Training Log

Starting Strength in the Real World

Which Book?

by Mark Rippetoe | March 19, 2019

aasgaard books

We are often asked about books to read for information on the lifts and programming. I really hate to be this way, but if I thought there were valuable sources of information on strength training that presented an equally valid approach to our method, I'd tell you. But there aren't, and that's why we wrote the books we publish.

Now, of the books we publish, three are of primary interest. Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training 3rd Edition (the first two editions are out of print – obsolescence is hell) is the flagship text. It provides detailed instruction on the lifts themselves, along with mechanical analyses that explains why we choose to coach the lifts the way we do. It includes the basics of programming the lifts for novice lifters, and the reasoning behind the programming. SS:BBT3 is the only book of its kind in print, and no more detailed a treatment of the lifts derived from the basics of mechanics and anatomy has ever been written. It is the first book most people should read.

Practical Programming for Strength Training 3rd Edition (the first two editions are out of print, for the same reason), with Andy Baker SSC, is the most comprehensive book ever written on the programming of barbell strength training. It proceeds from the foundational science of the physiology of adaptation and performance, and follows the rank novice trainee from the simplicity of Day One through an entire career in strength sports to the complex and highly individual programming of the advanced competitor. With numerous sample programs to use at every stage of the lifter's progressing level of training advancement, PPST3 guides you through the principles that allow you to intelligently design your training for your whole career under the bar. It's the second book you should read.

The Barbell Prescription: Strength Training for Life After 40 by Jonathon Sullivan MD PhD and Andy Baker SSC is the first book ever written that specifically addresses the use of barbell training for people typically thought of as being too old for barbell training. Sully presents the medical evidence for the efficacy and safety of barbell training as the primary exercise method for humans of all ages, but especially for older people, all of whom will lose strength as they age, and none of whom will get stronger from “cardio.” BBRx does not go into detail on the execution of the exercises, and instead relies on SS:BBT3 for instruction on the lifts. Likewise, it relies on PPST3 for the general theory of programming, as it specifically addresses the concerns of a population that for decades has been discouraged from participating in the very thing that can help the most with the worst problems of aging.

The answer to the question of which book to buy depends on the buyer. If you are a younger person with no experience and no available coaching who wants to get strong, buy the Blue Book and read it several times. When you've been training several months, buy PPST3 and plan your next steps as an informed student of the game. If you've been training for years and are stuck, PPST3 can help you understand why and what to do to fix it. If you're an older adult who is finally worried about turning to shit as you age but is not sure what to do about it, buy BBRx and decide for yourself if what we've been telling you here is true. Then buy the Blue Book to learn how to do the exercises Sully and Andy are using. Refer back to BBRx as you follow along through your novice phase, and let Andy help you program your training so you can make progress for years.

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