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Poliquin’s Bookshelf: Strength and Conditioning
A look at a modern research textbook on athletic fitness
6/7/2011 10:13:17 AM
“Jack of all trades, master of none, though oftentimes better than master of one” is a phrase that first appeared in 1612 in the book Essayes and Characters of a Prison and Prisoners by Geffray Mynshul. This comment is a great example of forward thinking, which is particularly important now, as information is progressing at such a rapid rate that it is impossible to keep up. This is the wisdom that drives the new textbook Strength and Conditioning: Biological Principles and Practical Applications by Marco Cardinale, Robert Newton and Kazunori Nosaka (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011). But don’t take my word for it – here’s what the authors say:

“The science of training has evolved enormously in the last twenty years as a direct result of the large volume of research conducted on specific aspects and thanks to the development of innovative technology capable of measuring athletic performance in the lab and directly onto the field.” Further, the authors say that from a practical perspective, the challenge is “to determine the appropriate type of training not only in terms of exercises and drills used, but most of all, to identify and understand the biological consequences of various training stimuli.”

When you first pick up this textbook, you may be a bit overwhelmed with the amount of content – it spans 461 pages and is written in small print. But as they teach in first aid classes, the first thing you should do when trying to read this book is not to panic. Stay calm. The book is not meant to be read like a Harry Potter novel; it is divided into five sections, with several chapters in each, all of which can be read independently. In fact, each chapter is written by a different author, so there is not a strong continuity between each chapter.

Breaking Down the Science of Training
There are five sections, and you should focus on the one that suits your needs.

Section 1 is ideal for students in exercise science, as it deals with the biological aspects of strength and conditioning. Among the topics are biomechanics and the physiology of bone, muscles, tendons and the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. It’s rather dry, but if you’re serious about working in this field, then you require a general understanding of this material. If you don’t read anything else in this section, you should at least read the chapter on strength and conditioning biomechanics (1.8), as it does an excellent job of explaining strength curves and force/velocity relationships.

Section 2 builds upon the scientific foundation established in Section 1, focusing on how strength and conditioning methods create adaptations in the body. So if you’re interested in what the hormonal responses of German Body Comp and German Volume Training are, read Chapter 2.4, Biochemical Markers and Resistance Training. There is also an excellent section that discusses plyometrics, 2.8, “The Stretch-Shortening Cycle (SSC).”

Section 3 is concerned with how to measure and monitor the effects of strength and conditioning programs. Often testing is not used effectively in helping to design and evaluate the effectiveness of strength and conditioning programs. The last chapter in this section, 3.7, “Total Athlete Management (TAM) and Performance Diagnosis,” is valuable because it provides an overview of some of the more current methods of athletic assessment, such as online data collection.

Section 4 is the part of the book that strength coaches will find most useful, as it deals with practical applications of sport science research in the area of strength and conditioning. The chapters focus on resistance training modes, agility and change of direction, nutrition, flexibility and sensorimotor training. If you’re a strength coach, make a point to read 4.1, “Resistance Training Modes: Practical Perspective” by Michael Stone and Margaret Stone. Dr. Mike Stone has been at the forefront of strength and conditioning research in the US for several decades and has a background as a weightlifter and a weightlifting coach. His wife and co-author is a former international-class thrower who developed tremendous strength and power.

Section 5 is devoted to special topics in strength coaching, such as rehabilitation and working with special populations, such as the Paralympic athlete. Chapter 5.2, “Strength Training for Children and Adolescents,” dispels many myths about training young athletes. It was written by Avery D. Faigenbaum, who has done extensive research in this area.

The editors of Strength and Conditioning have done a great service by assembling many of the foremost experts in exercise science to share their work. This is certainly not an easy read, but it’s an important book that should be on the bookshelf of anyone who is interested in helping athletes achieve physical superiority.


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