Jim Stoppani “Shortcut to Size” Review: Does It Work?
Jim Stoppani is something of a controversial figure in the world of working out and bodybuilding. On the one hand, he has produced a variety of workout programs that are, by all accounts, fantastic. On the other hand, he has repeatedly gotten himself into hot water with off-base numbers for dietary advice and selling supplements that aren’t backed up by science.
One of his programs, the Shortcut to Size, is a workout program with a lot of positive reviews online. As with any program sold by a salesman, however, you have to wonder. How many of those positive reviews are real, and how many exist solely to sell the program? Are the reviewers legit, or are they getting a kickback and thus promoting it as better than it is?
In order to get to the bottom of this situation, we took a look at the Shortcut to Size. Here’s our review.
Who is Jim Stoppani?
It’s our belief that a workout program should stand on its own. If you “file the serial numbers off”, so to speak, and present it without a brand or person attached to it, does it work? We’ll strive to answer that question later.
First, though, it can be worthwhile to know who is making a program, so you know what you’re getting into. A person known for their CrossFit support is going to give you a workout skewed towards CrossFit style workouts. A person who exclusively does strength training is going to develop a strength training program. A person known for selling supplements is going to sell you a basic program with recommended supplements along the way.
Jim Stoppani himself is a powerful man. He’s extremely shredded himself, so it’s clear that whatever he does is working for him. The biggest open question is whether or not what he does himself is what he recommends to others.
Over the years, Jim has gotten into a lot of arguments online. Many people claim that, while his workouts are good, his impression of what you need in terms of protein powder and other supplements are off-base. Does that matter for the Shortcut to Size program? We’ll find out.
He’s a doctor of physiology, so he certainly has the higher education necessary to make physical claims. His education is primarily in the form of exercise, training, and athletics, and not so much about nutrition, though he did minor in biochemistry. He certainly speaks from some level of authority, though, and many people have used his programs to quite a great success.
What is the Shortcut to Size?
Shortcut to Size is a 12-week program, part of the overall BodyFit subscription you can buy through Bodybuilding.com. It’s aimed at beginners, newcomers to weightlifting and fitness, and utilizes a full gym equipment set. Here’s what he says about it directly:
“The 12-week program I am about to take you through is based on one of the oldest, tried, and true methods for gaining strength and muscle. This type of training has successfully prepared almost every type of athlete imaginable, from Olympic weightlifters to soccer players. It works so well that it has been used continually for decades.
I know that I am best known for my unique exercises and novel training programs, but sometimes you have to rely on the basics. That’s especially true when a basic program works as well as this one. Of course, I have taken the basic, but very effective program and tweaked it to perfect its effectiveness and to maximize the results you get. These results include greater strength, bigger muscles, and less body fat.”
Already we see that this program is promising because it’s tried and true. Jim may not have invented it, but he tweaked it to perfection using his own knowledge and experience. If it has been used successfully for decades, as he claims, it’s going to have at least a core of accurate information.
Shortcut to Size uses two concepts in conjunction with one another to create an accelerated basic program for beginners. The two concepts are:
- Periodization. Periodization programs give you a set weight and a set number of reps to perform at that weight, and periodically throughout the program, will adjust those numbers. Generally, they go from lower weight and higher reps to higher weight and lower reps, and they adjust the numbers about once a month.
- Microcycles. This accelerates the typical periodization program. Where a normal periodization routine changes about once a month, a microcycle program changes once a week.
So, throughout the Shortcut to Size, you end up changing your workout routine every week for 12 weeks. You go through three progressive cycles starting at 12-15 reps of each exercise, working down to 3-5 reps at a higher weight, then returning to 12-15 reps with a weight somewhere in the middle, pushing it higher and higher each cycle.
What does Jim claim can be achieved with this program?
“In men, I have seen gains in strength of 90 pounds on the squat and over 50 pounds on the bench press. And for muscle, some guys have gained over 15 pounds of muscle. Yes, pure muscle, while actually dropping body fat. […] Women following my program have increased their squat strength by over 60 pounds, and bench press strength by 30 pounds. And gains in (their) muscle of over 10 pounds and fat loss over 10 pounds.”
The Workout Overview
So, what actually happens in the Shortcut to Size? Every week has four workouts, and each workout is a different set of exercises with a different group of muscles. This allows you to push workouts four times per week without risking over-training and injuring a particular group of muscles.
The workout definitely uses a variety of machines from a gym, making it difficult to do at home unless you have a sizable home gym. Here are the exercises performed throughout the first four workouts (or the first week):
- Bench press.
- Incline bench press.
- Incline dumbbell fly.
- Cable crossover.
- Triceps press down.
- Lying triceps extension.
- Cable overhead triceps extension.
- Standing calf raise.
- Seated calf raise.
- Dumbbell bent-over row.
- Dumbbell French press.
- Wide-grip pulldown.
- Standing pulldown.
- Straight arm pulldown.
- Barbell curl.
