The High Performance Handbook is a highly customizable blueprint for fat loss, muscle building, strength, and athletic performance that belies its name, as it is a fully comprehensive system with manuals and hundreds of videos covering training and nutrition.
Written by highly knowledgeable author and world powerlifting champion Eric Cressey, it was designed to assist the widest possible range of people toward their goals with any available equipment.
This review will uncover how the system works, its pros, and cons.
Who Is It For?
The High Performance Handbook is designed for anyone regardless of age, fitness levels, and personal goals. The program was structured in a way to be effective for everyone in that it is highly customizable, offering a solid platform on which to build up your goals step by step.
You should also check our Power Primer review.
What About Equipment?
The program exhaustive video library demonstrates countless optional exercises to achieve the same results, regardless of equipment. The bottom line is that lack of a specific gear is not an obstacle for implementing the workouts.
What Is The High Performance Handbook?
The High Performance Handbook is a complete solution that Eric Cressey designed to satisfy all fitness goals for any person from the observation that most programs out there offer a fixed blueprint without any consideration for personal variables like body type and posture, anatomy, age, personal preferences, gender, fitness goals and so on.
While running his own gym, Cressey Performance, he had a chance to coach the most diverse people like teenagers, women, men, hardgainers, powerlifters, baseball players, office workers, and more still. Each with its own distinctive requirements.
This means that what works for one person may not work or even have a negative effect for another. Most programs force a wide range of different people to adapt to a single blueprint, they may or may not work depending on how suitable these plans are to you.
The High Performance Handbook is a system created with the idea of being fully customizable and effective for anyone. This is why the program is so heavy on materials, it needs a lot of workouts and guidelines to suit everyone (more on this later).
High Performance Handbook Fundamentals
Eric Cressey’s program rotates around 4 basic principles:
You are not forced into specific exercises. There are tons of modifications and alternative exercises you can do, depending on your needs and access to equipment and they are all explained and demonstrated clearly in the videos.
The blueprint can run on a 2x, 3x or 4x/week schedule for 120
days, so that you can fit it into your life commitments and goals, and not the other way round. The program does not last for just 4 months though, it is a lifetime training system that can be repeated for life in cycles, each time from a new self-assessment start-point.
Despite its name, it is not just a handbook. Aside from the main manual, it includes a vast 200 plus exercise video library, several more manuals, charts, plus additional video libraries and bonuses.
This may be open to debate as to what is affordable and what is not, depending on one’s pockets. However, the idea is to offer an effective, lifetime training system for anyone as a one-time payment solution that is way cheaper than you would pay for personal coaching and customized training.
How Does It Work?
The High Performance Handbook is designed in a step by step structure, with a very important initial set up phase to literally customize your training regimen before you start.
The foundation of your future workout plan, it lays a specific track that you will follow through the program. The assessment divides people into two groups, depending on their spine orientation and it offers comprehensive videos to find out what your fitness level or limitations are if any.
Spine Hips And Posture Assessment
This assessment helps you figure out if you have a “flexion posture” or an “extension posture” upon which your workout strategy will be decided. A flexion posture occurs when a flat lower back with a rib cage stuck down is present. An extension posture is the opposite – when your lower back is too arched and your abdomen tends to bulge even if you are lean.
Here Eric tells you how and what to modify depending on your desired outcome, muscle building, strength, fat loss, or athletic skills.
Schedule Set Up
Depending on your working hours or life commitments, you can optimize your weekly schedule in a convenient way, normally 2x/week or 3x/week, except strength training which is 4x/week. There are also extra workouts available if required.
There is a huge variety of exercises done with loads of different equipment in all possible variations so that if you do not have access to a particular machine or gear, you can use an alternative exercise. Many of the workouts include super-sets and the videos leave no aspect unturned so that you can choose the best exercises for your personal circumstances.
You just follow the training strategy that you have carefully designed in the previous steps. No need for setbacks as you already know what and how to do. However, you can still adjust and adapt as you go along, should something unexpected or a problem arise.
End Of The 4-Month Program And New Assessment
Simply wash and repeat the cycle starting from your new personal achievements, working your way toward your final goals as needed.
About Eric Cressey
Eric Cressey must be one of the most qualified coaches and accomplished athletes you may come across while looking for a fitness program.
He has impressive academic credentials, such as :
- Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.
- Double Major in Exercise Science and Sports and Fitness Management from the University of New England.
- Master’s Degree in Kinesiology from the University of Connecticut.
Aside from his formal qualifications, Cressey is a co-author for the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA) High School Strength and Conditioning Certifications and is on the advisory boards for both the IYCA and Precision Nutrition.
He is a top baseball consultant to New Balance and authored over 500 articles for top magazines. However, he is not just a desk fitness expert.
He has an extensive powerlifter history to match his qualifications, with the state, national, and world records. His personal bests are 540 squat, 402 bench, 650 deadlift, and 1532 total in the 165-pound weight class.
Overall, Eric Cressey is a guy who lives and breathes training with an intimate knowledge of biomechanics and anatomy. Having coached a range of very different people, from desk jockeys to professional athletes, he knows how to find the most effective training protocol for any level of fitness, age, body type, gender, and personal goals.
The High Performance Handbook Nutritional Guidelines
However, the reason for this extra charge may have to do with covering for the costs of the huge amount of materials you get with the standard training part, plus the fact that you may already have a sound nutritional plan and just want the workout part.
While Eric Cressey is a super-coach and athlete with amazing experience and knowledge in training, he felt that he had to enlist the help of his buddy and nutrition expert Brian St. Pierre specifically for the nutritional part.
