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Very detailed book, but with its shortcomings, as well
on March 29, 2013
There is a lot to say about this book. Some will love it, and others will be bewildered by it. Hopefully this review will enable you to make a more informed decision before buying it.
* The author has a very fine grasp on anatomy, and when he explains the lifts, he goes into great detail in his explanations to tell you why you should lift in one way vs. another. For instance, he advocates arching your back hard when performing a bench press to increase the angle of the attack of the pecs. Likewise, he spends a GREAT deal of time explaining that the arms should NOT hang plumb in a deadlift, since, if the shoulders are forward of the bar, this enables the traps to be perpendicular to the humerus and maximize the force of their isometric contraction. You need not be concerned with these particular details while reading this review, but be aware that Rippetoe will spend considerable amount of time talking about them.
* Rippetoe is extremely thorough. He talks in great length about every aspect of the lifts, including stance, breathing, grip, neck position, and so forth. Each small aspect of the lift is expanded in great detail, with large discussions about why altering that aspect might adversely affect the lifting efficiency or safety.
* There are not enough illustrations to adequately demonstrate all the body parts and their relationships that Rippetoe speaks about in the text. There are many *photos*, but you need *illustrations* for the muscles and ligaments. For instance, I have several times read the section on shoulder impingement in the chapter on the bench press, but the one or two illustrations do not, in my opinion, adequately demonstrate this. You may say, "Yeah, but who cares? I just want to know that there is a problem of shoulder impingement," but if that's the case, you do NOT need the extremely lengthy explanations in this book or most of the illustrations in the first place. In other words, this book would be overkill for you.
* Rippetoe is often thorough to the point of beating a dead horse. As an example, he spends no less than a full page of text telling you that you should never bench press with a thumbless grip, when he could have condensed all of that text to, "Never bench press with a thumbless grip. IN ALL CASES, for your safety and maximal strength, wrap your thumb around the bar." If he really felt that he needed to support his case, he could have expanded the text to a paragraph, perhaps, but the amount of text for this one point is really enormous.
* It's unnecessary to caption a drawing of a guy using plate rebound to deadlift with, "If you do this, you're a p---y." When you talk or write like that, you sound like a meathead. Rippetoe is quite knowledgeable, so I won't label him a meathead, but he flirts with the title when he goes overboard when doing things like that.
* While Rippetoe explains many things, there are certain subtleties that are not addressed. For instance, he makes it very clear that the point of weightlifting is not to be big and pretty but rather to become functionally strong, and this is one of the reasons why you do not use plate rebound when training for the deadlift; the point of doing the exercise is to get stronger, not to cheat yourself out of work that makes you stronger. But if that's the case, why do we use the viscoelastic stretch and bounce at the bottom of a squat? Wouldn't a "true" squat be done from dead stop at the bottom, like one might have to do if loaded in real life from a squatting position? After all, in real life, when does one load himself, dip, and then come up? Another example of a lack of explanation would be why one arches during a bench press. Yes, there's a better mechanical advantage, but you're also shortening the range of motion--generally a cardinal sin in Rippetoe's book, because you're "cheating." If we don't believe in shortening the range of motion in other exercises, why is it acceptable in the bench press? In real life, if I had to lift something (say, in the event that I was stuck under something), perhaps I wouldn't be able to arch my back, so don't I want to train for real life, as in the deadlift and other lifts?
All in all, I enjoy this book, but I think it's important for people to get more than the glowing reviews that people always give Rippetoe. I am not a personal trainer, but I regularly lift, and I use Wendler's 5/3/1 system for my programming.