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.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Book Review: From Russia With Tough Love

From Russia With Tough Love is yet another kettlebell book by Pavel Tsatsouline, kettlebell guru. I've reviewed a couple of his books before, but I hadn't gotten my hands on this one until just recently. It's a kettlebell book aimed squarely at women, and features two female RKCs (Russian Kettlebell Certified) as the models for all of the exercises.

Like his other books, it's written with a mix of "no excuses, Comrades!" Soviet-era callbacks and rock-solid training advice. Unfortunately, it magnifies some of the faults of earlier books without adding much to the canon.

This book largely covers the kettlebell box squat, clean, military press, one-arm deadlift (and one-legged deadlift), and snatch, all with kettlebells. The details on these exercises is outstanding, and while it does heavily repeat earlier books, it is written as if this was your first exposure. This is good because it doesn't assume any base of knowledge. It also doesn't sugar coat this - training is hard work, and while this is effective and doesn't require training to exhaustion you are only getting out what you put in.

The exercises are also well-pictured, with clear illustrations that exactly match the text, button-pictures differentiating bad form from good form, and easy to follow instructions.

But sadly the book also has even more ads for Pavel's other books and courses, more ads for his friend's books and courses, and even more forum quotes from the forums. This would be cool if it was interspersed as the occasional testimonial, but pages and pages of it? Often it's just a question, or a comment, or a "kettlebells are awesome!" me-too post, which don't add much besides a sense of community.

The book also has some sloppy editing. This sloppy editing shows up in a couple of places - besides boxed text that tracks across multiple pages, you also get text that either just ends (pg. 18) or begins (p. 122) out of nowhere. It also leads to some oddness - the book repeatedly mentions toning (keeping muscles lean and under tension even when you are relaxed) and strength without bulk. But some of the forum posts quoted mention adding strength, thickness, and muscular weight gain . . . so which is it? It can clearly be both, but it's hard to reconcile "do this and you won't get bigger than you want to" and "this is a great way to get bigger muscles" - and those two basic ideas show up a lot.

Content: 3 out of 5. What is there is excellent - very high quality instruction on kettlebell exercises. But it's very heavily padded out with quoted Dragondoor forum posts, testimonial posts, long digressions with text errors that make them hard to follow.
Presentation: 2 out of 5. The text is easy to read, the pictures clear, and the good/bad/optional extra icons are nice. But the book is a mess organizationally, there are multiple trailing off sentences and sentences that start nowhere, and a total lack of text flow.

Overall: All of Pavel's books have two things in common - excellent material and a high price. The others I've read have been much better put together, however, and the instruction wasn't so padded out with extras. This book is very high quality information crammed in between poorly organized forum quotes and useless filler. This is too bad because the instruction that is there is gold. Not recommend - check out his other books instead!

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