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, January 18, 2010

Book Review: Peak Performance

By Charles A. Garfield, PhD with Hal Zina Bennett
Published 1985
218 pages

This book is a throwback to the 80s. The cold war. East German and Soviet athletes using secret techniques of unstoppable mental might to clean up at the Olympics. The introduction alone is an amazing reminder of what the 80s were like. It also features an anecdote by the author I've seen elsewhere - using visualization techniques to match a previous PR set a long time prior. In this case, crushing a 365 pound bench press after struggling with 300 pounds only a few minutes before.

The techniques are laid out in a progression fashion, from basic analysis of your motivation and goal-setting to the more advanced visualization and mental practice.

Each chapter builds on the previous one. Do expect the usual "talk to a partner or record yourself" approach, so if you're not big on self-motivational speech you're not going to like the exercises. But they do have a large supporting body of evidence (research-based and anecdotal) to support them.

The chapters go into depth on each technique, from a basic description up to a step-by-step method for implementing them in your training. The techniques are also detailed for non-sports use, but as this blog is about strength...who cares? Visualizing business success is nice, but this is about learning to get stronger.

One fun bit is the scattering of name-dropping of 80s athletes. Bruce Jenner. Chris Evert-Lloyd (since divorced and now Chris Evert). Mike Mentzger. Marilyn King. It's a flashback to the past, dating itself. But the advice still seems quite sound.

Content: 4 out of 5. A complete look at the state of the art of mental training techniques - but circa 1985. It would garner a much higher rating back then, but's dated enough to make you wonder if it has been superseded or not.
Presentation: 4 out of 5. It's nothing if not readable and well-organized.

Overall: The book is interesting, if only to see how athletes using mental training and visualization to reach their goals. I'm not convinced it's the super-system it claims to be, but if you need some basic methods to use visualization, it's a worthwhile read. Find it in a library - it's long out of print.

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