Book Roundup – Muscle & Strength Training Reads

Bodybuilding, Training and Motivational Book Reviews

Never Let Go

“Never Let Go: A Philosophy of Lifting, Living and Learning” – Dan John – Dan’s competed at the highest levels in various strength sports and rubbed shoulders with some of the best minds and trainers in the business. This compilation of articles represents his accumulated years of training, nutritional and motivational wisdom. Although the articles sometimes lack a consistent and unifying theme, there are still some great take-away points that can be readily applied to improving one’s training.

Fave Quotes – “If it is important, do it every day, if it isn’t, don’t do it at all. ”This is a quote attributed to wrestling Olympic Gold Medalist Dan Gable. Do this with a weak bodypart, a weak lift, or something you’re trying to learn. Don’t force it, just keep banging away day after day and soon the body is going to grant your wish; you’re going to have a level of success here.”

“The coach who trains himself has an idiot for a client.”

“Robby (Robinson) believed his best workouts came when he tossed all the extras. Basically his best workout came down to two cycles or supersets Bench Press and Pull ups. He’d do set after set of these and he told me he could feel his whole upper body grow. For his lower body: front squats and stiff legged deadlifts. Again, set after set until his legs blew up. For fat loss, he only recommended one thing. There was a flight of steps down on the beach, maybe 200 steps in all. He told me to sprint up to the top of them”

Carb Back Loading

“Carb Back Loading” – John Kiefer – Carbs, and more especially their consumption at night, have long been vilified by the fitness community. Anyone training to gain an appreciable amount of muscle however knows the catch 22 encountered when limiting carb intake. Conventional wisdom preaches higher carbs at the start of the day; a truism which Kiefer argues is counterproductive because our body is more biologically attuned to burning fat at this time. A constant influx of calories advocated by the frequent meal camp is not only unnecessarily inconvenient, but mounting evidence suggests is a great way to develop insulin resistance over time. Kiefer instead outlines an approach more aligned with the body’s circadian rhythms concentrating most of the day’s calories and carbs around the post workout and evening meals. Trialling this for a couple of weeks I noticed that I was able to eat A LOT more carbs than I was used to eating (500g a night) and experienced no fat gain with more muscle fullness. Carb-a-phobes and clean eating freaks will shit themselves at Kiefer’s recommendations to base their carb choices around donuts, pastries, white rice and bread, but he does allay the cry-babies’ fears with a tempered clean alternative. 4/5

Drugs, Death and Muscle

“Drugs, Death and Muscle” – Gregg Valentino – Rising to notoriety due to the monstrous if not dubious size of his 30 inch arms, Valentino provides the back-story to his life as a devoted dad-gym-owner by day and part Don Corleone/Indiana Jones drug runner by night. Gregg’s collection of (fictional?) anecdotes recounts his numerous scrapes with death in drug deals gone wrong, fights with rival dealers and fisticuffs with celebrities Mark Wahlberg and Twisted Sister – all while conspicuously maintaining the largest arms on the planet. Offering a modicum of contrition for the lives of those closest to him that were destroyed, he can’t conceal a level of proud braggadocio regarding his exploits. The literary equivalent to a car accident. 3/5

Most awful (funniest) quotes – “I even showed up to the MR Olympia contest one year and walked by the champion, Ronnie Coleman himself who looked at me in amazement and swore, “Jesus Christ! Look at the size of this guy!” he said. I loved it.”

“I was getting the attention of professional bodybuilders. At the Night of Champions bodybuilding show one year, Kevin Levrone, one of the best bodybuilders in the world at that time couldn’t take his eyes off me even during an interview he was doing. Ronnie Coleman, the eight time Mr Olympia champion couldn’t believe it when he saw me. I was big and I was unbelievable”

“Back off man – I may be half your height, but I’m the toy cannon. You pull my string, and I’ll take you to the ground in a split second. I said, get your fucking hands off her.”

