Maximum Strength by Eric Cressey
One of my biggest influences when it comes to strength training is Eric Cressey. Years ago, his articles helped me fix my back & shoulder injuries by pointing me out to the importance of posture, mobility & balanced training programs.
April this year I heard Cressey had a book coming up: Maximum Strength. I was familiar with his other products like Magnificent Mobility DVD, so I pre-ordered Maximum Strength without hesitation. Here's the review.
Who's Eric Cressey? Eric Cressey, MS, CSCS is a strength coach and owner of Cressey Performance in Boston, MA. He's also a competitive powerlifter: 400lbs Bench Press, 500lbs Squat and 650lbs Deadlift in the 180lbs category.
Cressey works with athletes of all kind, but mostly baseball athletes. They call him the "shoulder guy" or the "mobility guy" because he can not only get you stronger, he can also make you lift pain- and injury-free again.
Maximum Strength. Tagline reads "Get your strongest body in 16 weeks with the ultimate weight-training program". Maximum Strength counts 12 chapters, 190 photos & 227 pages. Table of contents:
- Foreword by Dr. John Berardi (from Precision Nutrition)
- 1. Why Stronger is Better
- 2. Building Strength
- 3. Maximum Strength Program Overview
- 4. What to Expect
- 5. Maximum Strength Warm-ups
- 6. Phase 1: Foundation
- 7. Phase 2: Build
- 8. Phase 3: Growth
- 9. Phase 4: Peak
- 10. Nutrition for Maximum Strength
- 11. The Muscle Between Your Ears
- 12. Maximum Strength for Life
Introduction. Maximum Strength starts with Eric Cressey's background. How he got into weight lifting doing bodybuilding routines before switching to strength training, and the changes in physique & mindset which occurred.
His point: always train for strength instead of size, even if size is your goal. Get stronger to build muscle, lose fat and live healthier. If you're a regular reader of StrongLifts.com, this will sound familiar.
1. Why Stronger Is Better. In the 1st chapter Eric Cressey compares strength training with bodybuilding. You get 6 reasons to train for strength instead of for size, even if size is your goal.
- Why strength training is more time-efficient
- Why strength training is more useful in the real world
- Why strength training is more motivating
- Why strength training is a faster way to build muscle
- Why strength training is a better way to build self-confidence
2. Building Strength. The 2nd chapter further compares training for strength vs training for size. You get a lot of theory, but Cressey manages to explain things in layman's terms. Some things you'll learn inside chapter 2:
- How does strength training differ from bodybuilding in terms of training?
- The dense vs. pump look: how does your training affect your physique?
- What makes muscle grow? What makes muscle strong?
- The different methods you can use to build strength
Maximum Strength: phase I program overview
3. Maximum Strength Program Overview. Maximum Strength starts with a strength test on the Box Squat, Bench Press, Deadlift, Chin-up and Broad Jump. 16 weeks later you'll end the program by doing the same test & compare.
- 4 Day Routine. Monday & Friday lower-body, Wednesday & Saturday upper-body. Each day starts with soft tissue work & mobility exercises. The workload varies from week to week: high, medium, very high, low.
- Cardio. HIIT, slow-and-steady or light-intensity exercises. Cressey explains which one you should do based on your bodytype and how.
- 4 phases. Each phase lasts 4 weeks. Phase 1 accustoms you to heavy weights. Phase 2 includes cluster training. Phase 3 increases muscle size. And phase 4 has you lift loads above 90% 1RM for single-rep sets.
4. What to Expect. Chapter 4 answers how much stronger Maximum Strength will get you in 16 weeks. Cressey gives you results of his past clients. This is a strength training program, so the results aren't surprising:
- Increased Strength. Chris Paul, 31, increased his Deadlift from 385lbs to 435lbs, Box Squat 315lbs to 395lbs & Bench Press 265lbs to 295lbs.
- Increase Muscle Mass. Majority of people doing Maximum Strength gain about 7lbs muscle. Not body-weight, muscle.
- Lowered Body Fat. Ryan Gleason, 24, dropped from 244lbs to 237lbs. Body fat went from 23% to 19% while he increased his strength.
