I had mixed feelings about the Four-Hour Body before I even started reading it. On the one hand, I bet Tim Ferriss would be a blast to hang out with. His writing style is almost addictively engaging, and I’ve noticed all of my fitness gurus (and non-fitness gurus) dropping his name with alarming regularity. (I could list at least a dozen people I really respect who have mentioned him in phone conversations or on their blogs in recent weeks, but I won’t.) I’m sure he’d be a blast to hang out with and is great at parties. And Tim Ferriss probably doesn’t need my book review. He’s got an army of followers and 833 5-star reviews on Amazon. People are tripping over themselves to write about the guy. And the review of his book in the New York Times, albeit negative, probably helped him sell even more books.
On the other hand, I approached the book with skepticism. I am no fan of the Four-Hour Work Week. In fact, if I believed in hell, I’d even go so far as to say that there would be a special place reserved in it for FHWW adherents–specifically, the ones who I’ve worked with on projects right when they decided said projects were not part of the 20% of their tasks worth doing (and left myself and others others to pick up the pieces), or those who have no problem with confusion, broken chains of communication and lack of a human element in their work life, or think it’s okay to waste other people’s time with bizarre requests to accommodate their (almost entirely outsourced) businesses so they can go traipsing about on prolonged vacations while VAs (from less privileged countries) do their level best to keep everything together.
As much as 4HWW annoyed me, Four-Hour Body is a testament to Ferris’ time well-spent. While ignoring and outsourcing huge parts of his life, he spent hours in which he wasn’t vacationing exploring ways to be a ninja: gaining muscle, speed, strength and longevity. I can respect that. Who hasn’t spent hours at real jobs gazing out the window or cubicle and wishing they were, instead, pushing the limits of human performance?
The Four-Hour Body is nothing if not well-researched, and for every gimicky chapter promising (for example) good sleep for a handful of overpriced items you can buy through affiliate links embedded in the book, or weight loss by sitting on ice, there are chapters that are tremendously useful and well-researched. From lowering bodyfat to adding muscle, reversing injuries to improving one’s strength, sleep, running, swimming, longevity and even sex life, the book is absolutely jam packed with detailed information and resources. I found the posterior chain chapter particularly cogent.
The book reads like a lunch buffet, imploring readers to pick only the sections they like. But like a lunch buffet, you run the risk of putting too much on your plate and then feeling really sick afterwards and not being able to finish your meal… especially since each chapter pimps so many products that I’d hesitate to recommend the book to anyone on a budget.
I also found the title a bit misleading, as many of Ferriss’ protocols were complicated and time-consuming, and I don’t know if one could easily see results in just four hours a week. (I, myself, exercise 3-5 hours a week, and spend 2-4 additional hours a week in my sport of choice, and spend at least 5 hours a week preparing home-cooked meals. That means I spend 10-15 hours a week on my body, not counting 56+ hours of sleep.)
But the book is well-researched enough to provide appropriate guidance for a wide variety of activities and goals, and in a far more engaging manner than other books you’ll find. Ferriss comes across as a teeny bit smug, but he’s on the reader’s side, and if nothing else his cult following will help you find other s attempting to experiment with his techniques (such as punk rock business consultant Johnny B. Truant, who is experimenting with the Slow-Carb Diet this month). (I, myself, am partial to the Paleo diet, but…uh, that has nothing to do with this book review. Except that I can’t in good conscious write about slow-carb without mentioning it.)
Bottom line? Look through 4HB in the book store, see if there’s chapters you like, and if you have the time, motivation, desire–and probably money–pick up a copy. Otherwise, maybe try the library?