Book Review: “Science & Development of Muscle Hypertrophy” (Brad Schoenfeld)

September 7, 2016

brad schoenfeld book review nicola joyce
When Human Kinetics asked if I’d like to review Dr. Brad Schoenfeld’s new book – “Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy”, I didn’t hesitate. Brad is one of a small number of people in this industry who I trust as an authoritative voice. He’s one of my go-to sources for research and smart discussion around the science of gaining muscle.

I interviewed Brad ages ago for Muscle & Fitness magazine and have followed him (online, not literally, that would be weird and impractical) ever since.

“Science and Development…” is Brad’s latest book. It’s the ultimate resource if you’re interested in the current research behind muscle hypertrophy. But before I get into my review – and why you really need to get a copy of this book – here’s how to follow Brad so you can stay up to date with what he has to say. >> Brad Schoenfeld PhD on Facebook and on his website/blog.

What is muscle hypertrophy? It’s the fancy name for increasing muscle size. So this book is essentially about the Science of Swole.

The book is exhaustive. It covers every factor which could influence muscle hypertrophy, including training, nutrition, genetics, gender, and age.

It’s divided into seven chapters:

Hypetrophy related responses and adaptations to exercise stress
The mechanisms of hypertrophy
Role of resistance training variables in hypertrophy
Role of aerobic training in hypertrophy
Factors in maximal hypertrophic development
Program design for maximal hypertrophy
Nutrition for hypertrophy

As you’d expect from Brad Schoenfeld, the book is a compilation of the latest science-based principles, research, and meta analyses. It’s got more than 825 references. And the most important thing (IMO)? It’s written in a very accessible, applicable way. It’s research, but it’s practical too.

Put it this way, the last time I “did science” was at GCSE (which is longer ago than I care to admit). And I can understand it just fine!

If you’re a strength, power, or physique athlete (or someone who enjoys training with weights but doesn’t compete), or if you are a coach or PT, you need this book. Anyone who is interested what happens to our bodies when we train to gain size will find it useful.

Here’s just a taster of what you’ll find in the book:

– how the body structurally and hormonally changes when exposed to stress
– ways to most effectively design training programs
– current nutrition guidelines for bringing about hypertrophic changes
– the specific responses and mechanisms that promote muscle hypertrophy
– how genetic background, age, sex, and other factors affect the hypertrophic response to exercise

There are even sample programmes to help you design a three or four-times a week undulating periodised program or a modified linear periodised programme.

As far as I can see, it leaves no muscle hypertrophy stone unturned. And if there’s one person I’d trust to do a great job on this topic, it’s Brad.

What more do you want, people? Get it, read it, apply it. 🙂

You can get the book (hard copy, PDF, eBook) from Human Kinetics or from Amazon.

Book Review: “Science & Development of Muscle Hypertrophy” (Brad Schoenfeld) is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


3 Audible.co.uk Fitness Mindset Book Recommendations

May 8, 2016

Need some audio book recommendations? If you’re interested in human psychology (as it relates to healthy living, fitness, nutrition), habits, mindset, and nutritional science, check out my three recent favourites.

If you haven’t got an Audible.co.uk account, sign up! Listening to audiobooks is a great way to actually “read” (if I didn’t listen to audio versions, I’d only get through about 25% of the amount of books). If you like the book enough, or think you want a paper copy so you can mark it up, you can just buy it afterwards.

Most of my Audible library is non-fiction books about sport psychology, mindset, productivity, nutritional science, and human behaviour.

(I also listen to fiction – I think it’s important for copywriters to read/listen to a wide range of writing – and I just finished “The Tiger’s Wife” by Téa Obreht – the youngest winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction. It was AMAZING and I’d thoroughly recommend it. I was bereft when the nice Audible man said the familiar “Audible hopes you have enjoyed this programme…”)

mindset dweck blog review
Mindset, Carol Dweck

Mindset presents a huge body of research in a very accessible way. It’s fascinating, but practical too. It centres around “growth” and “fixed” mindsets and how they can either limit us or help us set goals and achieve incredible things. The book is split into four sections: mindset relating to business, sport, parenting, and relationships. It turns out that our mindset isn’t set in stone, and this book gives plenty of practical tips for changing yours, once you’ve identified how it could be holding you back. There are lots of interesting case studies (some very famous – listen to the Sports section and you’ll get the distinct impression that Dweck is not a McEnroe fan!) Dweck looks at how our individual mindset is shaped by – and starts to develop – in childhood, but makes it clear that there’s plenty we can do at any age to change it. I imagine this book would be an interesting listen for business and sports coaches, parents, business owners and entrepreneurs, and anybody wanting to get more from life. I’ve recommended this book to so many people!

