Body By Science

17 min read

Man wants to get fucking ripped.

Personal Thoughts

This book was pretty good. It was kind of more like a more scientifically backed [[4 Hour Body]]?? (which I never finished) and taught me a lot about the mechanics of fitness and dispelled some wrong beliefs I had about the whole thing… like the fact that you would have to run for 29 miles continuously to burn just 1 pound of fat.

I think that the biggest measure of how valuable this book is going to be the amount of progress that I can make health-wise following what they suggest. In practice this pretty much consists of hitting the gym once a week, doing super slow repetitions and going to muscular failure every single time.

There was a LOT of biology though. Like a bunch. And I think that was kind of a good thing because even though I don’t really understand it, it makes the main points of the book easier to stick in my head. My lack of real understanding made me feel at times like they were wrapping up some rubbish inside some scientific rationalisation – like the stuff about epigenetics and how “being around obese people” can make you more obese because of changes in your genome. Hmmm. I think one review on Amazon said it was a good book, with a couple dubious claims sprinkled in.

Scott Alexander has called this epistemic learned helplessness, where he argues against accepting arguments in anything you’re not an expert in.



  • DNA measures its success by how quickly and effectively it can pass itself onto offspring. DNA just leases your body as a vehicle; once you’ve passed it on to a younger, fitter generation, it doesn’t care that you then wither away and die – it’s achieved its objective.

Chapter 1: Defining Health, Fitness and Exercise

  • Catabolism: Breaking down
  • Anabolism: Building up
  • Running isn’t good for you in later life because of repeated stress.
  • Fitness and health aren’t directly linked: marathon runners can be less healthy due to their extreme athleticism.
  • Science has got to the point where we can create exercise regimes that achieve abnormal levels of fitness without comprimising health.
  • McAllister studies found that short interval training (for about 15 minutes a week) was more effective than several hours of typical exercise.
  • It’s not about the duration of exercise but instead the intensity with which you work the muscles.
  • Running 2 miles in 14 minutes is better for your body than running 2 miles in 20 minutes.
  • “The man who saved America’s hearts is also the man who destroyed America’s knees”.
What is catabolism??

Breaking down.

What is anabolism??

Building up.

Chapter 2: Global Metabolic Conditioning

  • More metabolic processes are improved with high intensity training, rather than steady state exercise.
  • Doing cardio for too long can actually break down the muscles in your body.
  • Strength training may be better for cardiovascular fitness than cardio is (??) – seems dubious, but they back it up.
  • VO2 max only measures the effectiveness of certain muscles, not the cardio system as a whole.
  • Example: If you are good at treadmill running, you might not necessarily be good at road running because they are different.

Chapter 3: The Dose-Response Relationship of Exercise

  • Exercise is like a drug dose:
    • You need a dose schedule.
    • You need an optimal “dose”.
  • Two different broad types of muscles, slow twitch and fast twitch muscles.
  • Slow twitch are good for endurance, but not super powerful.
  • Fast twitch are good for power, but not super good for endurance.
  • Fast twitch muslces also take longer to recover.
  • The brain tries to recruit muscles in the order that conserves energy the most; you start with slow twitch and work up to fast twitch if neccessary.
  • It’s not that fast twitch muslces are only used for super heavy loads, a moderate load for a prolonged period means that fast twitch fibres are recruited as slow twitch fibres fatigue.
  • Too heavy means: Fast twitch fibres are used straight away and so the slower twitch fibres aren’t exercised properly.
  • Too light means: Fast twitch fibres are never recruited and so they aren’t exercised properly.
  • You need the Goldilocks weight.
  • Fast twitch fibres are only really used in the last 2-20s of trying to exert a large force before you give up completely.
  • A proper weight for a proper amount of time is more thorough than other forms of exercise for effectively exercising all muscle groups.
  • Need only 1 set to failure, more sets aren’t required.
  • Should reach positive failure within 45-90s, though up to 2m30s is fine.
  • Adaquete recovery time is essential for gains.
Why are slow, moderately heavy repetitions so effective for stimulating muscle growth??

Because there is a sequential recruitment of slow to high twitch fibres that means all muscle types are exercised thoroughly.

