Product Description
Practical Programming offers a different approach to exercise programming. Based on a combined 70+ years of academic expertise, elite-level coaching experience, and the observation of thousands of novice trainees, the authors present a chronological analysis of the response to exercise as it varies through the training history of the athlete, one that reflects the realities of human physiology, psychology, and common sense. Practical Programming explai… More >>

Practical Programming for Strength Training

5 thoughts on “Practical Programming for Strength Training”

  1. I just finished this book and frankly, this is a book that needed to be written. I have a significantly long training and coaching history, and most consider me to be well read and very aware of the subject and material.

    Most books fall into two categories:

    1) Your basic commercial garbage and gimmicks that while not always horrible range from overly simplistic to downright ignorant (most anything at your local bookstore and certainly this is mirrored in poor quality on the newsstand)

    2) More advanced texts on the subject most of which are hard to find in addition to being beyond what most people are able to digest and be able to apply (Siff’s Supertraining as well as the Russian works translated by Bud Charniga and others)

    There is really no place for someone without a lot of experience and exposure to go to and learn real training and programming from the ground up. This book is unique in the respect that it provides what are considered very advanced topics and implementation in a book intended to be digestable for someone who is not an experienced coach or expert on the subject. That’s not to say this is written at the idiot level, it’s an in-depth read, but nothing that interest, motivation, and general grasp of the English language can’t easily make it through.

    On to the book.

    To understand programming and organization, it’s necessary to understand the responses to training, the constraints imposed by the body and how both change with the developing lifter or athlete. The authors provide all of the relevant systems and physiology including very thorough explanations of periodization and dual factor theory. The real value here is that this is perhaps the only work that clearly shows how and why programming will need to change as the athlete develops and this is far beyond the usual commercial garbage but down to the very nut and bolt level of managing training loads and volume always with the fastest progression available as the goal.

    All of that background builds into the second half of the book where detailed plans, guidelines, and examples are laid out. This is probably the most useful piece as all the theory in the world won’t help someone who doesn’t understand what implementation should look like so working and evolving models are provided and examined in depth. Here they separate chapters into Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced trainees as categorized by the amount of time and work required to break through previous levels. A novice adapts and supercompensates on a workout to workout basis, an intermediate on a weekly basis or weekly periodization, and an advanced in multi-week mesocycle blocks of 4-8 weeks. They omit the Elite lifter (annual or semi-annual progress) acknowledging that it is beyond the scope, highly specialized and tailored, and that very few will even reach the need for the advanced stage let alone Elite. This organization makes a lot of sense in that trainees are not categorized by years of experience or weight lifted but by ability to make progress and what an appropriate program may look like for where they are currently regardless of how their lifts stack up to someone else’s in the weight room.

    The beginner section programs are laid out in detail and could almost be followed like a road map. The book explains what a program should look like, why it should look like that, ties it back to the theory and explains exactly what to do and why to do it when progress stops at a given point. This is not saying it is over-strict but it presents the plan as an example and discusses the issues as they arise in timeline- like fashion as well as offering choices and advice for selecting the best option in each situation. The intermediate centers around managing loads and sessions throughout the week and presents various progressive plans for how training will look as the athlete continues to develop. Building upon that is the Advanced where various periodization models are explained from the classic Russian models; to Mike Stone’s, Head of Sports Physiology at the USOC, methods; to new research in hormonal fluctuation models and Glenn Pendlay and Mike Hartman’s work on that subject to aid in pinpointing the precise levels of loading an athlete can handle and thereby instead of making educated guesses know exactly what amount can be and is being tolerated and exactly when to back off. A great deal of information here used by some of the very best athletes and coaches in the world.

    A number of plans and methods at various points are laid out and explained in detail as well as plans for sport specific training and peaking for events consisting of accumulating different training capabilities and how to order them properly at points in time to arrive in best possible overall condition.

    There are also many nuggets of practical information concerning anything from how to return from long layoffs, older or masters level lifters, to implementing weight training programs for those already very fit from other sports (high level sprint cyclists are an example).

