4 Hour Body: Tim Ferriss Broke My Heart

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).

NEXT Conference

Here’s a blatant example.  Watch his presentation at the NEXT Conference and take note of the following points:

  1. 7:32 — Tim introduces Barry Ross and says “He’s produced many, many world champions and broken dozens of world records.”
  2. 8:13 — Tim says, “Good science is repeatable…[blah, blah]…science is a process.  You follow the scientific method.”
  3. 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.

 

About The Author

7 Comments

  1. Avishek

    Nice review. Tim’s a marketer and businessman first, researcher second. This is something always to watch out for by people hyping up products in the health/fitness industries. Everything he says is designed to make people go “wow” whether or not it’s true. Add some science and it seems to sound more true. It’s not possible to go from 315 max to 600 in two months lol. In his muscle building experiment it looks like he purposely lost a bunch of muscle mass before starting so he looked extra-scrawny and then just got to a normal body weight and claimed his program is what added the 34lbs pounds or what not due to his novel methods.

    Tim Ferriss is an admirable guy… for his marketing skills. Although some of his info may be sketchy his marketing expertise is at the end of the day is responsible for him being able to reach out to others who need his help.

    Reply
  2. Dillon

    I am a complete Tim fan boy but I couldn’t agree with you more. Even when I read his first book, the 4 hour work week, I noticed exaggerations and inconsistencies. Makes me sad because he could’t have just went with the facts but again, he is a business man and a great marketer. I still have all of the books and refer to them from time to time on specific subjects. I am working through some strength training to increase my bench, squat etc…. Unfortunately The 4 Hour Body will not be my point of reference.

    If you have any other references when it comes to methodology or strategy in increasing strength with proven studies, could you pass it on? 🙂

    Reply
    • Dr. Dave

      Tx for the comment.

      There are plenty of good strength programs, but it really depends on what type of strength you want. If you are just looking to increase your bench, then one model is good. If you are trying to become a powerlifter, then there are a couple great programs. If you’re looking for athletic strength (depends on sport), then other programs are best. Finally, if you’re just trying to look good (body build or sculpt) then another approach is needed. So, fill me in and I’ll give you some names.

      Reply
  3. TK

    President Kennedy said , We choose to go to the moon not because it is easy, but because it is Hard.”

    Tim Ferris would choose to go to Albuquerque because it is easy, and then market it as a great achievement.

    Reply
  4. cbickley98

    I read 4HB and am looking to try Rick’s ASR method to improve my sprint speed. I understand the plan, but the asrspeed.com website with the randomized workouts is no longer active. Looks like it was bought by a supplement company and redirected.

    How can I determine what distances and times to use?

    Reply
  5. cbickley98

    I read 4HB and am looking to try Rick’s ASR method to improve my sprint speed. I understand the plan, but the asrspeed.com website with the randomized workouts is no longer active. Looks like it was bought by a supplement company and redirected.

    How can I determine what distances and times to use?

    Reply
  6. Rick Derris

    TIm Ferriss is completely full of sh*t. I’ve been a personal trainer for 20 years and never once did I see person gain 30 lbs of muscle in a month. Sad that this douchebag has such a big following when there are legitimate health and fitness experts out there.

    Reply

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