Whether it’s bodybuilding or life, everyone could use a good mentor. In bodybuilding, a landscape where misinformation is rife and where our choices can affect the quality of our long term health, a good mentor becomes even more vital.
Reading his blog, John Doe Bodybuilding, the author reminds me of that older guy you see in the gym who, without ego or bluster, sets about getting the job done. He’s been there, done that, has little to prove and a whole lot to teach.
JD takes the reader on his journey through 20 years of bodybuilding in a book which is part memoir, part instruction manual, self-help and motivational guide in one. It carves out a different niche to many of the existing books on the market in that it openly tackles some of the more sensitive topics like the use of drugs in achieving an above average physique. His advice is sometimes unconventional, yet time tested coming from years in the trenches.
The book covers the spectrum of trainee levels from beginner right through to advanced lifters.
For the absolute newcomer he lays out a bodyweight only, full body program aimed at building some basic strength, endurance, work capacity and muscle.For the skinny beginner, JD’s nutritional advice is clear-cut. Eat everything that isn’t nailed down and forget supplements. Success for the beginner often comes down to simply showing up and building the consistent habits that lay the foundation for the years to come.
He then transitions the beginner to the novice phase using a fairly standard Split Routine plus a day dedicated to body-weight only exercises again. I realise that most of the “zero-muscle, science-uber-alles” purists would argue that novices don’t need split routines, but let’s be realistic – a novice is going to make some impressive newbie gains no matter what they do. As long as the big lifts are included, a level of variety helps novices establish their strengths and keeps their motivation levels fresh.
A basic novice supplement program is outlined together with the advice to “cheat once a day eating pizza or similarly calorie dense food”. I would’ve added the caveat of less cheat meals unless you can still see the outline of your abs – there’s little sense in adding extra pounds and instilling bad eating habits in an already chubby teen or beginner.
From there the novice progresses to the intermediate stage and adopts the JD Power Routine – a fairly standard hybrid Power-building approach which starts off with a compound movement like Bench for 8 sets of 3, then moves onto other exercises with hypertrophy rep ranges and finally finishes with bodyweight exercises for very high reps to flush the body part with blood. Overall a good routine for novices through to advanced trainees.
The book then segues into a chapter on developing the right attitude, risk taking, picking up women and then progresses into a chapter on how the author found bodybuilding and the difference it’s made to his life. He realises that bodybuilding compliments life when your life is conducive to bodybuilding -it’s about achieving success in all areas along with a level of balance to bring harmony to the equation. These chapters could easily be dismissed as diversionary filler, but JD writes from the heart and the style is fresh enough to keep the reader’s attention.
Ramping things up in the Advanced chapters, JD recommends a short two week keto approach to “prime the system” using low carbs to drop some fat, improve insulin sensitivity and achieve a rebound effect once you start slamming the food again.
Here he also discusses the use of anabolics, relating his own experiences with different compounds and gives advice on structuring cycles for safe, sustainable long term use. It’s interesting that he doesn’t recommend Sustanon or HGH but loves Primobolan and Anavar for their relative low toxicity and quality gains. He doesn’t get esoteric in his stacks and keeps it pretty simple. For a novice user, or for someone thinking of taking the chemical route in the future, I’d say this is a valuable chapter on how to structure a cycle coming from someone who’s had years of experience.
For the advanced trainee he details some fairly standard intensity raising workout principles that I’m not a big fan of personally. Concepts such as Superslow, TUT, “feeling the muscle”, DC-Static Holds etc are those gimmicky types of shit that make you feel wiped after a workout without any clear evidence of progression. JD doesn’t recommend using them all the time, but rather as an intensity raiser every so often.
A couple of chapters cover fat loss and health maintenance while bodybuilding – he’s a big believer in yoga, meditation, massage and saunas to keep the rig running at peak performance levels.
To counter the advanced trainees’ dilemma of alternating between long periods of bulking and cutting, JD advocates a concept called Super Conjugate Training. This is pretty much his “magnum opus” – a synthesis of all his training techniques and philosophies distilled into a detailed plan. It involves manipulating training, diet, recovery methods and ergogenic aids to tread the line between being as big and cut as possible for longer periods of time. He cycles meal frequency, calories and training methods to achieve the best of both worlds and it’s a fairly unconventional yet interesting approach for achieving a look most guys would aspire to.
Some people will dismiss the information out of hand, screaming “steroids” as the prime accomplice for JD’s physique success. To be frank, I know a lot of people that are on a lot of gear and still don’t look like they lift. In the words of Jamie Lewis “a bottle of test never lifted jack shit.” You need to apply the work and the discipline to make it happen.
The advanced sections made an interesting read. but in the hands of a beginner however, I could predict the naturally impatient novice to hurriedly skip through the foundation building phases in order to embark on the “hardcore stuff” that JD lays out in the latter part of the book.
The only other caveat I have is the price. $20 is pretty steep for an 89 page ebook these days (closer to $30 for me because of the exchange rates) and with no incomings, I debated buying it at all.
Overall I think Becoming The Bull is a pretty solid training manual from a guy who’s spent some significant time under the bar and faced life’s hurdles to achieve what he has. It’s not my favourite read in the genre by any means, but John definitely has one of the more readable and entertaining writing styles out there. His story speaks of someone who has taken “the bull by the horns” and gone after what he wants without apology. He strikes me as a guy who’s found a sense of balance and inner peace through applying the principles of bodybuilding to the bigger picture. Again, people can scream “steroids”, but they’re the same people that will never achieve anything in this life, let alone bodybuilding as they’re too busy putting wasted energy into excuse making and finger-pointing.
You can check out John Doe Bodybuilding’s site here to get a flavour of some of this work and decide if this book is right for you.
The book’s sale page can be found here.
(Note I am in no way affiliated with the author or make anything from the books or products I recommend and review)
(Images via becomingthebull.com)