    I can’t recommend this book enough. I’ve read just about everything and it’s the only book that truly lays out a career (for most) or near career (for the most talented specialists) development plan as well as provides bottom-up background and theory to understand why the plan might look the way it does at any point. It is not pitching a best or only way or some revolutionary new discovery, it is patiently explaining what is known about the subject by the very best and presenting clear examples to guide one through implementation.

    If one is interested in real training or looking to get the most out of oneself or one’s athletes, this is the book to own. This is the whole science in a nutshell from the most basic to cutting edge implementation. It is how to develop a human from totally untrained to a full or very high level of potential with why and how things change along the way. This is a low-cost investment that will not only provide large returns in the short run but will continue paying off for your entire career. I can’t recommend a book more strongly.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  2. Most books on periodization are theoretical tomes that present lovely models, charts and graphs but leave the reader at a loss to put it into a practical training format.

    Enter Practical Programming. Written by Lon Kilgore and Mark Rippetoe (with contributions from Glenn Pendlay), the authors of the excellent and highly recommended Starting Strength, this book presents an easy to read and practical approach to programming for strength training.

    Written in an easy to follow style, using easily understood charts and graphs where necessary, Practical Programming maps out training from novice to the most advanced levels of training. Sample workouts, progressions, in addition to troubleshooting tips are all provided.

    The book starts by covering physiological fundamentals of training, recovery, adaptation. This isn’t a typical jargon filled book, the concepts are clear and presented for maximum understanding. This all provides the basis for the individuals chapters on programming.

    The section on novice trainers picks up where Starting Strength left off. A basic routine around a handful of primary movements (squat, bench press, deadlift, overhead press) is set up based on repeat sets of 5’s. Explanations for how to progress weight, what to do when the trainee stalls and everything else a novice needs to now is present here. The novice stage may last 3-9 months for the typical trainee.

    In the intermediate section, a number of training models are provided. The intermediate needs heavier loading to make progress and rather than focusing on workout to workout improvements (like the novice), they start thinking in terms of weekly loading. Pendlay’s Texas method (with one volume day, one intensity day, and one light day) is described in detail. Speed sets (ala Westside barbell), split routines and the original Bill Starr periodization model are also described here. Again, troubleshooting tips and progression options are well described here. The option of adding workouts as the trainee adapts is also discussed with 4,5 and 6 day training schemes (based around full body workouts) described. The inclusion of assistance movements for training is basically touched upon and I do feel that this is one place the book could have been expanded (noting that this would take a book of its own to completely cover). As well, some full workout routines illustrating how everything fits together would have been helpful here; instead only individual exercises are mapped out. The intermediate stage may last for the next 2 years of training and the book argues that the majority of strength trainers will never need anything more than intermediate level training anyhow. This is especially true of athletes who may only weight train heavily 8-12 weeks out of their competition year.

    Finally, several advanced models are presented based around the idea that advanced trainees need to think even longer term in terms of making progress. This may mean a 6-12 week cycle (or more) to make what gains are still possible as the trainee is now approaching his or her genetic cieling. Several models are again presented including the pyramid model (which uses volume as a primary stressor for 4-5 weeks followed by an intensity peak), the 2 steps forwards/1 step back model (favored by many Olympic lifters) which is percentage based and progresses over many 4 week blocks to a peak of strength, the building blocks model (where you sequence different training targets one after another) and finally a model based on hormonal dynamics developed by Pendlay and Hartmann which uses a short build up to a 2 week block of extremely heavy loading to peak strength several weeks later. Full workouts are laid out for each (a sample strongman cycle is provided for the building blocks model) and, again, troubleshooting tips are given for each. Notably, in the section on the building blocks model, the book includes a discussion of a topic I don’t recall ever seeing mentioned in any other book on periodization (and I’ve read them all): the idea that training should be sequenced in terms of how well or how poorly a given capacity is maintained. Since hypetrophy is maintained easily, it can be trained further away from a peak than aerobic conditioning or technique. This has important implications for how the blocks are put together.

    The book rounds itself out with a brief discussion of special populations: youth, women, and masters lifters along with those rehabbing an injury. The same principles described in the book apply, but there are specific considerations. Finally, the book presents strength goals for different levels (novice, intermediate, advanced, elite) for men and women for several key lifts.