Chapter 4: The Big 5 Workout

  • Like the index fund of workouts: it doesn’t change over time and is less targeted or experimental than others
  • Muscles deal only with force, so free weights are no more effective than machines.
  • Machines are safer.
  • The Big 3:
    • Leg press
    • Pull down
    • Chest press
  • The Extra 2:
    • Overhead press
    • Seated row
  • Seated row:
    • Upper body pulling exercise.
  • Chest press:
    • Upper body pushing exercise.
    • Hands start at armpit level.
    • Stop just short of lockout.
    • Turn around when your palms are in front of your chest.
    • Don’t shrug your shoulders up towards the end of the set.
  • Pull down:
    • Underhand grip.
    • Little further than shoulder width apart.
    • Hold it down with torso erect for 3-5 seconds.
  • Overhead press:
    • Like a vertical push.
  • Leg press:
    • Hits the entire body from the waist down.
    • Thighs and knees should be close to 90 degrees.
    • Lightly tap the weight stack together at the end of movement.
  • Rep cadence: Should be the slowest you can go while stopping it from being jerky, normally around 10 seconds up and down.
  • TUL: Time until muscular failure.
  • Breathing:
    • Natural, continous.
    • Perform with open mouth.
    • Should try and hyperventilate when it gets hard, don’t hold your breath.
  • The body really doesn’t like reaching failure:
    • You get instinctual anxiety and a desire to quit.
    • Need to stay focusses and not pause or rest to ensure you hit positive failure.
  • Should be literally impossible to move the weight at the end of a set.
  • When it feels impossilbe to push against the resistance, you should push for another 10 seconds or so and then lower slowly for 10 seconds.
  • Go to the gym once a week, but add more rest days if resistance stops increasing.
  • Move quickly from exercise to exercise, you shouldn’t be able to hold a conversation.
  • Total rest time shouldn’t increase with performance.
What is the order of exercises are in the Big 5 workout??
  1. Leg press
  2. Pull down
  3. Chest press
  4. Overhead press
  5. Seated row
How long should you hold the weight down with torso erect at the end of a pull down??

3-5 seconds.

When it gets hard to push a weight, how should you breathe??


When it feels impossible to push against a resistance, what should you do??
  • Push for another 10 seconds.
  • Slowly lower for 10 seconds.

Chapter 5: The Benefits of the Big 5 Workout

  • How long it takes for multiple organ failure is proportional to muslce mass – if you don’t want multiple organ failure, work out.
  • Increase in muscle mass means normal activities are easier.
  • Hunter-gatherer diet: restricted in carbohydrates and very restricted in processed carbohydrates.
  • Strength training can decrease blood pressure.
  • Flexibility is increased by resistance training.
How many processed carbohydrates were there in hunter-gatherer diets??

Very, very few.

Chapter 6: Enhancing the Body’s Reaction to Exercise

  • Mammal tissue can grow under starvation.
  • There’s no magical supplements, it’s about the intensity of exercise.
  • Should get regular sleep for the best results.
  • Should stay hydrated (roughly 3 litres a day) for best results.
  • Old people are worse at telling when they’re thirsty.
  • Avoid stress for best results.
  • Try and minimise training angst – it’s not neccessary to be work out the whole time.

Chapter 7: Tweaking the Exercise Stimulus

  • May get to a point where the Big 5 aren’t good enough anymore.
  • You can sacrifice one component of exercise for another:
    • Improving aerobics at the cost of lighter weights for a longer time.
    • Improving strength at the cost of heavier weights for a shorter time.
  • People think that super ultra intensity workouts will lead to super high intensity results – not true.
  • There is a narrow therapeutic window for exercise.
  • Mechanical sticking point: when the cam profile of the equipment means you can’t complete one fraction of the exercise even though you’re strong enough for the rest.
  • Techniques for getting past issues:
    • Segmented manual assistence: Once you cannot push over the sticking point, have someone help you get over the road block.
    • Partial repetition: Do repetitions before and after the roadblock in the machine.
    • Timed static load: Keep, keep, keep trying at the point of roadblock for maybe 10 seconds.
    • Rest-pause Rep: Pause for a quick rest after positive failure and then try again.
    • Negative only: Focus solely on the lowering portion of a weight. Keep going until you can’t lower it slower than 5 seoncs.
    • Max contraction: Get to the point of max contraction for a heavy weight and hold it there until you’re no longer able to do so.
  • Recovery period might have to be longer.
  • Some sprinters have achieved record breaking times after extended rest periods – have their muscles finally been given a chance to fully recover??
  • Can divide Big 5 into 2 workouts with 7 days of rest between each.
  • Could also do the classic “Leg day” and “Arm day”.
  • Switch to a different scheme when progress is no longer being made.
  • Maintenance is regression: People who fail to challenge themselves and freeze their exercises end up weaker.
  • Tweaking exercises cannot push your body beyond its genetic potential, but can go from 85% to 100%.
What is segmented manual assistence??

