3 Must-Read Books: Smart Strength With Charles Staley

Charles reveals his three favorite books about strength training as well as his go-to post workout meal (hint: it isn’t always a meal).

Note: Charles is here on a weekly basis to help you cut through the B.S. and get to the bottom of the biggest questions in health and training. Post your questions directly to Charles in the comments below this article.

Question #1: Adding Extra Training

READER: When does a person add outside-of-the-gym strength training that is not part of that gym or trainer’s programming? When does adding extra stuff verge on overtraining?

CHARLES SAYS: Typically, ancillary “playing around” type activities don’t hamper the overall training process much unless they are big difficult drills that heavily disrupt your body’s homeostasis.

But with that said, the best way to assess your recovery levels (which includes, but is not limited to, your overall training load) is to directly look at your performance on the things that matter to you. Using myself as an example, I care a lot about my strength on the big classic lifts, so if my performances on those drills seems to be taking a dive, I start looking at what might be causing it. If my sleep, my caloric intake, and my protein levels are good, and my stress levels are normal, then I start looking at my training, especially the volume.

If I’ve determined that I’ve reached or exceeded what Dr. Mike Isreatel would call “maximum recoverable volume” (MRV), then I’ll take a deload week for recovery purposes. If, upon returning to normal training volumes, my strength levels seem to have returned to expected levels, then I know my hypothesis was right.

Question #2: Post Workout Nutrition

READER: What is your post workout nutrition plan? Meal/shake/supplement? 

CHARLES SAYS: Honestly, I don’t have one. Sure, it’s technically optimal to consume some carbs and a fast-acting protein like whey immediately post training, but the relative importance of that strategy (assuming your daily nutritional intake is solid) is minor.

Sometimes I’ll drink a RTD shake as I’m walking out of the gym, and other times I’ll go home and have an Oikos frozen yogurt or something similar. And still other times I might just have a normal meal a few hours after training.

“Success is less often about perfection and more often about distinguishing between things that matter a lot versus things that only matter a little.”

My answer to this question prompts me to remind you that success is less often about perfection and more often about distinguishing between things that matter a lot versus things that only matter a little. We’ve all got to pick our battles in life, so don’t stress over the small stuff (unless you’re into that kind of thing, I suppose).

READER: Do you use percentage performance levels by your age? Do you know of a system?

CHARLES SAYS: I’ve heard of that concept for running, but not for lifting. If it does exist for lifting, I probably wouldn’t have any interest anyway. I’m not sure what purpose it would serve. Similarly, I’m not particularly interested in senior citizen discounts at my local Denny’s.

Question #4: Must-Read Strength Books

READER: What is your all-time favorite book on strength training?

CHARLES SAYS: Five years ago I would have said Vladimir Zatsiorsky’s Science And Practice of Strength Training/. And that’s still an invaluable classic, but just this year, two exceptional new books were released, and they’re both absolutely must-haves for anyone with a serious interest in the subject:

  • Mike Isreatel’s Scientific Principles of Strength Training – This book is a deep dive, but not inaccessible by any means.
  • Greg Nuckols’s Art and Science of Lifting – This is an exceptional two-volume product. The science volume is more, well, “science-y.” The art volume is focused on the practical, in-the-trenches practices required to succeed at lifting. Lots of extras with this, as well.

This Week’s Training

This Week’s Volume: 38,265 Pounds (Last Week: 84,165 Pounds)

Significant Lifts:


  • Squat: 315×6
  • Deadlift: 440×7

So the big news is that, out of the blue this week, my right shoulder and right knee started feeling really sore and funky. Not sure what’s up with the shoulder, but I was trying to get extra deep on squats on Monday, and I think I irritated my surgical scar. I’m not super concerned with either, but I am concerned enough to back off pretty significantly this week, as you’ll see below.

Despite all the orthopedic woes, I still managed to hit two lifetime rep personal records (as mentioned above).

Thanks for stopping by, and get some good work in this week!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Bodyweight: 204.6 Pounds

Volume: 17,370 Pounds


  • Set 1: 45 lbs × 5
  • Set 2: 95 lbs × 5
  • Set 3: 135 lbs × 5
  • Set 4: 185 lbs × 5
  • Set 5: 225 lbs × 5
  • Set 6: 275 lbs × 5
  • Set 7: 315 lbs × 6
  • Set 8: 295 lbs × 5
  • Set 9: 275 lbs × 5

Stiff-Leg Deadlift

  • Set 1: 135 lbs × 6
  • Set 2: 185 lbs × 6
  • Set 3: 225 lbs × 6

Leg Press

  • Set 1: 270 lbs × 8
  • Set 2: 270 lbs × 8
  • Set 3: 270 lbs × 8

45° Back Extension

  • Set 1: 150 lbs × 6
  • Set 2: 150 lbs × 6
  • Set 3: 150 lbs × 6
  • Set 4: 150 lbs × 6

Leg Curl

  • Set 1: 80 lbs × 6
  • Set 2: 80 lbs × 6

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Bodyweight: 202.8 Pounds

Volume: 4700 Pounds

Bench Press

  • Set 1: 45 lbs × 5
  • Set 2: 95 lbs × 5
  • Set 3: 135 lbs × 5
  • Set 4: 185 lbs × 5
  • Set 5: 205 lbs × 5
  • Set 6: 215 lbs × 5

Bicep Curl (Dumbbell)

  • Set 1: 60 lbs × 5

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Bodyweight: 202.4 Pounds

Volume: 16,195 Pounds


  • Set 1: 135 lbs × 5
  • Set 2: 135 lbs × 5
  • Set 3: 225 lbs × 5
  • Set 4: 275 lbs × 5
  • Set 5: 315 lbs × 5
  • Set 6: 365 lbs × 5
  • Set 7: 405 lbs × 5
  • Set 8: 440 lbs × 7 (Video Below)

Seated Leg Curl

  • Set 1: 160 lbs × 8
  • Set 2: 160 lbs × 8
  • Set 3: 160 lbs × 8

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Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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