Ready, Set, Go, by Phil Campbell
Reviewer: Mark Lamendola (see my many fitness articles at
This is one of those rare fitness
books based on information, rather than misinformation.
It is limited in its scope, though--it focuses on
the exercise portion of the fitness equation and does not address the
nutritional side. If you want a total fitness solution, you will need
additional information. I don't see that as a huge minus for this book,
as many people who know one area overextend themselves to cover the
other. Campbell does the reader a service by sticking to what he knows,
except as noted later in this review.
philosophy of Campbell's book is nothing new--it's been around for ages
in the bodybuilding world. That philosophy is that exercise intensity,
not duration, produces results. Specifically, Campbell focuses on
intensity in cardio training. One way to look at it is "sprinting vs.
I was running bleachers as part of my martial arts
training a quarter century ago. Bill Phillips talked about interval
training in his book,
Body For Life and in his related movies. Sandy Miller, an
outstanding personal trainer and former competition body builder, was
teaching interval training before that. So, it's not a concept Campbell
discovered and is now bringing to the rest of us. However, he does a
great job of making it real and understandable.
Campbell also brings some new information to the
age-old "debate" of sprinting vs. jogging (which is about on par with
flat earth vs. round). He provides extensive research and goes deeper
into the HGH connection than other authors do (at least the ones I have
read). In fact, much of Campbell's advice seems aimed directly at
increasing HGH. However, he's lighter on the testosterone issue than
some other authors who've delved into the endocrinology behind effective
He also takes on one of bodybuilding's main
tenets, and deftly provides the other side of the coin. This is the
practice of taking in carbohydrates and protein after a workout.
Phillips, for example, talks about doing this within two hours for
optimum muscular development. And the Shaklee Corporation advised this
(using their product Physique, offered at
www.supplecity.com) about 20
years before that--based on double-blind studies. What Campbell says is,
yes, do that to maximize muscle growth. But if you want to maximize fat
loss, then don't eat sugars during that window. He's not conflicting
with the principle--he's showing there's another way to use this window
of time if your purpose is fat loss rather than muscle gain.
I do think this is a great book for the beginning
to intermediate athlete, and for the person who simply wants a healthy
body. But I need to point out some errors. The book does have a
surprising number of grammatical and syntactical errors, but it also has
a few informational errors that the reader must be aware of.
The most obvious error is one that conflicts with
Campbell's own message about training intensity. The charts he provides
for weight training require too many repetitions per set and too much
time for completion of the workout. The only way to crank out that many
reps or work out for that much time is to lower the intensity. This
attenuates the testosterone release and increases the cortisone
release--just the opposite of what you want. The cure here is to apply
the same intensity philosophy to weight training as Campbell does to
cardio work. You will be amazed at the results, if you switch from his
low intensity recommendations to a more focused workout.
Next, we look at the photos. I'm going to go in
reverse page order, because--coincidentally--that's the order of
presentation if I address these in order of increasing severity. The
first instance results in underdevelopment, the second leads to injury,
and the third leads to more serious injury.
On pages 276 and 277, we see photos of Campbell on
a standing calf machine. You can see from the photos he has poor or
maybe moderate calf development. The reason is that to get sufficient
tension on the muscle, you must use the entire stack of such a
machine--and then some. When I have stacked the machine, I have always
gotten deep "marks" in my skin--even when adding towels for padding.
This machine is for beginners and maybe for intermediate users. But
calves are very strong and require a great deal of weight to be properly
challenged for growth (not my opinion--Arnold Schwarzenegger commented
on this in great detail in one of his books and in various interviews).
A better choice is the seated calf raise, as
illustrated by the model on page 278. Notice, this person is obviously
not a beginner. I like to use about 350 to 400 lbs.--not possible on the
standing calf raise machine. The standing calf raise with a padded
barbell (as opposed to the machine) hurts my back, and I don't know any
trainers who recommend such a risky exercise anyhow. So, the seated calf
raise is probably your best bet in terms of using standard equipment.
On page 232, we see a model doing behind-the-neck
pulldowns. This exercise, which represents no motion you would use in
real life, puts the shoulders at a very odd angle and then puts tension
on them. While this exercise may help expand the chest cavity somewhat
because of the position, it's a dangerous movement that informed lifters
simply do not do.
On page 220, we see Nick Shelby, a "nationally
ranked bodybuilder" doing the bench press with his shoulders rounded
forward and fully extended. Shelby is primarily working his front delts,
which, you can see, are huge and--at least to my eye--appear out of
proportion to the rest of his body. This poor form tends to rotate the
shoulders forward. It change shoulder geometry in a manner that weakens
it both in terms of strength and stability. The danger to the rotator
cuff is high, and that can mean a dislocated shoulder in addition to
torn connective tissue.
Campbell himself has this shoulder rotation
problem, and you can clearly see it in his cover photo. It's a common
problem among people who do the bench press incorrectly.
Men, especially, adapt this poor form (recruiting
the front delts into the motion) so they can push more weight up while
bench pressing. But, bench pressing that way actually limits your gains
and sets you up for injury. The correct way to isolate and work the pecs
(rather than the front delts) with the bench press is to try to squeeze
your shoulder blades together. Keep those shoulders back. Have someone
spot you on the bench, until you get this right. If you do round your
shoulders forward, then immediately cut your bench workout weight in
half and train until you can do the exercise properly without someone to
push your shoulders down before you increase the weight at all. Or, if
you are happy with the idea of a blown shoulder, bad posture, neck pain,
and advanced arthritis, then do it the other way.
That number of errors in this book is
statistically insignificant, considering the breadth and depth of this
book and its illustrations.
If you have been doing conventional circuit
training and jogging, you have a program that won't allow you to reach
anywhere near your fitness potential. However, it will allow you to
waste a lot of time doing circuit training and jogging. Changing to
Campbell's approach will produce changes that others will notice.
If you modify Campbell's weight lifting program
per my preceding comments, you will see even better results. Campbell
himself has a higher body fat level, less vascularity, and less
musculature than he would have if he took his program to the next
level--that is, making his weight workouts intense. If you modified his
program per my previous comments, you would be doing the same kind of
program Bill Phillips talks about in his books or Shawn Phillips talks
about in his (other authors, such as Frank Zane and Rachel McLish,
provide similar information--the Phillips brothers are not the first,
nor will they be the last). But with Campbell's book, you will
understand more of the "why" and that will probably help you do a better
job of putting your heart into each and every moment of your workouts.
Beginning and intermediate athletes stand the most
to gain from this book. Advanced athletes should already be working out
this way (except as noted previously). If you're an advanced athlete,
this book can add insight to your training knowledge and help you
develop new variations in your training.
Phil Campbell has done the world a service by
putting out this book. I hope in the next edition he will correct the
few information errors and have a good copyeditor clean up the grammar
and syntax. Even without that effort, this book is a pleasurable read
that will give hope--and results--to people who are still looking
forward to having healthy bodies and vibrant lives.