Superhero Workout — Final Report

So I just finished the final workout of the 12-week Superhero Workout 2.0 program by John Romaniello and Matt McGorry. The 12 weeks officially ends tomorrow, but since I’ve abandoned the eating program pretty much entirely for the final phase, I can say with certainty that the program is now over.

The results?

Not dramatic. You could call it a qualified success, in that I stuck with the program for the entire 12 weeks and I did get some positive comments on how I looked. One person I was meeting for the first time complimented my muscle tone, and a couple of people remarked that I was looking better.

However, you could also call it a qualified failure, in that, though I stuck with it and show some small visible improvements as well as some minor gains in strength and endurance, the results are not as dramatic as I’d hoped. At the end of 12 weeks, I weigh almost exactly the same as when I started, with only a minor improvement in my body fat percentage.

And while any improvement is not to scoffed at, the fact remains that for the amount of money I put out for this–not only for the program itself, but for the recommended supplements and additional equipment (two 5o lb. weight plates cost around $100, y’all)–I wanted much more dramatic results than I had achieved in the past designing my own workout. And that didn’t happen, for many reasons that I outlined in previous reports.

The workouts themselves are complicated. The promised video demonstrations of all the moves do not live up to the promise; many, many moves are not included, while some move you never do are (perhaps as a result of the change from 1.0 to 2.0 without the videos being updated at the same time). The nutritional program is only included as supplemental material for an extra charge and is hard to follow. It gives macronutrient gram counts for every meal, which seems simple, but just try to design one meal with, say, 44g protein/26g carb/0 g fat and another meal with 44g protein/26g carb/21g fat. It’s not easy.

So if you have seen the Superhero Workout advertised online somewhere and are thinking about giving it a try, my advice, given with much regret (because I really would like to recommend it), is to save your money.

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Superhero Workout Progress Report – Week 9

Yes, it has been a while since I’ve posted an update video (and this one is being posted a week late).

Here are a few update photos as well. Slow progress in gaining muscle combined with some fat gain makes for unimpressive photos.

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Scary Movie Monday – Fiend Without a Face

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Hey, we’re back with some more scary movies for Halloween. I actually started to recap this particular film last year, but ended up not finishing, so I held it over for this year. Today we’ll be featuring 1958′s Fiend Without a Face, directed by Arthur Crabtree for Amalgamated Productions. Like Amalgamated’s later First Man into Space, Fiend was filmed in England while ostensibly taking place in North America. And like First Man into Space, it stars Marshall Thompson as a military man facing off against alien horror.

The film opens at a U.S. Interceptor Command Experimental Air Station in Manitoba, Canada, apparently a Cold War DEW Line site. A guard patrolling outside the base hears mysterious noises and a scream. He runs to the sound to find a dead man on the ground. CREDITS!

Now we are introduced to Major Jeff Cummings (Thompson), who is wrestling with two problems simultaneously. One is a mysterious power fade that happens every time they fire up their big atomic-powered experimental radar (theoretically powerful enough to cover the entire Arctic region with one installation), and the other is the dead guy they just found snooping around outside the base, Jacques Griselle.

Barbara Griselle, Major Cummings, and Colonel Butler

Griselle’s sister Barbara (Kim Parker) refuses to have an autopsy performed, which seems suspicious, since the dead man was carrying a notebook recording the base’s take-offs and landings. According to Barbara (and confirmed by the dead man’s notes), their cows were turning out bad milk, and Griselle was trying to get evidence that it was the jets flying overhead that caused it. Major Cummings drives Barbara home and they share an instant bond.

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Later, they perform another test of their experimental radar, but within minutes, the power begins to fade on them. Cummings calls to the control room of the nuclear reactor and calls for more power. They have an argument over removing control rods (a nicely realistic touch), but even with the power boosted, the results are no better, almost as if the power were being drained off by something else. The experiment is called off and the planes ordered to return. Not long after, a farmer and his wife are killed by a mysterious invisible force. An autopsy on the farmer reveals his brain and spinal cord are missing, sucked out through two small holes at the base of the skull.

