This Max Workouts review is my own opinion, based on authentic long-term use of the program since early 2009. I hope the write-up is useful to you and that it anticipates some of your questions.
Update: It’s now 2013 – four years since I started using Max Workouts. Right now I’m doing the Max Workouts “Killer Kettlebell” routine, which is great for added variety and overall conditioning once you’ve done the basic Max Workouts program.
There’s a lot of value in Shin Ohtake’s MAX Workouts program, and it’s gotten progressively better since I first reviewed it in 2009.
out of 5|
|What I like:
What you might not like:
People seem to click these links most often:
- Lean Body Kick Start - a free 5-day introduction to Max Workouts
- Shin Ohtake’s Max Workouts Program - official home page
- Benefits for Women and Benefits for Men – the program’s the same for men and women, but biology and cultural expectations are different, hence the two pages
Does Max Workouts work?
My own personal experience is that it works really well:
- I started feeling considerably fitter after the first two weeks, and began to see visible changes.
- I also experienced an overall increase in energy and vitality, in addition to shedding flab and building toned muscle.
- It was also relatively easy to follow. The online videos and Q&A forum were very helpful.
Of the workouts I’ve reviewed on this site, it’s certainly my favorite. Read through my write-up below for more info. You may also want to look at the success stories (i.e. testimonials) on the official site. They seem pretty credible, and are from people at all levels of fitness. They’re definitely not cheesy staged pictures of fitness models.
How Does Max Workouts Work?
Max Workouts uses short, high-intensity workouts to raise your metabolism and create a fat after-burn effect that will continue burning fat after each workout. What’s an intense workout? See “What are the workouts like” below.
The author, Shin Ohtake explains the principle in this video:
What’s Included in Max Workouts?
It’s offered in three versions: Basic, Deluxe, and Premium.
The Basic version has everything you need, while the Deluxe and Premium versions give you a greater variety of workouts, and some useful step-by-step training videos. I can’t decide what’s the best option. It really depends on what’s valuable to you. For details on what’s in each package, take a look at this page (it’s the order page, but you don’t need to buy anything, it’s just the easiest way to see what the different packages are).
Here’s a summary, with my opinion on each component…
Basic: Everything you need
The Basic version of Max Workouts has pretty much everything you need to get into great shape. The workout program in the basic package made a huge difference to my fitness and body shape. In my personal case, it was without a doubt a sound investment.
The Basic version contains:
- The “Max Workouts 90 Day Fitness Program“. This is the meat of the product and has everything you need to execute the program. This e-book was good back in 2009. It’s since been updated with more photos and other tweaks to make it even better. You can read it on your computer/iPad screen, but it’s worth printing out since you’ll be referring to it a bit until you get used to the max workouts exercises.
- The “Lean Body Diet: How to Eat for Maximum Fat Loss“: A great e-book. At heart, it’s basically a low-carb diet. But it’s not a “hey eat all the junk you like as long as it has no carbs” diet. It’s all healthy food. Nothing complicated. No starving. No chemicals or supplements. There are also options depending on how much fat-loss you want to achieve. Be ready to set aside some focused time to work through this. It’s simple in concept, but also very detailed, and has a worksheet to help you figure out how to tailor the diet for yourself (something I appreciated, since it’s one thing to read a diet book, and another thing entirely to take action and apply it to your life).
- The “Ultimate Muscle Recovery Guide“: This is a short book that goes well beyond the usual “remember to stretch” advice. The book shows how to use a roller to massage and loosen up your muscles. It really works. The only other time I’ve personally received this information is from a physiotherapist. Definitely good value.
Deluxe: Gym-ready mobile videos + Workouts for when you’re away from your gym
I really like the bodyweight workouts in the Deluxe version. They’re very useful for those weeks when you’re away travelling on business or vacation. I’ve used them a number of times, and they’ve been a real lifesaver, especially when the alternative was to drop out of a regular workout routine because there were no gym facilities. For me, the Deluxe version is worth it just for the bodyweight workouts.
The Deluxe version also takes the workout program from the Basic version and adds videos to make it easier to get started. Put the videos on your iPhone so that each day you can just go straight to your workout and watch the video to see what to do. I imagine this is a useful time-saver, saving you from having to keep referring to the manual, read the instructions for each exercise, and make notes before each workout. (Okay, I admit I still do it the old-fashioned non-video way, but that’s just me, I’m used to the jargon).
