Anyone familiar with the blog has seen me mention Paul Kelso’s work “Powerlifting Basics Texas Style” about a dozen time, so I figured now was as good a time as any to review it. Paul unfortunately passed away about a year or so but I at least got to tell him how much I enjoyed his book over facebook before his passing, and him replying and appreciating my feedback was one of the highlights of my lifting career. You already know this is going to be a positive review based off my previous lauding of it, but let me go into a little more detail here.
“Powerlifting Basics Texas Style” is a book of short parables related to sport of powerlifting, along with just weight training in general. Much like “The Complete Keys to Progress”, Kelso makes use of a recurring cast of characters in order to tell stories to the reader that are utilized as a vehicle to explain various aspects of training for and competing in powerlifting. Stories include hardheads who refuse to listen, gifted athletes, “mullets”, washed up meatheads, newbies, and all other walks of life, and each goes through their own growth along the path of becoming a better lifter. You’re bound to recognize yourself in a few of the characters, and be able to take away something from their experiences. It is worth noting that, according to Paul, the characters aren’t real, but they’re based on true stories, and all certainly very believable.
The book is composed of 14 short chapters, and covers topics from starting up your own powerlifting club, prepping for your first meet, general beginner training, improving the bench press, improving the deadlift, solo training, cycle based meet training and “Texas style” nutrition, among other topics.
Always go with the pros
This book is just plain fun to read. It’s not a dry technical manual at all, and even when the discussion gets to sets and reps Paul sprinkles in enough storytelling to break up monotony and keep you reading through. Additionally, it’s an opportunity to dive into lifting history and see how the old timers used to train before Starting Strength came along and saved us all. I also feel like Paul includes one of the best sections on beginner training I’ve ever read, where it’s structured enough to prevent the whole “there is too much information out there” thing yet has enough freedom in it to allow the necessary special snowflake modifications that will inevitably happen.
I also really appreciate the section on nutrition. It’s not at all about macros and calorie counting, but instead an exploration on some “salt of the earth” style nutrition: the stuff of farmers and ranch hands. It’s hearty enough to help you put on weight but healthy enough compared to a lot of the crap people eat. It’s also not some sort of dumb nutritional meme that tries to alleviate the reader of thinking, although, if the “Powerlifting Basics Texas Style” diet starting sweeping the internet, I wouldn’t be all that upset.
You get it? Because Mariusz went to jail? So he's a con? ...look, pictures for book reviews are hard
This is a short book. Slightly over 80 pages, some might even be inclined to call it a manual. It only costs $10, and people have put out even less content for more money, but still, if you’re looking for a long, lengthy read, this won’t hold a candle to “The Complete Keys to Progress”. It does lend itself to re-reading though, and I make it a point to read the book once a year.
You also have to decipher the book. Paul rarely just comes out and says what he’s trying to say (although it DOES happen in the book), and instead weaves lessons in as one of the characters/narrator. If you have no love for literature and just want someone to come out and say what they mean, you’re not going to enjoy this.
Also, the reader needs to keep in mind that raw powerlifting is a new thing, and, in turn, wasn’t even a thing when this book came out. Paul doesn’t spend much time talking about squat suits (and I actually don’t think he ever mentions a bench shirt), but I know there are some raw zealots out there that are going to read the word “suit” and immediately burn the book.
SHOULD YOU BUY IT?
This should cover the cost
You already know I’m going to say you; I’ve been recommending this book since 2007. But seriously, if you enjoy reading at all AND you enjoy lifting, you need to get this book. One of its best qualities is that, over subsequent re-reads, I keep finding more stuff in there that I missed the first few times, and being so short, that’s easy to accomplish. I’ll also discover that an idea from the book got in my head without me knowing it, until, after many training cycles implanting what I think is a brand new idea, I’ll re-read the book and find it right there. This is your chance to connect with some lifting history and enjoy things that occurred “pre-internet”.
Thanks once again Paul for taking the time to write this and the shrug book (to be reviewed in the future). Rest in Peace dude.