The (New) New Rules of Lifting for Women
I’ve stated this in the past on numerous occasions, but I’ll say it again: I (and the fitness industry in general) owes a huge debt of gratitude to Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove for writing The New Rules of Lifting series.
I believe there are five books in total; two more and JK Rowling will have to look over her shoulder. But it’s the second in the series – The New Rules of Lifting for Women – co-written by my good friend, Cassandra Forsythe, that holds a special place in my heart.
You see, the fitness industry is kind of funny. Not funny “haha,” but rather, funny in the sense that its done a fantastic job of confusing the hell out of people.
It seems every week another fad diet or workout gadget or gimmick makes a splash on television or on the New York Times best seller list, and does nothing more than throw more fuel on the “who’s right/who’s wrong, and what the hell am I supposed to be doing?” fire.
Or, maybe the more appropriate analogy would be throwing more napalm on the fire. Heck why not go for broke and just say it’s a nuclear bomb of bulls***!
Yeah, that works.
For example, here are some doozies I “stole” from personal trainer Nate Palmer from his Definitive Guide To Weight Loss:
Rule 5: On day 8, 14, 19, and 27, it’s important to recover vital minerals by eating 32oz of nut butter. However, to maximize electrolyte intake and to put your body into “fat burning mode” the nut butters must be eaten by hand.
Rule 8: To keep oxidants at bay, blend 1 dark chocolate bar and 2 cups of blueberries into a bottle of red wine. Apply generously to the skin before going outside. This will dispel the suns harmful rays and eliminate cancer causing radiation from your cell phone.
While you and I know better and understand Nate’s being a bit facetious with his tone, I have to say: I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there are people out there who are that gullible and would take such advice to heart.
Furthermore, it wouldn’t surprise me if there was some website or book or DVD out there that would advocate such things.
It’s the nature of beast nowadays with information so easily accessible.
By that same token, training is no different. There’s certainly no shortage of opinions out there as to what’s the ideal way to train:
Should we train on an empty stomach, and will doing so turn us into an Olsen twin?
Is CrossFit really the bees knees? I mean, not being able to feel the right side of your face after completing a circuit of 47 clean and jerks followed by a 2-mile jog while holding a 25 lb plate over your head (for time) is normal, right?
Are body-part splits better, or is it more advantageous to perform full-body or upper/lower splits? How about right leg, left arm days?
Is it better to bench with the arms 16 inches apart using a 5321 tempo, or 14 inches apart with a 4442 tempo?
It’s crazy talk, right? What ever happened to just keeping things simple?
See that barbell over there? Go pick it up. Repeatedly.
A few days later, add a little more weight.
Hell, why not live life dangerously, place the barbell on your back, and squat it!
There you go. Simple.
But that’s the rub: The water gets a bit murky when you start talking fitness with women. While many out there “get it,” and understand that there’s really no inherent difference as to how a man should train opposed to a woman, it’s dumbfounding how many people cater to the fears that many (not all) women have towards fitness.
In a weird, ass-backwards kind of way, it’s almost like we live 100 years in the past where women we expected to stay in the kitchen and weren’t allowed to vote.
What’s next……allowing them to read!?!!?
Lets Turn Off the Stupid
We all know there’s no shortage of gurus out there who seemingly “specialize” in training women, but really do nothing but placate into the fears that many have towards strength training – telling women that they shouldn’t lift anything over 3 lbs or else they’ll grow an Adam’s apple, for example.
Which is why I feel I’m indebted to Lou, Alwyn, and Cassandra for writing The New Rules of Lifting for Women. No other resource, in my opinion, has done a better job at giving women no-nonsense, infalible, researched (and real world) based information that works.
In more ways than one they turned off the stupid, muted all the chaos and noise, and brought people back to the middle where things make sense.
And with that, today I’m stealing a page from their book (figuratively, of course) and starting a new “series” where I provide some of my own “Rules of Lifting” for women.
Although to be fair – and to provide a bit of warning – there will be times where I won’t be so “nice” or careful with my words. I believe everyone needs a dose of “tough love” from time-to-time.
