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, August 24, 2009

Book Review: The Gym Survival Guide

By Cook, Gregg and D'Almeida-Cook, Fatima.
280 pages
Published 2008

The Gym Survival Guide: Your Roadmap to Fearless Fitness is a beginner's guide to life at the gym. It's an in-depth look at everything from choosing a gym to negotiation fees, a class-by-class analysis of group fitness, a guide to machines and tools and toys found in gyms, and more. It covers goals, progress, basic programs, and other "need to know" information once you know what everything is and how to whittle down the costs.

The book gets high marks for its easy presentation, good illustrations, and especially for myth-busting. Little box-out texts wave aside the myths - why high room temperature isn't making you use more calories, why the fat loss zone is a myth, and so on. They pull out useful information to put in boxes as well - why isolation exercises are less time-efficient than compound exercises for many purposes, how to bring your wet clothes home from the gym, what to bring with you, etc.

The book loses a lot of points, though, for a few areas:

- it recommends you start with machines for safety.
- it has a lot of Smith machines lifts, all touted as safe.
- In utter disregard from your safety from fellow gym members, it lists biceps curls as a squat rack exercise. No, you can curl a barbell anywhere, you can only squat in the squat rack. You don't need a rack to curl, so why not use the squat rack and stop people squatting?
- it doesn't suggest much about lack of gym safety from non-weight exercises.

I did find the outline of all the equipment to be useful - I learned what some of the odd items in my own gym were, things I'd never touched because I wasn't sure what they are for. Now that I know, I'll still avoid them (balance boards, low-weight resistance balls, that weird stretching seat, etc.) but I know what they are. For a total beginner, this book can really demystify the gym.

Content: 3 out of 5. Could have been a 4 but for some bad advice, mentioned above. Lots and lots of myth-busting.
Presentation: 5 out of 5. Well organized, plenty of boxed-out text and useful illustrations, easy to read.

Overall: For a total beginner going to a commercial gym or YMCA or something similar, this is a good starting point. If you're doing more than dipping your toe in the fitness waters, it's not enough. Worth reading for the first group, with strong caveats, not for the second.

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