After having successfully completed the 12-week Shortcut to Size program, I have decided that I will never do another Bodybuilding.com program again. This decision is based less on the fact I absolutely hated this one, and more because I now know and understand the value in doing a program that is tailored not just to your specific needs, but your personal pleasures as well. I may fit another set of curls or calve raises in somewhere down the line, but my passion now is to achieve my aesthetic goals via strength and performance training, not bodybuilding workouts.
As mentioned in Part 1, I was recommended this program by Bodybuilding.com because I was looking to add size. Everything I predicted would occur during this program happened, except losing all motivation. I knew 3 months was a long time to commit to a program that made minimal changes week by week, but half-way through the 12 weeks I just lost every bit of desire to keep it up. All I felt that I was getting out of this program was tendonitis in my elbows (which I’m still dealing with), minimally stronger, and fat. In fact, one of my fellow trainers told me he gave up on the Shortcut to Size because he was just getting fat by doing it.
I went from 186lbs to 195lbs, 11% bodyfat to 13% (as per bioelectrical impedence), which translates to 4lbs of muscle but 5lbs of bodyfat added. I thought I would add more muscle than that, but such was not the case for a variety of reasons.
- My body was already conditioned for most of the exercises and intensities
- Cycling from endurance to hypertrophy to strength and back is too inconsistent for adaptation
- Too few leg days
The First 4 Weeks
The first cycle of Shortcut to Size was the most enjoyable. There were some exercises that I had not seen before, and a few that I had not done in a very long time, so it was fresh. I had also never officially tracked the weights I was using and the reps I was able to do, so tracking all of that was an interesting change, and it proved helpful in the coming cycles.
The only real discouraging part of the first 4 weeks was I only gained about a pound. I decided to stop doing cardio so much on the rest days and either rest entirely or just do something less calorie-intensive. This proved productive for the weight gain, but not entirely in a good way.
The Second 4 Weeks
Using my weight tracking from the major movements in the previous cycle, I did my best to go up in weight in weeks 5-8. I didn’t track weight for things like calve raises, curls, tricep presses and other accessory muscle groups. These movements come both at the end of the workouts so various levels of exhaustion skew tracking as well as not always having the same cable system, handle or machine.
I had some notable strength improvements on exercises like rows, squats and deadlifts. My benchpress didn’t go up at all though, which was disappointing, but I felt better about it from the bigger thighs and arms I was seeing in the mirror. The size improvements were less overall girth, more girth in general. In other words, the peak of my bicep nor the widest part of my thigh got wider, but girth above and below these two points increased.
The Third 4 Weeks (that took 2 months)
It was actually the end of week 7 that my motivation to continue started to tank. The Christmas holidays had arrived so my wife and I traveled for a week to see family, then hosted some family shortly after. My curiosity in Olympic Weightlifting had been brewing for a few months and some veteran trainers had been steering me towards compound trips and away from isolation exercises. Finally, I began reading Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe, which made it official that I was working out extremely inefficiently by doing so many sets and reps of isolation movements when I could be getting exponentially stronger and probably larger by sticking to heavy compound lifting. These three things, the holiday break, education and interest in Weightlifting all made me want to just give up and call it quits. But I stuck it out because I said I would.
It took twice as long, but I finished the final cycle…9lbs heavier, mostly fatter. Did I eat healthy the whole time? Of course not. Anyone with the willpower to avoid alcohol, desserts and overeating the entire program is smart enough to know they should be doing a different program, so I feel I gave this a solid effort and my results reflect what many others should expect.
I mean there’s some noticeable size increases in the glutes and back, but not enough to offset the gains in the gut.
The nice things about this program are the easy to use app, interesting new exercises Jim includes, and the strength improvements you should see by tracking your progress and pushing yourself to improve. It’s also nice only having to train 4 times a week, but in theory you’re supposed to be active every single day, so it’s not entirely a cakewalk.
Where do I begin. Why the hell does anyone need to be doing bicep curls with weight they can only lift 3-5 times? Who needs to be able to do a plank for 2 minutes? And how is a program self proclaimed to maximize size and strength only training the strongest, largest muscles in the body once every 7 days, and the smallest ones 2-3 times?
First of all, to stimulate an adaptation in the body, you need consistency. This program would have been better if it committed to hypertrophy for Cycle #1, strength for Cycle #2, and back to Hypertrophy for Cycle #3. This way, users could learn the movements and prepare their muscles for the heavier lifting while increasing the volume within the muscle bellies. Then strength could be accrued through heavier, lower volume training, making the third cycle easier to go up in weight for further hypertrophic enhancements. It would also behoove the user to avoid strength reps on endurance muscles. Trying to max out on biceps and triceps doesn’t make sense, so I feel that the strength rep ranges on accessory muscle groups need to be amended in a big way.
Secondly, trying to do Back Squat, Front Squat and Romanian Deadlifts in the same day? Dude. It would have made way more sense to mix in the Front Squat or Leg Press in on the Shoulder Day, which was always the shortest, easiest day of the week. Stoppani seriously has you in Week 8 doing 3-5 rep max on Back Squat, Front Squat AND RDL’s all in the same day, almost back to back to back. That just makes no sense, especially for a program “Jim-approved for men and women, beginner and advanced.”
