Book Review: "Fire Your Gym" by Andy Petranek and Roy M. Wallack
Attending class at a CrossFit facility or other gym isn’t always possible, so a lot of people do workout programs at home. There are couple problems with this, including the fact that a lot of people who are new to CrossFit or any fitness program don’t know how to program their training. This is where a good resource like Fire Your Gym is irreplaceable.
Fire Your Gym is written by CrossFit Los Angeles founder Andy Petranek and Roy M. Wallack, a fitness expert and endurance athlete. The book provides a nine-week program designed to jump start strength, endurance, and all-around conditioning with easy endurance sessions, sprints, and high-intensity workouts. It’s a challenging program, but the book provides solid instruction and guidance for anyone looking to take their fitness to the next level.
When I received this book in the mail I knew exactly what to do with it: test it on my husband. Although I did a lot of the workouts in the book, I was seven months pregnant when I got it and not exactly in a position to start an aggressive nine-week training program. My husband, on the other hand, was looking for just that, so we decided he would be the guinea pig. He’s on week eight and has made some amazing progress, especially considering he took a week off when our baby was born during week six. Of course his progress is due to his own hard work, but I also think there are a few things about this program that make it especially effective:
1. Tracking Your Progress Is Easy
The program begins with a week of testing. During this week you will do the CrossFit baseline workout, two twenty-minute runs, and a specially designed workout created by Andy and aptly called “The Tempest." You will also test your max air squats, sit ups, burpees, push ups, pull ups, and half-mile run. On week five of the program you do it all again to compare, and again during week nine, the Final Exam.
You can make a lot of progress if you stick to the schedule. Currently my husband is on week eight. His initial time for the baseline workout was 6:00, and at week five he had cut that down to 4:23. He's also made leaps and bounds in his deadlift and actually enjoys running for the first time in our married life. The emphasis on tracking your progress and the regular testing played a big part in his consistency and motivation.
2. Workouts Are Varied But Not Random
Much like good CrossFit programming, the workouts in this book incorporate a wide variety of movements without simply being random. The basic formula behind Fire Your Gym is detailed in the final chapter of the book, called “Why This Works,” and expressed in this way:
High-Intensity Workouts of the Day + Sprints + Long, Slow Distance Recovery = Lifetime Fitness
Within that paradigm there’s a lot you can do. I like that this program combines mainstay workouts that are consistent throughout the nine-week period, like sprints and long-distance, easy endurance work, with more varied workouts that include a variety of strength and power components, including Olympic lifts, kettlebell exercises, and bodyweight work.
3. Individual Exercises Are Explained in Detail
The book includes detailed sections with information about all the exercises used in the workouts and photo guides to correct form. Here is a list of some of the exercises you will learn:
- Front Squat
- Standing Shoulder Press
- Farmer’s Walk
- Good Morning
- Kettlebell Swing
- Power Clean/Hang Power Clean
- Box Jump
- Push Press
- Air Squat
- Push Up
- Toes to Bar
- Sit Up
- Pull Up
- Walking/Jumping Lunges
- Arch Rocks
- Hollow Rocks
Additionally, there’s a helpful section on warm up exercises and stretches, as well as two more chapters - one devoted to running technique, and another on lifestyle and diet. The concluding chapter details why this program works as well as it does.
While Fire Your Gym is appropriate for people who are beginners in Olympic lifting, running, or other specific area, it might be too advanced for completely deconditioned readers. If you want to do the program at home, you will need a minimal amount of equipment, including a kettlebell, barbell, dumbbells, and pull up bar (or some place to do pull ups). We had all the necessary equipment, but I can imagine that total beginners might not.
Also, be warned that you will do a lot of running. I was a little worried about this aspect of the program when my husband started, since he’s had issues with plantar fasciitis in the past. You jump in quickly and before you know it, you’re running barefoot and doing sprints a few times a week. Well, he’s on week eight of the program and hasn’t had any issues so far. I think a lot of this is due to the easy recovery runs used throughout the program.
Of course, Fire Your Gym is not a quick fix for all goals. Although my husband has made some impressive gains in his overall conditioning and strength, he’s also leaned out quite a bit. If you’re looking to get beefy, this may not be the program for you.
Like any at-home fitness program, you will need motivation to get through Fire Your Gym successfully. Obviously, that’s mostly up to you. However, that being said, some programs are easier to psych yourself up for than others. This one makes it easy. The workouts use a wide variety of exercises that will keep you interested, and if you like to compete with yourself like my husband does, the testing will be a big motivating factor. If anything my husband has been a bit too motivated. For example, in an effort to complete week five before our baby came, he was out in the garage doing front squats while I was inside the house having contractions and packing our hospital bag. That was the only moment I was a little annoyed with this book.
Overall, I highly recommend Fire Your Gym for anyone who wants an at-home program to help them lose weight and make gains in overall strength and conditioning. Seeing my husband’s improvements in the running portion alone has been impressive, and I’m looking forward to doing this program myself to get back in gear after having a baby.
"Fire Your Gym" is available for $15.78 at Amazon.com.