Major Cummings is ordered to interview the townspeople for unusual events. He takes the opportunity to beeline straight to Barbara Griselle’s place, where he catches her coming out of the shower so the movie can get in a little obligatory cheesecake for the one-sheet.

While she gets dressed, he finds a manuscript titled “The Principles of Thought Control” by R.E. Walgate. Barbara explains that she works for the retired professor, transcribing his tapes and compiling his notes. The major flirts with her until they are interrupted by town constable Howard Gibbons, who is suspicious of goings on at the base and jealously protective of Barbara. Cummings and Howard have a scuffle, which Barbara breaks up and sends the major on his way.

Cummings returns to the base and begins to research Professor Walgate. That night, the invisible creature breaks into the mayor of Winthrop’s house and kills him, which the next day sets off an angry mob patrolling the town with rifles searching for the murderer. Meanwhile, Major Cummings decides to pay a visit to Professor Walgate. Professor Walgate is a kindly old man who knows way more than he should about the atomic radar experiments at the base. As they talk, the professor has a dizzy spell, which prompts Barbara to ask Major Cummings to leave again. Romance is never easy.

As the search party approaches the air base, Howard Gibbons and friend hear the mysterious sounds of the invisible creature. Gibbons disappears. An emergency meeting called by the town council leads to angry accusations about the presence of the experimental air base. People are fearful of radiation and don’t trust the military men’s reassurances. Barbara speaks up in defense of the base, saying that it was the jet noise, not radiation, that has been affecting the milk output, and the cows are adjusting. The meeting is interrupted by the arrival of Gibbons, face disfigured and moaning like a mindless madman (apparently, though it is never explained, they only sucked out half his brain or something).

After the meeting, Cummings tells Barbara that he suspects Professor Walgate has something to do with the mysterious deaths. Cummings investigates the local cemetery. In the mayor’s burial crypt, he finds the coffin open and the Professor’s pipe sitting next to it. Someone closes the crypt door, locking him in. He is rescued by Barbara and a fellow officer just before the air in the crypt runs out. Cummings immediately asks to see Walgate.

Cummings confronts Walgate about his experiments in mind-over-matter and asks if it could be done with the help of atomic power. As the Professor is about to confess something, they hear the sounds of the invisible creature, and the Professor swoons. He manages to tell Cummings to shut down the atomic reactor.

Cummings convinces his commander to do so, but there’s a problem: the control rods necessary to shut down the atomic reaction have all been smashed. There is no way to shut the reactor down without them. They call for an emergency resupply from a base about 4 hours away.

And I know I’ve mentioned it before, but this is pretty awesome. Instead of simply invoking movie science and having some sort of on-off switch in the control room, someone did some actual research on atomic power and included the detail about the control rods, which are used to regulate the power output of a nuclear reactor. So bonus points for verisimilitude here, although they’ll get taken away soon enough. Just wait.

Professor Walgate has recovered and confesses that he knows what is going on. In flashback, he tells how he built a machine to “materialize” his thought waves and make them able to move objects. The machine used power from the atomic station to create invisible beings made of thought energy. But the Professor has since lost control of his creation. The creatures act independently now, drawing energy from the atomic plant (and causing the mysterious power fades) and eating people’s brains. As the professor finishes his confession, the house is surrounded by the creatures, which begin to break into the house.

Meanwhile, the personnel running the atomic plant are killed by the invisible creatures, and the power output increases into the danger zone. The power becomes so great that the creatures become visible, taking the form of brain-heads with spinal-column bodies and nerve tentacles. And antennae, for some reason.

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And now we enter the big climax of the film, which is half-awesome and half-idiotic.

Professor Walgate insists that the only way to stop the creatures is to shut down the atomic plant (which, as we’ve learned earlier, can only be shut down with control rods that still haven’t arrived from the other base). But suddenly, Cummings volunteers to use dynamite to blow up the control room, which will shut down the unshutdownable reactor because plot. The logic here is the same as those movies where guys decide to destroy a computer by shooting the monitor. It wouldn’t actually work, but it looks cool and seriously, we need to start wrapping up this story, guys, so don’t start nitpicking now.

