By Samir | August 25, 2012
Book Review: The Ironsport Strength Method
Released August 24, 2012, the Ironsport Strength Method (“ISSM”) is Steve Pulcinella’s first foray in the world of eBooks and eTraining. Pulcinella originally gained notoriety as the owner of Ironsport Gym, a black iron gym in Glenolden, PA. He later became gained a cult following as the “face” of the popular DYEL (“Do you even lift”) meme, a meme that’s used all over internet message boards to question if an interlocutor in a discussion regularly lifts weight.
The book is available for the moment as a PDF on EliteFTS (http://www.elitefts.com), though Steve says he’ll have some copies printed eventually for those of us who prefer last century’s format.
ISSM is written in a very colloquial, informal style. The book opens with “The Fatty Fifty”, a tale from Steve’s childhood in which his gym teacher made him race “other fat kids” over 50 yards. The event traumatized Steve so much that he vowed to get bigger and stronger than everyone else.
The book moves on to discuss some of his inspirations, and some of his achievements as a powerlifter and a Highland Games competitor. Once you’ve gotten to know Steve, he starts discussing his philosophies on training.
Philosophies on Training
Steve is a larger-than-life guy, (I’ve met him), and it came as no surprise to me that his book has some larger than life ideas. He hates the term “overtraining” and prefers to tell people they’re working “over capacity” instead.
His key beliefs are: You need the right attitude to get stronger (“the dominator”), and the easiest way to get stronger is to just get bigger. As a man who was 270 by the time he was 19, Steve knows big.
On eating and supplementation, he believe 99% of supplements are bullshit.
On technique, he eschews picture perfect form. A throwback to the old strongmen of the past, Steve lived by the slogan “less form, more power”. He accepted the injuries that came with his high-volume, high-capacity, high-intensity style.
The Ironsport Strength Method
Steve stresses that this method is not for beginners. Upon reading it, I’d totally agree because it’s very high threshold and much of the emphasis is on singles and triples.
In short, for bench press, squat, shoulder press and deadlift:
Week 1: Work up to your one rep max, then back off and do 80% of it for 3×5
Week 2: Work up to a max triple (with or without chains), and then back off to 80% (or remove the chain) of that and do 3xAMRAP.
Week 3: 10 singles at 90-93% of your Week 1 max weight.
Week 4: 60% of your 1 RM, 5×5. Use bands if you want to.
One of the first criticism of this book is that Steve talks about his favorite accessory exercises, and gives rep recommendations for each but doesn’t really provide programming information beyond 1 sample template.
As he says, it’s not for beginners. Self-programming accessory work may be OK for intermediate / advanced lifters who’ve become acquainted with their body’s parameters and their weak points.
ISSM vs. 5/3/1
Of all the programs out there, ISSM is going to draw most of its comparisons to 5/3/1, Jim Wendler’s insanely successful program. Having run 2 cycles of 5/3/1 and seeing improvements, I’d say ISSM has its pros and its cons vs. the Wendler program.
Both programs work on the 4 days/week method at their base and both of them focus on the 3 powerlifting movements and the (standing shoulder) press which most trainers include because of a raging hard-on for the movement (and it’s kind of cool to lift things overhead, I’ll admit).
Firstly, the sets are quicker as the weight isn’t changing on every working set. Secondly , there’s more high threshold work, unless you’re doing 3/5/1 for Powerlifting. On the downside it’s a lot less flexible than 5/3/1 because it’s programmed 4 days a week (5/3/1 can be done 2 or 3 days) and more of the sets are prescribed. Also, as 5/3/1’s been around longer, there’s endless volumes on how to tweak it for bodybuilding, for strength, fat loss, etc.
At 50 pages for $20, it’s not necessarily the best value but the ISSM is a cool program for those who like to train in the 5/3/1 style but with a lot more intensity. It’s got less community support and the accessory work is more vague, but chains and bands are directly programmed in it. For an intermediate or advanced lifter, it could be an interesting wrinkle - especially if said lifter is seeking more high-threshold work, or more volume at higher thresholds.
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