Destroy The Opposition

“Destroy The Opposition” – Jamie Lewis – The best writer in the biz, Jamie Lewis was a former record holder for both the 181lb weight class and a raw, wrapless, 650lb squat. Discussing his own evolution as a very genetically average lifter; Lewis replaced excuses with a “fuck or walk” tenacity to crush the weights and become one of the world’s best in the sport of powerlifting. This book contains the tips, techniques and analysis of the sport’s best to help you bring up your own lifts in the Big 3.  HIT Jedis need look elsewhere because there’s no, “two-set tickle your balls and leave you living a life of regret” routines in this one. Based around a philosophy that “nobody got better at anything by doing less of it”, Lewis system relies on volume, frequency, liberal amounts of hard work and delivers results big time. He delves into the history of lifters who dominated the primary lifts and extrapolates the specifics on what made these guys and girls the top of their game.  A great addition to his earlier works showing both intermediate and advanced lifters how to specifically tailor a a program that will enable them to crush the opposition on game day. 5/5

Total Recall” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

“Total Recall” – Arnold Schwarzenegger – Arnold could also have called this biography, “Pumping Hubris” or “True Lies” as few are as in love with their own personal pronoun as he is. More resume than honest memoir, Arnold is neither revealing nor reflective. Even his recent infidelity is a needle hidden within a haystack of upcoming projects and film parts. If you can find a copy still, I recommend Wendy Leigh’s “Arnold” biography. Hard to find because Arnold did his best to suppress publication and keep it off the bookshelves. 3.5/5

Live Life Aggressively Mike Mahler

“Live Life Aggressively” – Mike Mahler – Avoiding sugar coated aphorisms and motivational cliches, strength coach Mahler serves up a philosophy designed to kick you in the ass to take action on achieving the life you want to lead. A refreshing read in the otherwise glutted self-improvement genre. 3.5/5

black prince

”The Black Prince” – Robby Robinson – Watching Pumping Iron 20 years ago I remember thinking, ”Forget Arnold, that black guy has the best physique!” From his humble beginnings in the South to his determined and hard fought path to becoming a bodybuilding legend, RR lays it all out in his life story. Packed with behind the scenes anecdotes, tips on how RR built his incredible phsyqiue and the accumulated wisdom of an enduring champion, this book reads like having a conversation with an old friend. Thoroughly enjoyable for any fan of the sport. 4/5

Muscle, Smoke & Mirrors Volume II

”Muscle, Smoke & Mirrors – Volume II” – Randy Roach – Weighing in at 700 pages I found that just holding this book gave me a good arm pump. Volume II charts increasing popularity of bodybuilding and strength sports throughout the 60s and 70s. Topics covered include the developing Weider monopoly, the Pumping Iron years, the rise of various movers and shakers including Wayne Demillia, Ken Sprague of Gold’s Gym, and Arthur Jones of Nautilus and his HIT principles. Some interesting little forays into the sexual underbelly of the sport, the end and rebirth of natural bodybuilding and the nutritional and drug strategies at play in the 70s. Although Roach displays an inscrutable attention to detail, I got bogged down in parts due to too much ink dedicated to some (mundane) topics at the expense of more interesting stories about the bodybuilders themselves. Still a fine read though. 4/5

Favourite quotes – (Pete Grymkowski’s) eating protocols were derived from the various sources including what he obtained from information coming out of the Soviet Union and his participation in the steroid research project of 1974. He believed humans were like most carnivores which ate one big meal daily. Pete’s big feeding took place between 4.00 and 7.00 PM. His meals were constituted heavily with beef, milk, eggs, chicken, fish and some milk and egg protein powders. (pg263)

“Diet of Steve Michalik Mr America – Two meals a day –

Breakfast – two cube steaks, 16 ounces of tuna, cottage cheese, 4 hard boiled eggs, quarter pound of yellow cheese and protein drink.
Two hours later – whole chicken, vegetables, 4 hard boiled eggs, cottage cheese, another drink and pills.”

“Franco recalled being quite shocked at the enormous quantity of food being consumed by the American bodybuilders. He did prefer three or four meals over one or two large, but was not accustomed to his muscle peers taking six trips to the food trough. (pg 637)”

“(Ken) Sprauge used some footage of Arnold and Franco posing in one of his (gay) Dakota films. Arnold was rightfully angered and threatened to sue. Arnold and Franco were each paid $100 and called it a day. Either Arnold was not all that angry, or $100 went a long way in the life of a bodybuilder in 1974. (pg.192)”

“It was no secret around the Weider offices that whenever a black champion was featured on the cover of Muscle Builder, sales plummeted. (pg 122)”

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