I actually don’t believe this program is appropriate for beginners, or strategic enough for advanced lifters. The people most appropriate for this program are intermediate lifters because their bodies are conditioned for the aggressive progression and they should know proper form for each movement. Beginners will most likely hurt themselves, and advanced users like myself are too conditioned for these exercises that they need more consistent intensity programming to force an adaptation.
These pictures should say enough about the few pros and many cons.
Quite frankly, this program is too long, too inconsistent and too negligent for me to recommend it to anyone. As I said above, intermediate lifters will most likely see the best success, but I still would not recommend it to them. All I got from it was fatter, unnoticeably more muscular and slightly stronger. I don’t think any program should last longer than 8 weeks, both for scientific and psychological reasons. Even people who enjoy these types of workouts will probably get sick of doing the same cycle over and over with very little variability.
I’m baffled as to how you didn’t make significant gains like everyone else I’ve seen who completes the program. What were your macros? Supplementation? Something isn’t adding up.
Thank you for your comment, Tim, and not that everyone will always have the potential to increase lean mass, but in this case I should have been able to accomplish more than I did within 12 weeks, so yes, something isn’t adding up. As I mentioned in the review, much of it is an appropriate program. This one shifts from size to strength too abruptly to produce an adaptation in a mature lifter. Untrained muscle like a novice would possess would be stimulated well by the varying levels of intensity in the Shortcut to Size. However, mature muscle needs more of a reason to produce further adaptation, meaning more consistent stimulus targeting a specific result. That’s why this program would have been, for me at least, better if it stuck to hypertophy intensities, not bouncing back and forth from hypertrophy to strength 3 times.
As for macros, I just made sure to get around 1g/lb of bodyweight, and consume about 500-600 calories above my maintenance level each day to establish the caloric surplus needed to trigger anabolism. The only supplementation I used was protein powder for occasional meal replacements.
I called it from the get-go that my muscle development from this program would probably be less noticeable than the amount of bodyfat I would pile on. The program wanted me eating almost 1,000 calories over my maintenance level…that’s pounds of bodyfat every week I would have added. Luckily I’m educated enough to know that was not a good idea, cut that surplus in half and kept the weight gain to something I can at least get off in less than the amount of time that it took to add it on.
This review is hilarious (unfortunately at my expense) as I have just finished the program and look EXACTLY like you in the after photos! (I even have a beard)
I’m trying to figure out what to do now as agree with everything you said. What route did you go down after this?
Haha thanks for sharing! Being a number of years back I don’t remember exactly but I believe not long after this program I got into Olympic Weightlifting and that dramatically changed my approach to fitness, and I would highly recommend checking it our yourself (CrossFit gyms include these movements a lot, fyi).
I did however do Stoppani’s Shortcut to Shred and that was a great introduction to including conditioning within a resistance training workout, so that’d be a good route to go if you’re paying for the bodybuilding.com programs. CrossFit does a better job of this imo, and my new Healthy Human Project takes this even further to make combining these things safer, more specified (as opposed to ‘constantly varied’, aka random), and more complete. Check out my youtube channel to see what I mean by that 👍🏻
This is a pathetic review. You just spent way too much time rationalizing your piss poor choices in food/vices by bashing a program that you put poor effort into. You got poor results because of your choices…period. The other 1000 words of this article is a waste.
I’m actually going to both approve and reply to this comment despite being void of substance, because it’s important for others to know how to address those who have strong opinions but weak educational foundation to support what they say.
As the review states, the last 5 weeks of this program were absolutely miserable. I hated the workouts, I had already put in 7 weeks of serious effort and appropriate nutrition with little to show for it, but I still managed to complete the program. Just like some of my personal training clients, I executed the program despite not wanting to do it, but unlike me, my clients get the results they’re looking for. 7 weeks is PLENTY of time to see results, and despite not working for me I still finished out the remaining 5 weeks doing every exercise, every set, ever rep, every day and every week. Anyone who assumes that because the results did not follow is the fault of the athlete clearly does not have much, if any, background in exercise science education.
Say what you wish about the last 5 weeks, very few people in the world could have put harder effort into the first 7 weeks than I did. You can cry, pout and point fingers all you want to, but that doesn’t change the fact that cookie cutter exercise programs simply will not work for everyone, even when you follow them to a T.
[…] for our own fitness each year. Last year I didn’t compete because I was in the middle of my 12 Week Shortcut to Size program review, but this year I did my own program and wanted to share the strategy behind the […]
Just because it didn’t work for you. Doesn’t mean it won’t work for somebody else. Dr. Stoppani has dedicated his life to fitness and I’m sure it wasn’t just for you to completely obliterate his program on some website. Periodization works.
You also don’t need 600 plus calories to go anabolic. You just need a slight surplus, 10% over maintenance should be fine. 500-600more is a lot.
I agree with you! Periodization does work, 500-600 calories is excessive, and this program will certainly “work” for someone else out there! What I’m pointing out is that periodization can be programmed more safely and efficiently, certainly with more enjoyable variety over a 12 week period (it’s longer than it sounds like on paper), and not only is the calorie recommendation ridiculous but considering it suggests consuming more than 2x the amount of protein recommended by nationally accredited exercise science programs, it’s dangerously misleading because it suggests this is the way you should eat the rest of your life, and that’s flat out false.