cover image Secrets of Giants: A Journey to Uncover the True Meaning of Strength

Secrets of Giants: A Journey to Uncover the True Meaning of Strength

Alyssa Ages. Avery, $28 (256p) ISBN 978-0-59-353940-8

Journalist Ages debuts with an energetic exploration of “why strength matters” beyond a “great set of biceps or six-pack abs.” After taking such standard exercise classes as Crossfit, the author decided to begin training for a strongman competition, and felt “invincible” until she suffered a devastating miscarriage before her first contest, driving her deep into a “hole of self-pity.” Back in the gym, Ages sought to “pull, press, and push out all the sadness and anger” and found that lifting was helping to bring her “back to life.” Determined to find out why, she spoke to strongmen and strongwomen, researchers, and authors in the field, many of whom pointed to the sport’s ability to help adherents tackle fear—lifters begin to see themselves as “someone who gets frightened but doesn’t back down,” and they learn to “tolerate and manage discomfort.” The physical benefits extend beyond bigger muscles, according to Ages, who cites a 2022 meta-analysis suggesting that undertaking any amount of resistance training reduces “the risk of all-cause mortality by 15 percent.” Along with salient insight into female anxieties about becoming “bulky”—rooted in cultural notions that “a woman who takes up space is threatening”—Ages weaves a lively, research-rich appraisal of the hidden psychological depth of a deceptively primitive human pursuit. Readers will be motivated to pick up the dumbbells. (Sept.)