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Practical Programming (book review)
by: Wesley Silveria AKA Iron Addict

When Mark Rippetoe and Lon Kilgore released Starting Strength it rushed over many of the training forums like a tidal wave displacing a large percentage of the routines the beginning lifters were using. This occurred in large part to many very knowledgeable lifters spreading the word that this book and type of training was exactly what most beginners really needed – not the misguided 6 day a week splits they were doing.

“Starting Strength” was written from the perspective on how a strength coach should go about ensuring trainees are doing the big lifts (squat/bench press/deadlift/military press/power-clean) properly. There are TONS of great pictures and the text explains how to teach a lifter to do the lifts properly, with explanations of proper form, and notations of bad form.

It gave a basic 3 day a week full body routine and simply worked wonders for the ‘new guys’ that had been previously trying to ‘bomb and blitz’ their muscle into growth using routines more suited for an IFFB pro. When it was announced that Lon and Mark were working on a book about programming everyone that had read their prior work tended to be very excited about a book by these expert strength coaches that went into more detail about the ‘how to’ of program design.

In most bodybuilding circles, periodization is either completely left out, or haphazard at best. Most lifters still get their information from the bodybuilding magazines that are more of a supplement catalogue and showcase of genetic freaks on growth enhancing chems than real sources of training information. Various periodization formats have been used in the lifting game for the last 50 years or so and bodybuilding is slowly starting to see the light and the logic of using ideas from outside of bodybuilding.

From the back cover of the book:
“Practical Programming” offers a different approach to exercise programming than that typically found in other exercise texts. Based on a combined 60+ years of academic expertise, elite-level coaching experience, and the observation of thousands of novice trainees, the authors present a chronological analysis of the response to exercise as it varies through the training history of the athlete, one that reflects the realities of human physiology, sports psychology, and common sense. Contrary to the one-size-fits-all models of periodization offered elsewhere, “Practical Programming” explains the differences in response to exercise commonly observed between athletes at the novice, intermediate, and advanced levels, explains these differences in the context of the relevant exercise science, and presents new training models that actually work for athletes at all levels of experience. Complete with new, innovative graphical representations of cutting-edge concepts in exercise programming, “Practical Programming” is sure to become a standard reference in the field of exercise and human performance.

And this it does very well indeed!

“Practical programming” primarily covers single factor training, and dual factor training methodology and gives a lot of detail about the processes of strength and mass training stimulus needed to illicit an adaptive response.

There are sections dedicated to training and overtraining, understanding training goals, physiological responses, training program basics, beginner, intermediate, and advanced lifters, and finally, a chapter dedicated to special training populations.

In addition to this there are one page ‘Reality Checks’ that make sure you are ‘really getting’ it and that key topics are not being lost on you.

This book is chock full of information about training in general and programming specifics. The upside is that the info contained within is pretty hard to find other places, well laid out, and covers a lot of ground about training, diet and what it takes to succeed. The downside in my mind at least is that it is still based on the same full body-workout format that many lifters find a bit too taxing on CNS if they are moving some serious weights.

But someone with any reasonable logic skills will be able to carry the information over to other formats. As many top strength couches well above my league have already noted this is a MUST have book. And I must agree.

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