cover of book

Strength Coaching in America: A History of the Innovation That Transformed Sports
by Jason P. Shurley, Jan Todd and Terry Todd
University of Texas Press, 2019
Cloth: 978-1-4773-1979-6 | eISBN: 978-1-4773-1980-2
Library of Congress Classification GV223.S48 2019
Dewey Decimal Classification 613.713


Shortlisted for the North American Society for Sports History 2020 Monograph Prize

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.

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