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 21, 2010

Book Review: What Happens to Your Body When You Are Weight Training

By Brezina, Corona
Published 2009
48 pages

This is a juvenile book on weight training. Let's just get that out of the way right away - it's 48 pages, larger print, glossy, full-color pictures. You'd find it with a J code on the side in the library, and yes, that's pretty much the only place you'd find it. I read it because I'm always looking for a good guide to kids weight training and to weight training in general to recommend to my own child clients and to their parents. Maybe you are to, so here is my review.

The book is a very basic overview of what strength training is, what it involves, and what it is for.

The book leans a bit towards the standard recommendations - start on machines, do around 10 reps for one set, maybe move up to 2 or 3 sets and you get more advanced. It also has a few errors, probably from oversimplification. A good example is 1-rep maxes. It says that some people test these, but they can be dangerous (with no explanation of why) and they aren't good for building strength. That's sort-of accurate, in a way - a maximal single attempt at a new PR can be dangerous, but generally isn't any more than a rep maximum is. You can build a lot of strength on singles, although they have limited application to 10-year olds who'd be reading this book.

The book loses points, though, for lacking any real explanation of what physiologically happens in the body in response to weight training. It's more like a basic primer than what the title suggests. Would it kill them to have an explanation of supercompensation and adaptation, and muscle fibers increasing in size as they get used? Seriously, all it would take is 3-4 sentences about how you lift 15 lbs for 10 reps so your body gets strong enough to do that and then a little more to build a cushion, so you need to challenge it a touch more next time. But that's not really given any coverage.

There is a short section on risks and problems - injuries, anabolic steroids, and the like. The mention of the risks of doing way too much weight to show off shows a good understanding of what it means to be 9-12 years old and in the gym. Or male and in the gym ever, really.

The example exercises are generally good - it talks about bench presses (and gets bonus point for calling it "notorious"!) and squats and lunges, rather than curls and hip abductor machines. All of them are just examples, though, they aren't demonstrated. And - wince - the picture of someone squatting has a girl doing high-bar squats with a pad on the bar.

Content: 3 out of 5. For what it is, it covers a lot of ground and does it well enough. No real glaring errors but it often uses terms without real explanation of those terms.
Presentation: 4 out of 5. Very readable, good pictures, but it really needs more illustration of what the text is specifically addressing.

Overall: Not a bad book for someone with no basic understanding of strength training. So I'd recommend it with caveats to a young kid getting into lifting, or a parent of the same. But there must be better books out there . . .

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