On the plus side is that you get a really complete package by two guys who make their living by training elite athletes and being athletes themselves, hence the decision to make the nutritional part extra, as it is not a rehashed meal planning thrown in as a standard feature.
Brian St Pierre is a renowned nutrition expert who has dealt with countless athletes and regular guys and gals. He is also known for having contributed to Dr. John Berardi’s Precision Nutrition system.
In other words, Brian St Pierre is the perfect complementary nutritional author to Eric Cressey’s training expertise, so if you do not have a proper nutritional plan to match the High Performance Handbook training, it may be something worth considering.
The Nutritional Guide Breakdown
The 165-page diet manual does not disappoint, as you would expect coming from the training part. It covers all aspects of nutrition from general guidelines to meal planning, drinks, and sleep. Here the main topics.
Nutrition Application – A basic knowledge base for the most important aspects of nutrition in general, regardless of training.
Example Menus – 12-plus samples for all needs, slimming, building muscle, maintenance, intermittent fasting, and paleo diet. It gives the first customization of your nutritional plan based on your gender and goals.
Recipes – 50 recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, including snacks, desserts, and smoothies.
Macronutrients – Information on the right quantity and ratios of Proteins, Carbs, and Fats you need depending on your training regimen.
Drinks – All the benefits and cons of popular drinks like water, coffee, tea, alcoholic drinks, and fruit juice.
Smoothie Section – A nice collection of smoothie recipes to suit your workouts.
Artificial Sweeteners – Which ones can be used, which ones are not recommended.
Dairy Products – A discussion on the pros and cons of different kinds of milk, raw, grass-fed, pasteurized, grain-fed.
Sleep – Critical information on how to improve your sleep quality, very important for recovery and growth.
Stress – This section goes hand in hand with the Sleep section. It details stress management and how to offset it to your advantage.
Environmental Chemicals – The dangers of chemicals in your daily environment and how to prevent or limit exposure to them.
The High Performance Handbook PDF And Components
This is a gigantic program that comprises 6 main components and 4 bonuses [as of now] and it leaves nothing to chance. It really is fully comprehensive and totally customizable. Perhaps a more fitting name would have been “The High Performance System”?
The program is entirely digital and comes in PDF manuals, charts that can be downloaded and printed, and video libraries. You can access the videos from an online portal, no DVDs deliveries, and you can access the program immediately upon purchase.
Some people prefer hard copies and DVDs which unfortunately are not available for this program, but the electronic format also means instant access and no shipping/handling charges.
The program comes in 2 versions, GOLD or SILVER. With the GOLD you get everything that the SILVER offers, plus Brian St Pierre’s Nutrition Guide.
Here is what you get:
6 Main Components:
- The High Performance Handbook Main Guide – The foundation of the system with all the knowledge base and what you need to do for implementing the plan. Within the manual, you will find 2 links to the online Introduction and Self-Assessment videos.
- The High Performance Handbook: Video Database – A 3/hour 200+ video library. The videos are concise, detailed, and straight to the point. All exercises performed by a demonstrating athlete with Eric Cressey coaching by his side, describing all the subtle aspects of each exercise.
- The High Performance Handbook: Training Templates – 2x/week, 3x/week, and 4x/week workout charts similar to those used at Cressey Performance. You can download the charts and print them out for easy reference at the gym.
- The High Performance Handbook: Four Supplemental Conditioning Options – 4 extra metabolic conditioning programs that you can add depending on your specific goals, time, and equipment.
- The High Performance Handbook: Exercise Modifications Library – A second, very useful video library with exercise modifications and alternatives, should you miss the standard equipment necessary for the main library exercises.
- The High Performance Handbook: Special Populations Guide – An extra customization tool for more modifications depending on your specific needs. This part tells you how to change the program for over-40 trainees, muscle builders, powerlifters, Olympic lifters, or any other athlete.
- Bonus 1: Maximum Tension for Maximal Results – A manual by Miguel Aragoncillo on all aspects of tension-building strategies and strength.
- Bonus 2: Cheap Additions to Your Training Program – Powerlifter Jordan Syatt showcasing how to improve your home gym tools with unexpected materials and solutions, very useful to save money.
- Bonus 3: Troubleshooting Single-Leg Exercises – A step-by-step walk-through by coach Dave Rak on how to fix single-leg exercise common problems.
- Bonus 4: 10 Ways to Modify or Regress a Movement – A set of text and video coaching by Andrew Zomberg showing how to perform common regressions (simplification of a movement).
The 6 main components and 4 bonuses described above are common to both the GOLD and SILVER versions. In addition to these, with the GOLD version you also get:
- The High Performance Handbook Nutrition Guide – A comprehensive nutritional handbook by Brian St. Pierre to suit any age and need, from strength training to muscle building, with recipes, beverages, macro-nutrients, and much more.
Eric Cressey’s master plan for strength, muscle building, fat loss, and athletic performance is a complete system designed to be totally flexible to suit individual physical features, personal fitness goals, and circumstances.
With the back up of Cressey’s deep knowledge on strength, conditioning, sports, fitness, and kinesiology, the High Performance Handbook is a very professional program for anyone and effective for multiple disciplines of fitness like strength, fat loss, muscle building, powerlifting, Olympic lifting and athletic performance in general.
The program was designed as a blueprint for life to be repeated in cycles, as such, it is a worthy one-time investment for those who want to achieve their personal goals without wasting time or injuring themselves.