The Deluxe version has everything from the Basic version, plus:
- “Max Workouts Training Videos“: These are really useful for getting through the initial 90-day program because they save you having to cross-reference between a workout description and the descriptions and photos of each individual exercise in that workout to figure out what to do. You just play the video for the workout you want to do, and Shin shows you exactly what to do for each exercise. You can even put them on your iPhone/iPad/iPod and take them to the gym with you.
- “Bodyweight Workouts 4 Week Fitness Program“: This is a must if you travel much, whether for work or vacations, so you can keep working out while away from your regular gym. I’ve done these workouts in hotel rooms, at holiday campgrounds, and in parks and playgrounds. Four weeks of exercises is more than enough for this sort of usage. You could also just do this program as your regular workout for a month (e.g. do it after you finish the 90-day program), although I haven’t used it for that.
Premium – Do you want to get in the best shape possible?
The Premium version of Max Workouts is a good package if you want to get into the best possible shape. It costs quite a bit more than the Basic version, but when you look at what it contains, it has about twice the value of the Basic package, and contains advanced workouts that will push you even further than the already very challenging workouts Basic version. If your goal is to get into the best shape possible, I think this is a good option for the money.
The Premium version has everything from the Basic and Deluxe versions, plus:
- “Max Workouts Extreme 6-Week Fitness Program“: This is a great add-on to the initial 90-day program, and it’s a better option than just repeating the 90-days. If you do end up getting this, don’t try the extreme program to start with. Do the 90-day program first to condition yourself. And don’t let the “extreme” name intimidate you – these are more challenging than the workouts in the basic package, but if you’ve done the basic program you’ll definitely be able to handle these.
- “Killer Kettlebells 4-week Fitness Program“: Kettle bells are super effective, and this is a great program to add to the mix – it’ll really build your strength up. The only real drawback is that kettle bells aren’t as convenient as dumbbells: not all gyms have them, and if you have a home gym they’re another piece of equipment you’ll need to buy (a good investment, but they’re not cheap – I recommend just getting one with a selectable weight, since it takes up less space and is cheaper than a set of individual pieces). So I’d say that if you have access to kettle bells, this program is a good investment, otherwise, well, you be the judge.
What are the workouts like?
(Tip: The free 5-day Lean Body Kick Start has some good examples).
Max Workouts uses two basic types of workout: high intensity weight training, and interval cardio. Each workout is about half an hour-long, including warm-up time. In the initial 90-day program, the two types of workout are done on alternate days for the first five days of the week, followed by active recovery (light exercise) on the sixth day, and a day off on the seventh. (The week starts on whatever day you like). The Max Workouts Extreme program uses a more challenging pattern, since you’ll already be in good shape from the initial 90-day program.
The high intensity weight training workouts are preceded by a 5-10 minute warm-up. The warm ups resemble a very light workout, and I find they’re great for limbering up, shaking off any lethargy or stiffness I may have, and preparing for the main workout. The main workout is around 20 minutes long, and incorporates a several rounds of energetic weight lifting exercises. The Max Workouts exercises themselves are very dynamic and challenge large portions of the body. Here’s one example: rather than straight push ups, hold a dumbbell in each hand, do a push up, and alternately lift each dumb bell to your side (called a “dumbbell push up row”). You’ll feel it in your chest, core, legs, and shoulders as your body stabilises itself through each row. Sound easy? No way. Especially since after that set you’ll immediately move on to the next exercise, without a break, and do however many reps are required, then move to the next exercise, etc. And when you get to the end, it’s back to the beginning of the series to do it all again. If you aren’t struggling by the 5th round of this, then I want to know your secret. There is very little time to rest, and you’re continually working. You will sweat a lot, breathe hard, work your muscles hard, and really get your heart pumping. Honestly, there have been a few times when I’ve really been challenged to complete all the rounds in a workout and it’s a real sense of achievement pushing through to the end.
If you want to, you can follow the main workout with an optional abdominal workout, which generally consists of a handful of really effective core strength exercises (no sit-ups or crunches!) This generally takes about 5 minutes. Honestly, if it took much longer, I’d collapse. Like the main workout, this really makes awesome use of your time.
The interval cardio workouts are about 25 minutes, including warmup, and can be done with any cardio machine, or by running outdoors. My preference is to run at a park or track near my house when I can, and use my indoor exercise bike when the weather’s too nasty outside. These workouts are really challenging. They also scale to your ability, since the instructions tell you not how fast you should go, but rather, how hard you should work.
