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olympic style weightlifting by Jim schmitz
Publisher : Ironmind | Reviewer: SFUK | Score : 8 out of 10








Kelso's Shrug Book


By Paul Kelso

Reviewed April 2003

About the author : Kelso is a long-time strength coach, writer for PLUSA (Powerlifting USA), Ironman, Hardgainer, and author of the Kelso Shrug System.

Tale of the Tape:

The Good :.

  • Unique. A book about shrugs - loads of different ones - there's no other book like it.
  • For good measure other great tried-and-tested weight-packing routines are included
  • ..such as the Hise Breathing Shrug and the classic Milk + Squats routine.
  • Good, solid no-fluff info. Kelso's not trying to sell you some new supplements nor a magic-bullet "get-huge-in-4 weeks" miracle routine.
  • Great read - Kelso's a natural story teller.


The Bad :

  • 'Erm,...if you're not into shrugs then the first half of the book will interest you less.


Topics Covered include :

  • Shrugs - a background to the exercise
  • The Bench Shrug, Shrug Dip, Standing Shrug, Overhead Shrugs, Monkey Dips, Hise Shrug and loads more
  • Shrug training for Bench Press - gets a whole chapter
  • Shrugs for other competitive lifts
  • Trap bar work
  • Ribcage Expansion & Growth routines


Shrugs who need 'em?

Now then, there's the rub. Ordinarily I'd be wary of a book on shrugs. Why? Because shrugs are isolation exercises, and isolation exercises mean things like pec decs, leg extensions, bent-over lateral raises and other crap movements.

So my initial reaction is "shrugs? talk to me after you can bench 300lbs, squat 400lbs and deadlift 500lbs" (Stuart McRobert's goalposts of decent strength achievement). I mean, why bother about training your traps in isolation if you can't deadlift triple bodyweight? That's like worrying about your racing suspension set up whilst driving a Vauxhall Nova (that's a crap little hatchback car for you non-Brits reading this). Stick to the big lifts, they rule.

But hold on a minute, Kelso's brilliant Powerlifting book works on exactly that philosophy, so why the obsession with shrugs? (This is Kelso's second book about them).

Kelso's journey starts as a lanky, skinny arsed juvenile with a boney gap between his shoulder blades. After some stumbling experimentation, he discovered the solution - shrugs, or rather a special bent-over-shrug. His name has since become synonymous with the exercise - The Kelso Shrug - and you get a whole chapter on it.

Alright, so you guys with a skinny middle back are sorted. Who else?

Kelso's got a shrug for just about everyone. Are you a Powerlifter? Try the Bench Shrug - Kelso claims his trainees have added 20 pounds on the bar after just a month of these.

How about the Shrug Dip or "Monkey Dips" -apparently a great serratus exercise for you bodybuilding types out there.

Wrestlers who covet a big neck? Try the Wide Grip Shrugs.

OK, onto the mythical Hise Shrug. This one is steeped in iron-lore. Skinny-arse Joe Hise reputedly gained 29lbs of bodyweight in a month whilst doing these plus the milk+squats formula. (the subject of Randall Strossens Super Squats). It's a strange little movement that's supposed to increase rib cage size and shoulder girdle. I have to admit to being a little sceptical, but there's plenty of anecdotal evidence that swears by it's efficacy. What can I say? Have a go. If nothing else it will condition your body to handling heavy weights for the squat.

Kelso covers a load more shrugs too.

Just get big

I'm a lot more comfortable with the second half of the book. It's straight up good advice on how to get big and strong.

The Trap Bar is given a chapter and rightly so. Kelso has been championing it for years. If you can get your hands on one do so. It's straight up powerlifting advice and it's great. Loads of routines to get your teeth into.

The next chapter is about Rib Cage Expansion and Overall Growth. Most notably here is the legendary breathing squat routine. It's all here and covered very well. If you are skinny take Kelso's advice here and you'll pack on pounds. You'll find heaps of routines, all good, that will last you years if not a lifetime.

Everyone is always complaining about not having enough time to train. Well Kelso's got that covered as well. He's got a bunch of abbreviated routines, his favourite being this one:

  • Clean & Military Press/Squat hybrid - one horrible knackering set.
  • Do a set of breathing flies - 15 reps
  • Do a set of abdominal work - 15-15 reps
  • Do one set of DB biceps curls for vanity - 10-12 reps
  • Get out of tbe gym. One rep.



Kelso is a superb writer, he has that enviable easy reading effortless style that gives you the impression he wrote the whole thing in one sitting and it was perfect first time. Remember Fonzie's hair-do in the Happy Days opening sequence? Kelso's writing is like that.

The second part of the book is excellent and well worth the price of admission alone. There you go, a brilliant how-to-get-strong book with a shrug book thrown in for free. You can't lose.



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