234 of 247 people found the following review helpful
on May 25, 2004
In many respects this is the perfect first book for someone looking to get into regular exercise. More than most other books in the genre, this one seems to have more than a modicum of scientific understanding backing it. The first sections set the tone, going over the actual science of muscles, why they get bigger, and how. The authors know their audience, though, and don't overdo the science. However, if you are going to lift weights then you need some level of understanding of what things work and why. This first section gives you that. I personally would have liked to see more scientific detail and references but understand that that probably would alienate large chunks of their target audience.
After that primer you get introduced to the major muscles and the exercises that target them. There are also sections on diet, warming up, and stretching. While none of these sections are comprehensive, and many have been done better elsewhere, they are done well enough here that it makes the book a viable one stop shop for beginners.
Before you rush out and buy this, though, there are few caveats.
One, the book does not cater to the home exerciser. Depending on how well stocked your home gym is and how creative you are with coming up with replacement exercises this might not be a big deal, but the exercises DO assume access to barbells, dumbbells, and a machine.
Two, some of the exercise descriptions are lacking detail or, in a few cases, plain wrong. The upright row, for instance, shows a form -- bringing your elbows way above parallel -- that most trainers and researchers caution against because it causes shoulder injury in many people. I would expect the world's most authoritative guide to at least mention this.
Three, the routines provided sometimes leave me scratching my head. They give a cadence for things like the push up hold. The description of this exercise says to "hold the position for the specified period of time" yet the actual routines don't specify a period of time. Am I supposed to hold for 3 seconds or 30 or 90? Who knows?
Four, the routines -- at least early on -- take far too long and seem more like overtraining than training. In "Phase One" King prescribes circuit training and by week three you're supposed to be doing this circuit 2-3 times per day, three days a week. I found that doing the circuit twice took me over an hour. Doing it a third time would have pushed me well over 90 minutes of exercise. Throw in warm up and post-work out stretching and you're looking at a solid two hours. This is for "beginners" and they're supposed to do it three times a week.
Later on in "Phase One" King piles even more work on that. Not only are you supposed to do each circuit 2-3 times, you're supposed to do 2-3 reps of each exercise. In week 6, if you do the minimum number of reps, the minimum number of sets, the minimum number of circuits, all with the minimum recommended resting the whole thing will take you 93 minutes. Do that three times a week. This is for "beginners".
While I like the workouts I think this kind of time commitment is more likely to lead to overtraining rather than useful gains. Admittedly later on it looks like King scales back the time requirements but you have to persevere through 8 weeks of workouts that are easily 90 minutes in length.
156 of 166 people found the following review helpful
on October 3, 2003
Finally, Men's Fitness has gotten it right - a book that does not promise immediate results...but instead one that helps you formulate a plan, that is equal part guide to the weightroom, solid nutritional advice, and key principals for involving the mind in your workout. This is without a doubt their best book yet on the value (and IMPORTANCE) of personal fitness.
Ian King may not be the best known name in the world of fitness, but among weightlifters, he is known for hard core, no-nonsense weight training, with functionality stressed over mere muscle mass. Along with Men's Health regular Lou Schuler, they have compiled the best muscle guide to come out of Rodale Press - and one of the best guides I have ever read.
Along with showcasing the various muscle groups, and giving well explained details of their importance, the book goes on to spotlight various exercises for each group. What is nice about the exercise pages is that they show great variation in order to allow for full definition of the particular muscle, and also give great explanation and illustration for the exercise, allowing the reader the chance to really learn more about proper form. It's great to read a book like that that uses pictures to explain and educate, rather than to have an excuse to photograph chiseled bodies in sweaty conditions.
This book has everything - whether you are a newcomer, or have been in the weightroom for years, you are bound to learn some new exercises, or some outstanding twists on some old favorites. And the sample programs written by King are well reasoned, and offer a creative mix of hypertrophic and endurance building routines. And they allow for customization to meet specific body part needs.
