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.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Book Review: Strength Training for Women

Strength Training for Women
by Lori Incledon.

Strength Training for Women starts with an overview of strength training. It is refreshingly free of typical training and exercise myths. It follows with a discussion of types of strength, types of training, and the benefits of strength training vs. diet and cardio (and the benefits of free weights instead of machines!). It proposes a complete package of training, and the book provides the tools to do it. Calculators for your metabolic rate and caloric needs, body fat, vitamin needs, nutrient breakdowns, rep counts and maximum weights. It's all there. The book makes a convincing case for strength training for women, although with me, it's preaching to the choir.

There is a diet section as well. The diet advice is specific and comes with a meal plan. The diets recommended are a fairly typical 20/30/50 protein/fat/carbs ratio, which is probably better for gaining weight than losing it, but they're not the usual "fat free" diets that have caused so much havoc to would-be healthy eaters.

The book contains a lot of training detail. There is a chapter on building your own workout, strongwoman training, weightlifting (Olympic lifting), and powerlifting. There is even a whole chapter on deadlifting - a much smaller one than in other books, but it's not common to see so much detail on one important exercise in a training book.

There is also a complete, three-stage training program. It starts with a dynamic warmup, gives specific advice on warmup sets for exercises. Then it moves onto three programs - a basic, intermediate, and advance program. The basic program is based on linear progression, 3 sets of 8 reps. The intermediate is linear as well, based on 3 sets of 5 reps. The Advanced program is based on undulating periodization, with sets of 3, 6, or 9 reps. The "intermediate" program seems more like "just past beginner" than "intermediate", and the "advanced" seems more intermediate. But the important thing here is that it provides a 3-stage process of advancement, building on some basic hypertrophy with strength, and then varying up the reps after that to get a balance of strength, strength-endurance, and hypertrophy.

The exercises are generally good too - deadlifts, squats, bench presses, Y/T/L shoulder exercises, single-leg exercises (pistols, lunges, step ups), lots of rowing, pull-ups, and push-jerks. But it also includes leg extensions, tricep kickbacks (a marginal exercise at best), all different kinds of isolation exercises you just don't need.

The book does have some downsides. Specifically, a few exercises are shown with potentially dangerous form. The text describes good form, but the pictures show dangerous form. For example, the bench press is shown with wide, flaring elbows (which risks shoulder injury) and worse, instructs the trainee to bring the bar down to the neck. Even with a spotter, this is extremely dangerous; a safer version of the bench press would have tucked elbows and bring the bar down to the chest. When I recommend this book to women I will specifically mention that as a danger. Plus it recommends leg curls and leg extensions, despite making the case earlier that they don't make much sense compared to squats and other standing leg exercises! It makes it seem like a contradiction if not an oversight.

Substance: 3 out of 5. It's kind of a mixed bag. Lots of small errors weaken its overall good contents.
Presentation: 4 out of 5. It's kind of a bland book, but the pictures are clear. Several pictures show form errors that contradict the text.

Overall, despite my small complaints, I like the book. The book is written well, has plenty of detail, and it provides excellent training advice for women. It's just that the little errors add up and make it less than what it could have been.

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