    I should mention that the book doesn’t discuss the ever popular ‘conjugate’ method (used by Westside barbell), undulating periodization of several other popular models. Nor does it discuss how to integrate strength training with other aspects of sports training (conditioning, technique) outside of a brief section in the building blocks model.

    But what is described is described thoroughly and well and should keep any trainee with sufficient training options to keep them progressing as they get stronger.

    This book is a must have for any trainees shelf, the authors bring over 60 years of applied training to the table and provide logical, down to earth practical advice for anybody who wants to get stronger.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  3. I can’t add anything much to the other 10 reviews, all giving it 5 stars. I’m sure they have all covered it all, already.


    It should be your number one purchase ahead of all other training gear. Ahead of gym memberships, ahead of a bar and plates. Get this.

    And number 2 is “Starting Strength” by the same authors.

    You absolutely must read and LEARN what is in this book before wasting time reading the other rubbish out there in books, on websites, by countless authors making things more complex than they need be.

    This book is gold. If you could send it back in time say, 20 years it would be worth its weight in gold. It would be priceless back in the days of muscle beach. Back then, good information was hard to get hold of unless you met some of the great trainers. Today, information is everywhere, but the quality of info. is sometimes dubious.

    Get this book first and use it as your guide.

    Hope that has convinced you. It really is better than all other books on the topic, if you are trying to decide between this and anything else, get THIS FIRST. You will thank me that you did.

    Good luck.

    Rating: 5 / 5

  4. After almost sixteen years of lifting I thought I had a pretty good grasp of the subject. I’ve been put through pure physical hell in various law enforcement academies, at both the state and federal level. I’ve been a hard core CrossFit devotee for the last almost three years. I thought I knew a thing or two.

    I was wrong.

    It took about five minutes on the phone with Mr. Rippetoe after reading this book to completely convince me I was wrong. I thought after all my time in the gym I was already at Intermediate level and could jump on in and swim in the deep end. That notion was disabused quickly. No, I was informed, you need some more core Novice work.

    I swallowed my pride, sucked it up and asked him for the workout he thought I needed. Page 155, I was told. “Well,” Mr. “Rip” said, “change it this way,” which included me adding back extensions and power cleans.

    “Well,” I said, “I’ve not really done power cleans that much and have no training in them, just been doing them how I think they should be done. Any suggestions? You know anyone in my area who could teach me?”

    “Hell,” he said, “I’m less than two hours away from you. Come see me Saturday.”

    So I did.

    I spent two hard, grueling, demanding, wonderful, difficult, sweaty, mind-blowing hours in Wichita Falls, TX learning how to power clean. True to expectations I’d been doing them all wrong. I still wasn’t doing them close to right when I left his gym, making the long drive home, already starting to stiffen, but I was a sight better than when I got there. Bad habits are hard to break and I had instilled some whoppers. Through it all Mr. Rippetoe was a patient, thoughtful, intelligent and articulate coach. He picked on little things, wanting precision. That’s what the O lifts demand, to make real progress.

    I start doing my power cleans tomorrow in the gym for my Novice workout. And, thanks to Mr. Rippetoe and Mr. Kilgore, I’ll be making slow and steady progress in poundages for some time to come. Then maybe I’ll be moving enough weight to graduate to the next level and go back and add some of my MetCon work.

    But you have to crawl before you can walk. So, crawling it is.

    If you want to start lifting or already are – Get. This. Book. It will be there for you at every stage in your lifting career.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  5. This book is a sequel to “Starting Strength” and focuses on programming of training. When it comes to routines, there is no shortage of them. Open any Men’s Health or Muscle and Fitness Magazine and you will find several pages of sets and reps for shouders or abs or whatnot. The irony is that in order to progress, you don’t need sophisticated machines or routines. You need free weights and simple short progams. After a while you will need more complex approach, but it still does not have to be rocket science.

    This book gives you the approach that will keep you progressing for years and years of training. Most importantly, it lays down the principles of programming of training, and you can develop and plan your own routines, according to your preferences. Training should be fun, and this book follows this adage.

    I cannot comment on professional coaches, but for amateurs like me, training with weights, this book and Starting Strength are sufficient in order to keep progressing and enjoy training.
    Rating: 5 / 5

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