If you carry any Health & Fitness books, here are a couple worth carrying.
Starting Strength a ‘Must-Own’ For Any Weightlifter
There’s a reason that everyone recommends Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength to any beginner looking to better themselves in the weight room — it’s one of the premiere entry-level books on bodybuilding, and has been for years.
Rippetoe’s program is focused on one fundamental aspect of weightlifting: compound lifts. The beauty of using compound lifts is that it works a variety of muscles at one time. There’s little need to spend more than an hour in the weight room, and few of his workouts will last even that long.
Each session revolves around five core lifts — squats, bench presses, overhead presses, deadlifts, and power cleans — and is divided into an “A” day and a “B” day. Squats begin both workouts, but then the days diverge. Bench presses and deadlifts follow on “A” while overhead presses and power cleans comprise “B”.
Being familiar with the lifts isn’t necessary. Rippetoe breaks down each exercise to its core, providing illustrations and cues to remember. Power cleans alone are given 40 pages of detailed instruction.
Lifts are performed for three sets of five repetitions (reps) with the exception of deadlifts and power cleans, for opposing reasons. Because of the taxing nature of deadlifts on the central nervous system, one set of five reps is all that’s needed. Power cleans are similarly taxing, but because of the sheer amount of movement involved in the lift, long sets are nearly impossible without form breaking down.
Adding accessory work, such as curls, after the compound lifts is a common practice, but not recommended for beginners. Chances are you’ll be too tired anyway.
While his program can be altered to use dumbbells, Rippetoe primarily recommends using barbells. With barbells, progression is easier, and if you’re not progressing, you’re not improving. Generally, dumbbells only come in five-pound increments, meaning a jump of fewer than ten at a time isn’t possible.
Similar to Starting Strength is Mehdi Hadim’s Stronglifts program. Stronglifts eschews power cleans — a very tough movement for beginners to learn on their own — and adds barbell rows instead. Also, each lift is performed for five sets of five reps, with the exception of deadlifts which remain at one set of five reps.
Progression with either program is the same. Begin with just the bar, even if it’s well below your current strength level, and add five pounds to each lift on each workout. It’s that simple. Though it may seem easy at first, it quickly gets tiring.
Even if you’re not a beginner, Starting Strength is a bodybuilding book worth a read. Rippetoe’s wealth of experience can only help to improve a nagging flaw in your form or give a new outlook on what it takes to build muscle.