Five Best Strength Training Books for Powerlifting
This was a tough article to write, not because it was hard to come up with material, but because there are too many fantastic books to cover. As an avid reader and a devourer of information, I spend a large amount of my free time reading anything powerlifting related that I can come across. If your goal is to improve as a powerlifter, I suggest you do the same. The more material you can read from credible sources, the better off you will be. You will learn far more this way than from word of mouth at the gym, and you will also be able to discern good tips from the bad and spread your new-found knowledge to others. With that in mind, I picked the Five Best Strength Training Books for Powerlifting, that I personally go the most out of. Inevitably, someone’s favorite book will be left off this list. If this is the case, and you found a book other than one in this article enlightening, I welcome you to share it in the comments along with what made it such a special read for you! Thank you.
All three editions of Starting Strength were written by Mark Rippetoe, a popular powerlifting coach, gym owner and writer known for his brash no-nonsense attitude. Starting Strength was one the first strength training books for powerlifting that I ever read and it still sticks with me to this day. This book is responsible for converting thousands of young individuals interested in lifting (including myself) into powerlifters. Rippetoe and his work still hold a cult-like following on social websites like Reddit to this very day.
While I disagree with some of Rippetoe’s ideas, such as how he teaches the squat and his belief that improper training (not knee wraps and powerlifting gear) explains why so many powerlifters can squat more than they deadlift, Starting Strength is still a goldmine of information. No other book covers technique so thoroughly and provides such a straightforward and effective strength training program.
After running the Starting Strength program for a year as a teenager, I was squatting 395 for 3 sets of 5, benching 305 for 3 sets of 5, and deadlifting 455 for sets of 5. If you’re a beginner, it’s likely that you can have these results too so long as you don’t program hop. To stay the course and gain a better understanding of Starting Strength, you can also check out the forum dedicated to it and possibly receive advice from Rippetoe himself.
Beyond 5/3/1 is the third book written by Jim Wendler, not including the two editions of 5/3/1 as separate books. If you are looking for a powerlifting program written specifically by a competitive powerlifter, then Beyond 5/3/1 is for you.
In Beyond 5/3/1, Wendler took the ideas that made his first two books, “5/3/1: The Simplest and Most Effective Training System to Increase Raw Strength” and “5/3/1 for Powerlifting “, and greatly improved upon both of them. Beyond 5/3/1 includes numerous training programs and ways to alter your programming to best fit you and your goals.
Furthermore, Jim is an entertaining writer (he holds a degree in english) and all the credentials that make his books worth checking out. Not only was Wendler a college running back for an University of Arizona team that went 12-1 in 1998, but Jim’s numbers on the platform are boast-worthy as well. Although he no longer competes, Jim’s multiply best was a 2375 total @275 with a 1000 lb squat, 675 lb bench and 700 lb deadlift.
There’s a lot to learn from a competitor like that. If you’re looking for a simply to follow, but easy to customize program, look no further than Beyond 5/3/1. If you prefer reading on your computer, tablet or phone, kindle and eBook versions are available as well.
Practical Programming for Strength Training is yet another book written by Mark Rippetoe. Other than sharing the same author, the two books are very different. Whereas the emphasis in Starting Strength is on form and a basic program for novices, Practical Programming for Strength Training almost exclusively focuses on the variables that go into training. From reading Practical Programming, you will have a better understanding of how and why humans adapt to exercise and how to use this to create successful training protocols for the rest of your life.
Some may view Practical Programming as a book to read once progress has stalled on the Starting Strength program; however, this is short-sighted. By reading Practical Programming early, you will know how to make alterations in your programming that will directly add weight to your squat, bench press and deadlift.
It is also important to note that Practical Programming reads very different from Starting Strength. Because this book delves heavily into strength training theory and science, it is a much drier read and lacks the tone that people typically associate with Rippetoe. This may make Practical Programming a hard read for some, but I promise you that this book is a goldmine of knowledge.
If you want a difficult yet rewarding read, give Supertraining by Professor Yuri Verkhoshansky and Dr. Mell Siff a shot, but be warned that this is far from your average lifting book. Many in the fitness industry claim that the material in Supertraining is much more thorough and advanced than the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) certification, which requires a bachelor’s degree to even take. Supertraining has even been used as a school textbook because of the wealth of information it contains.
Topics in this 500+ page book include the compensatory adaptation, the specificity of protein synthesis in the adaptation process, factors influencing strength production, overtraining, periodization as a form of organization, PNF as a training system, and means of special strength training. All of these topics and practically everything else in Supertraining is backed by three hundred peer-reviewed research articles and college level text books.
Outside of school required texts, I have never read anything more thought-consuming than Supertraining, but I assure you that it was well worth it. To this day, it remains by my bed for occasional reading. If you are an exercise physiologist or have an interest in a similar field, Supertraining also makes a great text to go back to for reference. This is easily one of the best strength training books for powerlifting or any other sport for that matter, of all time.
–>Click Here for Pricing and Information on Supertraining by Professor Yuri Verkhoshansky and Dr. Mell Siff
If you have already read Supertraining and liked it, but want a slightly easier read, then Science and Practice of Strength Training by Dr. Zatsiorsky and Dr. Kraemer would make a good choice for you. Conversely, if you find Supertraining too daunting, but liked Practical Programming, then Science and Practice of Strength training deserves your attention.
You won’t find any Men’s Health broscience in this book. Instead, you will find a textbook brimming with scientific analysis, theories, methods and their real world application by one of the world’s best strength training experts.
Because it is a textbook, Science and Practice of Strength Training makes a necessary volume to have in your collection to refer back to if you are a trainer, strength and conditioning specialist or aspiring powerlifter. Science and Practice of Strength training is a book that is worth its weight in gold.
–>Click Here for Pricing and Information on Science and Practice of Strength Training by Zatiorsky and Kramer
Scientific Principles of Strength Training by Dr. Mike Israetel, Dr. James Hoffmann and Chad Wesley Smith
Easy Strength: How to Get a Lot Stronger Than Your Competition-And Dominate in Your Sport by Dan John and Pavel
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