“John McCallum, both literally and figuratively, shaped an entire generation of would-be musclemen: His original articles have become classics and inspired many of today’s top muscle writers. To this day, many feel that these articles established the highest standard in the field.”
– The Complete Keys To Progress
“Keys To Progress” is the best fitness book I read all year
Most fitness books suck. And bodybuilding magazines are even worse. Everyone I know who’s tried to take advice from a weightlifting magazine has ended up looking fat and unhealthy.
Because of this, I never read fitness articles.
Sites like T-Nation, Men’s Health, and EliteFTS have continually declined over the years. In 2014 their authors discussed such pressing topics as the best breast implants for competitive lifters, how to walk a marathon if you’re 500 pounds, and why you’re girlfriend knows more about male fitness techniques than a certificated lifting instructor.
We were one “25 tongue tricks for pleasing your man” article away from seeing these sites turn into Cosmo.
The dilapidated state of modern bodybuilding culture makes it easy to forget that there once was a time were men were men and the gym was serious business. Guys did real exercises. They lifted heavy and ate big. There was no time for doing Zumba and texting in the squat rack.
John McCallum’s The Complete Keys To Progress harks back to the glory days of lifting. The book is a compilation of McCallum’s old articles for Strength and Health. It’s about as old-school as you can get.
There are no miracle workouts here. No celebrity guest interviews. I don’t even think McCallum used a single exclamation mark in the book’s 250 pages.
This lack of polish and over-enthusiasm is what makes Keys To Progress work. You’re being sold the weightlifting process, not some get big quick scheme. There’s no exercise of the month either. Every article builds on the last and you get an actual sense of progression. It’s really cool and not something that you see any more.
The mass building routine that works
2013 was my first serious year of weightlifting. I started as a twig. And I stayed that way until I stopped following mainstream fitness advice and started doing old-school exercises that worked.
One of these was the Super Squats program. While it helped me to gain weight, the program was a bit excessive and I’d get burned out really quickly. Bench pressing, deadlifting, squatting, curling, and doing pullovers was way too much.
Keys To Progress offers a much better alternative that’s just as effective. I know because it’s what I’d end up doing on a lot of the days when I was too exhausted to do the complete Super Squats routine:
- Press behind the neck: 3 x 12
- Squat: 2 x 20
- Pullover: 2 x 25
That might sound a little too easy, but it’s not. I guarantee that you’ll be worn out by the end. Coupling these lifts with a quart of cottage cheese, eggs, and a steak will lead to some explosive growth.
What I liked
Keys To Progress is a fun and informative book. There’s a lot of great fitness stuff, advice on staying motivated, and even some cool articles about things like building a home gym and making a drink with 200 grams of protein.
Of all the fitness books out there, this is one of the most comprehensive. If i were just starting out in the gym, this is the guide I’d pick. There are some simple workouts, like the mass building one I listed above, to get you started and more advanced ones for guys who’ve mastered the basics. While Starting Strength and other entry-level books are fine, they lack the scope the same scope.
Every article here is so well written, many of them read like a little story, and informative that it’s like reading a tiny book.
What I didn’t like
I had two issues with Keys To Progress. The first is font size. Whoever typed this up decided to use a printing press for ants. The font is still readable, but it was a little too small for my liking.
Secondly,the information presented here is almost 50 years old. There’s going to be some dated stuff. If you’re juicing vegetables or eating Paleo some of the nutrition advice will seem a bit silly. However, most of the material holds up pretty well. It’s even kind of interesting to see how many modern authors are rediscovering what McCallum knew back in the 60’s.
The Complete Keys To Progress is a great throwback to a time when bodybuilding wasn’t so cluttered with poor information. If you’re looking to get into fitness and exercise, or just looking for better routines, this book is worth a look. I really enjoyed it and picked up on some information that I’d never read about before.
Click here to see it on Amazon.