Review of Fortitude Training by Dr. Scott Stevenson

Prologue

After two run-throughs, I was convinced to write a review of Fortitude Training mainly because outside of one Flex article and a podcast review, all I found were very short reviews that basically said “this shit rocks!”, and on message boards on top of that. In addition, I thought it might be interesting to others to see what I have done with regards to the program itself to fit my personal goals and experience-level.

Introduction 

To most people in the bodybuilding/powerlifting/fitness community, Dr. Scott Stevenson is a fairly familiar name. He’s on IntenseMuscle as Homonunculus (his backside and bum shot is probably more famous than his actual face…), commonly writes for multiple websites including EliteFTS and Mountain Dog Diet (IFBB Pro John Meadows), is the trainer for IFBB Pro and multiple time 212 class champion, David Henry, holds a Ph. D, and is also fucking jacked and shredded to pieces. Basically, the man knows his stuff.

Fortitude Training is a systemic approach to bodybuilding, covering every conceivable aspect of physique development. Its roots lie in Doggcrapp/DC training, created by Dante Trudel, and Leo Costa’s Titan Training, though it is not, by any means, something created by patching together these two programs like some Franken-program. It is entirely unique in its approach to loading, time-under-tension, frequencies, and other variables, and in my humble opinion, is incredibly comprehensive, more so than most other programs out there selling for 2-6x its price.

First Impression

Here is a brief look at the table of contents of FT (Fortitude Training):

Table of Contents

  1. Fortitude Training – Earn it!
  2. A view from the Ivory Tower: The Science of Fortitude Training
  3. Program Outline
  4. Feeding the Machine
  5. FAQs
  6. Resources
  7. Appendices
    1. Training Logs
    2. References
    3. Index

Upon first receiving the ebook, I was taken aback by how lengthy the work is. In fact, looking through the second chapter, I kind of felt like I was back in the hospital as a research assistant, poring over PubMED for the primary investigator. I only say that because every other sentence has a reference attached to it (on that topic, the appendices has a references section that numbers from 1 to 607. Six FUCKING HUNDRED and SEVEN scientific studies for your viewing pleasure. Take that keyboard Ph.D lifting monsters!) Because of this, in my first read through, I read chapter 1, 3, and 4 only. I wasn’t really interested in the science behind it, in the FAQs, or anything else; I wanted to get things going. While that perhaps sounds foolish, I think that there were several “safety nets” that prevented me from completely failing:

  1. Ch. 3, the program outline, is written extremely well in that it is very clear about what I should be doing.
  2. Not having an understanding of the sciences is not necessary for me to “believe” in my program, especially because of Dr. Stevenson’s reputation
  3. Maybe he wrote it knowing that some might skip the science section, because he does explain in layman’s terms what the purpose of each set is in Ch.3.

In any case, despite the in-depth scientific rationale, I think most people will be able to discern for themselves whether or not they want to give the entire book a read when they’re first setting up their own programs. I personally think that omitting Ch. 2 is fine, though after a while, you will want to look through it… as the science is very interesting.

The Program

The program is a rotation of 4 days, 2 of which are based on more traditional load, set, and rep schemes, and 2 of which revolves around Dr. Stevenson’s evolution of Leo Costa’s Muscle Rounds. If I had to concisely describe the program, it would be “high frequency, high volume, and high intensity”.

Now THAT sounds like snake oil, right? As we know, extreme programs can only be maintained for very short periods of time (think Smolov… you can’t run that base cycle twice in a row…). However, FT is not an extreme program – it’s one that’s meant to be utilized as a primary training program/philosophy. Thus, we must adhere to the logical give-and-take nature of frequency, volume, and intensity. When one of these variables is high, others must “give” and be lessened. And this is the magic of FT – you rotate these variables to maximize their utility. Before going into how this is done, I think it’s best to look at the types of loading/set/rep schemes found.

  • Load sets are your traditional heavy bread and butter exercises, a la DC training (without the rest-pause), where the focus in mechanical tension.
  • Pump sets are your traditional time-under-tension style exercise and reps.
  • Muscle Rounds are kind of like rest-pause sets in DC or myo-reps, an interrupted set where you end up going past failure by allowing your muscle short rests in between the mini “sets”.

Thus, on days 1 and 2, you would do load sets for a body part, then pump sets for your other body part. Then, on days 3 and 4, you do muscle rounds or pump sets for a body part. So in the space of a given week, you’re hitting a muscle group 3 times – high frequency. By doing load sets and muscle rounds, you’re utilizing high intensity. And by the end of the week, you’ll have done more volume per body part than you could’ve done in a single training session in a traditional body part split – high volume. In addition, because of the increasing volume (discussed below in Periodization) and increasing loads (beating the log book), we’re incorporating progression. In this way, each day presents a different aspect of training to each body part, allowing for maximum stimulation of the muscles, and we still avoid the pitfalls of an unreasonable and unsustainable “extreme” training program.

Planning/Periodization and Fatigue Management 

Similar to DC, FT incorporates Blasts and Cruises. What is different is that instead of taking it easy during the Cruise phase, we’re still expected to train hard by utilizing only Muscle rounds. The only difference is total frequency and volume, which is really what matters in a “deload.” It’s actually great fatigue management, as far as I can tell.

As far as periodization, the program reads mainly as linear progression, where you are beating the previous weights or reps used for the load sets. In addition, there are “volume tiers”, which, in a given blast, you would theoretically work up through. There are also sets where you would go through a rotation of exercises and other sets where you just do whatever you feel like on that day. It introduces an element of flexibility to the schedule that you might not have if you “HAVE” to do a certain exercise in a certain sequence.

Individual Differences

One of the greatest attributes of FT is that it is a system, a “philosophy” of training if you will. This means that as long as you understand the WHYs of the program components, you can adapt things to your own needs.

Currently, I’m nearing the end of my second full run-through of FT. Unlike the first time, I did change things up to fit my goals. I am no longer focusing primarily on bodybuilding or powerlifting, but general fitness. Essentially, I’ve taken a more… “I just like being in the gym and lifting” attitude to training. In addition, this time, I started as a much leaner 195 than a fat 235, as well as doing a ton of martial arts via kendo. So, for my load sets, I’ve incorporated Paul Carter’s “Base Building”, to fill my powerlifting needs for certain exercises and body parts. Because it’s still fairly high intensity (relative to 1 rep max), I am staying true to the purpose of a load set, merely tweaking it to fit my personal goals (I’m still gunning for a 500 squat and 600 deadlift. I gave up on flat benching because… well, general fitness goals, but also, the massive pec tear from a dude who’s max is 365, doing a routine 185lb back off set. That was… nasty and disturbing). But outside of that, I keep things exactly as is written in the book. What’s nice is that all I had to do was drop a volume tier to fit my kendo training, and I’ve still been able to make solid progress (squat high bar, no belt went from 225×11 to 255×15) while still doing something of a recomp.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, I think very highly of the training system. FT represents a culmination of everything that I like – full body training, heavy shit, pumps, and high frequency. Hopefully, others with similar fitness goals will find this review helpful. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below (or better yet, buy the Ebook!)

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