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"Solving Paleo Equation" Exercise portion

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    Matt talks about Doug McGuff’s workout concept of “minimum effective dose”. Where you lift for fifteen minutes once every ten days. I looked up Doug’s method (body by science) and it’s basically doing these compound exercises for 4-8 reps as slow as you can go for about 90-120 seconds once a week.
    1. Pull-down (or alternatively chin-up)
    2. Chest press
    3. Compound row (A pulling motion in the horizontal plane)
    4. Overhead press
    5. Leg press or a squat
    Wouldn’t this workout get boring after awhile? Is this the ONLY effective type of workout for strength and leanness? Also with this routine, you don’t ever work your rotator cuff muscles which are the most torn muscles in weight lifting bc they’re ignored (there not “show” muscles). These exercises don’t target all muscles in the body. It’s very limited. What about body weight exercises? Are they not effective bc you don’t use the above concept or can you apply it? What about plyometric exercises….ect. I just find this workout very limiting and very boring even if done once a week. Is this workout supposed to be done all the time or with your other workouts. I just don’t understand how this is the only and best way to workout. Someone please help me out with this. thanks


    Hi Rachel,

    My suggestion is to give the plan a try and see for yourself.

    I happen to live in a city where there is a personal training studio that uses MedX, Nautilus, and Keiser equipment. They are proponents of High Intensity Training (HIT) in particular and Arthur Jones and Doug McGuff specifically.

    For me, over the three month period I had personal, one-on-one training, it was not boring.

    1. There were many machines to work the specific muscle groups.
    2. The time in the studio was very minimal. There was no goofing-off.
    3. Training was every seven-to-10 days, so lots of recovery time.

    Now, remember, the training is supposed to be HIGH INTENSITY.

    The higher the intensity, the less of it can be done. I speak from personal experience that this stuff can make you dizzy, make you vomit, and/or put you on the floor. For me, working my quads was always the worst. I dreaded that the most, because I completely taxed myself.

    Truly, this stuff isn’t for the faint of heart. So, before starting any exercise program, I would get a check-up from your Doctor, find a qualified trainer that’s experienced with HIT, and start slow.

    Now, speaking of rotator cuff stuff, after three months of doing HIT, I went back to my regular gym and tried to do some of the same work on my own. The personal training was expensive, so I figured I could take what I learned and apply it myself.

    In my case, that was a mistake.

    In personal training, the instructor would help raise the weight, so I could work on the eccentric phase, once I exhausted my muscles on concentric phase. This would allow me to totally deplete my muscles. In the gym, however, I ended-up hurting myself by compromising my form in an attempt to manage the equipment/weight.

    Later, I tried to apply the eccentric training principles using body-weight exercise, as described in Jonathan Bailor’s book “The Smarter Science of Slim.” In the book, one of the exercises he suggests is pull-ups. Probably due to the mishaps in the gym, I ended up injuring both rotator cuffs with my pull-up bar at home.

    It’s been over six months and I’m still having terrible shoulder pain. Imagine not being able to raise your arms above shoulder height. (Some days, not even that much.) Doing things like washing your hair, scratching your own back, putting-on or taking-off a shirt or coat become impossible without help. Literally. And, in my case, the pain seriously affected my sleep for months. It still does, a little bit.

    So, if I had it to do over again, I would have just stick with the personal training–doing it very intensely, and, as a result, very infrequently. Also, I would get lots of rest and eat plenty of food, including carbs.

    On second thought, I might have just stuck with activities that I enjoyed like walking, hiking, and biking and calling it good. I used to do them all the time and took it for granted. Now, that’s all I want to be able to do. Due to following low-carb with all my over-exercise, I really put myself in the ditch and I’m still trying to recover. In addition to the rotator cuff injuries, there’s also muscle pain, weakness, and fatigue.

    Take it easy on yourself and listen to your body.

    Good luck,



    I’m pretty sure this isn’t the only effective workout for leanness and strength, after all there are lots of strong lean people who do something else. I think it’s being advocated as the “most bang for your exercise buck” (particularly attractive for those of us uninterested in spending much time at a gym) rather than as the only option. Give it a try and see how you feel but for the long haul I think whatever exercise you actually enjoy doing is the best bet.


    Simon, so what are you saying about the rotator cuff (RC) muscles and HIT? It wasn’t too clear. I was saying that this HIT program doesn’t focus on all muscle groups, RCs being one group. BC of this you are more likely to tear them (like you did) bc they remain weak while the other “show muscles” become stronger. The RCs aren’t able to take the load that the other muscles where trained for so when you do a different type of exercise that uses them more, you could tear them. So I wanted to know what if there are other programs where I can incorporate other exercises for these muscles (and other muscle groups HIT doesnt hit) and still be an effective workout. Erin, Matt makes it sound like HIT is the holy grail of workouts and everything else is a waste of time. What types programs are good for strength and leanness and what are a waste of time? Should I just focus more on doing exercises much slower using the same concept?
    thanks for your help!


