Ask any science-loving fitness buff their thoughts on 12-Week Shortcut to Size, and you’ll find them cringing before the full title rolls off your tongue.
There are no
legal “shortcuts” in the fitness world.
And, if there were some recently uncovered “secret” to mass, it wouldn’t be in a 12-week program available on a widely available fitness platform like BodyFit.
Honestly, that’s exactly where our minds went too.
But when a bodybuilding legend, Yale medical school researcher, and PhD-holder like Jim Stoppani is the mastermind behind said program, we can’t help but give it a second chance.
So let’s take a look at Jim Stoppani’s 12-Week Shortcut to Size.
About the Creator – Jim Stoppani
If you don’t know Jim Stoppani by name, you’ll definitely recognize him by his photos.
… the dude’s covered head-to-toe (literally) in a Japanese-style tattoo bodysuit depicting fierce dragons, samurai masks, and the elements.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way.
Dr. Jim Stoppani — yes, doctor — is one of the most knowledgeable and well-studied athletes across the entire fitness industry.
With more than 15 years of training experience, Stoppani’s success story includes:
- Clinching the Gatorade Beginning Investigator in Exercise Science Award
- Performing post-doctoral research at the prestigious Yale University School of Medicine
- Earning the title of senior science editor for magazines like Muscle & Fitness
- Co-authoring New York Times Best Sellers
- Launching his own sports nutrition company — JYM
- Offering nutrition coaching to Hollywood elites like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
He’s also the creator of another very popular BodyFit program, Shortcut to Shred.
A passion for science and industry respect, yeah, Jim Stoppani is a pretty f’in big deal.
(He’s also the perfect example of “never judge a book by its cover.”)
What is Jim Stoppani’s 12-Week Shortcut to Size?
Alright, it’s a “shortcut” if you compare it to other popular programs that take the more scenic route to size and strength goals.
In other words …
It’s a 12-Week Guide to Adding Mass and Strength in the Most Efficient and Progressive Way Possible. (We’ll admit, that version is far less catchy and doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as easy.)
So 12-Week Shortcut to Size it is.
Jim Stoppani’s 12-Week Shortcut to Size is for two types of people:
- Those unimpressed with their gains from other workout routines
- Fresh-faced newbies looking to take full advantage of that noob gains period
The 12-week, three-phase program is just one installment in Stoppani’s three-part “Shortcut” series. The science-backed workout, supplement, and nutrition guide ensure results!
But there’s a lot more to this program than meets the eye!
12-Week Shortcut to Size Details & Features
Like Jim Stoppani’s other two Shortcut workout programs, Shortcut to Size is available on Bodybuilding.com’s BodyFit platform.
Before you tap “Follow Workout Plan,” here’s what to expect in the 12 weeks ahead:
What You Need (Equipment & Accessories)
Unless the pandemic lockdowns — and the resulting gym withdrawal — convinced you to convert your basement or garage into a high-end home gym, you’ll likely need a gym membership.
But you can absolutely make do without one.
If you hate the after-work crowds or waiting for equipment hogs to pick up on those clearly missed social cues (claiming the bench with a sweaty towel, really?), all you need equipment-wise are:
Bowflex SelectTech 552 Version 2
Each dumbbell adjusts from 5 to 52.5 pounds. Rapidly switch from one exercise to the next. You don’t need multiple dumbbells cluttering up your home gym.
And — this is one of our favorite features in the BodyFit app — you can swap out those cable and machine-based exercises by choosing alternatives in the BodyFit’s database.
This 12-week beginner program follows the same pattern week after week, with slight changes as you progress through the routine. (That’s why we suggest paying close attention to each intro!)
The weekly schedule looks like this:
- Chest, Triceps, & Calves
- Back, Biceps, & Abs
- Active Rest
- Shoulders, Traps, & Calves
- Legs & Abs
- Active Rest
- Active Rest
Now, once-a-week training certainly falls short of the twice-a-week recommendation for maximal muscle growth, according to a 2016 systematic review study.
However, what it lacks in frequency, Shortcut to Size makes up for in volume.
The 10–15+ weekly sets per muscle group are about equal to the volume in a 3x-a-week full-body routine or even a PPL beginner split. 2019 research suggests that negates the frequency issue.
(That doesn’t mean a true beginner can crush through 15 straight chest sets, however.)
