Properly designed and effective programming is the key to getting results from your home or garage gym. The problem is that the internet is littered with crappy programs sold mostly by fitness models. Their six-pack abs and toned bodies sway thousands of people into spending millions of dollars.
The problem is that 95% of all the exercise programs sold on the web and social media are mediocre at best (most are downright terrible). And while even a mediocre program followed consistently will produce results, those programs are still a waste of your time and money.
So how about MAPS Anabolic, the original program offered by the guys over at Mind Pump? Is this part of the 95% of programs that are a waste, or does it earn a spot in the top 5% worth your time, effort, and money?
The Short, TLDR Version
MAPS Anabolic is a must-have program for anyone training with weights at home or in a commercial gym. It’s highly effective in a minimal amount of time, it will reliably build muscle and boost your metabolism, and is a program that’s highly useful for both beginners and experienced lifters alike.
What’s included in MAPS Anabolic?
- It’s presented in a well laid out and easy to use online portal.
- Lifetime access including any program updates or changes.
- 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Over 60 instructional videos (including separate exercise demos for men and women).
- Detailed training blueprint and calendar.
- General guidelines and FAQ to maximize your results.
- Four individual phases totaling 12 weeks of programming.
- Foundational 2-3 day per week strength training.
- Trigger session programming for off days.
- Programming suitable for a commercial gym and separate programming for home gyms!!!
- Basic tracking sheets/workout logs.
Who Should Use MAPS Anabolic?
While MAPS Anabolic is highly effective for lifters of all experience levels, there are a few specific goals for which it is exceptionally well suited.
People who want general strength and muscle gains
I’ve run MAPS Anabolic five times now, and every single time I’ve gained strength and muscle. It’s the program I return to as my “home base” of training.
So often, I’ll find myself lost in the world of novelty, hacks, and “new” training ideas. None of them ever work. When I need to return to what actually works, I always go back to MAPS Anabolic.
People with limited time to spend in the gym
One of the lessons that I relearn every time I run MAPS Anabolic is how little time is needed to produce truly impressive results.
So many people are under the impression that you need to lift until you puke seven days a week. The problem with that attitude is that it’s ineffective and produces negative results in most cases. When you commit to the simple 2-3 days per week prescribed in MAPS Anabolic, you’ll be shocked at what you can achieve. I always am.
People who want to boost their metabolism
You hear that a lot, but what does it mean? It means that you’ll be able to eat more and not gain weight!!! The last time I ran MAPS Anabolic, my daily maintenance calories went from 2700 to 3100 per day.
Running a program like MAPS Anabolic is the single best way to train your body to lose fat and keep it off over a long period. It’s soooooo much better than getting caught in the trap of trying to kill yourself with high levels of cardio and activity every day.
People who strength train regularly
I’m a firm believer that strength training should be something everyone does, several times a week, for the rest of their lives. It’s the single most significant and effective thing you can do to improve and protect your health and longevity.
For folks with that approach to life, I recommend running MAPS Anabolic once a year. It will be a return to the basics. It will kick start results. It will break you out of any plateaus you are in. It will serve as your strength training home base for the duration of your time spent lifting.
Who Shouldn’t Use MAPS Anabolic?
While MAPS Anabolic is suitable for a lot of fitness and health goals, it’s not necessarily the ideal program for all of them. Here’s a quick rundown of folks for whom MAPS Anabolic might not be the best choice.
People who are completely new to resistance training.
While the program includes a “pre-phase” intended for newer lifters or those that have taken an extended time off, MAPS Anabolic isn’t the best place to start for these people.
Instead, I’d recommend MAPS Starter, then the pre-phase segment of MAPS Anabolic. MAPS Starter is a great way to make sure you start your resistance training journey in the best way possible. It will help you prevent injury and build the skills needed to get the most out of the programs you run afterward.
People coming off of an injury
Obviously, always consult your doctor before starting any resistance training program, but this is especially important if you are coming off of an injury. This is another case where MAPS Starter is the ideal place to begin to ease back under a loaded bar.
Experienced lifters with very specific goals
While I recommend that MAPS Anabolic is in the toolkit of every lifter, it will not be the right program for every set of goals. Always start with MAPS Anabolic. Do it once a year. But after that…
If your goals are to train for a sport, take a look at MAPS Performance. If your goals are improving the way you look, try MAPS Aesthetic. In fact, the guys over at Mind Pump have a program or bundle of programs that will help anyone reach any goal they have.
