I’m standing at the altar, crying because my bromance with Tim Ferriss has just ended. His promises of strength, weight loss and speed are riddled with tiny little lies. “How could you do this to me, Tim Ferriss? How could you break my heart?”
Okay, enough melodrama. The reality is that as I researched and tried his experiments, I found inconsistencies and, let’s be nice and call them, exaggerations. Ferriss understands scientific method and seems to respect the edicts in general. But then he goes about making false claims and marketing spin…which is a football field away from scientific method.
First Signs of a Problem
I first smelled something fishy when I came to page 425 of his book. Tim writes, “Even on a steady diet of doubles (sets of two) on Barry’s program, my maximum bench wouldn’t budge.” This is in the chapter immediately following how to make massive gains using Barry Ross’ protocol (more later).
Here’s a blatant example. Watch his presentation at the NEXT Conference and take note of the following points:
- 7:32 — Tim introduces Barry Ross and says “He’s produced many, many world champions and broken dozens of world records.”
- 8:13 — Tim says, “Good science is repeatable…[blah, blah]…science is a process. You follow the scientific method.”
- 8:30 — Tim describes Barry’s dead-lift protocol and then says “and I went from a maximum of about 315lbs in a pull to 650 some-odd pounds in between 8 and 12 weeks…and it’s very, very repeatable.”
So, let’s go over these points.
#1, I’ve studied Barry Ross and already know his protocols. Ross is famous for being Allyson Felix’s high school “weight lifting” coach (not her sprint coach like so many people claim). He’s a very controversial person in the track and field world…largely because he doesn’t talk about the people he’s worked with and because his approach is very different from the majority of the community (especially his sprint training). Tim says “many, many” and “dozens”, but from my research “many, many” and “dozens” is a huge exaggeration. I’ve had several email conversations with Ross over the months and he’s always been pretty straight…until I pushed him about Ferriss’ quote. At that point, he took the “I’d prefer not to discuss” approach. He said “I did not make any exaggerations. But others may or may not have exaggerated about me. Ferris’s did what he felt was appropriate. You’re doing what you feel is appropriate.”
Point #2, he espouses the merit of scientific method. Awesome!!! Makes you believe what he says…doesn’t it.
Point #3, he discuss he own personal experience with the protocol…and this is where it get really dirty. Going from a dead-lift of 315 to 650lbs in 8-12 weeks is AMAZING. Not just “wow cool” amazing. But this is Arnold Schwarzenegger on top of Charles Atlas, wrapped in Ivan Drago, sprinkled with Lou Ferrigno. The WORLD RECORD for the 148.8lb weight class is 702.2lb 165.3lb weight class is just under 750lb. So, Tim, in only two-to-three months went from a nobody to “world-class”. Not so fast…I had to investigate.
Smoke and Mirrors
What I found was Tim does a bait and switch on this one. I tried to find video of Tim dead-lifting and couldn’t (he documents almost everything, so this was a red flag). I finally found him doing a 585lb “rack pull” and later found an interview where he admits that his 315-to-650 lbs is in the “rack pull” over a six month time period. The rack pull is a much easier lift. A weight of 650 is not really that impressive…even Tim admits that in another interview. He says, “Now for world-class power-lifters is that impressive? Or even a national level power-lifters is that impressive? Absolutely not.” Moreover, he admits that his weak link was his hands. He said, “I felt like my back was stronger, my body was stronger, but my hands couldn’t hold onto the bar with more than about 300 pounds.” Smoke and mirrors!!! Improving grip strength is the majority of the improvements he did…which is really measured in pound of pressure. Yet, he “sells” it as true dead-lift improvements which would be Glut and Hamstring improvements…and would be a massive feat (yes, if you listen carefully, he does slip in the word “pull” in his NEXT Conference…but lifters often say they “pulled” when they are talking dead-lift ..and he had just described what a dead-lift was — serious slickery, trickery here).
Baby with the Bathwater
So, did I throw the book away? No. There’s still a lot of good stuff in his book. I still recommend it and will continue to post on our experiments/research. In fact, I specifically like Barry Ross’s lifting protocol; it will make you stronger. But the hype…the hype needs to be taken with a grain of salt. No, not a grain…but a whole shaker full.
Check out more of Doctor Dave’s incredible athletic writing prowess on his blog Sprint 42. There you’ll read a great deal more about how he is getting faster, stronger and healthier using techniques new to the running world….as well as some old-school traditional couching staples.