Great book guys - this has me thinking about subscribing to Men's Health again (if only they would stop running the cheesy "pump up your sex life" articles).
59 of 63 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 2004
As the Fitness Editor for Men's Fitness magazine, I've read more fitness books than I care to remember. It's how I make my living. And I can honestly say that The Book of Muscle is one of the best fitness books ever written. Let me just say that I have no personal investment in this book. In fact, you'll notice that it's published by my competition. But I believe in directing the public to quality material--and this book fits the bill and then some. I have known Schuler and King personally for years, and can attest that they're tops in the fitness biz.
Because of my job, I think I can say with some authority that the writing is superb. Schuler makes complicated physiology seem simple. But let me put it in perspective: I have a master's degree in exercise science, and I wish that this book would have been available when I was in graduate school. It would have saved me hours of boring textbook reading--and I would have learned MORE!
Just as important, Schuler's co-author, Ian King, is known in my circles as one of the best strength coaches in the world. And he backs that reputation up with the highly effective, cutting-edge training programs that are presented in this book.
I highly recommend The Book of Muscle to anyone who wants to:
*Understand the science of building muscle--from the basic functions of each of your major muscles to the secrets of increasing their rate of growth.
*Learn how to do over 100 exercises with perfect form.
*Have at your fingertips months' worth of expertly designed workouts from one the world's leading fitness authorities, Ian King.
So for what it's worth, consider this my professional opinion. I hope it's useful to you.
79 of 87 people found the following review helpful
On the plus side, this is probably the best book I've ever read on the subject of weight training. On the down side, boy, there is so much to each work out that it is overwhelming.
I've been weight training for over 5 years and have used Body for Life and a number of the Men's Health training books. This volume, far and away, has the greatest number of new exercises to be used each week. In the intermediate program, e.g., there are 3 separate workouts to be alternated. Perhaps if someone has a half an hour a day to review the exercises, another 40 minutes to do them (and to tote the handsome volume to the gym), these are reasonable....but for someone who has other responsibilities, kids, job, home, this is a fairly time and concentration intensive program.
That being said, I would certainly endorse this book for anyone who wants a genuinely serious, long term program. Too often, the Men's Health "Bibles" are limited programs, leaving the lifter who is committed with wondering "what next". This book provides enough variety and different routines to make it a great long term investment.
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on March 31, 2004
Book of Muscle is one of the best books of it's kind that I have read and I have seen them all. It takes you on a tour of your body and gives you a road map to keeping it in the best shape possible. The text by Lou Schuler is clear and concise with a no nonsense approach that is refreshing in this world of "flavor of the month" workout and fitness books. You learn about muscles and how to maintain them for life.
The workouts, by noneother than Ian King, provide over a year of quality, well planned routines that will keep you challenged and growing. And Ian definitely follows the less is more principle by keeping the workouts under an hour. I have been doing the Intermediate program for 12 weeks now and I am getting stronger and growing in body, mind and spirit. King also manages to keep things lively with changes in routines and innovative exercises and combinations that beat the hell out of those monotonous 3 sets, 10 reps workouts you find in the magazines.
Get Book of Muscle. It's the best bang for the buck for the novice and the seasoned lifter.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 24, 2010
Anyone reading my reviews will know that I am very critical of books which make false claims. I only wish others would do the same. That said, I am equally full of praise for any book which proves to be exactly as described by the publishers. This book falls into the latter category.
When it comes to looking after your own body there is much more to the subject than just going for a jog or lifting weights which get progressively heavier as your biceps improve. Bodybuilding and exercise is a science which the seriously minded need to understand in order to be successful.
I joined the British army at the age of 15 years and completed several tours of duty with airborne forces. I therefore learned about serious fitness at a young age since when it became a way of life. I am now 60 years old and have come to recognise how keeping in shape gets harder every day. In recent years I have turned to various books and magazines for advice and, if I had to choose one book - and only one book, which offers a full understanding of keeping the body in shape, it would have to be this one.
