Being that I am from San Jose, California I have always followed our Bay Area sports teams. One of those teams being the Stanford University football team. A number of years ago Stanford was considered one of the worst football teams in all of NCAA Division I football. Then came Coach Jim Harbaugh. There was an immediate effect as soon as Coach Harbaugh took over Stanford football. In the following years Stanford went from one of the worst football teams in Division I to one of the top programs. This obviously intrigued me and led me to read everything available regarding Coach Harbaugh’s coaching style. After I found that he endorsed a book called Only the Paranoid Survive, I immediately purchased it in hopes that it could be applied to my own coaching.
I’ve given a teaser and interviewed the translator, but I have yet to give my own thoughts on Dr. Bondarchuk’s new book The Olympian Manual for Strength and Size. As we are sending out the pre-orders I thought it was time for me to weigh in with my thoughts. As I normally do in my book reviews, I will give an overview of the book, discuss in detail it’s organization and content, and then summarize what I like and didn’t like. If you would like to order the book, you can do so in the HMMR Media Store. As discussed below, if you order the book from HMMR Media I can also help answer some questions you might have after reading it.
The publisher is putting the finishing touches on Bondarchuk’s latest book (Olympian Manual for Strength & Size – pre-order here) and it should be shipped this month. An overview of the book and its table of contents are available here, but in the meantime I had a chance to talk with translator Jake Jensen about his own thoughts on the book. I assisted Jake in the editing of the book and got to know him throughout the process. As a competitive weightlifter and trainer, Jake is not just interested in translating the book, but also in what it contains.
Before the Olympic weightlifting coaching roundtable finished up with the thoughts of some throwing coaches, I thought I would share my thoughts on a recent book on Olypmic weightlifting as it relates to the training for other sports.
I have been reading a lot lately and not just about training. But as with anything, I can always bring the topic back to training. In January I finished two good non-fiction books: Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To by psychology professor Sian Beilock. And David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell.
I mentioned on Monday, Bondarchuk is as active and busy now as he was decades ago. He recently released an English translation of Volume 3 of his series on Periodization of Training in Sports, available for purchase from his website. I am too biased to give a true book review, but his books are not cheap and I find it helpful to at least give you all an overview of each book here. I finally had a chance to give it a thorough read after the holidays and my impressions are below.
One chapter of the David Epstein’s The Sports Gene discusses the role of body type in sports and how this has evolved in almost a Darwinian fashion over the last century. At the beginning of the modern Olympic era elite athletes tended to have the same body type. As Epstein explained, in 1925 the average Olympic volleyball player looked similar in stature to an Olympic discus thrower, high jumper, or shot putter. American Robert Garrett was the first modern Olympic discus and shot put champion standing just 6-foot 2-inches and 180-pounds. There is a reason he could easily be mistaken for a high jumper: he also won silver medals in the high jump and long jump. The scientists of the day even had theories of why this was the ideal athlete for each sport. Epstein notes that:
“Anthropometrists felt that human physique distributed along a bell curve, and the peak of the curve-the average- was the perfect form, with everything to the sides deviating by accident or fault.”
Fast forward a hundred years and each of those sorts has developed a distinct type of athlete that works best for it.
Nature versus nurture topic has been a hot topic lately, and was frequently discussed at the International Festival of Athletics Coaching. That is due to David Epstein’s new book The Sports Gene: What Makes The Perfect Athlete, which I just finished last week. Epstein, a former collegiate runner and writer for Sports Illustrated, has put together a must read book on the topic. Since the book’s release in August it has been covered by almost everyone who can write. Mass media outlets like the New York Times, New Yorker, Wall Street Journal have all covered it extensively. The book has also been written about by those within the track and field community since the book spends much of its time looking at track and field topics like Kenyan distance dominance, Jamaican sprint success, the high jump, and other events (I recommend Epstein’s extensive interview with the House of Run). Therefore, other than a whole-hearted recommendation to read the book immediately, there is not a whole lot I can do to add to the conversation. But that won’t stop me from trying.
So rarely does the hammer throw appear in popular culture that I feel it is one of my duties to give credit to the artists who give a little extra publicity to our sport. Therefore let me introduce you to Rulon Hurt, an ex-spy at the center of a series of thrillers written by Jim Haberkorn: Einstein’s Trunk and A Thousand Suns. Spies are tough, smart, and strong. So naturally Rulon was an All-American hammer thrower at Boise State before he started his career.
Part of what I enjoy about the offseason is reading about different training ideas. This year I have, as always, a long list of books that I likely will not finish. But I already have finished the first one, Athletic Development: The Art and Science of Functional Sport Conditioning by Vern Gambetta.
It was about a year ago that I first started reading stuff by Gambetta. The more I read, the more I liked. His blog provides frequent insight on training, and I posted my own training talk with him at the end of last summer and had the pleasure of meeting him in London last month. In my view, Gambetta is an ideal coach’s coach. This is not to downplay the work he has done with athletes; he has worked with professional athletes and teams in nearly every sport. But I have learned infinitely more from Gambetta in my role as track coach as I have as a hammer thrower. And much of that has come from his book Athletic Development.