Customer Review

217 of 263 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very detailed book, but with its shortcomings, as well, March 29, 2013
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This review is from: Starting Strength, 3rd edition (Paperback)
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.

Pros:
* 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.

Cons:
* 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.
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Tracked by 6 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 30 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 7, 2013 11:13:10 AM PDT
Ben Hurt says:
This is the kind of review that we need more of on Amazon, one that gives both the good and bad of a publication, which then gives the author the opportunity to improve it, and which gives the reader something to think about...a better grasp on reality. Personally, when I read some of the five star reviews on Amazon, I wonder if the reviewer read the book or is just a friend of the author? And for those who give one star reviews because of some problem with shipping or something unrelated to the quality of the book, can we send those people off to some island where they will do the least possible damage? Stick to the book, and be discerning so that we who are contemplating the purchase understand better what we are considering.

Posted on May 21, 2013 10:55:33 AM PDT
dnoyeB says:
I was about to add a review myself until I read this. After reading the whole book, this review captures my feelings exactly.

Posted on May 21, 2013 7:13:02 PM PDT
FIRE3311 says:
I really had a difficult time reading through all the descriptions of a particular lifting technique. The reviewer is dead on when he says there are not nearly enough pictures to do the authors knowledge justice. There is however a video that you can purchase that shows the proper techniques described in the book. Its called starting strength basic barbell training. In this video Rippetoe coaches different people through the Squat, Press, Bench Press, Deadlift, and Power Clean. I recall him stating that you bounce out of the squat because of the angle of attachment of the tendons in the knees to avoid injury or something to that effect. I think the book and video go hand in hand but the video is much easier to apply in the weight room.

In reply to an earlier post on May 21, 2013 7:14:56 PM PDT
Thank you for that, T. Mesmer. Do you have a link for purchasing that video?

Posted on Jun 6, 2013 12:29:14 PM PDT
Tim says:
Excellent review. Very well done and informative. Thank you.

That said, I do want to take issue with one point you made:

you said: "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?"

My answer: When leaping vertically. You dip down, loaded by your own bodyweight, and then explode out of it, using both the strength of your leg muscles and the elasticity/snap of your tendons. Just my opinion. I find "bouncing out of the bottom of the squat" to be considerably more useful/practical, from an athletic/explosiveness perspective, than stopping dead, pausing, and then pushing up.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 6, 2013 12:32:26 PM PDT
Good point, Tim!

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 6, 2013 12:52:31 PM PDT
Ben Hurt says:
I searched for "Starting Strength video" and there were many entries, but I didn't see one for sale, at least not the first time I looked.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 7, 2013 6:54:53 AM PDT
I found the video: Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 7, 2013 6:55:25 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Jun 7, 2013 6:56:02 AM PDT]

Posted on Aug 26, 2013 2:45:14 PM PDT
Knit Knots says:
"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.' "

I would expect that from the Chaos and PAIN blog, not a book for beginners. It's poor taste to mock those who make mistakes.

Would you recommend Wendler's program for beginners?
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