new rules of lifting for women

One of my goals for 2012 is to strength train at least 2 days each week.  While I continued to lift weights during my pregnancy, I suddenly don’t have as much time now that I’ve become a mom, unless I want to sacrifice more precious time with my daughter.  I have my training schedule all mapped out, but I know things will come up that will make it difficult to get to the gym some days.  However, I still want to make an effort to get those 2 strength sessions in each week since I believe strength training is important in the prevention of injury and I tend to get injured fairly easily.  Plus, if it’s going to make my arms look a little better in a tank top, than I’m OK with that! 😉

[If you aren’t lifting weight regularly, I suggest you read this article about 20 Reasons to Start Strength Training from  It has great information on why strength training is so good for you!  Greatist is an awesome resource for all things health + fitness, so even if you are strength training, I suggest you check out their site and sign up for their daily newsletter.  It might be the kick in the pants you need to get motivated to do your workout each day.]

Matt gave me New Rules of Lifting for Women for my birthday and I’m so happy I had the opportunity to sit down and read this book on my maternity leave, even if I did have to read it to MacKenna from time to time.  I was a little hesitant to read it at first because I find resistance training for women to be too fluffy + easy.  Women are so scared of bulking up that they will do a billion reps of an exercise with 3 pound weights and wonder why they’re not getting the muscle tone they want.  When I am looking for a workout, I want something that is going to challenge me and make me stronger.  Sometimes I will flip through Matt’s Men’s Health magazines just to find a new workout that will challenge me beyond what I am capable of.  And believe me, I think I am just as capable to do those difficult workouts just like a guy would be able to do!

The New Rules of Lifting for Women

However, this book exceeded my expectations!  Lou Schuler does an excellent job of explaining why women can still train like a man, challenging our muscles and gaining STRENGTH, without worrying about bulking up.  I hate that women (and even male runners) are so worried about bulking up.  Ladies, it’s just not going to happen so stop worrying about it!

I think the one thing I loved most about this book was Schuler’s emphasis on functional training.  As a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, I’ve trained athletes based on functional movement.  Again, what’s the point of doing countless biceps curls when you never actually use that movement in sports?  It just doesn’t make sense.  You work those same muscles by doing a lat pulldown, a bent over row, or a seated row, so you might as well kill 2 birds with 1 stone.  When I pick up my daughter, I’m not strictly using my biceps.  I’m using my biceps, my lats, and several other assisting muscles to pick her up.  It just makes sense to do exercises that move in the same way as you do in the real world.  Functional.

The book consists of eight stages that you go through with 2 different alternating workouts.  The first stage consists of doing each workout 8 times, while the remaining stages alternate the workouts 4 times each.  With each stage, the movements change + become a little more difficult while the sets, reps, and weight used also change and become increasingly more difficult.

I’m about halfway through the first stage and am loving it so far!  After taking 6 weeks off completely from lifting and using lighter weights during pregnancy, the basics of the first stage have really helped me gain some of the strength I lost in the past year.  The exercises are very basic, practicing good form that will be built upon with other exercises in later stages.  While Schuler suggests lifting 3 days per week, I am only able to go twice a week with my busy work/mommy schedule, so it will take me a little longer to complete the entire program.


  • Based on functional training
  • Perfect for beginners
  • One of the stages focuses on helping you achieve an unassisted pullup, something I have been trying to accomplish for YEARS
  • Great explanations of each exercise and WHY you should be doing the exercises
  • Guidelines for when + what you should eat before or after a workout


  • The nutrition plan is very meat heavy + not easily adaptable for vegetarians
  • The program is LONG – it will take me about 9 months to complete the entire program when lifting just 2 days per week (6 months with 3 workouts a week)
  • Not great for working out at home since you need heavier weights + equipment that most home gyms don’t have

I am hoping I can stick with this for a little while.  The first stage is getting a little boring for me since I’m doing the same workouts over and over, but I am lifting heavier weights than I used to and am starting to feel stronger every day.  It leaves me sore but not overly sore that I can’t move the next day.  I am loving challenging my body again and right now, the workouts only take about 20 minutes to complete, so it’s not time consuming (although I know the later stages of the program will start to take a little longer).

