NROL4WLou Schuler, Cassandra Forsythe, and Alwyn Cosgrove. The New Rules of Lifting for Women: Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess. Avery; 2007.

Podcast with Cassandra Forsythe

Book review

If there’s a woman in your life who’s considering weight training (or a man in your life who trains women), The New Rules of Lifting for Women is an excellent introduction to the field of women and weight training.

NROL is written by a kickass trifecta of three major names in the business.

Lou Schuler is a well-known fitness journalist who has written several books, including The New Rules of Lifting, The Book of Muscle, and The Home Workout Bible. He’s been a contributor to Men’s Fitness and Men’s Health, serving as the fitness director of the latter for several years.

Cassandra Forsythe is emerging as one of the most authoritative voices in women’s nutrition and training. She’s a Registered Dietitian who holds a PhD in Kinesiology, an MSc in Human Nutrition and Metabolism and a BSc in Nutrition and Food Science. Her main research interests are low-carbohydrate nutrition, dietary fatty acids, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, weight-loss, female-specific nutrition and training, and the female athlete triad. Her other book is Women’s Health Perfect Body Diet: The Ultimate Weight Loss and Workout Plan to Drop Stubborn Pounds and Get Fit for Life

(She’s also, by the way, pregnant. We explore her insights on being an unusual combination — a serious female athlete, Dr. Nutrition, and pregnant — in the podcast.)

Alwyn Cosgrove is one of the best-known strength coaches in the biz. He’s a former Taekwon-do international champion who now works as a strength and conditioning coach with a wide variety of clientele, including several Olympic and national level athletes, five World Champions and professionals in a multitude of sports including boxing, martial arts, soccer, ice skating, football, fencing, triathlon, rugby, bodybuilding, dance and fitness competition.

Podcast with Cassandra Forsythe


Cassandra and I get chatty with it for nearly an hour. Topics covered:

  • What was it like to be part of the NROL team with Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove?
  • The awesomeness of
    • female muscles and strength
    • mountain biking
    • tire flipping
  • Cassandra’s early background as a gymnast and lifting after a serious spinal injury
  • What happens to women’s bodies when they weight train
  • Training with dudes in the gym
  • Challenges encountered in training more seriously, and confronting taboos about women’s weight training
  • Problems in finding social support (especially from other women), and why push presses aren’t necessarily compatible with bridesmaid’s dresses
  • Disordered eating and “exercise bulimia” among “ordinary” women — “healthy” and “unhealthy” approaches to exercise and food
  • The female athlete triad
  • The myth and pressures of “perfection” and the reality of being an “imperfect expert”
  • The role of stress in women’s lives and why we need to lighten the hell up
  • Pregnancy, nutrition, and weight training — including sugar cravings, boot camp, and log pressing while pregnant
  • The up-and-coming areas for women’s nutrition and fitness
  • What’s wrong with kids these days

As Cassandra points out, it’s unusual to have a podcast with two women weight trainers chatting so honestly about the realities of training and bodily experiences.

But that’s just the kind of good stuff that is devoted to bringing to the people!

Listen online by clicking below:

Or download in MP3 format for good listenin’ on your iPod. (65 MB – yeah, it’s a biggie!) Right-click on the link, if you want to save to your hard drive first (recommended).

Book review

As I’ve mentioned, NROL is a super introduction to the field of women and weight training, and it’s solidly backed by coaching experience and scholarly evidence.

This would make a great gift for your mom, sister, girlfriend/wife, best friend, etc. — anyone who’s considering weight training but hesitant about whether women should do it.

It would also make a great gift for folks who may know their way around the gym a little, but want to become more grounded in some of the fundamental principles of program design and sports nutrition.

The first section of the book provides a primer on sex-based physiology, and why women and men should train the same: with relatively heavier weights, higher intensities, and more challenge overall.

The first section debunks common myths — most notably that women will “get too big” from weight training; that certain types of training can make muscles “longer”‘; and a key point: the myth that men’s and women’s muscles are substantially different.

It explains why weight training is essential for all women, not just athletes, and how weight training improves health, leanness, athletic performance, and daily-life function.

The first section also explains much of the logic behind the training plans provided: the importance of progressive overload, which exercises to choose and why, and why not to waste your time with gender-specific “toning”. (It explains why kickbacks suck. Hooray!)

The second section provides nutrition basics such as how many calories active women need, why protein’s important, and how to supplement with post-workout recovery nutrition. It suggests meal plan and preparation techniques, and there’s no fancy weird stuff or secret/magical ingredients — just clear, basic ideas for organizing your nutrition.

The third section provides a step-by-step, carefully crafted workout program in great detail. If you follow the program closely (and you should, if you want to reap the benefits), it’ll take around 6 months to complete. The lifts are basic yet effective. There’s lots of variation to keep you learning and interested.

Total beginners might be slightly intimidated by the presence of complex exercises such as squats and deadlifts — but hey, they can just come here and get help figuring out the technique!

All in all, this is a super starter text for anyone interested in women’s weight training.