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, February 1, 2010

Book Review: Optimizing Strength Training

By Fleck, Steven J. and Kraemer, William J.
Published in 2007
256 pages

Optimizing Strength Training is a book on one specific but broad subject - non-linear aka undulating periodization. The simplest explanation of non-linear periodization is a series of workouts in which the sets, repetition, and intensity vary in an undulating fashion. That means they'll go up and down - think of waves and troughs. 5 x 3 alternated with 3 x 12 and 2 x 15, for example, workout to workout instead of month to month or week to week. That maybe the nutshell explanation, but the nuts and bolts are not so simple.

The book first addresses the concept of periodization - planned variations in the intensity and load of workouts - in general. From there, it quickly moves on to the practical considerations of undulating periodization. What it is, how to implement it, and the nuts-and-bolts of choosing set/rep schemes and intensities.

Chapters are dedicated to practical considerations, workout design, the variables of the workouts, and more. This review does not do justice to the depth of the coverage of the subject. This books aims to be, and pretty much is, a one-volume text on the subject.

One especially useful chapter, in my opinion, is Assessment. This chapter covers the ways you can assess the effectiveness of your training on your athletes. These range from physical measurements (a full set of illustrations show how to do these) to rep-maximum testing of various lifts, such as bench pressing or power cleans. Even the warmup sets to use for such testing are covered in great detail. This chapter is useful stand-alone, even if you don't intend to use the rest of the book or design your own workouts. It's a better guide to assessing clients than I've seen in most other books, and it's not something that gets this much depth in other discussions of periodization.

The book closes out with fifty (!) case studies. They tend to be short - a problem stated in a few sentences, and a short paragraph outlining your options for dealing with it. If they are not comprehensive, I can't easily tell you what they missed. Dealing with an athlete who missed time due to a non-medical emergency? Coming back from injury? Team members unable to meet previous levels of training results? Whatever, it's in there.

There is also a glossary (well-written and useful), training logs, and a good index to round out the text.

Content: 5 out of 5. If you want to learn how to construct and utilize undulating periodization, this book will show you how.
Presentation: 4 out of 5. While very well written and organized, the book is sometimes overly dense and it's clearly aimed at an educated and experienced audience.

Overall: If you need a book on non-linear periodization workouts, this is the place to go. If you have no idea what that previous sentence meant, this is not the book for you. It's not aimed at beginners, and it's a dense read even if you understand the concepts involved. Still, it is well worth reading for a strength and conditioning coach or athletic trainer.

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