Muscle Up (75 Books – L)

I recently started working out again, so I picked up the recently released e-book Muscle Up!, written by P.D. Mangan, who runs the blog Rogue Health and Fitness. The book primarily covers the benefits of strength training in itself and in comparison to aerobic exercises like running, and includes some tips on how to go about setting up a workout routine and answering some common beginner’s questions.

Mangan begins with some observations on how people often go about exercise, i.e. most don’t seem to take it as seriously as they should. “If you’re not grunting and groaning,” he writes, “or at least actively stifling your desire to do so – you’re not training hard enough.” He then spends the next several chapters on why one should work harder, and the specific benefits of weightlifting - it decreases one’s risk of getting cancer, improves cardiovascular and metabolic health, fights aging, and increases testosterone in men.

Interestingly, aerobic exercise isn’t enough for many of these benefits, and he devotes an entire chapter to the drawbacks of aerobic exercises. Surprisingly to me, running is more likely to result in injury than weightlifting, though a moment’s thought gives some clues as to why. E.g., the constant pounding on one’s joints when running tends to break them down, whereas lifting weights, especially if one makes sure to use good form and doesn’t try to lift too much weight, is fairly safe. Of course, this is aside from hazards like traffic and stray dogs that any runner, myself included, has had to contend with.

The penultimate chapter addresses high intensity training, which does have benefits comparable to strength training. Finally, the last chapter gives advice on how to begin a strength training program. For those who’ve already decided to start weightlifting, which is likely most of the book’s audience, this chapter is probably the most useful.

Mangan’s writing style is clear and straightforward; he includes a lot of references to scholarly research, but does a good job explaining and summarising the main points of the papers he cites. My one nitpick is that he can get a little repetitive, but that’s very much a minor flaw. In any case, the book was helpful enough that I’ll probably check out some of Mangan’s other work.