What about variety?
To give you an idea of the variety in the workouts, the basic training manual includes around 60 pages of exercise descriptions with pictures, that are referred to throughout the workouts. The Basic packages comes with 90 days of workouts, and the workouts change throughout the program. The Deluxe and Premium packages provide even more workouts, so you’ll never get into a rut.
Personally I’m very pleased with the variety of workouts. There’s just enough repetition for me to be able to learn what I’m doing, and easily enough variety for me to stay mentally engaged, and for my body to be continually challenged.
What equipment do you need?
You can do Max Workouts in a gym, or at home. Personally, I prefer to workout at home. Here’s what you need:
- A few pairs of dumbbells. I have the old-fashioned grey hexagonal kind, and they do fine. You don’ t need a full set – they’re expensive and take a bit of space, and you’ll end up only using three or four pairs. I’d say just get a pair that feels light, another that feels really heavy (but still lift-able), and one or two pairs in between. (If you’re thinking of getting a lot of dumbbells, I’d consider a set of selectable-weights, which will take up much less space and actually cost less.)
- An interval timer – this is critical. There is absolutely no way you’ll be able to rest for the proper time (i.e. briefly!), or do your cardio intervals at all, without a workout timer/stopwatch that can count off intervals and beep at you. You’ll be way too focused to watch a clock. You can even use an app on your cell phone, or a kitchen timer :)
- A pull-up bar (or substitute). The kind that hooks onto a door frame is fine. I wanted something sturdier and ended up installing one above the door in my garage (see this post). I’ve also used playground equipment, and you can even just use the top of a door (remember to put a towel over it first so the grip doesn’t hurt). Pull-ups are hard, especially to begin with. You can rest your foot on a chair or bench to help lift your body up, and then just use your arms to lower yourself down.
- A barbell & rack. This is optional, but if you have one, or want to get one, go ahead. If not, there are dumbbell variants of the bar exercises that work just fine (personally I prefer them, but that’s just me). I don’t actually have a bar & rack. The only exercise that’s a little tricky without one is when you need to hang below a bar and lift yourself up. There’s a simple substitution that I picked up from You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises: just lie below a sturdy table, grab the edge, and pull yourself up.
- A medicine ball for some of the ab workouts. This isn’t essential either, and it’s pretty easy to improvise a substitute. But nice if you can get it.
- A workout mat to put on the floor. Something soft and non-slip like a carpet or yoga mat is fine as an alternative.
What do I wish was different?
Overall I’m very happy with the program. When I last reviewed it in 2009, my main criticism was the scant nutritional guidance. However this has been completely addressed with the Lean Body Diet in the basic package.
Similarly, in the 2009 version I found myself wishing the exercise descriptions were more logically arranged, so I don’t have to leaf back and forth looking for a the particular exercises used in today’s routine. Since then, the main instructional book’s been revised and is easier to follow (although I still think it could do with some work, but it’s pretty good). The videos in the Deluxe version really help a lot.
Things you may not like
- Not a great option for body builders. You’ll develop well-defined muscles, but you won’t be huge.
- If you really don’t like working out, this probably isn’t the right program for you.
- If you’re really out of shape you will find it very challenging to begin with, and will need to ease into it (see the Q&A page and click “am I too out of shape”).
The bottom line
Overall, I absolutely love and highly recommend the MAX Workouts program. It’s challenging, engaging, and time-efficient. And it delivers great results in fitness, strength and weight loss. I also like the author’s (Shin Ohtake’s) attitude in the books and on the website – he comes across as a sincere, no-hype guy who really knows his stuff, has a calm and clear instructional demeanor, and practices what he preaches.
Here are some quick links to specific pages on the Shin Ohtake MAX Workouts site that you may find useful:
- Lean Body Kick Start - a free 5-day introduction to Max Workouts
- Success Stories/Testimonials - Usually I’m turned off by testimonial pages, but these are actually interesting, and as somebody who uses this workout program, I find them very believable
- Shin Ohtake’s Max Workouts Program - official home page
- Benefits for Men and Benefits for Women - The program’s the same for men and women, but biology and cultural expectations are different, hence the two pages.
- Package contents and prices - the easiest way to see what’s included.
Have a question that you don’t see answered in this Max Workouts review? You can ask it in the comment section below.
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