Anyway, Walgate goes out with him in the hope of controlling some of the creatures, but is immediately attacked and killed. The rest of the film cuts back and forth as Cummings fights to get the dynamite set up in the control room while the people back at Walgate’s farmhouse–Barbara, the commander, and a couple of others–fight a desperate battle to survive an onslaught of stop-motion brain creatures, in a brief, but genuinely exciting sequence. Just as Barbara is about to get her brain sucked out, the dynamite explodes and the creatures all melt into disgusting slimy puddles. Cummings and Barbara are reunited and kiss as we fade out.

All in all, it’s not bad, as low-budget 50′s sci-fi goes. A little fan-service here, some creepy stop-motion creatures there, and even a little actual research stuck in there. The film is part of the Criterion Collection and can be viewed on Hulu Plus, if you’re curious.

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Superhero Workout Progress Report – Week 5

Okay, here’s the week 5 video. A little late, but that’s because a crazy schedule has kept me too busy to edit and upload (and I shot it and kinda forgot about it for a couple of days).

The preview on Phase Three. Ouch. And I’m really full.

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Superhero Workout Progress Report – Week 4

Diet is iffy and sleep is awful, but we’ve finished another week of the Superhero Workout.

Since we’re now just about a month in, I’ll also post some progress photos.

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These pics look better than the last set, but much of that is due to more dramatic lighting which brings the muscles into sharper relief. However, you can see some growth in the shoulders and in the lats. In the third picture, you can definitely see the bare beginnings of the V-Taper that I’ve coveted and not been able to achieve in forever. I’m hoping the next set of pics will be even more dramatic, because I’ll be almost through Growth Phase at that point, which is where all the money is made.

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Superhero Workout Progress Report – Week 3

So three weeks down, nine to go. I finished Phase One this week, so I’m into new territory. Phase Two is the tricky one, because there are five different workouts, and four of them will only be done once each. So there’s no way to measure progress by improved performance, only by what you see on the scale and in the mirror. Here’s the vid…

See you in a week.

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Superhero Workout Progress Report – Week 2

I really need to remember to white balance my camera. Also, I’m learning how to use Lightworks editing software as I go along, so with luck, the videos will get better as I go.

On vacation for a week, which will continue to screw with my diet and workout schedule, but next time I check in, I’ll be finished with Phase One, which will be a nice milestone.

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Superhero Workout Progress Report – Week 1

So after 1 week of the Superhero Workout, here’s a progress report.

I’m thinking of starting up with new content again. Just have to settle on what I want to commit to.

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Three Days In – Superhero Workout Review Part 1

I wasn’t planning to update this more than once a week, but I wanted to write a sort of first impressions review before settling down to weekly progress reports. After three days, I’ve pretty much experienced what Phase One of the training will be like, and I feel hopeful that I can complete it. I’ll talk more about that in a bit, but first, a little information about the workout plan for those thinking about buying it.

First off: it wasn’t easy to find. It is advertised on John Romaniello’s Shop page as being a current product, but the link is dead, which makes me suspect he’s stopped marketing the program actively to concentrate on Man 2.0: Engineering the Alpha or maybe he got some nastygrams from DC’s and Marvel’s legal departments concerning the artwork he uses to illustrate the program. But I did find a link to a page on another of his sites, and it took my money (quite a lot of it), so it seems he’s still selling it, or at least satisfied to leave the links up for whatever free money trickles his way. The site charged me $10 less than the price on the page, though–$87 instead of the listed $97–so I have no idea what you might pay if you were to decide to try buying the program. I also ponied up an additional $19.95 for the nutritional plan and some other supplementary materials.

So what do you get for the money?

