Competition is the force which drives improvement. In some ways its very obvious – competition in the automobile market pushes manufacturers to provide better products at lower prices. In other ways its not so obvious. If the Russians hadn’t competed with the Americans in the Olympics during the Cold War, they never would have invented steroids, which today are used by countless American athletes – hitting home runs and scoring touchdowns – keeping us entertained all year round. Yes, competition is the key.
Speaking of Russians and those ultra-competitive Olympics of the Cold War era, much of what they pioneered in weight training we are still using today. The most common training templates used today by America’s top powerlifters were written about decades ago by Soviet trainers. In more recent times, Vladimir M Zatsiorsky has written Science and Practice of Strength Training.
Zatsiorsky worked with the Soviets for 26 years, training literally hundreds of top-level athletes. Currently he teaches kinesiology at Penn State (let’s just avoid the Sandusky conversation, shall we?), but he also holds honorary degrees from universities in Poland and Russia. He’s authored over a dozen books, and his works have been published in English, Russian, Chinese, Italian, Spanish, and other languages.
In Strength Training, Zatsiorsky delivers a complex analysis of the actual science of training. The book is full of charts and graphs, showing the effects of various training intensities, timings, and muscle recruitment. No matter the goal, whether it be strength, size, endurance, or speed, Zatsiorsky and, more importantly, science have the answers. Instead of just giving the reader a mindless training schedule, he gives you the knowledge needed to create your own – the right way. Along with the science, Zatsiorsky gives specific recommendations for certain populations – women, the elderly, and young athletes – and he also includes some tips for injury prevention.
If every trainee, or just every ignorant personal “trainer”, read this book there would be a lot less confusion about how to train for any desired effect. Too often young people go searching the internet forums for an answer to their troubles and all too often they get a bunch of hogwash, and end up just wasting time, if not money as well. Instead of that – buy this book, read it, and apply it. It’ll change the way you look at strength training forever.
On another note, I haven’t had a ton of time to sit down and watch this year’s Olympics, but I did manage to catch some women’s weight lifting last week. A 17 year old girl from Kazakistan weighing 116 lbs lifted 270 lbs over her head like it was nothing. I died a little inside. Really? She’s younger than me, smaller than me, a girl, and she’s way stronger than me. How’d that happen?