    Simon, thanks for the links. I like his concept and can use this concept with many different exercises.


    Hi Rachel,

    As you noted, I didn’t have a real point about the rotator cuff and HIT, per se. Really, it was more of a cautionary tale of how easy it is to get injured, in the pursuit of becoming more “fit.”

    ErinElizabeth said it best:

    “…for the long haul I think whatever exercise you actually enjoy doing is the best bet.”

    If you want to work the rotator cuff muscles specifically, I’m sure Google will turn-up some suggestions. Or, you could call a local Physical Therapist (P.T.) and ask for some advice. You might also post on the web sites of Robb Wolf[1], Mark Sisson[2], Keith Norris[3], or Doug McGuff[4].

    Speaking of McGuff, check-out his video I posted here:

    NOTE: If you watch the entire video, please be aware that the conference is called the “21 Convention” and is geared toward the 20-something males. Accordingly, the language and inferences can be a bit loose. I probably don’t need to say much more. :-)

    Take care,




    Pavel tsatsouline has concepts that can work. Dan John has a 40 day work out program that is solid too.


    i have reservations about mcguff’s exercise regimen, because the pictures demonstrating various free weight lifts show abominable form which is more likely to lead to injury than to strength — how can i trust someone like that with other information? the entire section on how to perform the exercises in “body by science” is poor. i also reject the notion that nautilus machines are the be-all and end-all of good strength training; if anything, they force your body into a single path with one-path-fits-all determination, and i didn’t like my machine experience anywhere as much as my experience with free weights. it just didn’t seem to work my body as completely as free weights do. i was wondering whether mcguff was BFFs with the guy who owns nautilus. the choice of exercises is largely sensible; they’re big, compound moves, which is good. but the deadlift is missing, which i prefer, the leg press is bogus; i’d squat instead, and i’d add a rotational and a unilateral movement, without which a workout does not work your whole body IMO. FWIW, an upright row movement does work the rotator cuff muscles.

    it’s not the only or best way to work out. it’s the minimally effective way, supposedly. as in, the absolute minimum if you don’t want to steadily deteriorate. i don’t know whether it does that; i wasn’t willing to try because i am aiming for more. i don’t think it makes you lean.

    and yeah, i’d get bored with those machine exercises, but IF this worked, what’s 12 min of slight boredom a week? with free weights it’s different, but whether you might get bored with them too depends on how geeky you get about lifting. before i ever did any strength training i thought there wasn’t much technique to any of the lifts i saw people do. now that i am doing it myself, i realize how much there is to learn about technique. i’ve been following dan john’s 40-day program for the last 6 weeks, 6 days a week, the same 5 lifts every day (with variations in sets, reps, and weights), and i am not bored. after 8 weeks i’ll switch the exercises out for equivalents working the same muscle groups; dan john actually recommends switching every 4 weeks, but i needed the confidence builder. i now have a bit of a “zen” feeling because i’ve become so familiar with those lifts, and feel like i am in a groove. it’s strangely relaxing even though i am now lifting heavier weights than i did before when i worked a lot harder at it.

    6 days a week is rather a lot more than 12 min, but as i said, i am aiming for more than maintenance of relative decrepitude. the 40-day workout is short (30 min), the weights are relatively light (40-70% of max), and it’s got enough flexibility to keep me from being bored, so it works for me (the first exercise program in decades that does).

    there are a lot of other options, without working yourself to death. i second pavel tsatsouline as well; he has some innovative stuff that’s not too demanding of one’s time either. there’s also “you are your own gym” which does it all with your own body as resistance (which means you don’t need a gym membership or expensive equipment). lots of variety, scales beautifully, can be done anywhere.


    Thanks Parsons. Very helpful info. I’ll look into those other authors


    Personally, I prefer lower intensity exercise that can be sustained for longer periods. I believe there’s less likelihood of injury, more calories are burned, and the gains are more transferable to real life. When I do yard work or something, it’s not just one quick burst and then I’m done; I need to sustain the activity for at least 30-60 minutes. I want to build long-term work capacity, not just explosive power.

    I also feel like I get more out of an easy 4-mile jog than a fast mile. There’s a place for speed work and intervals, but my regular work-outs tend towards the long/slow for running and to higher volume for weights.

    I used to do 20-minute work outs with high weights but low total volume. I got stronger, but my conditioning was horrible. I didn’t see my best health gains until I could work out for longer periods of times. I think building total work capacity is one of the keys to beating chronic fatigue.


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