The basic program consists of four e-books–Training Manual, Training Log Sheets, Quick Start Checklist and Supplement Guide–plus access to an online video database demonstrating different exercises listed in the plan. The supplemental material consists of the Nutrition Plan and a guide to adapting the plan to the TRX Suspension Training System. That’s right–the basic program talks about supplements while the supplement talks about basic nutrition.

The training program itself is a little complicated, consisting of four phases over twelve weeks. In Phase One, you build strength and power with heavy lifting days for low reps alternating with moderately heavy days performing “complexes” (a series of four or five exercises performed with the same weight without resting in between). In Phase Two, you build endurance with circuit training. In Phase Three, you use the strength and endurance you’ve built in the first two phases to lift for growth. You also adjust your diet to allow for growth. In Phase Four, you revisit parts of all three previous phases to hone your results.

Let me say right away that this program is not in any way designed for beginners. Although the marketing material downplays the difficulty of the program, you do need to be in reasonably good starting shape to jump into this workout. You also need a good grounding in proper form on several basic lifts.

Once again, the marketing copy on the sales page is a little slippery; it says you gets an online database demonstrating the form of the exercises, but it doesn’t actually cover all of them. In the intro to the video page, they mention that they’re not demonstrating the most basic ones, but their idea of “basic” may differ from yours. You can find numerous video demonstrations of the missing exercises on Youtube, but watching a video a few times won’t help you much when you’re on your ninth set and exhausted. You need to have a good feel for the basic form on things like deadlifts and squats from practice for the times you’re too tired to think.

Talking about the database leads to one of my major reservations about the program: the authors seem to be a little too infatuated with variety for its own sake. Each of the four phases of the program has at least four workouts that you cycle through, with a completely different set of exercises in each one. Having paged through all of the workouts, I can tell you that if even one movement is repeated exactly in two different workouts, I couldn’t find it.

In one sense, it’s a cool idea that for almost every workout you hit that muscle group in a slightly different way–e.g. doing split squats one workout, hack squats the next, front squats the next. But it means that if you’re not a lifelong gym rat who has had time to get good at all these movements, then you’re spending precious time struggling with a move you don’t know well, when you won’t use it enough to get good at it and really push yourself.

For instance, in today’s workout, I had to start my second group of complexes with the dumbbell overhead squat, which sounded easy enough, but I had never done it before. Turns out, it’s a bitch to squat with your hands over your head, and even harder with weight. I tried to get it several times, reducing the weight and trying again and failing until I just bailed on the exercise and moved on to the next part of the complex without achieving a single good rep. My next set, I squatted completely without additional weight, and my final set, I squatted with 5 lb weight plates in my hands.

I’m pretty certain that on my next iteration of the workout, I’ll do better on the overhead squat. However, I’m only going to do that exact movement one more time in the entire rest of the program. In the 12 weeks of the program, there are exactly 40 workout days, and there are 17 workouts included in the system, so you’re not going to any of them very many times–you’ll do the Phase Three workouts four times each, but most of the Phase Two workouts, you’ll only do once apiece. Looking ahead, I’m thinking this program could benefit from some serious simplification.

On a related note, the editing is horrendous. Not so much the prose in the training manual itself–other than some punctuation-type stuff, it seems pretty well written–but the details of the plan. For instance, Phase One Workout Two (the one I did today) has this note to start off the first complex: Perform A1, A2, A3 and A4 are sequentially, with NO rest between them; do not even set the barbell down between exercises.

It looks like the sentence was originally supposed to say something like “Exercises are to be performed sequentially,” then rewritten to be more active. But they forgot to cut out that rogue “are.” Also, it is not really possible to perform those exercises without setting down the barbell. Not counting the Power Cleans where many people are taught to drop the bar rather than lower it under control, you have to switch from an overhand grip to an underhand one for one exercise and back to overhand for the next one. If you’re using any kind of challenging weight at all, it’s not safe to change grips like that without setting the bar down. Not to mention that the accompanying Log Sheets (which it seems are intended to be printed out and used to log the workouts as is) list rest periods between the exercises that you are to perform with “NO rest.” Also, the Log Sheets provided do not have enough spaces to record all the sets you are told to perform. I printed the Log Sheets, but I’m actually logging the workouts on my own custom spreadsheets, with space for all the sets and no erroneous information.