I’ve run a good number of these programs and can vouch for their quality and effectiveness. You really can’t go wrong with anything these guys put out.
What equipment do you need for MAPS Anabolic?
While the program can be used in a commercial gym (and that’s what it was originally written for), you absolutely do NOT need a gym membership or a ton of equipment to use this program.
The program includes a “Home Gym Mod” that gives you a completely separate set of movements using only dumbbells and a bench. If you don’t have a bench, check out my recommendations here (or just buy this one from Rep Fitness, for my money, it’s the single best adjustable bench for home gyms on the market!)
I use a combination of their programs. Since I have a rack, bar, and weights, I use mostly the original programming. Whenever they call for cable movements, I look at the home gym mod for the dumbbell version and use that.
This is one of the single best aspects of MAPS Anabolic for home and garage gym owners!
How Much Does MAPS Anabolic Cost?
At the time I’m writing this review, it’s listed on their site for a one-time payment of $117. Check their current pricing here! That said, there is a great way to save money.
Take advantage of their bundle offers! MAPS Anabolic is a 12-week program. What will you do for the rest of the year? If you know that resistance training is a regular part of your life, I’d highly recommend going for their Super Bundle. It’s one year of programming that consists of several of their programs bundled together. It’s a great value, and you can run it year after year after year. When purchased this way, you save a ton vs. buying the programs individually!
Pros and Cons of MAPS Anabolic
- Detailed Instruction
- Mods for home gyms
- Perfect for all experience levels
- Forum available for regular feedback (additional cost)
- It can be run multiple times (it’s not a one and done program)
- Videos for men and women
- Well designed and produces consistent results
- Trigger sessions
- Builds Muscle
- Boosts metabolism
- Minimal time commitment
- New videos are not as helpful as the older versions.
- Tracking sheets/workout logs are minimal and could be much better.
- Some exercises are not appropriate for all people. More exercise regressions should be included.
- MAPS Prime is sold separately. See why this is important in my MAPS Prime review here.
What I like and don’t like about MAPS Anabolic
As much as I love and use MAPS Anabolic (I’ve run this program five times at the time I’m writing this review), there are some things I like that stand out above others. There are also some things I wish were different.
What I like about MAPS Anabolic
Let’s start with results. Every time I run MAPS Anabolic, I make consistent and noticeable strength gains week over week. It happens every time. There are quite a few things that help this (see my program tips at the end of this article), but the program works!
Not only does it produce results, but those results almost always come with a lot less effort than I think will be needed. I’m blown away by what can be achieved in 2-3 days of training per week. It’s as good or better than programs that require much more than that.
I love that I get both strength gains and a metabolic boost. My maintenance calories are always higher at the end of the 12 weeks than when I started.
I also really like the at-home mod. There are so many programs out there that require a full commercial gym. For me, those are all non-starters. The whole point of GymCrafter.com is training at home. What good would a program be if you couldn’t do that?!
The last thing I love about MAPS Anabolic is it reminds me of the golden rule of training… Do the least amount of work possible to elicit the greatest possible result. In other words, more is NOT better. More is simply more.
When it comes to resistance training, there is a sweet spot. Go past that spot, and you hurt your results. MAPS Anabolic helps keep this counterintuitive lesson at the front of my mind. Like many of you, I always fall into the trap of trying to add and do more. More sets, more weight, more reps, more days in the gym.
More is not necessary! More is actually worse in most cases! MAPS Anabolic always serves to simplify my training life. It’s something I need regularly.
What I don’t like about MAPS Anabolic
No program is perfect, and this one is no exception. Every time I run through it, I find myself wishing it were different in a few key ways. Here are the main ones (and hey, Mind Pump guys, please fix these!)
My first major problem with this program is that it should include MAPS Prime. In fact, all of their programs should include MAPS Prime. You can see my full review and reasoning here, but here are the two key reasons:
- It would prevent injury.
- It would make the program more effective.
No matter what program you are running, priming exercises will enhance that program, help you lift more, and keep you healthier. It’s a must-have if you are training in any capacity!
Prime is available bundled with MAPS Anabolic and their intuitive nutrition guide if you want to get them together and save some money. But really, it should be included!
My second major complaint is the exercise videos. When they first released MAPS Anabolic, the videos had the Mind Pump guys themselves coaching each other on the movements in the same way they would coach a client.
To me, these videos were awesome!!! Having trainers with that much experience point out training cues and form issues as the movement happened was invaluable. If you bought the old MAPS Anabolic, you still have access to those videos. I use those videos way more than I use the new ones.
