase and, I feel, the best part of the whole book. A series of precise tests show you your weak points and then you spend 2 to 6 weeks correcting them. This is especially important for skinny guys who can seriously hurt themselves if they start squatting loaded barbells without the underlying tissue support. The stretches and small lifts are HARD work and I really felt my ligaments and support muscles getting stronger. I had a "bum knee" which tended to feel weak or have pangs before I started this program and since I finished it, that never happens. Great workouts.
The food portion was far less successful. Similar to others who have mentioned this, I could not humanly consume the amount of calories they wanted each day. On the very first day, I found myself laying on the sofa groaning in gut pain at 9pm because I was so engorged. And I was still supposed to eat another meal before bed. I cut back just enough to make my consumption actually possible without vomiting from then on, but my body fat still soared in this first month. I continued to monitor food amounts each month as directed by their Decision Making Matrix, but it was shocking to start off the program with the first serious paunch I'd ever carried.
MONTH TWO AND A HALF
It was in this month that I strained my back doing one of the lifts and had to take a couple weeks off and start using a lifting belt to continue. Keep in mind that most lifts are illustrated with a single photo and the description of how to execute them assumes some familiarity with the equipment and proper form. I'd taken a weight training class in college and used dumbbells a lot before but strained my lower back lifting a barbell above my head and arching too much. If you're going to sink the significant amount of money that's called for (see below) into this program, you might also plan on a once-a-month meeting with a personal trainer just to assure you're doing everything properly, unless you're versed on full body barbell lifts.
Also, they wanted me to do several chin-ups at a time during my workouts and I could barely do one. There was no guidance on what to do if you're not ready for an exercise yet. Do fewer? Do them halfway? Who knows?
On the plus side, people started making comments about how much bigger I was this month. One co-worker even flattered me that I was getting "huge".
This month focuses on building strength for the last big push of muscle enlargement. Good workouts with noticeable growth on my legs and butt.
This was the weakest part of the program. Workouts moved up to four a week to increase growth and left me feeling tired most of the time, even on days off. I'd start workouts not feeling 100% because I was still tired from my last workout. Muscle growth kind of stalled as a consequence, even though I really put everything I had into it and was still eating enough to keep my body fat higher than average.
The general info presented here (less the excess calories) is solid. i learned a lot and appreciated the mix of technical info with practical tips. Although not a lot larger, my legs and butt are more shapely than ever before- I don't have chicken legs for the first time. And the corrective phase was very effective in building a strong core.
I have a partner who is pretty independent, no pets nor kids, and I work half-time. Still, the shopping, preparation, storage, packing, unpacking, cooking, and washing up after the meals took almost all of my free time. Commute and changing time at a public gym would be added to that for those who don't work out at home. If you have a full-time job, a spouse who wants date nights, kids and a pet, you will find it very, very difficult to complete this program.
Between equipment and extra groceries, I probably spent a couple grand on this program, and that was getting super lucky deals on used equipment via craigslist. At the end of the program, you're just left with the suggestion to sign up for their expensive online extension rather than any practical plan on how to convert what you've learned into a normal lifestyle.
The diet of almost all lean proteins got very monotonous after a while, even for someone who has spent much of his life in the food business and knows how to make simple food tasty. Before you even think of ordering this book, prepare and eat six meals tomorrow, all of them primarily consisting of lean protein (fat free yogurt, chicken breast, fish, turkey burger, 95% or more lean beef, egg whites...). Protein shakes do not count- those would be on top of your six meals on workout days. Then imagine doing that for four months straight, seven days a week.
Finally, the low amount of carbs in the diet really affected my energy level and mental quickness by month four. I just hadn't had the easily convertible energy of carbs for so long that I felt generally hazy and tired. After one day of going back to my normal eating patterns, I was surprised by a noticeable jump in my alertness, interest in intellectual pursuits, and energy for everyday activities.
My neck, thighs and calves are the same at the end of the program as they were at the beginning (although all did peak larger at different points along the way). My shoulders gained four inches, my chest gained two inches, my waist gained three inches, and my butt and arms both gained an inch. My body fat ended one percentage point higher than when I started.
Looking back at this review years later, I'm giving the book one more star. The reason is that I continue to use it as my primary source for workouts, although I cherry-pick exercises more now based on what areas I want to improve, & I mix in a few things from another source. The underlying ligament & tissue exercises remain incredibly challenging & make me feel more balanced & stronger after just one day. The large lifts now (after some learning experiences mentioned above) provide me reliable weight gain & give a good guide for amount of time to rest between sets & for which exercises to match up to balance opposing muscle groups.
I am far less strict on the nutrition program than I was when I actually did the program- I eat when I'm hungry. When I'm in get-in-shape mode I limit my carbohydrates to fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and I cut out most fat, but that's it. Still, going through the nutrition program as guided all the way through really helped me understand the effect different elements had on my alertness, energy, & muscle growth.
So while my overall gains upon finishing the program did not seem worth the massive time commitment, it did teach me important core concepts about diet, exercise, rest, & supplements as a skinny guy which remain fundamentally useful years later.