mindless eating wansink blog review
Mindless Eating, Brian Wansink

The title Mindless Eating is a bit misleading – it’s by no means just about mindless eating. In fact, it’s about how our food choices, behaviours, and habits (good and not-so-good) are shaped by our home and work environments, and of course by restaurants, shops, advertising, and food industry marketing. Even if you think you are totally clued up about how the food industry works, you’ll be stunned by some of the findings. If you want to change your food behaviours, or if you just find the psychology of food and eating interesting, you’ll love this book. It’s grounded in research but is very engaging and actually very funny (I’ve heard Wansink on a few podcasts and he’s hilarious). Learn about the “halo effect” of so-called healthy foods and healthy living fads, discover the hidden cues that probably affect you every day, and get clued up on ways you can redesign your environment to help you be more in control of how much you eat. I bet this book will change the way you look at food, eating, shops, restaurants, and even your own kitchen – in a good way!

willpower instinct mcgonigal blog review
The Willpower Instinct, Kelly McGonigal.

I’m still listening to The Willpower Instinct but I’d recommend it already. The title is slightly tongue-in-cheek, because McGonigal argues that “willpower” isn’t actually set in stone. In fact, she presents the idea of “I will”, “I won’t” and “I want” powers instead. This book is about the science of self-control and can be applied to any habit you want to change. You’ll hear about what willpower is (and isn’t), and how it’s actually a biological function, not a virtue to be boasted about or longed for. The book sets out simple ways to identify things in your life that make “willpower” difficult, and ways to improve your environment and reactions so you are more successful at achieving your desired responses and actions. Each chapter has an exercise you can do (based on McGonigal’s popular Science Of Willpower course at Stanford University). You can listen to the book straight through and pick the exercises which will best help you, or work through it methodically and do each exercise in turn. Either way, I bet you’ll find it fascinating.

Have you listened to (or even actually read!) any of these? What did you think?

3 Audible.co.uk Fitness Mindset Book Recommendations is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


Defining happiness with Prof Paul Dolan for International Day of Happiness

March 20, 2015

Did you know? It’s International Day of Happiness!

Group hug!

What you might not know is that invest a lot of time in feeling happy. I start every day with journaling, and end it with a spot of meditation (hashtag: ommmm). I walk with my dog every day (at least twice) in the lovely countryside behind my house. I chill out. I do spiritual shit. I try to do more of the things which make me happy, and less of the things which don’t. And when I do have to do stuff which doesn’t make me jump for joy, I try to adjust my attitude about it.

And I’m always up for learning more about how to be happier.

So, when Penguin Books asked me to blog about Prof Paul Dolan’s new book “Happiness By Design” – about how we can design our lives for happiness – I said I’d be overjoyed 😉 How to design your life for happiness – by thinking less and doing more. As well as being a Professor of Behavioural Science, Prof Dolan is also a bodybuilder (<< fun fact!) and has always been interested in the links between healthy lifestyles and happiness.

First up, some stats about happiness and grassroots sport from Join In, a London 2012 charity that puts more volunteers into community sport. (To find out more about volunteering opportunities in sport check the Join In website joininuk.org.)

join in research happiness volunteer sport grassroots
You can read Join In’s research about happiness and volunteering in sport here.

Join In have discovered just how powerful volunteering in sport can be for boosting happiness and wellbeing. According to their research, volunteers who are involved in sports clubs were less likely to feel anxious or worried and less likely to cry (aw!) And they were more likely to feel happy, part of their community and that their life has a purpose.

Purpose!

That little word has a lot of meaning according to Prof Dolan, as he explains in his “Happiness By Design” book. In fact, the tagline of the book is “finding pleasure and purpose in everyday life”.

happiness by design dolan book review
Happiness is difficult to define, as Prof Dolan admits early in the book. It’s completely subjective and highly personal.

But he sticks his neck on the line and offers a definition: the “pleasure-purpose principle” which he details at the start of the book.