Getting someone to push past the point of roadblock in a machine.

What is a partial rep??

Doing a rep before or after the point of roadblock in a machine.

What is a timed stack load??

Where you keep trying after you feel like you can’t for 10 seconds.

What is a rest-pause rep??

Pause for a quick rest after positive failure and then try again.

What is a max contraction exercise??

Where you hold a heavy weight at the point of max contraction until you’re no longer able to do so.

Chapter 8: The Genetic Factor

  • Extreme muscle size is rare.
  • There are 3 main body types dictated by genetics.
  • Obesity is partially controlled by genetics – The Parable of the Talents.
  • There’s an evolutionary disadvantage to having high amounts of muscle because muscle takes more energy to sustain.
  • There’s a hormone that puts a limit on how big your muscles can be:
    • Cattle lacking this hormone are huge, Belgian Blue bull.
    • Whippets lacking this hormone are also huge, “Wendy the muscular whippet”.
  • There’s a bunch of other additional genetic factors that influence muscle growth.
  • Epigenetics: The environment can change which genes are expressed, like diet or behaviour.
  • Maybe people are getting obese because plastic is leaking toxic chemicals into the food that changes how genes are expressed! Sounds like a conspiracy theory.

Chapter 9: The Science of Fat Loss

  • Fat is good: it shows metabolic needs are being met and there is enough food to service.
  • Fat used to be the main tool for surviving when there’s no food to be had.
  • People say that our current obesity is due to the mismatch between our activity level and the calorie intake, and that people in the past were more active ( [[Spark]]N).
  • This is wrong for two reasons:
    1. Physical activity burns less calories think it does (especially when you take into account the basal metabolic rate).
    2. Out ancestors were not as physically active as we like to think they were.
  • The real issue is food abundance – starvation has been a threat for a long time so our body has evolved to store excess calories for later.
  • Muscle is a more metabolically active tissue, a pound burns an extra 50 calories per day.
  • One potential reason why people could eat what they wanted in their teens but not in their thirties is differences in composition: the muslce they used to have burnt the excess calories.
  • Difference in 1000 calories between feeling satisfied and feeling full.
  • Difference in 2000-3000 calories between feeling full and feeling stuffed.
  • People want to leave restaurants feeling stuffed – that’s an extra 3000 calories above what they needed.
  • The “muscle has memory” adage is true to an extent.
  • There’s a nice similie comparing the body to a corporation:
    • Each body tissue type is a department.
    • A calorie deficit is like running under budget.
    • If there’s no pressure at any point in the corportation, layoffs (the loss of body tissue) will occur uniformly: fat, muscle, bone, etc.
    • If there’s pressure on the muscular system (due to strength training), layoffs will be more targeted towards fat.
  • Humans were the animal that happened to take the evolutionary gamble on having a big brain. This meant earlier childbirth (dumber babies) and more energy required to fuel the brain.
  • Consuming natural meats and fruits means there is a higher thermic cost of digestion and you end up storing less calories.
  • Consuming foods with a low glycemic index means blood sugar levels rise more gradually.
  • Insulin:
    • Used to maintain blood sugar levels.
    • Works by varying the amount that cells “open up” and take sugar from the bloodstream.
    • Has to be controlled effectively or blood sugar gets turnt into fat.
  • Omega-3 is good because it means hormones can work more effectively.
  • Omega-3 comes from leafy vegetables and fish. Grass fed red meat is better than grain fed because it contains more omega-3.
  • Hydration:
    • Makes sure the liver can do its job properly, and can process fat more effectively.
    • Hormones can work more effectively.
    • Cold water lowers body temperature, so the body has to work harder to keep it up. This burns more calories.
  • Being dehydrated and in a calorie deficit makes the body think there is a famine: metabolism slows and appetite is increased.
  • Trying to increase exercise all at once in order to lose more weight is ineffective because it creates a stress response.
  • People eat based on weight, not calories (people eat the same mass of salad when the ratio of vegetables to pasta was 80-20 instead of 20-80).
  • Summary:
    • Eat natural, unprocessed food.
    • Stay cool (in temperature and personality).
    • Sleep well and sleep cool.
    • Avoid stress as much as possible – learn stress management techniques.
    • Employ high intensity exercise.
What is the real cause of the current obesity epidemic??

