As promised in my previous post, I want to outline the strength training program I’ve been doing for the last few months. It is based on the book New Rules of Lifting for Women by Lou Schuler & Cassandra Forsythe. The basic premise of the book is that to build lean muscle mass, women should lift more like men. That is, heavy weights and low reps. For someone who has always only used strength training as a compliment to running, this type of training is completely new to me.
One of the premises of the program is that if a person strength training with the heaviest weights possible, her body needs rest on non-workout days. Because the objective of the program is to increase lean muscle mass so that the body burns more calories even at rest, the authors explain that doing cardio as a primary form of exercise is inefficient. Ideally, according to the authors, exercisers don’t to any other types of exercise until one establishes how her body responds to the heavy weights. At that point, some cardio or yoga can be integrated into the program. The workout programs in the book—designed by Alwyn Cosgrove—are methodical and sound.
Of course, when one is trying to build muscle, one needs to consume muscle-building protein. The authors clearly and thoroughly explain the science and numbers of just how much protein one needs while doing this program. The nutrition information and included recipe suggestions are one of the strongest aspects of the book, in my opinion. The authors argue convincingly that the strength training and the nutrition guidelines should be followed closely for maximum success with the program.
In the four months I have been doing this program, I have learned two major things:
1) I don’t like strength training as my primary form of exercise. Even when I’m lifting super big weights, I don’t feel like I’ve done anything. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught myself thinking about how I’m going to sneak in a workout in the afternoon, only to remember that I lifted in the morning. While it’s great for building lean muscle mass, it does nothing for me as a stress reliever or emotional release valve.
2) I struggle to eat enough protein. The recommendations for the program I’m doing are for me to eat around 120 grams of protein a day. I’m lucky if I get to 100. I don’t do protein powders on principle (which goes against what the authors recommend, but I eat only real food), and that makes it a real challenge to get enough protein into my body. I have finally learned to like greek yogurt, so that helps a lot. I’ve added sunflower kernels on my daily chef salad, so that’s a good bang for my buck. Otherwise, I am going to go into the poor house to support my protein consumption (hello expensive nuts!).
This type of strength training doesn’t work for all people, and it isn’t a suitable way to reach the goals of others. As with any type of fitness program, each person has to identify her goals and learn the best possible training type to reach them. While I like the results I’m getting from the program, I don’t enjoy doing it, and as such I don’t see it as a long-term part of my fitness plan.
If you’ve tried this program—or one like it—I’d love to hear your results. If you’re interested in more information or would like personal guidance to implement a fitness program like this, please contact me.
Good health and great happiness to you.