A blog about Grip Strength, Dinosaur Training, Feats of Strength, Stonelifting, Kettlebell Training, Strength and Conditioning for Martial Arts, and the Paleo Diet.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Book Review: Dinosaur Training by Brooks D. Kubik

Brooks D. Kubik's Dinosaur Training: Lost Secrets of Strength and Development, as its full title goes, is a rare gem in the world of muscle-building books, and I do not know how it could happen that I postponed reading this book until only a few months ago. Throughout reading it I was continuously perplexed at how like-minded the author and I are. So before I take a closer look a this work, I would like to say up front that I can recommend, not only reading it, but also training and even living according to it, on all accounts. Reading this book instantly made me dismiss all subconscious plans I had of ever writing an all-encompassing book about strength training, because there is not much to add to this book (the only exception being, perhaps, nutrition). If one had plans to read only one book on strength training in his whole life, I would suggest this one. (If he were to read another one, I would suggest Super Squats by Randall J. Strossen.)

In twenty-seven chapters, Kubik covers all basic exercises and principles of strength training, with the characteristic of stressing hard work, old school basics, and drug-free training. The chapters appear a bit jumbled and repetitive, a further division into parts would have done the book good if it had been intended as a methodical account of strength training. That being said, I don't think it is intended as such. It is more of a philosophical work, clearly aimed at guys who have been in the iron game for a considerable time - it loses little time on detailed and illustrated descriptions of how to perform exercises - and still I believe an aspiring trainee can not read this early enough in his muscle-building career.

Kubik is clear and direct about what he fancies and what he detests, and is ready to repeat his views as often as necessary, or rather, as often as possible. He endorses heavy weights, basic exercises, functional training, short but intense training sessions, grip strength training, oldtime strongmen, squats, bench presses, odd object lifting, low reps, home gyms, power rack training, and simplicity. He loathes drugs, bodybuilding purely for aesthetics ("buffers, pumpers, shapers, sculptors and toners"), commercial gyms ("chrome and fern land"), machines, making things more complicated than they need to be, and excuses. His main argument is that the oldtime strongmen, of times before muscle-enhancing drugs became common, could boast feats of strength which appear mind-blowing even by modern standards (and, if one were at all concerned with aesthetics, an impressive muscular development in addition to that). Thus, one should be able to reach a formidable level of strength as well, purely with the same conditions they had, minus the temptations of modern gym comfort. And there is little to argue against this. Many of the feats of the oldtime strongmen must be considered historical facts. And that some of them haven't been beaten yet may be due to their requirement of functional muscular development and not only strength but also dexterity (think of the bent-press), which can only be acquired through vigorous, year-long training, rather than by a drug-induced short cut. And patience, functional training, and drug abstinence are exactly the virtues Kubik stresses.

The author's favourite exercise is clearly the bench press. And he is not reluctant to tell us why. Having handled "400 pounds [181 kg] or more in a thick bar bench press - starting from the bottom position" seems to have been a benchmark (in the true sense of the word) for him by which he qualified himself as a "real dinosaur" by his own definition. As formidable a feat as this is, Kubik repeats it so often that by the end of the book he has us believing that bench pressing 400 pounds drug-free and by old-school training methods can hardly be exceeded and is the feat which divides one from being just good and being excellent. It helps him to bring his arguments across, though, and - I suppose - making them understandable for a wide range of readers.

The book is slightly outdated in one little detail, which is the section in which Kubik talks about the Captains of Crush grippers. At his time of writing, John Brookfield was still the only one who had ever closed a #4 CoC gripper, "with his strongest hand, while holding the gripper steady with his other hand" (hence not apt for certification). Should this little detail be generalized in a future edition, however, I believe Dinosaur Training will become a wholesome, timeless classic of strength literature, which, one wishes to hope, will never lose its validity. (Well, actually, it is a classic already.)

Anyone who considered ordering this book, but - as common today - first browsed YouTube for videos of Brooks Kubik to check whether this is a guy who knows what he is talking about, might have smirked at his old-school glasses (mind you that most videos you will find are probably more than fifteen years old), his way of consciously dressing as if unconscious of his physical appearance, and the dead-serious matter-of-factness with which he goes about making his points. However, I can assure you his qualities as a performer are far exceeded by his qualities as an author. In his book, he manages to present no-nonsense strength training info in a nutshell and in a way that makes it hard to put the work down. Even if you have been in the iron game for long years and already know all that Kubik knows (or think you do), it will be a pleasure to be reconfirmed and find a like-mined soul in this charismatic author. And after all, his results and overall strength are impressive!

For myself, I noticed when reading this book that someone had already made the effort to describe in detail my exact philosophy and method of training, years before I even started working out, and that was Kubik. I just wish I had discovered Dinosaur Training earlier - I would have saved some money on FLEX magazines. If anyone in future ever asks me about serious strength training advice again, I will advise him to read Dinosaur Training, front to back. Again, like I said, there isn't much to add to it.