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.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Book Review: Women's Strength Training Anatomy

Women's Strength Training Anatomy
by Frederic Delavier
136 pages plus fold-out covers, published 2003

This book is a woman-specific version of the gender-neutral Strength Training Anatomy by the same author.

Unlike the other book, this volume does not jump right into the exercises. Instead it starts with a short look at female body morphology (ectomorph, endomorph, and mesomorph) and the common areas of fat deposit in women's bodies. These sections are well-illustrated and the explanations are easy to understand.

Next are the exercise sections - divided into buttocks (27 exercises), legs (37 exercises), abdominals (34 exercises), and back (6 exercises). Each section covers a variety of machine, free weight, and bodyweight exercises. Many of them are isolation exercises, although a good number are full-body exercises like front squats and back squats (legs) or deadlifts (back). There are no sections for, nor any exercises that cover, the chest or arms or total-body power exercises.

The fold-out covers show the skeletal muscles of the human body using a female form from the front (front cover) and back (back cover). The outside of the fold-out is used for a glossary of common lifting terms; ironically it covers things like the clean and jerk, but these exercises are not found in the book. That's obviously deliberate - the front cover says this is "Your illustrated guide to shape and tone * abs * back * legs * buttocks" and that's all it is.

Like the previous volume, the book does give excellent detail on each exercise, shows all of the muscles used, and gives good training tips and instruction. But it's very limited in scope - only a few parts of the body are covered. Much of the emphasis is on bodyweight exercises and machine exercises, which specific (and high) rep counts offered up for use.

The illustrations are uniformly excellent and easy to follow, but I found they lean towards the erotic as much as the instructive. Female trainees are scantily clad at best, often topless or nude, even when that adds nothing to your understanding of the exercise. Why bring this up? It's not prudishness, really, it just seems gratuitous. The one upside is they don't suffer from "ken doll syndrome" - they are anatomically correct, and are not suspiciously missing nipples or genetalia for no reason.

Generally I was a little disappointed in the book. Women's strength training is already beset by the "tone and shape, not build and bulk" myth, and this book isn't helping. It does provide great illustrations of the exercises, but it misses some useful and functional exercises for the body. Better to add pushups and knock off one of the six (!) calf raise variations, say, or put in the power clean or snatch instead of broomstick twists. My attitude tends towards training women differently than this.

Content: 3 out of 5. Women don't consist solely of buttocks, legs, abs, and back muscles. It's just not a complete guide to women's training.
Presentation: 4 out of 5. While the pictures are beautiful, some of them wander too far into gratuitous erotica (does that woman doing machine adductor work need to be topless?). That's really the only big presentation flaw.

Overall: If you're looking for a female-specific strength training anatomy book, and you don't mind requiring a second book for the rest of the body, this can be useful. Otherwise, the original Strength Training Anatomy or Anatomy for Strength and Fitness Training would be a better buy.

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