“Your happiness is determined by how you allocate your attention,” he writes. “Attention devoted to one stimulus is, by definition, attention that is not devoted to another… The scarcity of attentional resources means that you must consider how you can make and facilitate better decisions… You will be the happiest you can be when you allocate your attention as best you can.”

This book is a great read if you’re interested in happiness and emotional wellbeing. Is it how we think, or what we do? (The book suggests it’s the latter.) You’ll find out how to redesign habitual ways of thinking, to make more of the deliberate choices that bring pleasure and meaning to your world (for it’s that combination, says Dolan, which equals happiness).

Highly recommended, grab a copy on Amazon in paperback or for Kindle. Thank you for sending me the review copy, Penguin Books people!

Happy International Day Of Happiness! What are you doing today which will make you happy?

Defining happiness with Prof Paul Dolan for International Day of Happiness is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


Audible sports audiobook of the month: Making the Weight: Boxing’s Lethal Secret

October 21, 2014

In this blog series, I review a sports audiobook from audible.co.uk

This month: Making the Weight: Boxing’s Lethal Secret (a Sports Shorts) by Barry J. Whyte

making the weight audible

Making the Weight: Boxing’s Lethal Secret (a Sports Shorts) (Barry J. Whyte)

This is one of Audible‘s “sports shorts” series and is a very quick listen. I picked it for a short dog-walk soundtrack, because I’ve always been fascinated by the sport of boxing. I wouldn’t say I love it, but I admire the basic and pure nature of it as a sport. No gadgets, no tech, just two human minds and bodies trying to outdo each other.

This little book began life as an investigative report into the dangers of strategic pre-weigh-in dehydration in boxing. But I think it will appeal to anyone who’s interested in what goes on behind the scenes and in the lead-up to sport’s famous moments (and, of course, to boxing fans).

Journalist Barry J Whyte looks at the potential dangers of the 24-hour weigh-in by looking closely at one specific example from boxing’s history: the February 2000 fight between Joey Gamache and Arturo Gatti.

By looking at the controversial ruling which allows (encourages?) boxers to dehydrate right down the day before the fight, and then pile weight back on before stepping into the ring, he stimulates debate about the short and long term consequences. Physical, psychological and physiological risks are explored: extreme dehydration weakens the athletes, opening them up to the prospect of taking more punches, not to mention heat-stroke, long-term brain damage and even death. And the question is asked: why have the sport’s fans, journalists and officials done so little to investigate this practice?

Here are the opening few lines:

There are 278 seconds left in Joey Gamache’s professional boxing career.

He doesn’t know this.

Standing in front of him in the ring tonight is Arturo Gatti. He is going to end Gamache’s career.

He doesn’t know this either.

If you fancy a very quick listen about a fascinating aspect of one of the oldest sports still in existence, download Making the Weight from Audible.

Let me know if you have a favourite sports book you’d like me to review, or if there’s a title in Audible’s library which you’ve had your eye on.

Audible.co.uk is the UK’s leading provider of new and classic audiobooks and has a range of autobiographies, investigative journalism and sports training titles.

Making the Weight: Boxing’s Lethal Secret (a Sports Shorts) (Barry J. Whyte) is available only from audible.co.uk

Audible asked me to write the reviews and provided me with free credits for the purpose.

Audible sports audiobook of the month: Making the Weight: Boxing’s Lethal Secret is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


Audible sports audiobook of the month: The Rise of Superman by Steven Kotler

June 20, 2014

In this monthly blog series, I review a sports audiobook from audible.co.uk

This month: The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance by Steven Kotler.

rise if superman audible

The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance (Steven Kotler)

What a book! I absolutely loved The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance. In fact, I’m going to order it in hard copy (something I rarely do these days) as I want to pore over it in more than one format.

What’s it about? Flow.

Have you ever pondered possibility? The limits of human performance? Do you believe there are limits (and, if so, do you think we’re anywhere close to reaching them)? What do you think separates those incredible individuals who perform extraordinary feats – apparently without having to think about it – and those who stumble, fumble and fall?

This is an audiobook about possibility.

If you’ve ever felt “in the groove” with a hobby, sport, activity – even reading, or a conversation – you’ll know what it feels like to be in a flow state.

This book – written by Steven Kotler who is Director of the “Flow Genome Project” – uses extreme sport athletes and their amazing feats to codify what exactly makes up ultimate, perfect, extraordinary human performance. Is it talent? Genetics? Education, learning, practice?

