Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Book Review: Starting Strength

This book is a classic for weight training. I previously posted a similar review on the EXRX forums here.

Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training, 2nd edition, by Mark Rippetoe and Lon Kilgore.

Starting Strength is an excellent, basic guide to barbell training. It's aimed at both novice lifters and those who would coach novice lifters.

Each basic compound lift - which includes the back squat, deadlift, bench press, press, and power clean - gets its own chapter, and has thorough, step-by-step instruction on the lift. The writing is clear and easy to follow. The pictures are well-placed and accurate - they don't disagree with the text or show bad form unintentionally. There are lots of excellent queues and tips for the lifts, and lots of attention is paid to correcting bad form and ensuring proper technique.

There is also a Useful Assistance Exercises chapter, which covers exactly that - useful exercises to assist your development of the main lifts and your body strength. These include squat variations like the box squat and front squat, RDLs and SLDLs, back extensions (on an apparatus), chinups and pullups (including dead-hang and kipping), glute-ham raises, and more. Even curls ("Since you're going to do them anyway, we might as well discuss the right way to do curls." - pg 274).

The Programming chapter is pretty basic, boiling down largely to "lift more, eat more" but it's aimed at novices. It doesn't provide a guide to intermediate and advanced programming but doesn't pretend to, either. It covers warmup sets, rest, basic programming, the response of the body to various rep ranges, and a guide to the "first day" in the gym for a new trainee. It also covers equipment, the fairly no-nonsense basic requirements - the advice is both general (you need a rack) and specific (this is the size rack you need).

The book also presents a basic program for beginners. This program is widely known as the "Starting Strength" routine, although the details do vary a little bit. The program is centered on squatting, 3x a week, for 3 sets across of 5, plus executing the other basic strength exercises listed about. If you're willing to work hard and learn to squat right, this program is for you. It's got a well-deserved reputation for success.

There is a wiki dedicated to it, and the author of the book has his own Q&A forum on Strengthmill. The only warning I'd give you is that he's like a tough college professor - don't ask a question until you've done your own homework first.

Substance: 5 out of 5. Well worth the price, excellent instruction, good text-to-price ratio.
Presentation: 5 out of 5 Good pictures, good construction, easy to read.

Overall, it's a great book. It does exactly what it sets out to do, and it's useful for many levels of lifters. Worth checking out even if you already know how to do those big lifts. If you need more convincing, check out the publisher's website, which has some excerpts from this book and others here.

Bottom line: If you are a beginner and you are serious about weight training, get this book. I can't recommend it highly enough.

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