What is a Rest Pause Set?
A rest pause set is a high-intensity training style that allows you to push your muscles past the point of fatigue on the last set of an exercise (without overdoing it or risking injury).
Say you’re doing three sets of 25–30 reps on the seated calf raise, as you will in week one.
You’d perform sets one and two normally with the standard one minute of rest in between. On the final set, you’d perform as many reps as possible until you hit muscle failure.
Pause for about 15 seconds to give your muscles some time to recover. Then, crank out as many more reps as possible before hitting failure again.
Rest pause sets are such a popular training method that they’re now the focus of several studies.
A Look at the Workouts Themselves
Before you choose any workout program, you need to decide whether it’s doable.
Do you have the time in your schedule to fit in each workout? Are you well-trained enough to handle the intensity? Do you have the right equipment to do most of the workout as is?
Here’s what you need to know about the workouts:
- Week one starts with the 12–15 reps per set; you’ll gradually work your way down to 3–5 reps per set before you start back at the beginning.
- You’ll perform 3–15 reps for every set; this nicely sandwiches the ACSM’s guidelines of 8–12 reps per set to maximize muscle growth.
- You’ll do about 2–5 exercises per muscle group (and sometimes up to 15 sets).
- Exercises include triceps pushdowns, leg presses, planks, lateral raises, barbell curls, etc. (shy of a few, most of these exercises are quite traditional).
- Rest periods between sets last about one minute; research from 2009 shows that shortening rest periods to 30–60 seconds can help trigger growth hormone release.
- As you return to higher rep ranges, you should be able to load the bar heavier.
Overall, the program is reasonable for a beginner. But if your current workout routine is non-existent, jumping into this program with no experience might leave you sore and achy.
So it might help to slim down each exercise by a few sets to guarantee maximum performance.
The Training Guidelines tab seems more like a random FAQ section than anything else. But if you were wondering what a rest pause set is or if Stoppani recommends cardio, you’ll find it here.
A few key takeaways worth mentioning:
- Begin every workout with 1–2 warm-up sets.
- Add weight to the bar when you max out the reps.
- Commit to four 15–30-minute HIIT workouts a week (hate to be the bearer of bad news).
- Rest days are active rest days — go out there and do something!
- The workouts consist of mostly drop sets and rest-pause sets (more on those later).
This section is a great place to start if you like to learn about the inspiration and science behind your workout routines. There’s also an 11-minute video that explains it in much more detail.
Shortcut to Size Nutrition
Jim Stoppani was once the nutritional guru for celebs like Mario Lopez and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Of course, Shortcut to Size’s dietary guides shines the spotlight on his expertise.
In this section, you’ll learn the basics (explained in noob-friendly terms), like:
- Macronutrients vs. micronutrients vs. amino acids
- The calories found in each macro
- How your diet should change depending on whether you have a scheduled workout
- The healthiest sources for find carbs, protein, and fats
- Types of carbs (slow vs. fast-digesting), when to use protein powder, etc.
Remember, diet is half the battle. If you need a crash course in muscle-building nutrition, this is a must-read section of the program (and from personal experience, these parts are usually bland).
It’s worth the scroll, even if you don’t follow the program!
The Meal Plan
We hope you have a raging appetite because the Shortcut to a Size meal plan will make you feel like you’re eating 24/7. This is similar to what we revealed in our Big Man on Campus review.
Divided into nine meals (including two breakfasts), the plan features easy-to-make dishes like:
- Scrambled eggs with cheese
- Cottage cheese and pineapples
- Tuna on whole wheat bread (with mayo)
This full meal plan is for workout days, which somewhat leaves you empty-handed on those three active rest days a week. (Though we give credit to Stoppani for including so much detail already.)
However, there is a “Meal Replacements” section near the bottom of the guide.
There, you can swap out ingredients to keep your taste buds guessing during week two and beyond. Or you can DIY a non-workout day meal plan with your new nutritional knowledge.
If you’re tired of quinoa, swap in brown rice. Or replace oranges with grapes. There’s no excuse for getting bored with your diet and letting those gains slip!
(Stoppani ends the guide with 17 linked studies to support his claims. And, in a world full of B.S. diet fads that flood Facebook feeds concerningly fast, there’s a little peace of mind.)
