Dr. Doug McGuff: The Body By Science “Purified” Approach To Building Pure Strength In Less Time (And Less Injury Risk)


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Dr. McGuff’s Body By Science is a transformational book about strength training that advances the extremely compelling and scientifically validated premise that it takes very little time to build pure muscle strength, and that many workouts are not only ineffective, but quite likely counterproductive.

If you care about fitness, becoming stronger, aging gracefully, and avoiding breakdown, burnout, illness and injury, listen carefully to this show and maintain an open mind about implementing a different strategy in the gym. The book was published in 2009 and I can’t believe I’m only recently bringing this to the forefront of my consciousness! As I record the session nursing another high jump injury to add to one that plagued me in 2020, I am more reflective than ever on ways that we screw up fitness goals with a haphazard approach. Dr. McGuff calls his method a “purified” approach to fitness!

The essence of Dr. McGuff's training protocol is to perform the “Big 5” exercises once a week, for a single set to muscular failure. These are basic, safe, and functional exercises (leg press, chest press, overhead press, pulldown, seated row) that allow you to focus on pure strength without being overly complex. Doing a single set to failure allows you to most safely train the complete spectrum of muscle fibers, from slow twitch to explosive non-oxidative fast twitch.

Dr. McGuff draws an important distinction between building pure strength and skill development for your chosen sport of fitness endeavor. These two should be on separate and distinct tracks—a single, very short, super difficult strength session per week for strength gains, and then doing skill development when you feel sharp, focused, and explosive. You never want to pursue skill development in a fatigued state or become fatigued during workouts, or you will compromise your ability to hit the golf bar, clear the high jump bar, or sink the basket. This show will be a real eye opener that will compel you to rethink the “maintenance” sessions you do in the gym that don’t stimulate fitness adaptation, and the ill advised sessions where you traumatize muscles and joints and invite injury risk. Check out Dr. McGuff’s website to learn more about his books and his Ultimate Exercise fitness facility in Seneca, SC.


This physician guest is an ER doctor who is the author of Body by Science. He is going to set us straight and dispel many prevailing notions about the fitness industry. [01:15]

A lot of us who are really enthusiastic about fitness might be overdoing it and performing workouts that are minimally effective and/or counterproductive. [04:41]

If you're doing something where the mechanical load is too severe, the muscles will get injured instead of strong! [09:32]

How did Dr. McGuff come up with the premise of 12 minutes a week for exercise. [11:44]

A lot of good pieces of equipment have some sort of mechanism to vary the resistance. [16:20]

Whenever you’re doing any sort of work with muscle, it goes through a very step-wise process of how it's been recruited to do work. [19:43]

Often a person will get cramps in the first part of the race rather than near the finish line. [22:47]

There's a window between your selected weight and your force capability that as you're training and recruiting and fatiguing those motor units, the window is closing. [27:25]

Strength and conditioning are general applications that apply to any sport. [32:30]

The higher you get in any given sport, the worst the training seems to become. [39:49]

Is stretching beneficial or counterproductive? [41:59]

What do we see in the big city gyms that is really helping? [48:42]

When you develop the skill of your particular sport, this skill makes the best use of your physical conditioning. [51:56]

In the book, Doug talks about optimal frequency of once a week workout.[55:05]


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