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The New Rules of Lifting for Women is simply the best book out there for beginning a strength training routine, no matter your age.
I fully believe in strength training, as it is beneficial in so many ways. Strength training can:
Build sexy muscle
Turn back the clock on osteoporosis
Make you stronger
Give you a lean, tight body
Reduce the effects of aging
With that introduction in mind, I am reviewing The New Rules of Lifting for Women. This is a no-nonsense book, with plans for six months of progressive workouts. The layout can be a bit confusing, but I found a resource online with charts which has made it easier. I have those little flag post-it things to mark the relevant pages for each move to do.
I believe you cannot go wrong with this book, especially if you are a relative beginner.
Why Should You Lift Like a Man?
This chapter delves into the facts and myths we have all read or heard about–that lifting like a man will lead to bulk and hideous-looking bodies. It also tells us that:
We lift weights to build muscle
Muscle is hard to build (hence the no bulky bodies)
It takes hard work! (Crap, you didn’t want to hear that, right?)
We must lift successively heavier weight
Sometimes you have to break rules
You can’t necessarily have a body like (insert famous person’s name here)
This is really a very important chapter, and one of the reasons I think this book is fabulous. There is no “secret formula,” no promise that you can look like whatever famous person you want to look like. But you certainly can be the best you IF you put in the work. Yes, you still have to put in the work.
We also learn in this chapter that women’s and men’s muscles are essentially the same. Several studies have shown that, “…There is no evidence that women should train differently [from how men do].” In other words, lose the Barbie dumbbells!
What is the Best Tool for Fat Loss?
Good question, and if you’ve been anywhere near a fitness magazine in the past few years, you have learned that what is commonly called “endurance exercise,” such as long-distance running, hanging out on a treadmill or elliptical machine for an hour, or taking an aerobics class that keeps you in your “fat burning zone” is not the best way to lose fat. Those things are not necessarily bad, and if you love your hour (or more) long runs on the weekend, go ahead and keep doing them. But if you’re looking for the fastest and most efficient way to lose fat and gain muscle definition, weights are your best bet, along with high intensity, but shorter cardio workouts.
This means intervals, baby, also known as HIIT.
That stands for High Intensity Interval Training, and it’s tough for sure, but it doesn’t last forever. Plus, the intensity is what is intense for you. You may be just beginning, and a brisk walk for one minute makes you almost keel over with breathlessness. That’s okay. You begin where you begin, and you just get better from there. Oh, and for those of you who have not exercised ever, or in zillions of years, there is a section in chapter 12 that gives alternatives to intervals.
What About Diet?
You didn’t think there would be no mention of diet, right? After all, as they (whoever they are) say, “you can’t out-exercise a bad diet,” or some variation of that. I’m here to tell you that I hate to diet, I don’t like to feel hungry, and I like (a limited variety of) food. I don’t especially like vegetables, and either have to force myself to eat them, or find some crafty way to get them into my food.
When I was much younger, I could eat tuna melts dripping with cheese and Haagen Dasz ice full-fat ice cream, and then run a bunch and be okay. That ship sailed long ago. This book was written in 2007 (paperback 2009) and at that time protein was the king (about 30% of calories), and fat and carbs are no longer the bad guys (yay!). Of course, I (and the book) are talking about people with no special medical issues.
The protein issue is hotly contested, but this book does promote the 30% number. I read a lot about nutrition, and I’ve been through a lot of different trends in food composition over the years. I gravitate more toward a plant-based ideal myself, which would generally mean a lot less protein than this (people like John McDougall recommend far lower percentages than this). However, there are several schools of thought that aren’t fringe and I believe this is one of them.
I personally think 30% protein is high, but I’m not a doctor or registered nutritionist, just a well-read and interested person, so you need to make your own informed decision about this. I do have a lot of reading suggestions on the subject, however, if you so choose to indulge.
In any case, the diet advice in the book seems to be very basic but thorough. It includes specific nutritional advice, along with meal plans, and ways to figure out how many calories per day you need based on your current weight and body mass and your activity level. One more thing I believe is contested as well is the “eat 6 meals a day” advice. As long as you don’t eat 6 full-on meals in one day, if you feel better spreading out your intake over several meals, by all means go ahead.
Where’s the Weightlifting, already?
This is the meat of the book. Don’t let that term “lifting” scare you. You do not have to do any of this in a gym if you don’t want to. I don’t use a gym and I don’t plan to. You can do all these things (with a little bit of adaptation here and there) at home.
Yes, you will need some dumbbells, or bands, and perhaps a barbell (recommended, but not absolutely necessary). A sturdy “plyo” box (we make them!), and a Swiss ball are great additions. This book focuses on free weights, as opposed to machines, which is one of the reasons it’s perfect for doing at home.
This section goes into great detail on how many workout sessions you should do each week, how each exercise helps you, how to warm up, and so much more. You learn exactly how to do each and every exercise, and if you cannot figure it out from the picture, you can always google the specific exercise and see a video on how to do it properly.
You get advice on how to select the right weight, how to keep a training log (very important). Then the section on the actual workouts and how to combine them, to me, gets a bit complicated, which is why I was glad to have found the online workout forms. I’m not saying someone else couldn’t have figured it out more easily, but everyone is klutzy in some way…
Suffice it to say that the exercise section is super-detailed.
I don’t think I could recommend The New Rules of Lifting for Women more highly. It is that good. If you are serious about getting into shape, this is an excellent place to start.
Check out the resources section of this site for places to purchase your equipment.