Monday, December 27, 2010

Strength Training (Finally!)

Strength training is a must for good health. Especially if you're looking to get to a comfortable, healthy weight because the last thing you want to do is lose muscle. Here are some things that I already knew about weight training and wanted to take advantage of...weight training strengthens your bones reducing your risk of developing osteoporosis, it improves your balance and coordination, it improves your posture and elevates your mood. I'm all about the last one.

When I first heard about The New Rules of Lifting for Women: Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess I was really excited to read it and try the program. I had been doing the weight machine circuit, which got old then had a few months with a personal trainer, which got expensive. New Rules seems like it would be the perfect remedy. And it was, I learned a lot.

This book is busts exercise myths that I've been fed my whole life and it's liberating, dare I say smug even to have this information. Knowledge is power. Here are a few things I learned...
  • Toning, shaping and sculpting are "dirty words." Muscles grow or they atrophy. Tone refers to the firmness of any given muscle when you aren't flexing it. It's not something you can see. You can't shape your muscles, your DNA did that for you. And you can't sculpt muscles you haven't yet built.
  • Muscle is hard to build and weight lifting will not make you look bulky.
  • Building strength comes from using heavier weights, not more repetitions.
  • You don't need to isolate small muscles to make them stronger.
  • I also learned that I can lift way more than I thought I could from the outset.

I did not use the nutrition plan in the book but I did follow the workout plan and schedule as outlined and learned that there is no need to be afraid of free weights. In fact, many of the exercises don't even use weights at the beginning, rather your own weight (squats, lunges, split squats, push ups.)

The plan is designed so that you start of with lighter weights and more reps and as you progress through each section you increase the weight and decrease the reps. Tracking this progress is where the real excitement lies. Starting off with 5 pound dumbbells for shoulder presses and ending up using 15 or 20 pounds is awesome.

The workouts are a bit confusing on first read, but the discussion forum dedicated to the book was a huge help. I learned that I could do things that I really believed that I couldn't do. This is such a self confidence booster. Who knew that I could do 3 sets of 10 Bulgarian split squats and dead lift 100 pounds? Not I, until I actually found myself doing it. And that's how we grow as healthy, well-rounded people. By learning and by DOING.

I definitely saw a change in my body as I followed the program, I was losing fat, not muscle and my clothes were fitting better. My posture got better, my balance has improved so many fold because I've always been quite the klutz. And I learned how to customize a few weight lifting routines to do after the designated program was finished. I also learned that weight lifting endorphins are some the best I've ever experienced. And they last!

A few caveats. The workouts get long and intense toward the end. Weight lifting is fairly solitary, so that can be an issue for some people. An ill equipped gym can also hinder your progress. My gym does not have a power cage, so I was unable to progress with barbell squats as far as I would have liked.

Overall, New Rules is a great read and weight lifting is a most worthwhile pursuit. I did myself a disservice by being half-assed about training these last couple of months, though. One of my goals for 2011 is to get back to it on a regular basis, because the results are highly worth the effort.

Pick up a copy, read it and give it a go. You are much stronger than you know and you can be so much stronger than you ever believed.


  1. Hear, hear!! 3 cheers for NROLW! I love that I am able to do barbell work and feel kickass doing it. I think being strong is an amazing feeling, and really better than even feeling thin does because it is powerful.

  2. That's really cool. Thanks for the advice on the weight lifting book. I have a question though--do you know of any god nutrition (NOT DIET) books? I've been looking for a total nutrition book that tells us what our bodies need and why. I'm not looking for a book about fad diets though. Do you have any suggestions for this? Thanks!

  3. Jordan, that's a great question! I have learned a lot from different sources in books and on the internet but have yet to find a comprehensive guide to good nutrition in just one book.

    The World's Healthiest Foods website is so full of amazing information, I would love to read the companion book. Michael Pollan's books are a great resource, The Full Plate diet (the book is free on the website, just google it) had lots of good information and of course there is much good to be found at Dr. Mercola's website.

    I hope this helps.

  4. Thanks for the suggestions! I'm checking them out right now! By the way, congratulations on your amazing progress! I really admire the fact that you have the resolve and self-discipline to know what you need to do and follow through with it. Props to you! As someone just starting to try to make healthy choices, I've found that its extremely difficult to make yourself forego what you want and do what you need to. So, again, kudos!!!! :)

  5. Great info! Work hard but smart. Read...