Calorie abundance.

What is the rough difference in calories between feeling satisfied and feeling full??

$$ 1000 $$

What is the rough difference in calories between feeling full and feeling stuffed??

$$ 2000-3000 $$

Why are big brains bad for animals trying to survive??
  • Dumb babies
  • More energy required
If you’re finding it hard to feel full while restricting calories, what can you do??

Increase the weight but not the calories of the portion.

How long would you have to run for in order to burn a pound of fat??

29 miles.

Chapter 10: The Ideal Training Programmes for Athletes

  • The best people in their fields are characterised by how much time they spend doing deliberate practice:
  • Deliberate practice is activity explicitly intended to imporve performance at a level just outside the capability level and involves significant, targeted repetition.
  • Experts get on average 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.
  • You should practice like it’s the real thing, stress yourself out.
    • How could this be applied to revision or exams? Sergeant is great, but not very exam like.
  • Shouldn’t do things like practicing with a deflated ball in hope that it’ll make you better at handling an inflated ball.
  • Physical conditioning: A general stimulus that develops physical fitness throughout the body.
  • Skill conditioning: More specific activities designed in order to improve a particular aspect of something.
  • Don’t combine physical and skill conditioning: practicing sports with an ankle weight might lead to the wrong adaptations.
  • High intensity is good for physical conditioning:
    • It doesn’t take much time
    • It’s very effective
    • It lets you spend more time on skill conditioning
  • Coaches don’t let athletes recover long enough.
  • Tabata/HIIT running: Do 20 seconds of intense effort followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeating 8 times for a total of 4 minutes.
  • The best sort of training for specific sports mimics the sport as closely as possible.
  • Stretching is just folklore; it doesn’t prevent injury of muscle soreness.
  • Cross training isn’t great either.
  • Don’t overtrain children.
How are the best people in their fields characterised??

The amount of time they spend doing deliberate practice.

What the difference between physical and skill conditioning??

Physical is general exercise for improving fitness as a whole, skill conditioning is for improving a particular skill.

Chapter 11: The Ideal Training Program for Seniors

  • Seniors are the same biologically, but have had a longer time for muscle wasting to happen and so start off at a lower level.
  • Old people are more fragile, so they have to be more careful doing the workouts.
  • Old people end up responding really well to high intensity workouts, 100% strength increase in 6-12 weeks.
  • More muscle means you get better at regulating temperature, which can be a life saver in situations involving hypothermia (like falling over in the shower).
  • People on hypertension medication might feel light headed after doing high intensity workouts because there medication becomes mismatched to their blood pressure capabilities.
  • Strength training in seniors can reverse changes to the genome.


The big 5:

  • Seated row (you stand and pull a sport kite handle)
  • Seated chest press (you sit on a chair with your arms out to the side and the weights behind you up)
  • Seated pull down with ab crunch (you pull yourself towards a machine)
  • Seated shoulder press (you sit in a chair and push a metal bar upwards, kind of like the chet press but up instead of out).
  • Seated horizontal leg press (you push a big metal plate with legs)

Main principles:

  • The main goal is keep tension on the muscle for 90 seconds to 3 minutes. If you don’t last 90 seconds, decrease it next time.
  • Record the time and weight.
  • Don’t lock your arms. The muslce should be under constant tension.
  • For example, you normally lock out at the top of the push up, but not with this.
  • Taking the muscle to absolute failure every single time. Decide what you’re trying to target and make it hurt.
  • Maintain a constant speed.

date: 2021-07-05 18:17
finished: true
rating: 7
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title: Body By Science