Dave Tate’s first book, Under the Bar, was billed as a book that wasn’t about training but kind of was. It wasn’t about business but kind of was, and it wasn’t about life but kind of was. His second book, Raising the Bar, is very similar but with a dark twist. See, in this one, we get an even more candid Dave, one who shares some very deeply painful and life changing moments and one who takes any and all sugar coating off of business, training, and life (as if Dave could get any less sugar coated already).

As I read through Raising the Bar, I couldn’t help but think of some of the similarities it shared with The Catcher in the Rye. Both star young men who are put upon and through a traumatic event (Holden’s brother’s death, Dave’s violent run-in with neighborhood bullies) begin to withdraw, grow confused about where they fit into life, and eventually undertake a journey to find their place and purpose in the world. (Stay with me here. I’ll get back to the lifting stuff in a second.) Both break down and eventually begin to rebuild their lives, finding solace in their new found interests.

The result is the same as well. Both stories have resulted in classic books that transcend generations and social interests. The fact that both of the “bar” books have been lent out to friends, teens, and people in their fifties who have absolutely no interest in lifting weights yet have come back with rave reviews says a lot about this book’s depth.

Two sections stand out as must-reads. In “Attitude,” Dave talks about how he gets emails from people who are really down on their luck—no job, no money, no love. Yet they are still asking questions about how to improve their bench press! The situation is described as someone who is hanging on by a thread, and this one activity may be all they have to hold on to.

With luck, this one thread will lead to another, and they’ll eventually get back on their feet. It’s a far darker thought to imagine what might have happened if they stop asking questions and abandon their training altogether.

This hit home for me in a very real way. Several years ago, I went through a crippling depression that came seemingly out of nowhere. I stopped working, eating well, and generally caring about anything. Yet even on the days when I couldn’t have cared less about living or dying, I still did two things—I took care of my dog (she can’t do it on her own, so that makes sense), and I dragged my ass out to the garage and lifted.

Why the hell should I care if I got my deadlift when 10 minutes earlier I was seriously not caring about living? I have no idea, but I’m pretty sure Dave’s thread theory was hard at work. He’s absolutely right. It’s scary to think what would’ve happened if I didn’t have lifting at that time.

The other must-read is “Lat pull-downs” (“Undaunted” chapter). I won’t go into much detail and spoil it, but let’s just say that you should read this any time you feel like cutting a workout short or skipping your training session for whatever excuse you have. It’s a testament to insane willpower, dedication, and old-fashioned balls. Any athlete or lifter should read this, commit it to memory, and then go train.

Raising the Bar is a must-read for everyone—athletes, lifters, bodybuilders, and the average Joe. It can be both depressing and uplifting, inspiring and thought provoking. If you’ve hit a rut in life, business, or sports, read this book now!