The first comprehensive history of the social shifts and scientific discoveries that transformed weight lifting from a scorned folly to the ultimate game changer for professional athletes.
It’s hard to imagine, but as late as the 1950s, athletes could get kicked off a team if they were caught lifting weights. Coaches had long believed that strength training would slow down a player. Muscle was perceived as a bulky burden; training emphasized speed and strategy, not “brute” strength. Fast forward to today: the highest-paid strength and conditioning coaches can now earn $700,000 a year. Strength Coaching in America delivers the fascinating history behind this revolutionary shift.
College football represents a key turning point in this story, and the authors provide vivid details of strength training’s impact on the gridiron, most significantly when University of Nebraska football coach Bob Devaney hired Boyd Epley as a strength coach in 1969. National championships for the Huskers soon followed, leading Epley to launch the game-changing National Strength Coaches Association. Dozens of other influences are explored with equal verve, from the iconic Milo Barbell Company to the wildly popular fitness magazines that challenged physicians’ warnings against strenuous exercise. Charting the rise of a new athletic profession, Strength Coaching in America captures an important transformation in the culture of American sport.
Shortlisted for the North American Society for Sports History 2020 Monograph Prize
- Chapter 1. Before Barbells: Strength Training, Athletes, Physicians, and Physical Educators from the First Olympic Games to the Twentieth Century
- Chapter 2. Building the Barbell Athlete: Bob Hoffman, Joe Weider, and the Promotion of Strength Training for Sport, 1932–1969
- Chapter 3. The Science Connection: Thomas DeLorme, Progressive Resistance Exercise, and the Emergence of Strength Training Research, 1940–1970
- Chapter 4. Pioneers of Power: Strength Training for College Sports before 1969
- Chapter 5. An Emerging Profession: Boyd Epley and the Founding of the National Strength and Conditioning Association
- Chapter 6. Bridging the Gap: The National Strength and Conditioning Association and Its Impact
- Chapter 7. Strength Coaching in the Twenty-First Century: New Paradigms and New Associations
- Appendix. In Memoriam: Dr. Terry Todd (1938–2018): Pioneering Powerlifter, Writer, Sport Promoter, and Historian Who Changed the Cultural Paradigm for Strength
“[Strength Coaching in America is] a must-read to historians, professionals involved in recreational weight training, and all others who are interested in strength training, whether as a form of recreation or as a profession…Highly recommended.”
“[Strength Coaching in America] marks a fascinating insight into the previously explored area of strength and conditioning….The book’s strength lies in the effortless way in which the untold stories, the contentious figures and the scientific dogma which influenced the development of strength coaching are told...Shurley, Todd and Todd have produced a book that serves simultaneously as a reference guide for future works and a challenge for more research.”
Physical Culture Study
“Strength Coaching in America takes the reader on an incredible journey through the evolution of a profession. The authors demonstrate an extraordinary level of insight into and intimate understanding of the field as they describe and document the historical events and backdrops that have led the profession to where it is today. Written like an intriguing novel, this book is a must-read for anyone who has ever picked up a weight in the gym.”
William J. Kraemer, Ohio State University, author of Designing Resistance Training Programs
“Strength Coaching in America is a winner. It is a real contribution to the literature and should be required reading for all weight trainers, kinesiology students, sport studies majors, and athletic coaches.”
Ronald A. Smith, Penn State University, author of Wounded Lions: Joe Paterno, Jerry Sandusky, and the Crises in Penn State Athletics