I run across a lot of workout books. It’s nice to run into one that’s different. Tom Holland is one of the best-known and highly regarded trainers around, and he has written a good one.
His list of credentials alone is one of the longest I’ve seen. But a heap of acronyms doesn’t necessarily make a good trainer, or a good book. So what separates his book from the typical one? First, let’s start with a normal training book:
- Some background about the trainer, and the trainer’s basic philosophy of fitness.
- Exercise descriptions, instructions, photos, and workout routines.
- Some motivational anecdotes and tips sprinkled here and there.
- The End.
Good Editing – a Quaint Memory
In this era of self-publishing, sports books often suffer from bad editing. But some books are so full of excellent info that amateurish editing doesn’t bother me. Steve Justa comes to mind – zero academic polish, thrift-store tailoring, fairly bizarre and often improvised equipment, photos with all the slickness of cellphone shots. But I read his stuff over and over, because it’s brimming over with hundreds of ingenious workout ideas, stuff that you won’t see anywhere else. He gives you almost the entire contents of his workout brain, no holding back for the next small overpriced book. (Pavel, I’m talking to you!) His anecdotes are great, and often hilarious.
This poor weightlifter stood there for twelve hours until the artist finished the drawing.
One of These Books Is Not Like the Other
Tom Holland did spring for a co-author on this book, and it shows. Excellent writing, organization, and clarity. The difference from other books becomes clear when he lets you in on many secrets that typical training books lack. Much of it is inside stuff that you’re not really supposed to know. I’ll just list a few teasers, there are many juicier ones in there.
- If your gym has a sign-up fee, this may be negotiable.
- More people are learning that gyms like it when you sign up and pay but don’t go to the gym. Fewer know that most gyms will keep selling ad infinitum, not even caring about the capacity of the gym.
- If a trainer looks like he’s on steroids, he probably is. I’ve always suspected this, but he’s in a better position to actually know than I am.
- Men lift weights that are too heavy, women lift weights that are too light.
- Personal trainers in gyms are promoted by sales figures, not certifications.
Rage Against Some Machines
I have a preference for bodyweight training and fairly minimal equipment. Every trainer has their own biases and preferences. Tom is a big proponent of machine training, which is quite unusual among my fave authors. I’m fairly down on machines, in part because some may force you into certain movement patterns, causing effectiveness limitations, a possible poor fit for your body, and in some cases, injury. Without wanting to starting a debate, I will say that he makes a pretty good case for using the better ones, even if only as a variation from, say, free weights training. Because I am a gym member, I do have access to machines, and after reading this I am thinking that variety is a good thing, so I will revisit some machines for future routines. And then go back to my handstand pushups. 🙂 If you’re a strict bodyweight exercise person, this book may get you upset! And given the title of the book, he is talking about the gym, and there are nearly always machines there, unless you come across a very old-school gym with nothing but free weights. So why not learn how to use them?
Spinning Wheel, Got to Go Round
Another thing he covers (that others don’t) is what classes to take. He is in favor of, and teaches, spinning classes, which I have no interest in, even though I know that many people enjoy them. I’m not categorically against classes, by the way – they can be great. Here’s another tip that I was unaware of – people in spin classes may be very territorial, even fighting with anyone who deigns to use their favorite bike. Elementary school all over again – just pathetic. Instead of spinning, I figure why not do a nice nasty set of Tabatas and get done ten times sooner? But he does tell you how to get the best out of such a class.
Weight Lifting For the Hard Of Thinking
He also covers lifting etiquette. THANK YOU! Someone had to talk about this out loud. Gym rats often have zero social skills. Then again, the people who are like that won’t be reading Tom’s book because they already “know it all”. In any case, he also lists a lot of little tricks that normally would only go to one’s clients. And he describes how to hire a trainer. On and on!
He provides a large number of full workout plans for many different training goals. This is a gold mine. For some, this could be worth the entire price of the book. Creating good routines is not trivial, and he has vast experience. Any workout book may have a few routines, but there are many very interesting ones here.
Negative points? Not many. I couldn’t help but notice that he has a large head, but that probably just means he has a big brain. I didn’t see any brand new exercises that blew my mind – it’s pretty orthodox stuff.
That should give you an idea. It’s an excellent book, and has got me re-thinking some of my own training plans. If you’ve read it, please weigh in with your opinion below.