Yes, it’s all of those things. But it’s also the ability to go into – and go with – flow.

Kotler uses decades of research into surfing, snow boarding, skate boarding, sky diving, base jumping, and even “space jumping”, using the experiences and achievements of athletes such as Danny Way and Laird Hamilton to get to the bottom of “flow”.

Some of the athletes he talks about are no longer with us. In pioneering the flow state which we can now all so easily access (Kotler reveals how, towards the end of the book), these trailblazers pushed their bodies, minds and environments beyond anything anyone had previously dared.

So, what exactly is flow? You’ll have to listen to the book to find out (mainly because I can’t condense it into one blog post!) It’s a physical, emotional, psychological state which enables our minds and bodies to instantly click into perfect harmony, enabling us to perform more, better, higher, faster. It’s no surprise that Kotler has used extreme sport for flow research. Whilst flow has applications and benefits in all walks of life – from business to relationships – it quite obviously holds a seductive pull for athletes. Achieving the ultimate level of performance, knowing how to turn that state on, understanding how to access it and stay in it when it matters… it’s the stuff which continues to push athletic performance forward long after records have been broken and ceilings have been smashed.

Kotler presents flow as a frontier science, and the book is a fantastic blend of anecdote, hypotheses, research and science. Now, I’m not “sciency” at all, but found the language and delivery of this audiobook very accessible. It all made sense to me, I didn’t get left behind by the science, and the only reason I felt moved to rewind the audiobook and listen again was because I kept having “wow” moments.

Listen to this book, and explore all the online resources (see links at the end of this post). It is a fascinating look at how athletes have used flow state to achieve the seemingly-impossible… and then shows us how we can all tap into this to sky-rocket performance in our own lives. Not just in sport!

The Rise of Superman on youtube
The Rise of Superman on Facebook
The Rise of Superman on Twitter

Let me know if you have a favourite sports book you’d like me to review, or if there’s a title in Audible’s library which you’ve had your eye on.

Audible.co.uk is the UK’s leading provider of new and classic audiobooks and has a range of autobiographies, investigative journalism and sports training titles.

The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance (Steven Kotler) is available only from audible.co.uk

Audible asked me to write the reviews and provided me with free credits for the purpose.

Audible sports audiobook of the month: The Rise of Superman by Steven Kotler is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


Audible sports audiobook of the month: Undisputed Truth: My Autobiography (Mike Tyson)

April 1, 2014

In this monthly blog series, I review a sports audiobook from audible.co.uk

March’s audiobook was Mike’s Tyson’s autobiography “Undisputed Truth”.

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Undisputed Truth: My Autobiography (Mike Tyson)

Sigh. I wanted to love Mike Tyson’s “Undisputed Truth: My Autobiography”. I find him a fascinating character and he was one of the first boxers I was aware of. I like boxing as a sport. And I knew Mike Tyson’s autobiography would be compelling stuff.

But I struggled with this book. It was just… too much. He was too much. I suppose that’s the point. But, honestly, I found it all too much to bear much of the time. There were days when I set off on my walk and chose to listen to a podcast instead, because I just didn’t want more of Mike’s horrible stories in my ears.

Mike’s autobiography got under my skin and unsettled me. Like his opponents, I was out on my feet before we even got to the fights (and, actually, there’s not much of the story given over to his fights nor to his training). The many excesses of Mike Tyson make for uncomfortable listening.

It wasn’t all bad. The early years – when he was under the mentorship of trainer and manager Cus D’Amato – were what I was hoping for. Full of strong, inspiring sports psychology, an insight into what went into the making of an undeniably great champion. D’Amato was presented as a persuasive, perhaps manipulative, very effective mentor who did a fine job of convincing a young Tyson that he was meant for greatness and would not – could not – be beaten.

But after Cus died I’m afraid it all went downhill, for Mike and for me.

The rest of the book was an exhausting barrage of womanising, violence and drug use in an emotional void. I felt like I was out for the count. I’m no prude but it was all just so depressing. And I couldn’t even find it in myself to feel sorry or sympathetic. I found myself desperately hoping there’d be some kind of reprieve at the end of the book but as time ticked on I realised that, nope, this was 99% of the story. Which I suppose it was.

