The author of this book is a self-proclaimed asshole. He is also a strong and lean asshole. When it comes to strength and raw power, Jamie Lewis not only talks the talk, he very clearly walks the walk.
Lewis has little tolerance for the minefield of bullshit and misinformation that constitutes the modern day weight lifting landscape. Having no vested interest in selling supplements or anything else for that matter (save this ebook), his Chaos and Pain blog is one of the few hardcore lifting sites unfettered by ads disguised as articles which misdirect the dazed and confused masses into parting with more of their hard earned for the next big miracle pill/gadget/routine.
If you’ve checked out the C&P blog you’ll note that his writing style is reminiscent of Maddox, but applied to the area of lifting heavy shit. Unlike Maddox however, Lewis is a legitimate badass in the gym and is currently the #1 ranked squatter and #2 ranked total on Powerliftingwatch and he competes without even wearing a belt. His writing style is laugh out loud funny, irreverent, intelligent and extremely motivating. His liberal use of invective and political incorrectness appeals to the psychology of the hardcore meat head crowd and he is very quickly building his own cult following.
So, what’s his book about?
C&P is information dense at close to 400 pages and structured around a number of overarching themes. One could argue that if you’re a consistent reader of the blog then there’s nothing new to be seen here, but having all the articles properly organised ties Lewis’ philosophy of training together with more coherence for both the long-time reader or newbie. Unlike most training manuals, his writing style is never dry or dogmatic, and Lewis possesses the gift of being able to entertain the reader while educating them at the same time.
The depth of this book is amazing and a quick skim of the contents page will give you more idea of the topics he covers. In the opening pages, Lewis expounds on the Chaos and Pain training philosophy and the methods behind his madness. Lewis argues for frequency, low reps, high volume and sustained ‘’manly’’ effort. The ‘’chaos’’ part of the equation is based largely on part on the lifter’s intuition, self-regulation, and honesty in pushing themselves to the limit. The intensity of this insanity is deliberately applied however, and Lewis never advocates going to failure or beyond just for intensities sake. Lewis is heavily influenced by the methods of olden day strong men as well as the theories espoused by Peter Mcallister in his book, ‘’Manthropology’’. Overtraining as a concept is overused, redundant and ultimately inhibits the full development of strength by saddling the trainee with limiting beliefs. Lewis holds particular disdain for people like Mentzer, and Stuart McRobert who have been leading proponents for perpetrating the spectre of overtraining, and Lewis’ roasting of the aforementioned is one of the book’s more humorous highlights.
Deeper in, Lewis outlines a number of ‘exercises for excellence’. These lifts are probably ones you don’t see being practised in the gym on a daily basis, but they aren’t esoteric for the sake of filling pages. (i.e. no bosu ball balancing tomfoolery with these exercises) Lifts such as Steinbron squats, Zerchers, Back to Squat Press and Swingers to name just a few were performed by past greats and have given way to the appeal of laziness disguised as chrome machines and pink dumbbells.
In the section on ‘Programing for Pre-eminence ‘– Lewis critiques the popular 5×5 programs, vindicates the use of heavy partials, throws in an arm routine or two and reveals the secret behind building some brutal traps.
I’m skating over a whole bunch of topics because there is a serious load of content here that will bear repeated reading in order to gleam the full gamut of tips, advice and training wisdom contained within.
Who is this book useful for?
This should be mandatory reading for anyone and everyone who wants to make lifting a serious hobby. I would like to say pussies need not apply, but in all seriousness, pussies need to be battered over the head with a work such as this so they can stop wasting precious gym space and occupying equipment better off in the hands of people who know what they’re there for.
I’d definitely recommend this for the experienced lifter who’s been around a while, because Lewis cuts through the acres of bullshit and misinformation that this demographic have been exposed to (and often confused by), clearing a path to a destination of what works and what doesn’t.
The beginner will also benefit because they will be set on a path to truth early on in their journey. I wish I had access to this kind of information when I started out because I had to go through years of wasted time using Mentzer, HIT and Stuart McRobert programs before I realised I was spinning my wheels on a recumbent bike to ‘’suckdom’’. I’m still nowhere near the calibre of lifter that Lewis is, but knowing it can be done is a battle half won.
The concept of self-regulation or training intuition is somewhat a learned art that comes from years of experience and trial and error. How do you know when to keep pushing despite the pain and tiredness and when to back off? Even though Lewis is loath to admit that overtraining exists, he is prudent in his programing to not always push himself constantly at 100%. His template example shows that he’ll follow a heavy day with a light day, he keeps his workouts short and modulates his volume at times. If overtraining didn’t exist, why would one need to do this? Although I realise that it’s hard to prescribe a blanket generalised approach for the masses, a more tactical approach to discriminating when to push and when to back off would have been appreciated. Lewis would argue that this constitutes the ‘’chaos’’ element of the program, and while that’s all fine and well, he has had years to interpret what works for him and I’m sure that others would like more guidance on how to structure a more solid program using his methods. I could see a newbie picking up this book, misapplying it, and ultimately burying themselves into the ground. We’re not all as smart as Jamie, and often need things explicitly spelled out to us.
Lewis also includes a laundry list of injuries throughout the book tacitly indicating that injury is part and parcel to getting bigger and stronger. ‘’You wanna make an omelette you gotta break some eggs” seems to be his throw caution to the wind philosophy. While I understand that with great risk comes great reward, most of the lifting population can’t afford nor want the hassle of debilitating injuries entering the picture. I’m lifting for health and longevity as much as I am for strength and appearance and don’t really want to be a basket case of maladies by the time I’m 50.
An outline of his approach to nutrition in a chapter or two would also have been great, but I hear that he is probably working on a nutrition book to accompany this one. He does go into his eating methods in depth on his site (search for the Predator diet), so it’s no biggie in the overall scheme of things.
If I could recommend one training book to fill your new year’s reading it would be this one. I defy you to read this before a workout and not be driven to put up a P.R that session. For 12 measly bucks this book is worth all that and then some. You can find it here.