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 27, 2011

Book Review: Improving Strength & Power (Training for Sport)

This book is aimed at early teen/late childhood aged athletes. It’s a juvenile section book, it’s skimpy on text and aimed at raw beginners. It’s not exactly a weekend warrior training book. But it’s outstanding in its niche – teaching kids that weight training does indeed improve sports performance, and how.

The book covers the basic idea of the utility of strength, what is strength, and how does it affect sports.

Strength training is divided up into three sections – maximal strength, power, and strength-endurance. All of it is aimed at power athletes rather than endurance athletes. You don’t get the usual advice aimed at runners – the example athletes are sprinters, combat sports athletes, rowers, throwers, and team sports players.

The maximal strength section gives advice about 1-5 rep training and estimating 1-rep maxes. Power training discusses – at least introduces the concepts of – complex training, medicine ball training, and plyometrics. The strength-endurance section opens with a discussion of sprinters and ends with descriptions of circuit training.

The diet section is the weakest section, repeating the usual stuff about a “protein myth” – that you need lots of protein to build muscles – and 50-60% carbs / 20-25% fats / 10-15% protein as a diet split. It’s otherwise fine.

Each and every chapter includes an athlete profile – such Olympians like Mattias Steiner and Chris Hoy and Strongmen like Mariusz Pudianovski and Magnus ver Magnusson. It even mentions when those athletes have failed drug tests and for what, and puts them in the glossary.

My only real complaint is the mention of “leg extensions” as the best way to train part of the quadriceps. Er, maybe for bodybuilding but not for sports. For sports, you want to squat or do single-leg training, not isolate the muscle around a single joint. That’s the main quibble I have with the whole book – the “best exercise” selection tends to be a bit bodybuilder-ish and less athletic. It’s the only divergence from its stated topic.

Content: 4 out of 5. Aimed at children or teens, but adult-level information and it’s almost all good. I’d give it a 5 but the diet information drags it down a bit.
Presentation: 5 out of 5. Well written, great pictures, easy to follow boxed-out text, logically and well-ordered.

Overall: Highly recommended read for young athletes or their parents. Expensive, because it’s aimed at libraries and schools rather than end-reader purchases, but worth the read. Borrow this one from the library and read it.

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