Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Strongest Shall Survive, Book Review - Ken Leistner (1979)

Since its publication in October of 1976, this volume has become the most quoted test by those engaged as strength training coaches for the various university and professional athletic teams. The intent of the author to make this publication an "Encyclopedia on the Topic of Strength Training" has been accomplished. 

It was originally written in order to fill the need for "an instructional book on strength training for football." Primarily for the coach, trainer, and/or athlete who did not have access to a vast number of other reference sources, the commercial and critical success of this book speaks well for the author's accomplishment. 

The Strongest Shall Survive brings a great deal of pertinent information related to the subject of proper strength, flexibility, and quickness training specifically for the sport of football into one readable volume. The chapters on the subjects of anatomy, physiology and kinesiology serve as a brief but complete introduction to these difficult subjects for the reader with a limited scientific background. His descriptions and illustrative figures serve the experienced student well also, presenting a concise review of the major muscular structures of the body and their functions. Although the student of chiropractic will be armed with most of the presented information prior to reading, these first chapters provide a necessary introduction to the material which follows and are written in such a way to make the review enjoyable.

The next four chapters provide a complete course on strength training. Within these pages, the coach or athlete will be able to learn how to purchase and/or construct the equipment necessary for strength development. A history of the development of what have become almost universally accepted training principles, various means by which the coach or athlete can apply these principles in order to best achieve the goal of bodily strength and fitness, specific routines for the advanced athlete or weight trained individual, and procedures for insuring adequate supervision of a weight training program when dealing with an entire athletic team. 

Mr. Starr's past experience as an international level Olympic weightlifter, editor of a number of respected weight training journals, and strength coach for the Baltimore Colts of the NFL and the University of Hawaii lend credence to his suggestions. Numerous excerpts are interjected within the body of the more technical material, taken from interviews with players who achieved success following the outlined methods. These lend a factual tone to the entire discourse and allow the aspiring athlete to better relate to the possibilities in improvement made possible by the suggested programs. Mr. Starr is careful to discuss the applications of his programs as they relate to the professional athlete and the adolescent who is but starting out in his quest for physical strength and maturity. 

Adding to the scientific nature of the discourse is Mr. Starr's insightful analysis of a number of university sponsored research projects, some of which lend support to his presentation, and those that at times seem to give contradictory advice. As an experienced trainee and trainer, I can honestly state that his recommendations are sound from both the scientific and practical points of view.

Mr. Starr's nutritional section encompasses eight chapters, and again, is readable for the neophyte as well as the biochemist. He takes precautions to present an overview of pertinent literature and then explains each macro and micro nutrient in detail. His use of numerous examples from the world of athletics makes the presentation much more than a list of vitamins and minerals. Although Mr. Starr's suggestions are in variance with much of the medical/scientific community, he thoroughly presents factual research data to support his views. Practical suggestions for applying nutritional information to specific circumstances (pre-competition meals, rapid loss of weight, and the increase of lean body tissue as examples) is very informative and worthwhile for any athlete.

The related materials section of the book is wide ranging in topic and exceptionally interesting. Sleep, the scientific data relating to it, its role in proper maintenance of strength and health, and practical suggestions for attaining it in the proper amounts are explored in considerable detail. 

Although the use of amphetamines, anabolic steroids and 'social' drugs such as marijuana are 'facts of athletic life,' rarely have the persons responsible for the well being of the athlete discussed these substances in a rational and factual manner. This chapter alone is worth the price of the entire book. Each drug is analyzed in detail; its historical relationship to athletics, chemical components, effects on the body, uses, and contradictions. Especially in its obviously forthright and honest approach, this should be 'must' reading for any athlete or those that must deal with their health care. Being privy to numerous private conversations among world class athletes, Mr. Starr gives the interested athlete, coach, or physician a rare glimpse into he underworld of athletic drug use.

The author describes chapters 16 and 17 as "a complete guide as to the proper procedure to follow in rehabilitating a wide assortment of injuries." Actually, this section, although not extensive, is much more than this. Diagnostic procedure and practical tips on initiating a healing program based on the abilities of the trainer, team physician, and strength coach are covered in detail. Methods in which to adapt the basic strength development program in order to provide the injured athlete with a very workable injury management program are presented and explained in depth. This extends to alterations in the nutritional intake of the injured individual and the rationale behind making such alterations. Examples are given, explaining in full detail the recovery programs utilized by a number of professional athletes who served under the author's tutelage. These alone give excellent insight into the proper approach to injury prevention and rehabilitation as step-by-step accounts are given of the athlete's recovery program.

Further detail is given regarding regarding the medical definitions of the various types of injury and approaches to their correction. A fully illustrated section follows which discusses in considerable detail injuries to specific body parts and the various ways in which each particular injury can be corrected using a wide range of rehabilitative and reconstructive equipment. This is a valuable guide for the coach, therapist, or physician who must oversee the care of athletic personnel. 

Concluding chapters which evaluate the various modalities available for the development of strength and/or the rehabilitation of athletic injuries presents the positive and negative aspects of a wide range of popular and well known devices. Within the context of this discussion, application of each modality to the field of athletic training is covered in enough detail to allow the uninitiated to best choose what would be the most practical for his particular program. A further discussion of the role of the strength coach in organized athletics follows.

I feel that this volume, although not as extensive or detailed as many texts, gives a very complete overview of its subject matter, and most importantly, provides practical and useful information in a very well organized manner. 

I feel that every practitioner charged with the responsibility of caring for athletes, at any level, should have this book in their library.    


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