I wanted to like this book. However, The Minimalism Effect went downhill for me after the first chapter. Read on for the full Minimalism Effect review to find out why!
The concept of improving strength and movement with reducing injury risk is a very laudable goal and the subtitle of this book. The philosophy is great. But the practices suggested, or more to the point, the volumes in which the author suggests would only work to the exclusion of every other aspect of training. Most books I read contain things I can incorporate into my routine. Not so much with this. It has been written as a complete plan you should follow.
The book starts with an introduction to the ideas of minimalism, less is more, etc. There is a great quote very early on (though I believe this applies to the mastery of anything):
To master the principle of minimalism you must master patience, perseverance, and competence.
It also resonated with me when the author said he got rid of orthotics and transitioned to minimalist shoes. This is a path that I chose to take after upsetting my previously dislocated ankle (which had initially healed pretty solidly). Building up my foot and leg strength made an incredible difference to me, and that ankle has been much better in the last two years. And the orthotics threw everything in that leg (knee, and hip) out and caused me muscular pain. But I digress!
The idea of movement is a great one, and again I honestly believe it to be necessary for longevity. It is important also to remember that quality of movement is as important as quantity!
The author says that the book is not targetting elite athletes. But I am nowhere near at that level, and nor would many everyday active people who train for particular sports. To utilise this book properly, they would have to change all their training.
Maybe I was spoilt by reading this not long after Convict Conditioning with its very realistic and progressive goals? But reading the standards suggested in chapter two immediately annoyed me. Mostly because I disagreed with several of them; at least from a female perspective. The barbell levels are nowhere near what he suggests should be possible with a kettlebell. It makes no sense to me. Sure set things to aspire to, but in which case all the barbell levels need revisiting (and revising upwards)!
There then follows a phased program covering all the training sessions over a relatively decent period. I certainly can’t fault that the author spreads things out.
The bulletproofing section of the program (warm up, stretching, mobility) has some good ideas. In fact, I already do some of them, particularly around the shoulder, before lifting kettlebells. My concern here is that the moves quickly become quite advanced. Depending on the reader, some people could go too far too fast.
The prehab program that follows then suggests some kettlebell workouts. The goal of this part of the program is to become injury free? A valid objective, but I think working towards 24kg (women) or 32kg (men) bells for certain levels of performance will encourage people to run before they can walk. Or more precisely, lift heavier than their muscles, tendons, and ligaments are entirely happy about, thus potentially causing issues.
The evolution of man section covers bodyweight mastery. I would suggest following Convict Conditioning here. What is presented in this book is not dissimilar, but I prefer how it is set out with the progressions in the Convict Conditioning book.
The book then moves on to further kettlebell skills. The book redeems itself slightly here with the advice to get a coach if you are at all unsure of the techniques involved. It’s an interesting choice of skills, with a focus on pressing and squatting rather than the jerk. But it does include snatching! I believe that mastering the snatch takes a lot more work than most internet articles, and general kettlebell books would have you believe. At least if you want to do it well!
The strength and conditioning section is written to use kettlebells and bodyweight, using a four-day split. It builds on the routines and skills already covered. Interestingly, though, given the standards in chapter two, there is no mention of barbells (yet; it is in later chapters). You can most certainly use both for conditioning. I know because I do 🙂
Then finally, there follows some minimalistic plans for kettlebells, and finally, barbells.
This book would be beneficial for someone already with some elementary skills, looking for a training plan to follow. It is also one that for the most part they could do at home with a few bands and some kettlebells. It’s not a bad book. It just disappointed me. It also tends to follow more hard style kettlebell ideas, such as firm grip on the handle at all times. For me, the idea of efficiency and smoothness in (girevoy) sport style is a much better aim. Given the references to Pavel in the further reading section, then I can perhaps see why.
I would give this book a 2.5/5. But if you’ve been doing anything with kettlebells already, it’s probably a bit pointless.