HF Book Review: Supertraining, 6th Edition by Yuri Verkhoshansky & Mel C. Siff
What better way to kick off one of our soon-to-be many Hurricane Fitness reviews, which will include books, documentary’s and fitness tools a d gadgets, than by tackling the proclaimed bible of sport science and coaching. I don’t know a person who has read this book that hasn’t come away saying one of two things:
“Wow, that was a great book!”
“Holy shit that was a hard read!”
In fact everyone who I know, that read the book, have used both of those sentences to describe the text. If you’re looking for a quick review then just take this sentence as a summary: There wasn’t a page in Supertraining that didn’t teach me something new, applicable and interesting about sport science and strength and conditioning. Every page read made me a better coach. But it took me a year and a half to read!
And with that I’ll kick off into the specifics of the book’s backgroound, it’s strengths, weaknesses, and my rating out of 10. It should be noted I will rate every product I review based on their use of sport science theory, their applicability, or in this case, the practical applicability of their teachings, and its design and user friendliness.
So, let’s start with the authors.
Dr. Yuri Verkhoshansky
Dr. Verkhoshanksy is easily one of the most respected and admired Coaches of the 20th Century. A Soviet-era coach/Sport Scientist, mainly to Track and Field athletes, but has always trained a diverse group of athletes and has headed many ‘Coaching Councils’ which the Soviets help pioneer. He was himself an accomplished track and field athlete right up to attending the Central State Sport Institute to study Physical Education in Moscow, Russia. He then started his illustrious coaching career which culminated in him being placed as Chief of Scientific Laboratory of Training Programming and Physiology of Sport Work Capacity in Moscow.
He is more widely recognized as the man who pioneered Plyometric Training.
Shortly after the Soviet Blocs fell, Verkhoshansky found work in Italy as head of training at their Olympic Committee. He died in 2012.
Dr. Mel C. Siff
Mel Siff is also one of the most highly regarded Sport scientists in history, whom without, we may not have found out anything about the Soviet or ‘Eastern’ training methods until much later in history. Siff grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, learning of sport from his father and Belgian Strongman Serge Reding, where he learned a lot about the techniques he later studied and wrote about. With a Masters in Applied Mathematics and a PhD in Physiology, Siff centered his work around sport-related sciences such as biomechanics and muscle physiology. He spent his youth involved in many sports but eventually favored Olympic Weightlifting, an interest which would eventually culminate in his two year campaign as chairman of the South African Universities Weightlifting Association for more than twenty years and managing the National Weightlifting Team for 2 years. Siff then led collaborations with Soviet coaches such as Dr. Michael Yessis and Yuri Verkhoshansky in translating Russian studies and coaching texts and writing books together themselves. Siff died in 2003.
So that leaves us with the book itself. Supertraining has been published an updated over nearly two decades. The structure of the book is well done. Beginning with a history of sport science and fitness and exercise culture before moving on to the physiological and biomechanical (the real ntty gritty science part) elements of exercise, then finishing the final third of the book on Periodization and training and programming for specific sports.
The book is filled with references, though none of them date past 1994 (however this conclusions are in line with what the current consensus is in the Sport Science community), and the authors often throw in their own recommendations and experiences in utilizing the methods taught in the book, which, in my opinion, greatly increases the book’s value.
There truly is no stone unturned in terms of topics covered, from group to individual training, to periodization, to practical psychology and physiology, to biomechanics and learning. It truly is a comprehensive guide to sport science. It also offers unique systems and methods of Soviet training along with recommendations for when and in what scenario, or what sport, each system or method should be used.
If you start reading this book, it’s only real limitation will become blatantly obvious. It’s Translation and use of Language!
Fortunately, it’s actually not as bad as the two author’s previous collaboration, Special Strength Training Manual for Coaches, which was so bad that the information on one page actually directly contradicted the information on the next, but it does make for a difficult read. Verkhoshansky and Siff are also sometimes a little too ‘scientific’ for a casual coach, using terminology like ‘the motor apparatus’ instead of simply saying the ‘body’ or ‘arm’. So….yeah that can get annoying!
It can also get a bit annoying when the book quotes something along the lines of ‘the author found that plyometrics….’, without actually specifying whether the ‘author’ in question being identified as Siff or Verkhoshansky, as this can seriously affect the readers view on what is said.
Other than that it’s hard to find any other fault with the book without seeming like I’m nitpicking.
Supertraining is a comprehensive and practical, if sometimes hard or trying to read, guide to Sport Science that every serious coach should have read at least once. Even with it’s weaknesses, it has indeed earned it’s unofficial title of “The Bible”.
Final Verdict: 9\10
Already read the book? Let us know what you thought of the book in the Comments section.