Shortcut to Size Supplements
You don’t manage to build a physique like Jim Stoppani without some supplements to help you chug along through plateaus and DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).
The good news: Stoppani isn’t peddling false claims.
The bad news: He might be slightly overplaying the benefits of some of these supplements.
For example, he mentions that ZMA can help men boost their testosterone levels. Yet, very few studies have even suggested that while others, like this one from 2009, show no evidence of that.
And, CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) can encourage “modest” fat loss at doses of 3.2 g/d, according to a 2007 meta-analysis. But to suggest it can “incinerate” body fat is a bit much.
The remaining supplements — like creatine, multivitamins, and beta-alanine — can all support muscle growth, recovery, and improved exercise performance.
Swolverine Kre-Alkalyn Creatine
If you want more strength, muscle, and power, this supplement is 100 servings of pure creatine to speed up recovery and increase your gains in the gym. Mixes easily in any drink without any added ingredients.
Stoppani also includes a guide explaining how and when to take each supp and a list of sources to support some of his claims.
All in all, most of them are worth using.
The Bonus Videos section is a gallery of four videos that’ll walk you through the program’s four main workouts.
During each video, Stoppani demonstrates how to do the exercises, describes important form tips, and explains why he put it in the routine.
(These are the same videos you’ll watch in week one as you ease into the routine.)
More About the BodyFit App
As we touched on earlier, Jim Stoppani’s 12-Week Shortcut to Size program is available through the BodyFit app (a branch of Bodybuilding.com).
Now, that doesn’t make the program a 10/10 or a 1/10 on its own.
However, it does add some simplicity to following the plan and tracking your progress.
As you “log” your workouts in the app, you can:
- Record the weight you used, how many reps you performed, and how much effort you gave on the set (similar to RPE — rating of perceived exertion)
- Find exercise replacements if you don’t have the right equipment, are recovering from a previous injury, or simply have exercise preferences
- Monitor how much weight you lift in pounds with each workout
- Access Stoppani’s Spotify playlist (quite the variety, from Black Sabbath and Metallica to Eminem and Korn)
- Activate a pre-set rest timer between sets
But don’t feel like you have to take advantage of all these perks. If you’d rather not eliminate the traditional pencil and notebook, you can just mark workouts as “complete” in the app.
6 Unquestionable Benefits of Shortcut to Size
- Short of a few questionable claims about some of the recommended supplements, the program’s scientific foundation is hard to dispute. Assuming you put in the effort and commit to the workouts and diet, you should see mass and strength increases.
- The BodyFit platform makes it easy to follow along with the routine as Stoppani intended. You can track your progress and guarantee you don’t miss anything.
- Stoppani explains in detail the nutritional, fitness, and supplement basis for the entire routine. So even if you’ve never stepped foot into the gym (or a health food store), you’ll walk away feeling like a pseudo expert.
- Nearly every recommendation Stoppani makes has scientific backing, including links to the studies that helped him draw those conclusions. You don’t have to blindly follow this routine or doubt the program’s authenticity — it’s not a fad!
- Jim Stoppani is the genius behind this routine. Given his time researching at Yale, years of experience, and industry respect, attaching his name to this routine definitely bumps it up a few notches.
- He divides the program into microcycles. Not only does this help you in the progressive overload department, but it also keeps things interesting. You won’t do the same exact workout every week — the reps are always on the move!
2 Negatives of Shortcut to Size
- Jumping into a routine with 15 or so sets for some muscle groups per day can be a little excessive. You might want to ease into the routine a little more gently by cutting the sets for each exercise by a few.
- While splitting your calories and macros into nine meals (including snacks) a day is more manageable than hefty meals, it requires an almost constant appetite. You’ll definitely need to plan ahead and give meal prep a go if you work a day job.
Wrapping Up This Shortcut to Size Review
Jim Stoppani’s 12-Week Shortcut to Size might not guarantee gains overnight or reveal anything new to ensure progress. But it does carry loads of potential for beginners and intermediates.
It’s a science-backed program, is reasonable to an extent, and is more than capable of producing those gains you’re chasing.
In all honesty, the only real downsides are the intensity (for true beginners), how often you’ll need to eat to guarantee gains, and a few overzealous supplement promises.
All in all, this program is absolutely worth trying if you’re looking to jump into your first mass-building routine or your current program is failing miserably.
Just get ready to put in some effort.