If you’re new to lifting weights or are just wanting new program that will continue to challenge you, I can’t recommend New Rules of Lifting for Women enough!

Do you strength train regularly?  Do you make up your own workouts or do you like to follow pre-written plans?

***Disclosure:  I as not compensated for my opinion of this book.  I just really love this book and think you should give it a try!***

  • LOVE this! I’m with you- most of the recommendations for women & strength training are downright embarrassing. I was pretty impressed with that book and used it for some of my workouts during pregnancy, but didn’t follow it exactly. I think it’ll make a great back-to-weight-lifting after baby plan though! Can’t wait to hear how it goes and what you think of it after doing it longer.
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    • Kristen

      I think it is perfect for right after a baby since it starts off fairly easy. I’m going to try and do updates with each stage as I go, so hopefully it will give you some idea of what to expect post-baby!

  • Lee

    I’ve tried to do the NRLFW and honestly, I got sick of it around Phase 3. I’ve heard that people get good results though.
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    • Kristen

      That’s my worry with it. I want to stick with it, but 8 weeks at stage 1 is getting kind of boring. I’m hoping that the change with the stages will keep me motivated, although the kettlebells at the gym have been calling my name!

  • I read NROLFW and while I loved the book and what it promotes, I got bored of the workouts and found I got better results on my own. It’s too regimented for me and I’m ADD with workouts haha. Mad props to you for sticking with it, it has wonderful results, just not for me haha!

    • Kristen

      Yeah, that is definitely my worry with it. I tend to get bored with workouts pretty quickly so I’m hoping that the change is stages will keep me somewhat motivated to stick with it. I have already thought about taking some of their exercises and throwing in a few of my own just for variety.

  • Love kettlebells’! That’s why it’s so hard for me to stick with plans haha.
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  • K

    Cass Forsythe actually did a great series on her blog showcasing women who stayed fit – in so many different ways – during their pregnancies. She is a great advocate of serious strength training for women. I haven’t done the programs from NROL4W, but I’ve read most of it and I think it would be great for anyone who wants a long-term scripted training routine. I love lifting heavy and although I miss pushing my limits (I’m 25 weeks pregnant) I have still had a great time with strength training during pregnancy. KBs have been the best for short and effewctive workouts! I’m sure you will do great with your training and it will be a great source of balance when paired with your running. Good luck!

    • Kristen

      I will have to look into that! I think it’s SO important to continue strength training during your pregnancy (as well as other forms of exercise during pregnancy). I truly feel it kept me feeling like myself, just with a big basketball attached to my body. And my baby came out super strong, so I always say that has something to do with it too! 😉

  • this is great info. thank you! i have been telling myself that i need to start weight training. now i know it is def. necessary!

    • Kristen

      This is a great program to start with if you have access to a gym! 🙂

  • I started NROLFW this summer and am currently finishing stage 4. If you can get through looong stage 1 I think you’ll enjoy it! I started it as a way to make strength training a regular habit and it has definitely worked in that regard. I agree that the diet plan is definitely a “con”- I didn’t like the book’s attitude that if you’re a vegetarian, they don’t really have any suggestions for you! I’m vegetarian and already eat pretty healthy, so I decided not to even try to follow their diet plan and just focus on getting more protein in my diet. Good luck to you! 🙂
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    • Kristen

      He even hinted at why he thinks being a vegetarian is stupid – I just let that slide since I liked so much of the rest of the book. I’m definitely not following the diet plan, but trying to get more protein in. I’m actually going to buy protein powder – something I haven’t used at all since becoming a vegetarian! Every little bit helps!

  • Since I’ve been injured I have Bern lifting 6 days a week. Now that I’m.running again I will back down to 4 days. I followed along as Meghann from meals and miles did this book, looks interesting!

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