Commencing with a most informative section on Physiology, the authors begin this quite exhaustive work with chapters on Muscles, how to use them, allowing them to grow, feeding them (YES!, the correct diet is also vitally important) and other peripheral information. Having provided an excellent grounding in the subject - where almost everyone will learn some important lessons, the next section covers the subject of Exercises. This is broken down into the various muscles which act on; The shoulder, the elbow and wrist, the spine, the hip and the knee and ankle. Part three is then devoted to preparatory work prior to the workout itself. Here we find an explanation of the workout, the truth about flexibility and a chapter on "Getting warm and staying warm."
So having explained the physiology, diet, different muscles and getting the body ready for exercise, the final section is devoted to "The Workouts." Divided into chapters for; Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced, the reader may go straight to the chapter that suits them best - or start at the beginning and progress all the way.
With other books normally devoted to only one aspect of fitness or diet, this book appears to be as complete a work on the subject of exercise as one might hope to find. The main word in the title is "Muscle" and it is the body's muscles which we put to work whenever we exercise and any person reading this book will provide themselves with a comprehensive understanding of that subject. When it comes to the eventual workouts - well, that part is up to you.
Having followed the information found within the pages of this book, I receive many compliments on my physique with most people refusing to believe my true age. Now that really is worth a full 5 stars!
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on June 15, 2005
I shopped for a few days before choosing this book. I finally bought this one for the following reasons :
- Great and nearly complete content for learning everything you need to know about physical training.
- I have good comments for all products from Men's Health editors. The writing style is friendly with a few jokes, but still serious with scientific content.
The book is well divided in several section. First, you will learn a bit of physiology, not too much, just a dozen of pages for you to understand the working principles drinving your muscles.
Then, you will read the truth about "why is he bigger than me ?" and "why can't I get good performances in jogging ?". Thus, you will learn everything you need about muscle growth and how to deal with your body. Also, there are good explanations about hormones and what makes muscles grow.
After this theorical chapters, you will get a few informations about what too eat while on a program. Advices are good, short and sweet. You will have the different pros and cons about proteins and everything else. However, I would have liked a bit more informations about nutrition. This is not a diet book, so beware if your an advanced athlete looking for food charts instead of programs. There still a few "shake" recepies and general comments on what and what not to eat.
Next, you will learn how to workout correctly, how often, how intense, etc. This is a great part, but again, it could have been longer. The essential is there, and even a bit more.
The most complete section is about different exercises (over 100), well explained with variations and GREAT GREAT ILLUSTRATIONS all along the book. Pictures are nice and they bring motivation for reading and then getting to workout.
Following the movements to choose from, you will find three complete programs with differents stages, well-builded by experts. It's a non conventional method, but it is known to work very well and you still get some availability to add some sets of your favorites to your training session. With three complete programs (beginner, intermediate, advance), you get at least a few years of variety for your workouts, and focus is made on good progress without getting crazy like gym rats.
If you're looking for great advices and to know the truth about a lot of elements in training your muscles while having good programs already made for you, this is the best book you can get.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on March 31, 2004
Sections include Physiology (types of muscle fibers and technical stuff), Exercises (how to perform, cautions, variations, and what they work), Prep Work (flexibility and warmups, with routines), and the Workouts (Ian King is simply amazing). If that's not everything you need to know about muscle...
If you're new to lifting, read it twice. It'll put you ahead of many personal trainers with regard to your knowledge of muscle and training.
If you're an intermediate level, you'll enjoy learning even more from a pair of the best guys in lifting. You'll understand more and be able to gain more from the same time in the gym.
If you're advanced, you'll appreciate the layout (which is the best I've ever seen in a fitness book). If you know everything already, I'm Elmer Fudd. It'll be a great addition to your library.