The new videos are overproduced and much less helpful. They replaced the valuable spoken, real-time coaching cues with written graphics giving multiple cues all at one time. Those cues are not on the screen long enough. And instead of someone actually coaching the movements, they have this terribly annoying music playing on a loop instead.
I’m sure they paid a lot for these new videos, but if the point is to be helpful, I’d like to see them trade some of the overproduction for more helpful instruction. Check out their free MAPS Prime webinar to see a great example of what I wish the videos were. It’s evident in about three minutes just how valuable these guys can be when they do the training and instruction themselves.
That said, the videos are still better than 99% of what’s out there, so I don’t want to sound too harsh. I just wish they’d go back to working in their strengths, and their strength is coaching and training. Hey guys, please go back to being in the videos and live coaching yourselves!
Lastly, and I’ll just be blunt here, the training logs suck. They put so much effort into the rest of the course. It’s beautiful and complete and has almost everything you could want in a program.
And then you open the training log, and it’s just a basic Google sheet/editable .pdf. It doesn’t even have the actual programming on it. While a tracking app would be perfect (I’d totally pay for that, guys!), at least let’s get those logs filled in with the exercises, reps, sets, and lifting tempo up front.
How to get the most out of MAPS Anabolic
I’ve run this program just about every way you can. I’ve done it by the book, and I’ve altered it. I’ve added and subtracted. I’ve substituted movements. And based on all of that, here are my top tips on getting the best possible results from this program.
- Stick to the program exactly as written. At least your first time through. Don’t second guess. Don’t add. Don’t change. Just do the program. Trust me on this one!
- Don’t try to cut weight and calories while running this program. The best results will come if you are in a slight caloric surplus. Even if your long-term goal is to lose weight, run the program in a surplus. You can go back to a deficit afterward.
- Pay attention to the prescribed tempo and rest periods. They are a vital part of the results and something that too many people overlook and ignore.
- Do not lift to failure! The goal is to “leave two in the tank” on each set. Lift a weight that you can lift with perfect form for the prescribed reps.
- Form > weight. It’s not about getting a maximum amount of weight on the bar. It’s about lifting the most weight you can without breaking perfect form and maintaining the prescribed tempo.
- DO THE TRIGGER SESSIONS!!! 3X A DAY. EVERY OFF DAY!!! Holy crap, is this a game-changer. Do not neglect this; it’s honestly a 25-30% boost in results over the course of the program.
- Use the given exercise regressions where needed. If you can’t perform a movement with stability and perfect form throughout the range of that movement, don’t do that movement. The program includes regressions for the more challenging exercises. Use them!
If you’ve made it this far, you can probably guess that MAPS Anabolic is a program I recommend for just about everyone. New and experienced lifters alike can and will benefit from it. There’s not much else I can say, so if you haven’t already, head on over to the Mind Pump store and pick this program up for yourself!
MAPS Anabolic FAQ
What does MAPS stand for?
“MAPS” stands for Muscular Adaptation Programming System. In other words, your muscles (and you) are adaptation machines. Knowing how to manipulate and promote that adaptation is the key to great programming.
Can I do MAPS Anabolic in a home or garage gym?
Yes! You can use the MAPS Anabolic programming at home with as little as a bench and a set of dumbbells. You do not need a full gym to use this program (although you can because it is written for both types of setups!)
What is a trigger session, and do I really need to do them?
Trigger sessions are one of the primary reasons to do MAPS Anabolic in the first place. Doing trigger sessions three times per day on your off days will help maintain the muscle-building signal sent to your body by your primary training days. Running MAPS Anabolic with the trigger sessions will produce noticeably better results than doing it without!
How long does each session in MAPS Anabolic take?
If you stick to the prescribed rest periods, you can complete each strength workout in under an hour. The trigger sessions should only take 5-6 minutes each, 3x per day.
Can I run MAPS Anabolic repeatedly as my only program?
While you’ll get results running it consecutively two and maybe even three times in a row, I wouldn’t recommend it. Instead, it’s best to run the MAPS programs in order. The first three recommended, in order, are:
Is MAPS Anabolic suitable for beginners?
Yes and no. It does offer a “pre-phase” designed to ease you into the program. If you are a beginner or have been away from the gym for some time, start with the pre-phase. But better yet, check out MAPS Starter if you are a complete beginner. It’s a much better place to start your resistance training journey.