I love lifting weights. I want to go make out with a barbell behind the A&P and then have its dad chase me across the lawn while I’m still holding my pants. Lifting a major positive force in my life and helps mitigate my depression. Until my late twenties, I was basically a round, person-shaped cloud of cigarettes, fried chicken and Coors banquet. I put on weight easily and felt shitty about it. I wanted to like exercise, but really if all my best friends and the boy I liked had said “We’re all going to walk up that steep hill do you want to come?” I would have been like “Nah, I don’t wanna get winded”. Somewhere along the line, very slowly, I got tired of my chronic sinus infections and my jeans splitting at the thigh and after many failed attempts managed to go from “over” to “healthy” weight. There was no epiphany or a-ha moment attached. It just eventually stuck and until I was a smoothie-drinking, exercise loving dork who knows how to “find their hamstrings” at the beginning of a deadlift and carries a bag of sweaty clothes and used Tupperware everywhere. I’ve even toyed with the idea of getting a Personal Training certification and like to browse exercise science things in my spare time. I’m still not impressive to look at, but I like being strong so much that I care about it less.
I’ve read lots of exercise program books and from my dim hobbyist understanding, this one is the real deal. The writers, Alwyn Cosgrove and Lou Schuler are both respected fitness industry veterans and this is part of a long series of books they’ve written. It doesn’t make any huge promises or use sexy language, but it also explains a lot of basic exercises and concepts much better than some of the textbooks I’ve read. If you’re looking for a pre-made working program that you can bust out at the gym, this may not exactly be for you, but if you have nerd tendencies and want to learn a good repertoire of exercises and know why and how to pick them, by all means, tackle this bad boy. I’ll be honest, I read the first few chapters, decided I didn’t have it in me, put it down for a few months and then later attacked it with a highlighter and really enjoyed it. It’s a little intense if you just want a beach body.
The first few chapters are introductory stuff about the value of lifting weights, basic nutrition (but there is no meal plan in the book) and some “rules” for lifting. It reads like a bunch of short essays about the recent trends/history of fitness and what the current research says. It sounds dry but Lou Schuler, a longtime fitness writer for places like “Men’s Health” makes it very readable to the point where you realize after the fact that he just made you have feelings about science.
The meat of the book is really the descriptions of the basic categories of strength movements (squat, hinge, push, pull, lunge, single-leg, and core) and how they recommend one approach cardio. This is some dense reading but if you’re interested in being able to write your own workout program it does a great job. They also break down how to progress exercises as you get more advanced. The one thing I will say is that in my experience learning exercises from descriptions in a book is really hard and I’ve done better with youtube tutorials (which you could totally seek out as a companion to this book). By the end of it, you can fill in their template to create your own workout program. There are templates in the book that could take you through a year of structured training if that’s your thing.
I thought this was a really solid book and I will be trying my hand at one of their programs as soon as I finish my current one.