- Dumbbell incline curl.
- One-arm high cable curl.
- Hip thrust.
- Oblique crunch.
- Dumbbell shoulder press.
- Dumbbell lateral raise.
- One-arm cable front raise.
- High cable rear delt fly.
- Decline Cable Fly.
- Dumbbell shrug.
- Leg press calf raise.
- One-leg leg press.
- Leg extension.
- Stiff leg dumbbell deadlift.
- Lying leg curl.
- Hip thrust.
The number of sets, the number of reps, and the weight are all specified in the program. It’s a paid program, of course, so we’re not going to reproduce the full thing here.
There’s nothing wrong with this array of exercises. It’s a broad and varied program that works a different set of muscle groups with each workout; arms, legs, core, and so on.
If there’s one gripe we have with the program, it’s that not all of the exercises are familiar to the beginner. It’s meant to be a beginner’s program, but there are a handful of exercises in there that have a higher than average chance of injury, have difficult forms you might not be familiar with, or are complicated enough that you might not be able to pull them off if you don’t have experience. It’s clearly written from the perspective of someone who has been immersed in training his whole life and has slightly lost touch with how a beginner might work out without the aid of an experienced trainer.
That said, if you have access to a gym, you have access to trainers, and those trainers can help make sure you get the exercises done right. Some of them should have a spotter on hand anyway, so this isn’t really a problem. It’s just something to make note of if you’re intended to use the program with a home gym environment.
As for the four workouts a week schedule, Jim recommends adopting a Monday-Tuesday Thursday-Friday schedule. This gives you two varied workouts two days in a row with a rest day in between, and weekends off. You can, of course, adapt this to whatever your lifestyle allows.
Nutrition in the Shortcut to Size
No workout plan is truly complete without a dietary plan to accompany it. Whether it’s a simple guide to macronutrients or a micromanaged meal plan, every good workout should have some diet to go along with it. Jim’s is no different.
Jim has a lot to say about macronutrients on a basic level, which is fine. If you’re a newcomer to working out, you might not have an education in macronutrients and their purposes. As a beginner’s guide, this works just fine.
Jim’s recommended meal plan is middlingly complex, with a bunch of smaller meals throughout the day. It looks something like this:
- Immediately upon waking up, eat a breakfast of half a cantaloupe and some protein powder.
- An hour later, eat another breakfast consisting of oatmeal and eggs.
- Snack later with cottage cheese, pineapple, and a Clif bar.
- Eat a tuna sandwich lunch with a multivitamin.
- Eat an afternoon snack of a PBJ with protein powder.
- Eat a salmon and greens dinner.
- Have a before-bed snack of a shake with protein powder, peanut butter, and a ZMA supplement.
And, on training days, he adds two more meals; a pre-workout and a post-workout.
- Pre-workout eat an apple.
- Post-workout, eat some gummy bears and a handful of supplements, including the usual suspects of creatine, BCAAs, betaine, glutamine, and so on.
- Mix up a shake of protein, BCAAs, creatine, betaine, and beta-alanine, to drink throughout the workout; 1/3rd before, 1/3rd during, and 1/3rd after.
All told, this works out to be about 3,100 calories on off days and 3,700 calories on workout days. For those who aren’t immersed in workout culture, this might seem like a lot, but it’s all relatively healthy foods and basic supplements, heavily weighted towards protein to assist with muscle growth while minimizing fat storage. It’s all pretty reasonable.
One nice thing Jim provides in the Shortcut to Size is a list of alternative foods. If you don’t like something specific in the meal plan or want to vary things up throughout your three months of training, there are a lot of options.
Also, even though Jim is somewhat known for his supplement sales these days, the Shortcut to Size doesn’t recommend specific supplements he sells. He’s not trying to rope you into his pre-packaged meal plan or anything. So that’s nice.
The Shortcut to Size is a good program with a couple of major drawbacks.
The first major drawback is simply the time involved. Most of us work a 9-5 job, and we can’t take the time to eat five to seven meals a day and work out for several hours. It doesn’t really jive with the lives of a lot of beginners to fitness.
There are a few strange nutritional choices, like the gummy bears. We can see the point – it’s an easy and flavorful infusion of sugar for energy – but Jim sometimes has a pretty odd obsession with the little gummy creatures.
The other major drawback is that, while this is a beginner program, it relies heavily on newbie gains to make the most of its muscle growth. Just about any beginner program will offer that benefit. This overall workout can be useful for shocking your body past a plateau if you’re an intermediate or advanced athlete, but it’s not going to show incredible increases in strength and muscle mass for most people.
In short, it’s a good program for beginners, but it requires dedication and discipline that many beginners don’t have. If you can pull it off, more power to you. If not, well, there are plenty of beginner programs out there with less demanding time considerations. Feel free to look around (and recommend your favorite for us to review.)
Have you given the “Shortcut to Size” a chance already? What are your thoughts? Be sure to leave us a comment down below if you have any thoughts or concerns!
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