Becoming the Bull [Book Review]

You can’t just go to the gym and make things up as you go along. If you could, everyone in the gym would have a six pack. But they don’t, because most people make their routine up as soon as they get to the gym.

And guess what happens when someone who makes up a routine has no idea what they’re doing? Nothing is what.

To get real results, you need to have a sound grasp of the basics.

Many in the fitness industry often tell people what they want to hear. But when it comes to bodybuilding John Doe pulls no punches.

His book, Becoming the Bull is an insight to what it takes to obtain a great physique from a man who walks the walk.

I had no hesitation in getting a copy of his book when it came out. It’s 90 pages of solid content – brief and high-quality, just the way I like my training!

Becoming the Bull: A Book For Every Lifter

If you’re new to lifting weights then this book is great. Equally if you’re an intermediate or advanced guy there’s something for you.

John Doe tells us he was a skinny, dorky kid at school. He was never one for team sports. But bodybuilding came naturally to him.

His philosophy for beginners is simple: train hard and eat a lot. He gives routines he developed alongside a list of calorie dense foods that will help you pack on size.

For lifters who want to step up to the next level and gain more mass, there is a section called The Transition.

Here he discusses everything from routines, cheat meals to what to do if you’re starting out at above average body fat.

High Intensity Training

JD’s training philosophy is a hybrid of powerlifting, bodybuilding and advanced high intensity training (HIT) techniques.

Most people are familiar with powerlifting and bodybuilding – but what about HIT?

The idea of HIT is to emphasise time under tension and to reach positive muscular failure.

Going to failure uses up every ounce of your energy, so your muscles are FORCED to grow back bigger and stronger.

The book introduces some HIT techniques you can incorporate into your training to mix it up:

  • Rest-pause training. Going to positive failure 3 times, taking ten breaths between each set
  • Static holds. Holding a position, e.g. at the top of a chin-up, for between 30-60 seconds
  • True 4-second negatives and positives
  • Superslow training. 10 second positives and negatives

Using these techniques will shock your body into new growth.

Since I read the book I tried all of them, and I can attest that they take training intensity to the next level.

In bodybuilding the emphasis is often on the lowering (negative) portion , e.g. 3-4 seconds.  It’s easy to forget you can increase time under tension by extending the positive portion too.

For instance, with a bicep curl you could lift for 4 seconds and lower for another 4.

You get a great pump with slower movements and can really feel the blood flowing into the muscles.

Taking Time Out

You’re motivated to go to the gym to improve your health and physique. And sometimes the last thing you want to do is take time off.

Sometimes we become so focused on a goal that we forget to enjoy the journey itself.

However, taking time off every 6 weeks can be beneficial, after all you’ve been pounding the weights for several weeks straight, so your body needs time to recover.

According to JD, the only exception to this rule is when you’re new to training, in which case you should hit the weights straight through for the first year.

In the gym the focus is on the body, however we forget the mind needs needs variety too. JD goes for hikes in the mountains, takes deep tissue massages and saunas.

These activities all contribute to a better a sense of well-being, ultimately translating into better performance in the gym and better physique.

I cannot hear the stream on a row machine in the gym..and I can’t hear the birds with headphones in my ears.

Natural trainees should be more cautious of overtraining. In the past I used to train balls to the wall every week and thought I was superman.

Superman in the gym.

I didn’t appreciate the importance of backing off and resting. Some weeks I wouldn’t be able to lift a weight that I could normally do for fun.

I thought taking time out the gym was for pussies, but I was wrong.

As I got older, I learned to train smarter and listen to my body, knowing when it’s time to to take a break.

Now I take hikes outdoors and take saunas from time to time to stay refreshed.

No Holds Barred

John gives a no holds barred looked into the world of bodybuilding and what it takes to develop an elite physique.

This includes a chapter devoted to anabolic steroids where he goes into and typical steroid cycles. He doesn’t encourage steroid use however, rather he gives the reader an honest take of what they involve.

No doubt steroids have their advantages – if they didn’t men wouldn’t take them in their droves. Nonetheless, they do have a sinister side and their consequences are rarely appreciated by those that take them.

Especially guys who aggressively “stack” anabolic steroids and take them in large doses. These guys are disasters waiting to happen. And I’ve written an entire chapter on this in my book Optimized Under 35.

Joh Doe says that bodybuilding gave him a new-found confidence. This encouraged him to be bolder and led to more success in other areas of his life:

I realized that if I started living like a man with nothing to lose, positive things started happening.

This quote resonated deeply with me. When I look back,  I’ve rarely been disappointed whenever I’ve taken a chance and gone after what I wanted. Even when it didn’t work out, the lessons learned and experiences were invaluable.

The truth is this: You can choose to live life and grab the bull by the horns, or you can choose to see how the world is against you. The choice is yours.

The Discipline Of Bodybuilding

At one point in his life he was mixing with the wrong crowd and on a couple of occasions he was lucky to escape with his life. The thing that saved him was bodybuilding. The discipline of training for a bodybuilding contest gave him a purpose:

A goal to work toward.

Eventually he discovered the most rewarding aspect of bodybuilding was not appearing on stage, but finding out what he was made of.

Indeed, aspect of bodybuilding and what it gives you is rarely discussed.

Don’t get me wrong, going to the gym is a great way to build muscle and improve the way you look. But above all, what you get out of it the most is what you learn about yourself.

This cannot be overstated enough.

But to reap those rewards, you must ask yourself:

Can you show up day in, day out even when you’re tired and don’t feel like it?

Can you be flexible enough to take a new approach when something doesn’t work?

Many people give up at the first hurdle, so they never make any real progress in the gym. The truth is, it’s going to get hard and suck at some stage.

Those who succeed at Becoming the Bull are the ones who have a never-say-die attitude.

Final Thoughts

Becoming the Bull is a poignant reminder time away from the gym is just as important as time in it.

The bigger picture: Feeling good in yourself and leading a fulfilling life.

What I liked most about the book is the honesty and wisdom he shares, not just about training but life in general.

Some may balk at paying $19.99 for a book, but I’ve referred to the book many times and got so much out of that it’s more than paid for itself.

You can grab your copy of Becoming the Bull here.