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, November 23, 2009

Book Review: Powerlifting

by Barney Groves, PhD.
Published 2000
160 pages

Powerlifting by Barney Groves is aimed at introducing the sport of powerlifting to beginners. The book starts with a small section describing the sport of powerlifting. While it occasionally makes some forays into how powerlifting can help other sports performance, it's only a foray. This book stays largely focused on its core goal, which is explaining the basics about powerlifting.

The next three sections deal with the squat, bench press, and deadlift respectively. Each covers its specific lift in depth. Proper form, performance cues, and common errors and helpful tips are all covered. Much of the advice is in lists, making it easy to read through and review. Each lift is also given a number of accessory lifts to perform to improve it, although the accessories are lumped together later for easier reference. Each section closes with the USAPL (United States Powerlifting) rules, circa 2000, for the lift. These sections are all of good quality. If you are coaching these lifts, the cues list and common errors are very helpful. If you're experience at doing them, it's probably just reiterating information you already know. None of the three sections is as complete and useful as the respective sections in Starting Strength, but on the other hand the list format makes them easier to use for review.

Following the lifts is a chapter on organizing a training cycle. The information is fairly basic, but it lacks enough really basic explanations to use it to organize your own periodized scheme. It is enough to introduce the concepts and basics of working up to a peak instead of merely training harder and harder each time. The chapter also includes a series of case studies. Five different powerlifters are profiled, two female and three male. Their training regime is rather sparsely covered, their results and diet rather more heavily covered. This is perhaps the most interesting section. It would make a great section if there was more detail, but as it stands it's merely interesting.

The nutrition section is arguably the weakest portion. You'll either love it, because you love the high-carbohydrate USDA food pyramid, or you'll hate it, for the opposite reason. The diet section draws heavily on the idea of a moderate amount of protein, a maxiumum of 30% fat, and 60%+ of your daily calories from carbohydrates, especially grains. Several sample diets are offered up as well, and like the case studies, they aren't hypothetical, they are based on two different powerlifters from the case studies section. A section on supplementation also included, but it's also rather basic.

The book concludes with short sections on training aids, training, accessory lifts, and the mental aspects of competition. These are, again, pretty basic stuff. The training section is too little to assemble your own program, but just enough to understand the notations used in one given to you. The other information is just as lightweight.

Content: 3 out of 5. The sections on the lifts are good, but there isn't much "there" there. The diet and supplementation sections are out of date, and the accessory lifts are not particularly well covered.
Presentation: 3 out of 5. Rather plain, but easy to read and easy to follow. The pictures in the main lift section are well-executed and useful; the bullet point lists are handy as well.

Overall: If you're utterly new to powerlifting, this book will give you enough information to understand the sport and understand the basics of the lifts. It's not enough, and not current enough, to really replace a good up-to-date text and knowledgeable coach. Worth reading through once if you're a beginner but don't stop here; and you won't miss all that much if you skip it entirely.

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