- Improved Posture & Mobility. This is thanks to the soft tissue work, mobility exercises and exercise choice. Expect old injuries to disappear.
Maximum Strength: Soft Tissue Work
5. Maximum Strength Warm-ups. Each Maximum Strength session starts with a 10-15min warm-up which consists of soft tissue work and mobility exercises. Chapter 5 starts with the benefits of both.
- Soft Tissue Work. How to do soft tissue work for 10 different muscles using the foam roller/tennis ball. Pictures & instructions included.
- +20 Mobility Exercises. Static stretches, glute activation, hip mobility, ankle mobility, shoulder-blades, ... Always with pictures and technique.
- 2 Warm-up Routines. Cressey put the exercises together for you into 2 routines. Alternate between both each session.
Maximum Strength: Mobility Exercises
6-9. The 4 Phases. Chapter 6-9 of Maximum Strength counts 100 pages. Every chapter consists of training schedule and cardio recommendations for each of the 4 phases. Technique is explained using text & pictures for 84 exercises.
- Squat. Box Squat, Front Squat, Anderson Front Squat, ...
- Bench Press. Close Grip Bench Press, Floor Press, Pin Press, ...
- Deadlift. Rack Pulls, Snatch Grip Deadlifts, Suitcase Deadlifts, ...
- Rows. 1-arm Db Row, Chest Supported Row, Inverted Rows, ...
- Abs. Pallof Press, Bar Rollouts, Side Bridges, Reverse Crunches, ...
- Biceps. Zottman Curls, Db Hammer Curls (Get the book to know why).
- Single Leg Work. Bulgarian Squats, Walking Db Lunges, 1-leg Squats, ...
- and much, much more
Maximum Strength: Sumo Deadlift & Barbell Reverse Lunge with Front-Squat Grip
10. Nutrition for Maximum Strength. Chapter 10 is about nutrition. Cressey recommends you to follow the guidelines from Precision Nutrition when doing the Maximum Strength program.
- 10 Eating Habits. These come straight form John Berardi's Precision Nutrition program. Eat every 3 hours, eat protein with each meal, etc
- Example Meal Plans. One meal plan in case you train in the morning, another if you train in the evening.
- Supplements. 4 supplements you can consider with Maximum Strength, and 5 you should absolutely avoid.
11. The Muscle Between Your Ears. Eric Cressey holds several state, national and world records in power lifting. Chapter 11 of Maximum Strength shares his views on building the right mindset for weight lifting.
- 5 tips to get in The Zone
- What to think about during a lift
- Your training environment: training partners, gym atmosphere, ...
- How to deal with setbacks: lack of motivation, fatigue, injuries, ...
12. Maximum Strength for Life. Maximum Strength takes 16 weeks. In the last chapter Eric Cressey gives you 10 tips you can apply after you've finished his program. Some of these tips include:
- Why you should always set quantifiable goals
- Why you should pull more than you push
- Why you should do single-leg work
What I Liked About Maximum Strength. Maximum Strength is one of the best books I've read so far in 2008. I picked up several things to apply to my own training, and those of the ones I train. What I liked most:
- Exercise Technique. Maximum Strength teaches you correct technique for about 100 exercises.
- Soft Tissue Work. Maximum Strength is the first book I know of that explains how to use foam rollers/tennis balls for soft tissue work.
- +20 Mobility Exercises. Half come straight out of Magnificent Mobility & Inside/out DVDs. Some exercises like the Split-stance Broomstick Pec Mobilization were new to me, but already favorites.
- The Routine. Variety, focus on injury prevention and great choice of exercises: Anderson Front Squats, single leg work, external rotations, ...
What I Didn't Like About Maximum Strength. There should have been a test to see if you're ready for this routine. Maximum Strength isn't for beginners. If you can't Squat 1.5x your body-weight for 1 rep, build some base strength first.
However as a beginner you could start with the soft tissue work & mobility exercises. Especially if you have nagging pains or lack flexibility. The nutrition & mindset chapters also provide good information you could use as a beginner.
Try Maximum Strength Risk-Free for 30 Days. Maximum Strength comes with a 30 day money back guarantee. If after 30 days you feel you haven’t learned anything reading the book, return it and you get every cent back.
Click here to get Maximum Strength from Amazon.