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The Go-Round of Strength Training Books I’ve Read in 2012

By Samir | December 17, 2012

I’ve said it to my friends a hundred times and I’ll say it here now. Leaders are readers.

I purchased and read several strength training books in 2012, since this was my first full year of power lifting training. I thought I’d offer my thoughts on each one. For what it’s worth, the programs I tried this year were

1. Stronglifts
2. 5/3/1
3. The Ironsport Strength Method

I don’t want to make this a post on programming, but to be honest, every program I tried worked. Every single one of them increase all of my powerlifts. Did they all work equally well? No. But considering that 85% of your genetic potential is achievable in under a decade, they all work equally well in the long-run. My only caveat is that Stronglifts will stall you if you’re beyond the beginner level of adaptation, and then you’ll have to adjust the frequency meter on your squatting to make up for higher intensities. Yes, I of course learned, this the hard way from my knees and back.

In truth, as long as you’re smart about it, and hit a certain level of intensity and frequency, pretty much any programming works. Huge in a Hurry’s push/pull/legs works. 5/3/1’s micro-volume works if you go all out on the last set. Stronglifts works if you eat like a madman and sleep like a baby. The Ironsport Strength Method works if you eat like two madmen and sleep like four babies. It all works, if you just work hard.

I am disclosing what programs I ran because, well, you can take my review with the appropriate grains of salt. I can’t really tell you if Strength, Life, Legacy works because I haven’t tried it yet.

Anyway, that’s enough of a digression. On with the post:

Book #1: Strength, Life, Legacy by Paul Carter

I only recently discovered Paul Carter and I love his blog. He eschews us, as men, to become lions who fight to the death for our genes to be passed on; to be strong and in shape in order to do so. It’s a primal harkening to one of masculinity’s forgotten purposes: to be the ROCK. To be the provider, not just of iPods and Pizza Hut nights, but of an example.

It’s a great book with lifting philosophy, programs and injury protocols. The best program, without expermentation, appears to be Strong-15 based on a Chest/Shoulders, Back/Biceps, Legs powerbuilding split. I will probably try it eventually, but only once after my commitment of 12 months of 5/3/1 ends.

Highly recommended.

Book #2: The Ironsport Strength Method by Steve Pulcinella.

Small admission of bias here, I’ve actually been trained by Steve Pulcinella. This was, of course, before he got famous and started being followed by thousands on Fitocracy. Steve has owned one of the premier strength gyms in America for about 20 years now, and he’s a champion powerlifter and strongman competitor.

I loved the book. The program itself was a great program, a little on the animal side, which is a perfect reflection of Steve’s “train till it hurts and keep training” philosophy. I found 5/3/1 to be a bit more sane in that respect but I made gains in the Ironsport Strength Method regardless.

What’s great about the book is Steve’s personal anecdotes and his favorite assistance exercises. He goes through his exercises in great depth and with his usual infectious and self-deprecating personalities. A great read.

Book #3: Starting Strength, 3rd Edition by Mark Rippetoe

Rippetoe’s been a coach for 30 years, and I think this book has been around in various forms just as long. I only managed to get to it now. It’s a great “textbook”, in the sense that it often devolves into discussions of physics that would give my dad (incidentally, a physics teacher) a boner. I found it overkill from that point of view, but there are some overthinkers who really need to understand power, force, work, etc. This is THE book for them.

Where I enjoyed this book more was in Rippetoe’s justifications of strength training, his espousing of his philosophy and his elegant writing. I feel like it’s almost a shame he’s a barbell coach, he could easily outwrite 99/100 journalists I read. His style is direct, striking, concise, confident and precise. If you need a sample, take a look at his recent T-Nation controversy stroker on conditioning.

Obviously, this book contains his famous 3×5 program, itself inspired by Bill Starr’s 5×5 program. It’s a great novice program and truth be told, I’d wish I’d have found this book earlier on in my training. His description of the lifts is exactly what a beginner should read; in fact, I still go back to it from time to time just to make sure I’m doing it OK. I disagree with a few things on his squat, namely his hand positioning, but a picture-perfect Rippetoe squat is still 100% better than the usual squat I see in the gym.

Book #4: Stronglifts Manual v1
You can’t actually download Stronglifts V1. The site, once a fountain of information with a burgeoning community, has been closed to private (i.e., paying) members only. The PDF with the program has been updated to be more of a sales pamphlet. The V1 was a perfectly concise manual on the Stronglifts program without any, let’s excuse the expression, bullshit. If you can find it and are scared of the Power Cleans in Rippetoe’s program, this is a good alternate program.

Book #5: Powerlifting by Dan Austin
This is a great reference manual, focusing mostly on the technical aspects of each lift. A great book if you want a “no-nonsense” how-to on powerlifting, with some general, basic programs. There is an absolutely massive dearth of accessory lifts, complete with explanations of how to pick and program them. If you’re a free wheeler who doesn’t want to do any program except one of your own conception, this is a great book.

It’s also a good book for beginners in order to learn the sport, what’s expected and what will go on during a powerlifting meet (that’s why I bough it).

Book #6: 5/3/1 for Powerlifting

I loved the original 5/3/1 book so much, this was a bit of a let down. The big gist of it was to switch from 5/3/1 to 3/5/1 and there was a discussion on gear. I’m not sure it was worth it, but it was good to re-read all of the 5/3/1 concepts again. Many have commented that 5/3/1 or 3/5/1 doesn’t matter, strength gains will come.

There are a few “meet advice” and “peaking” sessions that are cool as well, but I don’t think any of it was ground breaking. IF you don’t own 5/3/1 and plan to compete in powerlifting, get this book, but if you own 5/3/1 and were curious about this one, I’d say it’s not really worth it.

Topics: Books / Livres, Strength Training |

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