The New Rules of Lifting for Abs… a book review

Yesterday, in the mail, I received my copy of a brand new strength training book; The New Rules of Lifting for Abs, co-written by Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove (husband of Rachel, see Fitness links to the right). This book is the third in a series (The New Rules of Lifting, The New Rules of Lifting for Women: Train Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess; don’t you love that title?!), and like the two previous, focuses on whole body strength training and the nutrition required to fuel their physique-transforming programs. What’s different and new, is the focus on core strength.

Core conditioning, in and of itself, is not new. Most, if not all, strength and conditioning coaches, personal trainers and group fitness instructors know how vitally important a strong core is. Not only will building a strong core reduce your risk of lower back injury, it will also allow you to lift heavier, train longer, jump higher, throw harder, skate faster and improve your performance in sport and everyday life. Wow! Sounds like something we should all be doing, doesn’t it?

What’s new about Schuler and Cosgrove’s approach to core conditioning is the style of exercises they promote and their placement (and thus, importance) in your overall exercise program. Rather than pounding out some crunches at the end of your workout, the authors advocate doing your core work before your strength training work, that is, while you still have lots of energy to do their more difficult exercises properly and effectively. And don’t kid yourself, the core exercises they describe are much more taxing than a traditional sit up or crunch.

In this book you will find a progressive resistance program that can be followed by the independent exerciser for several months. There are three phases to the program. Each phase consists of two alternating workouts, each of which includes a dynamic warmup, a core component, a strength component and in the second and third phases, a metabolic or cardio component.

All of the described exercises are illustrated, with extensive progressions to keep you challenged. The strength exercises will be familiar to most gym-goers, with the emphasis on compound, multi-joint exercises (e.g., squats, dead lifts, pushups) rather than simple bicep curls or tricep extensions. While the workouts look short, when done properly (i.e., with enough weight to fatigue the muscles by the end of the set) they are incredibly challenging. Pay special attention to the prescribed rest periods between exercises and sets!

The only downside to the workouts is the amount of equipment required. Most home gym exercisers won’t have access to a TRX or a pull up bar and although Schuler and Cosgrove give alternate exercises, let’s face it, a pull up is a lot more demanding (and effective!) than a lat pulldown.

The book is hardbound, while I would prefer a softcover with spiral binding; much easier to use at the gym if the cover can be folded back or at least laid open and flat on the floor while you learn the exercises (for example, the Turkish get up; I saw somebody doing this one last week at the gym and couldn’t stop watching him for fear that he would drop the weight on his head! Google it. You’ll see what I mean).

All in all, a great resource I will use for myself and with my clients. $22 at Amazon.

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  1. Interesting, I don’t at the moment specifically train my core unless you count doing planks every now and then. However what I do do are big compound exercises which utilise the core anyway (if done properly). As with most people there is never enough time to do all the exercises you want!!
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    • I totally agree with you last statement Helen! I’m always trying to fit something else in. I think the key is to identify what your current fitness goals are and prioritize. It IS possible to do too much!