The idea of this series stemmed from a conversation I had recently with a current client who, upon getting engaged, wanted to up the ante as far as her training is concerned.
A woman’s wedding is kind of a big deal. Akin to a young boy dreaming of the day when Optimus Prime comes blasting through the front door and making him an honorary member of the Autobots, a young girl dreams of the day when she finally starts planning for her wedding.
I can’t say this is the exact case for my client, uhhhh, Kate Upton, yeah, that’s who it was, Kate Upton, but I’m going to play the law of averages and say that she’s been waiting for this day for a while now…..;o)
After congratulating her on her engagement, we started talking “game plan” for getting her into rocking shape for the big day.
Not like it’s any surprise, but in the time that she’s been training at Cressey Performance (about a year and a half), she’s done her fair share of deadlifts, squat variations, push-ups, Prowler pushes, med ball throws, and a litany of other stuff most people hate.
She’s made phenomenal progress in that time, and in many ways, I’ve made her a gym snob. On an almost weekly basis she’ll come to train at CP and tell me some story about some trainer at her gym doing something asinine or how she saw the most god-awful squat technique.
It’s enough to bring a tear to my eye.
Which is why I was caught off-guard when she told me that she had started adding in some quick 10-15 minute bicep/tricep circuits with ten lb dumbbells throughout the week.
Perplexed, I asked “why?”
“You know to get my arms in shape for the wedding.”
More or less this was my reaction.
I kinda gave her “the look,” as if to say, “really, did you just say that?”
Of course I was understanding. On one hand I couldn’t knock her for wanting to do more. I was proud of her, actually. This is someone who, when she first started, wasn’t sold on this whole strength training thing, and it was a struggle to get her to buy into doing the OPPOSITE of what she’s always been told to do.
“What do you mean running on the treadmill for 45 minutes, four times per week isn’t the best way to lose fat????”
But on the other hand, I asked her “do you really – I mean really – think performing those cute arm circuits with something that weighs less than your purse is going to have any effect?”
Again, to reiterate: I was proud of her. Here she was asking me my advice on what she could be doing to get more exercise in, and of course I told her that doing something was better than nothing. I understood where she was coming from. I was just bummed that she reverted to her default setting of “light weight, high reps for long, sexy, lean muscles.”
Which brings us to one of my (New) New Rules of Lifting for Women:
1 Chin-Up, 5 Push-Up Rule
Until you can perform one, clean, dead-hang chin-up AND five, clean, chest-touches-the-floor push-ups, you have no business performing isolation bicep and/or tricep work.
The way I explained it to “Kate Upton” was that the total muscle involved, calories being burned, and overall work being done by the body to get to the point where you can perform a chin-up or push-ups for reps trumps ANYTHING you would ever be able to do with a pair of pink dumbbells.
Put another way: the EFFORT it takes to do a push-up or chin-up (or work up to that point) is where it counts.
That is what’s going to make those arms smokin hot!
And I know there will be some women reading who can’t even come close to performing either. That’s fine!
Like I said, making the appropriate adjustments and fine tuning things to implement the proper progressions would be a far more valuable use of your time.
As well, I’m not opposed to tossing in some TRX (or any suspension training apparatus) into the mix here.
And as far as push-ups are concerned, I’m not a big fan of “girl push-ups” where someone performs them off their knees. Instead I’d rather elevate them so that we can get the full benefit and then progress as needed:
Taking things a step further, you could also use THIS cool push-up progression using a resistance band.
There’s really no excuse that can be used here. You can do push-ups anywhere. And you can easily hook up a chin-up bar or TRX in the doorway in your house or apartment. Or, if you’re really a badass – in your office at work. But that’s contingent on whether or not you have the coolest boss in history. Like someone who doesn’t filter your web access, lets you wear cool t-shirts to work, or lets you leave early on Fridays.
But, if YOU’RE the boss then it won’t matter now will it? Get it done!
In any case, hopefully most reading can appreciate my logic. Do you agree? Have any of your own “rules” to add or want me to expound on in future installments? Share your comments below.
And, if you could, “Like” this post and share it on your social media. The more we get this kind of message out there, empower women and give them confidence, the less likely I’ll want to swallow a cyanide pill.