Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Book Review: The New Rules of Lifting for Women

by Lou Schuler with Cassandra Forsythe, M.S., and workout programs by Alwyn Cosgrove.

The New Rules of Lifting for Women, also known as NROL4W, is an workout and diet book aimed at women.

The book opens, not surprisingly, with a justification for women's workouts being centered on free weights and interval training instead of a machine circuit and steady-state cardio. It does a good job of explaining why women need to work out differently than the common wisdom suggests, and why the book's workouts will provide a good base.

Next up is a diet section. The diet section is very well laid out. It provides tools for determining caloric needs and macronutrient breakdowns, and makes a case for moderate carbs and plenty of protein and fats. It also provides a way to determine BMI, but it's not clear why - BMI is a nice tool for measuring populations, but it's not useful as an individual measurement. Unless I missed it, the book doesn't explain why knowing your BMI would help with your diet or exercise. The suggested eating plan is good, and there are a lot of diets. It even provides boxed-off details about protein shakes for meal replacement, what fast food will do in a pinch (think Subway, not McDonalds), and which protein bars make sense as portable meals. The advice seems very sound and well-grounded - balanced meals centered on lean protein, 5-6 meals a day, getting good post-workout nutrition, and so on. Vegetarians and vegans fear not, there is advice for lifting on that kind of diet as well. The recipes includes a couple I clipped for myself.

The workouts are laid out in seven stages, with workouts ideally 3x a week (if you go 2x a week, the stages last 50% longer). Stage 1 is a beginner's workout, aimed at breaking in to training. They're centered on 2 sets of 15 reps, working to 3 sets of 8 reps by the end. Each of the workout days is centered on big basic exercises, like squats and deadlifts, and includes balanced pushing and pulling plus single-leg exercises. Stages 2-5 move into variations of those lifts, with typically 3 sets of 6-8 reps, and includes some power exercises like dumbbell snatches. Stages 6 and 7 are more advanced, centered on strength (stage 6) and fat loss (stage 7).

All of the exercises proscribed are good - almost all compound exercises, with only a few isolation exercises for very specific purposes, such as external rotation. Beginner variations are included for exercises typically harder for women trainees, such as pushups. Even then they include progressions to more difficult versions. The workout includes squats, deadlifts, overhead and bench pressing, rows (barbell, dumbbell, and cable), single-leg exercises of all kinds including balance variations (such as pistols and lunges off a box with a forward lean), and explosive lifts like snatches.

A final chapter covers extra workouts, mixing in cardio, class-type exercises (spinning, cardio kickboxing, boot camps), etc. into the program.

My only complaint? Come on, Mr. Schuler, you're going to compare machine workouts to windows and Alywn's workouts to Apple OS-X? It's not a particularly well-done comparison, and it made me (as a former IT support tech) roll my eyes. Neither Windows nor OS-X is particularly praiseworthy when it comes to hassle-free computing, plus it makes readers who use Windows sound like they're being duped. Not a good way to convince readers.

Otherwise, it's great stuff.

Substance: 5 out of 5. Excellent material well explained.
Presentation: 5 out of 5. Well organized, clear pictures, readable text, workouts clearly laid out.

Overall, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book to a woman trainee, or to anyone who trains women.

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