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Book Review: Arnold’s Encyclopedia

There’s probably not a bodybuilder alive who hasn’t owned it, borrowed it or at least read several chapters in it. I’m talking about the original Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Although it was an invaluable resource tool for bodybuilding, after 15 years it had become a bit outdated. Hence the fully updated and revised New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding.

Like the original version, the revised edition was writtenwith Bill Dobbins, and with more than 800 pages, encyclopedia just about sums it up. In fact, browsing through the table of contents you’ll notice that it’s actually set up as five books in one, with each broken down into related chapters.

Arnold uses the Foreword to explain that his commitment to his entertainment career is a direct result of the discipline he learned from bodybuilding. He also discusses his reasons for updating the encyclopedia: Although basics are still basics in bodybuilding, and always will be, exercise science has changed. For instance, because of advancements in exercise science, the chapter on abdominal training had to be completely revised. The many changes in supplements and nutrition, including new emphasis on the glycemic index of foods, necessitated revisions as well.

Another change is the Bodybuilding Hall of Fame, which now has photographs of many of today’s popular stars as well as most of those pictured in the original encyclopedia.

Each chapter is easy to read and understand, even for beginning bodybuilders, and also has plenty of motivational photographs and diagrams. Everything is organized logically so it’s easy to find the topics you want to read about again.

The beginning and advanced routines and training splits are complete and well described, but with a recommendation of 16 or more sets for just about every bodypart and six days per week, even advanced bodybuilders could lapse into overtraining. Nevertheless the general information and descriptions of the routines and exercises are invaluable.

Overall, the New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding is a very complete book. In fact, the exercise descriptions are probably the most complete I’ve ever seen—at 300-plus pages, it doesn’t look as if Arnold missed much. From the high school students wanting to start an exercise program and diet to advanced bodybuilders planning to enter their first competition, and from simple exercise descriptions to the role of ketosis in dieting—as well as all the motivational photographs you could ever need—this book has everything. An absolute must for every bodybuilder’s library.

Pros: Answers just about any question you might have about bodybuilding. Great classic and modern photographs throughout for motivation and examples of exercises. Since the book is so big, it will take up plenty of the empty space on your dusty bookshelf.

Cons: Without chemically altered recovery abilities, some of the suggested training routines could lead to overtraining.

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