Review: Maximum Strength
By: Kevin Larrabee
For those that listen to the podcast, you already know that I trained with Eric Cressey for the summer of 2007. During that time I saw a 150lb increase in my deadlift 1RM (1 repetition max), a 60lb increase in my bench press 1RM, and a 70lb increase in my squat 1RM. Pretty good progress for 12 weeks, isn’t it? Ever since then I have been “addicted” to getting stronger. After reading this book and doing the 16-week program, I trust that you will feel the same.
At the beginning of the Maximum Strength, Eric discusses how our bodies get stronger. All the way down to CNS response and muscle fiber cross-sectional area. He breaks it down into terms that anyone can understand. And for those of us who took anatomy and physiology I and II, we will understand that Eric is talking about actin and myosin filaments, z-discs, and so on. Eric also discusses why getting stronger is a faster way to build muscle mass, “potentially.” This was the case for me. I now have as much muscle mass as I ever have. I have gone from looking like a boy with bad posture to looking like a man with a strong upper body. Hypertrophy workouts simply do not work for everyone, especially if you are limiting calorie, and especially carbohydrate intake. For current or former “fat-boys” increasing strength can be achieved while reducing bodyfat and limiting calories.
Thirty-four pages of Maximum Strength are dedicated towards your warm-up. With such a demanding program, a good warm-up is necessary for peak performance (you really should be doing a warm-up no matter what program you do). The warm-ups include foam rolling, lacrosse ball rolling (calves, glutes, infraspinatus) and dynamic movements. Pictures help to illustrate how to perform the warm-ups, but if you really want to make sure you are doing things right, pick up Magnificent Mobility and the Inside-Out DVDs.
The Maximum Strength program is 16-weeks long with four ass-kicking workouts per week. You will be deadlifting, squatting, benching, and performing other exercises that you may have done in the past. Don’t be fooled, Eric has outlined the sets and reps to maximize your strength while keeping overall volume in check. This may be the first time you do speed work, which is crucial for improving the speed of motor unit firing. Your strength depends on how much weight you can move at a relatively fast pace. The brain needs to get use to firing your muscles as fast as possible. Think of it this way, what is easier, deadlifting 225 with a concentric contraction lasting 10 seconds, or deadlifting 315 once in one second? Yes, this is an exaggeration, but hopefully you get my point. Needless to say, you will be as strong as ever after 16-weeks of Maximum Strength.
A great section on nutrition is provided in Maximum Strength. Many of the strategies laid out here are similar to Dr. John Berardi’s Lean Eating rules. Eric also discusses what supplements to take, and what supplements are more likely to just make your wallet leaner.
Overall, this book is for those that know the ropes when it comes to lifting. You MUST know how to properly deadlift, squat, and bench to get the most out of this program. Eric does provide pictures and step-by-step instructions on how to perform the movements, but if you are new to these exercises at lease have someone watch your form for the first few workouts. For the men and women that are at a standstill in their progress, Maximum Strength is going to be like adding NOS to your car. You will be faster, stronger, and more mobile and pain-free than you have ever been in your entire life.