If you're breathing, you'll reap huge rewards from Ian King's workouts. Be prepared to be awed, humiliated, and ripped. Ian has an uncanny ability to make a light weight impossible by the end of the day.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2010
I'm almost done with the Beginner Program from the book and I have probably picked up about 5 pounds of muscle in about 4 months. Previously, I have completed Power 90 (to lose weight) and I've done P90X twice (for conditioning and to see my 6 pack).
The number one thing I like about this book is that instead of being a 90 day quick fix it program, it's a progressive, comprehensive program for building functional strength, flexibility, bone and joint strength, and muscle density and mass. As a hard gainer, I've had trouble gaining mass in the past. My self-directed routines took longer in the gym and never really got me anywhere. And P90X, while a kickass conditioning program, isn't the best for putting on mass (even though I did gain a little bit).
The first part of the book is physiology, nutrition, and the basics of the program. The rest of the book is the workouts themselves. I find the workouts typically take about an hour, hour and fifteen to complete. The longest workout I've had so far was 2 hours, but I kept getting distracted. But the length of the workouts are, in part, dictated by the tempo of the reps themselves. For example, in the beginning stages of the programs when the workouts focus on strengthening weak points like joints and grip, there are up to 16 different exercises in a workout, not including the ab routine. But they are generally only 1 or 2 sets and the tempo is faster and the whole thing is done as a circuit. Later, especially in the Advanced Program, there might be only 2 exercises (again, not including abs), but you do 10 sets each and the tempo is really slow (like REALLY slow, I'm talking 10 seconds to lower or raise the weight slow).
The great thing about the programs is that they are progressive. The first stages are for physiological adaptation (joints, wrists, grip, etc), then hypertrophy, then strength, then maximal strength and power. Then you start it over again in the next Program. Once I wrapped my brain around the fact that I would have to work up to deadlifts, I was fine with doing single leg unweighted good mornings for a few weeks for hams. I realized that I needed to make sure my ankles, grip, knees and other areas were ready to rock before I did the heavy stuff. Having the mental attitude that this is a long, fun journey makes it a lot easier to stick with the program. By the way, even though I had always heard that big squats and deadlifts were pretty much the best exercises for the entire body, now that I've been doing them for several weeks, have figured out the right form, and have added a lot of weight to them, they leave me huffing and puffing at the end of a set! Especially the deadlifts. Man, I love those!
This is a great book and I highly recommend it for anybody who is interested in a solid, progressive, long-term resistance training program - and that includes women. The book looks very nice and there isn't a whole lot of extraneous info that the trainee doesn't need. The sole gripe I had in the beginning is that it would have been nice to have the page numbers for the exercises in the workouts section. Of course, now I have the exercises memorized and I know where to look for the new exercises that pop up.
Go get it and get started on building the physique you know you want if you are reading reviews of this book.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on August 29, 2006
I often see younglings @ the gym, throwing weights around willy-nilly, doing silly things with dumbells... I cringe, but usually don't say anything - i'm not a "certified" anything in that area, and aside from years of experience, don't really have any other qualifications to offer "official" advice. plus, i don't want to come of as though i'm criticizing someone. It's all head trash, of course, but - it is what it is.
If i were to offer some advice to folks starting with lifting weights, though, i'd heartily recommend this book: The Book of Muscle, published by Rodale Press and written by Ian King with Lou Schuler. In addition to going through every body part & muscle, explaining what it's for, etc., the book also provides a series of well-designed exercises for beginners, intermediate lifters, and those who have been doing it for years non-stop (that is, advanced).
If gyms had libraries, this would be a must-have!
On a personal level, I've been following the intermediate program for some time, and i'm impressed with the attention to detail and the methodical, easy-to-follow approach. I've definitely experienced strength gains, but also shored up the weaker muscles that are usually ignored if you're just "winging it". While i'm not yet Men's Health model material yet, i have confidence that The Book of Muscle can actually get me close! ;)
The book is also good for another reason: it gives you the one source of info - something you can consult almost for any strength training need, without having to go to other sources and wonder whether what you're reading or hearing is worth listening to. Thumbs up to the book!