Daniel Roy's Reviews > Starting Strength

Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe
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really liked it
bookshelves: fitness, non-fiction

I picked up this book after nearly every credible Internet on fitness recommended it (including the incredibly helpful 4chan /fit/ sticky), and I can definitely understand why they did. I've seen it called the "bible on weightlifting bio-mechanics," a description I don't find hyperbolic in any way.

If you're looking for a no-bullshit, straightforward book on lifting weights for fitness, then this is your jackpot. Be warned; this stuff is as far removed from the "miracle fitness cures" being peddled out there as is humanly possible. Don't expect to be handheld or comforted. It's meant to be difficult, because doing difficult things is how you get better at something.

The book introduces five fundamental strength exercises, all involving the barbell. These are: the squat, the press, the bench press, the deadlift, and the power clean. Because these are "compound lifts" that work entire chains of muscles in a way that approximates how they are used in real-life circumstances, they're all you need to get strong. Note the word: "strong," not "cut with washboard abs." The goal here is strength, not aesthetics. For each exercise, the book goes into a lot of details about the bio-mechanics of the exercise, and how to perform them safely and efficiently. If you think I'm kidding, consider this: the book spends 80 pages explaining a single exercise, the squat. Yeah.

This might be dry and boring for a lot of people, but as a geek and physics major, I ate it up. Where was this book when I was 16 and putting on fat?! There are moment arms and vectors all up in this thing. It's nothing too extraneous math-wise, but it's definitely great to see the authors are not condescending to the reader by hiding the physics principles under the carpet. I found the detailed explanations of, say, the forces at play in the squat to be fascinating, and it gave me a great theoretical understanding of how to perform the exercise and why I should do it in that precise way.

Some other caveats:

- The target audience of this book is clearly wannabe powerlifters and athletes looking to get stronger. As a 40 year-old pudgy guy who has never trained in a gym, I had to supplement my reading with research online. Don't let the authors make you feel guilty because you can't match the progression they're talking about. The gymbro 'tude is mostly to motivate the college jocks.

- The chapter on nutrition is slim, to say the least. The authors' advice to people wanting to build muscle is, I kid you not, 'Drink a gallon of milk a day.' Yeah no. Again, supplement your reading with exhaustive research.

- The details of what program to do are sketchy. For this, I recommend checking out the Starting Strength Wiki, especially their discussion on Starting Strength programs. (By the way, I'm doing the Wichita Falls Novice program.)

- The book gets a little brosy at times. There's some gentle jabs at the reader's masculinity should they fail to commit to this or that aspect of lifting. It's all good-natured and there's not that much of it, but we warned, it's in there.

- Finally, although the descriptions were detailed and supplemented with illustrations, I still had a hard time figuring out how some of the exercises were meant to be executed. For this, the authors have released a DVD, which comes highly recommended. There are other videos online, but the forms they show is not always great. For instance, there are many variations of the squat, so it can be tough finding the one that fits Rippetoe's description.

Overall, Starting Strength was a fantastic book for this weightlifting beginner. It takes a little patience and persistence as it can get dense, but you might want to consider it mental training for what will follow, because this approach is not about being easy, it's about results.

So, are you a man or not? N-n-not that there's anything wrong with not being a man. Haha. Oh boy.
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Reading Progress

March 2, 2014 – Started Reading
March 2, 2014 – Shelved
March 2, 2014 – Shelved as: fitness
March 2, 2014 – Shelved as: non-fiction
March 2, 2014 –
page 35
March 3, 2014 –
page 80
March 5, 2014 –
page 104
March 8, 2014 –
page 153
March 9, 2014 –
page 184
March 10, 2014 –
page 305
March 11, 2014 –
page 347
March 11, 2014 – Finished Reading

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