There are lots of examples of these kinds of details that don’t mesh from one workout to the next, or from one document to the next (like the Supplement Guide recommending Blue Star Neutraceuticals’ Iso-Smooth Protein, while the Training Guide refers to Nature’s Best’s Isopure–actually, the Supplement Guide makes the same mistake as well). Some of it is careless proofreading, while in other places, it looks like a sloppy job of cut-and-paste. Most of the stuff you can figure out on your own, but for the money you’re spending, you shouldn’t have to.

And you will be spending some money, and not just for the program itself. The supplements Romaniello suggests don’t come cheap, and the structure of the workouts requires either a well-equipped home gym or membership to a well-equipped, but lightly attended health club. The wide variety of movements requiring different equipment and the short, strictly regulated rest periods mean that you want to have all your weights pre-set and ready at hand, and bummer for you if someone else refuses to let you work into their set.

So there’s lots of room for improvement, I think. But I still like the product and plan to follow it as closely as I can. The writing style in the training manual is zippy and fun and gets in lots of obligatory superhero references. The two workouts I have done have left me sore, but also exhilarated. That, plus the supplementation and diet have me thinking I can already feel some results. My chest, lats and triceps especially feel fuller already. It may just be water retention from the creatine, but I’m really looking forward to seeing where this goes.

My main takeaway right now is that, as many reservations as I have about the program based on my initial reading and preparation for it, I’m having fun so far actually doing it. The final verdict will come 11.5 weeks from now, when I actually finish it and see what the results are.

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A New Era Begins

Okay, the headline might be a little bombastic, but I’m thinking about what to do with Hero Go Home now that I haven’t written much of anything fiction-wise in a year or more. So it occurred to me that there’s a big wave of interest in superheroes in the general culture right now, and given that this is my bread and butter, I thought I might explore some more aspects of it.

First up: a 12-week undertaking! The Superhero Workout 2.0, by John Romaniello, promises to give you the physique of a superhero in 12 weeks by exploiting the miracle of body recomposition (i.e. losing fat and building muscle simultaneously). I have been working out for 5 months now, but while I am feeling better and fitting my clothes better, progress has been slower than I’d hoped. So I thought I’d try a more structured program, and with a name like “Superhero Workout,” you know I’m all over that.

The workout was pretty rough, although I’m sure it will get better as I get more used to lifting heavy again. And dang, but it seems like all I did was cook and eat today. The first phase of the plan has me eating about 3/4 of the calories I have been eating on non-workout days, then eating half again as many on workout days (that means tomorrow–technically later today–I’ll be eating about half of what I did today). I need to sleep pretty soon and hope I can walk tomorrow.

A little background: I have been letting myself get out of shape for several years now. The last time I was in pretty good shape was something like 7 or 8 years ago. I have tried several times to get back into the swing of exercising in the last few years, but for some reason, it just wouldn’t take. I just couldn’t keep myself motivated.

Then in December of last year, I had an experience that opened my eyes to just how far I had fallen. I determined to really do something about it this time, but my determination had to be put on hold for a few months as I transitioned to full-time at work and received new training. Finally in April, I took the plunge. Switched to a low-carb diet, took up strength training with light weights and later switched to an all-bodyweight program, and started running again thanks to the fitness app, Zombies, Run!

Five months later, I’ve gone from this…

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Which is not where I want to be, but is a nice improvement (actually, the difference is greater, because that first set of pics was actually taken at the end of May, when I had already been going for two months).

So if I can keep myself on track for the next 12 weeks, I’m hoping to see an even more dramatic shift in the pictures. In fact, I’m hoping to be in better shape than I’ve ever been before. In times past, when I have gone on a fitness cycle, I have never gotten all the pieces of the puzzle–exercise, rest, motivation, diet–all working together at the same time. This time I am determined to do it right. So keep your fingers crossed.

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