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Book Review: New Rules of Lifting

By Anne Keckler | February 25, 2008

New Rules of Lifting: Six Basic Moves for Maximum Muscle

I’m delighted to say that Lou Schuler managed to not make me curse while reading this book. That’s really saying something when it comes to me and fitness books! Ha!

In fact, I agree with him about almost everything, and I love the fact that he cites his references rather than just asking us to take his word for everything.

Lou recommends “Six Basic Moves for Maximum Muscle,” but this book really goes beyond just getting “hyuuuge.” He explains why weightlifting (or resistance training) is so important for weightloss and fitness. He has so much practical information about what to do and what not to do that I’ve read it through twice, and I have it in front of me now while I’m writing this, to be sure I don’t misquote anything.

The six basic moves are pretty much the same ones I recommend to all of my clients. I learned it from reading a lot, and sifting out the chaff to get to the good stuff, so I can’t really say where I learned it or who said it first. Lou admits that others have recommended this before him, too. These basic exercises are the squat, bend (deadlift), lunge, push, pull, and twist. I do six basic exercises that amount to a push and a pull for each part of my body. I do a squat (push), deadlift (usually stiff-leg or Romanian – pull), bench press (push), row (pull), shoulder press (push), and pullup (pull). I’m thinking of adding a twist to my repertoire now. What do you not see? That’s right – curls. Lou seems to have about as much use for curls and other isolation exercises as I do, and I love him for that.

Right up front he gives us his own “Rules of Exercise.” These are very simple, and I stress them here on my blog all the time.

  1. Do something.
  2. Do something you like.
  3. The rest is just details.

On to the New Rules!

Here they are, in the order in which they appear in the book:

  1. The best muscle-building exercises are the ones that use your muscles the way they’re designed to work.
  2. Exercises that use lots of muscles in coordinated action are better than those that force muscles to work in isolation.
  3. To build size, you must build strength.
  4. To build size and strength, you must train hard but less frequently, with plenty of recovery time between workouts.
  5. The goal of each workout is to set a record.
  6. The weight you lift is a tool to reach your goals; it is not a goal in itself.
  7. Don’t “do the machines.”
  8. A workout is only as good as the adaptations it produces.
  9. There is no magic system of exercises, sets, and reps.
  10. Don’t judge a system by the physique of the person promoting it.
  11. You’ll get better results working your @ss off on a bad program than you will loafing through a good program.
  12. Fast lifting is not more dangerous than slow lifting.
  13. A good warm-up doesn’t have to make your [whole] body warm.
  14. Stretching is not a warm-up.
  15. You don’t need to warm up to stretch.
  16. Lifting, by itself, can increase your flexibility.
  17. Aerobic fitness is not a matter of life and death.
  18. You don’t need to do endurance exercise to burn fat.
  19. When you combine serious strength training with serious endurance exercise, your body will probably choose endurance over muscle and strength.
  20. If it’s not fun, you’re doing something wrong.

He goes into enough detail on most of these for you to understand them, and he cites his sources.

On to some very minor nit-picking.

Sometimes the weight you lift is the goal in itself, but maybe he’s saying that the goal is to become stronger. Still, it’s hard to separate “be stronger” from “lift this weight, which is heavier than anything I’ve ever lifted before.”

I disagree about stretching cold, and he even admits that if you are specifically trying to increase flexibility through stretching, you will make better progress if you stretch when the muscles are warm. For more information on stretching, take a look at this online guide: Stretching and Flexibility. Having said that, I do agree that lifting can increase your flexibility. A lot just depends on how flexible you want to be, and for what purpose.

Finally, I don’t always find weightlifting or exercising to be fun. Sometimes I do, but mostly I do it for the results. Nothing on earth will give you the same results as resistance exercise, even if those resistance exercises are mainly comprised of bodyweight.

Alwyn Cosgrove, the co-author, designed the workout programs in the back of the book. If you can find a good personal trainer, I highly recommend a customized training program. If you can’t, then I can find nothing wrong with the programs in this book if you do them as prescribed and change what you’re doing as necessary. At the very least, though, find someone to help you learn to properly squat and deadlift, and always have a spotter when lifting heavy weights (or anything overhead, including bench press).

I think the nutrition recommendations may be unrealistic for many people, but if you want optimum results, it’s better to go to extremes. If you don’t want to give up everything you’re used to eating, you can at least read the information to see what you should be eating less of.

I hope you’ll read the book and let me know what you think!



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