I should mention that it’s not narrated by Mike himself – the narrator is Joshua Henry (I couldn’t find any info online about him) who does a great job of bringing the story and all its colourful characters to life. Maybe too good a job, and that was part of the problem for me. I found it difficult to listen to Mike’s awful stories, terrible treatment of people, and dismissive attitude to the pain he’d caused, narrated through the self-satisfied smile of an autodidact.

There is a reprieve of sorts, although I won’t spoil the “end” (and those of you who are Tyson fans will no doubt have kept yourselves up to date with his career anyway). But it was barely enough to make up for the battering I’d taken by sticking with Mike and his story. I was relieved when it was all over, to be honest. Happy that he’d found some peace, desperately sorry for him over the death of his child, and pleased that he’d been given a second career in acting. But I think I can safely say I won’t be listening to this book again. I might scan back for some of D’Amato’s best motivational quotes. But I’ll leave Mike to it. Peace out, Mike.

Let me know if you have a favourite sports book you’d like me to review, or if there’s a title in Audible’s library which you’ve had your eye on.

Audible.co.uk is the UK’s leading provider of new and classic audiobooks and has a range of autobiographies, investigative journalism and sports training titles.

Undisputed Truth: My Autobiography (Mike Tyson) is available only from audible.co.uk

Audible asked me to write the reviews and provided me with free credits for the purpose.

Audible sports audiobook of the month: Undisputed Truth: My Autobiography (Mike Tyson) is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


Audible sports audiobook of the month: Foul Play: The Dark Arts of Cheating in Sport (Mike Rowbottom)

March 4, 2014

In this monthly blog series, I review a sports audiobook from audible.co.uk

We’re starting a bit late, so here’s February’s Sports Audiobook of the Month from Audible.co.uk

foul play sportsbook review audible

Foul Play: The Dark Arts of Cheating in Sport (Mike Rowbottom)

This was a great choice for the first in my audiobook review series. As a drug-tested athlete in a sport infamous for drug use, I’m drawn to research, theories and anecdotal chat about morals, ethics and boundaries in sport.

“Foul Play” is a factual, fascinating look at all sorts of misdemeanours throughout the history of sport. It begins by looking at doping, and this is the section I found most interesting. But there’s plenty more which will make your jaw drop. All manner of cheating, dodgy dealing and grey areas are recounted and explored.

Fixing. Betting. Sledging. Mind games. Time-wasting. Psychological tricks. Tampering with kit. Bending the rules.

Many questions are asked: what is out-and-out cheating and what is just a bit… wrong? And what of the grey areas in between? Do they differ by sport, by culture, by historical period? Why are certain things acceptable – expected, even – in some sports, yet intolerable in others? What motivates cheaters? And, when there’s nothing in it for them (no money, arguably little fame), why do they do it?

And it’s that question – why – which underpins the entire book.

“Foul Play” was written by Mike Rowbottom, a highly experienced journalist and sportswriter, and the writing is great. Despite the serious subject matter, I found myself laughing out loud (slightly awkward considering I listen to audio books whist walking the dog). Rowbottom writes with the pithy, punchy style of a newspaper columnist, and the style makes for a great listen.

Every sport imaginable is covered. In fact, I tried to keep track in order to pinpoint one which hadn’t been mentioned, but had to give up. The obvious ones – football/soccer, athletics, cycling – are there. But so are bowls, sailing, squash, gymnastics….

All the sporting scandals I can remember are dissected: Rugby Union’s Bloodgate, Lance Armstrong and Marion Jones’s falls from grace, the BALCO scandal in athletics. Rowbottom was behind the scenes in some capacity as many of them unraveled, so we get the inside story here.

But there are so many other stories, too, things I’d never heard before. Some shocking, some funny and some downright bizarre. I think my favourites were the tales about W.G. Grace.

I can highly recommend the “Foul Play” audiobook, whether you’re into sport or not. Ultimately, it’s an eye-opening exploration of human nature.

Let me know if you have a favourite sports book you’d like me to review, or if there’s a title in Audible’s library which you’ve had your eye on.

Audible.co.uk is the UK’s leading provider of new and classic audiobooks and has a range of autobiographies, investigative journalism and sports training titles.

Foul Play: The Dark Arts of Cheating in Sport (Mike Rowbottom) is available only from audible.co.uk

Audible asked me to write the reviews and provided me with free credits for the purpose.

Audible sports audiobook of the month: Foul Play: The Dark Arts of Cheating in Sport (Mike Rowbottom) is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


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