5 Must-Have Exercise Books For Your Fitness Library

Whether you’re brand new to weight-lifting or a seasoned pro, getting better at your sport often means doing a little research. Spending some time watching exercise videos, or better yet, reading exercise books to learn a new exercise, improve your exercise form or find a new program to follow.

Traditionally, most of the strength training titles published focused almost exclusively on the goals and needs of men. In particular, young, virile, testosterone-fuelled men.

Don’t get distracted…Keep reading!

The needs of women were largely overlooked. Especially the needs of women who aren’t so much interested in getting ‘bikini ready’ (the focus of most fitness magazines) as ‘training for the sport of life’. Getting stronger, yes, but also becoming more capable of doing all the other activities we love, for today, tomorrow and a long time to come.

Fast forward to the mid-2000’s, where strength training titles for females exploded.

About time.

Fitnitchick’s 5 ‘must-have’ exercise books for your fitness library

 

Women’s Health Big Book of Exercise (2010; Adam Campbell)

A huge tome, not meant to be lugged back and forth to the gym (that would be a workout, in and of itself…), but perfect when you need to look up an exercise or find an alternative version of an old one that you’ve tired of.

The ‘Big Book’ is organized according to body part (Chest, Back, Shoulders, Arms, Quadriceps and Calves, Glutes and Hamstrings, Core and Total Body). For each major muscle group, the ‘main moves’ (that is, the fundamental moves that need to be mastered) are described first, followed by variations of each exercise that can be performed with different types of equipment (body weight, barbells, dumbbells, cable and pulley machines, stability balls and even the TRX suspension trainer).

Each and every exercise is illustrated, with easy-to-follow exercise descriptions and form cues. There’s even a section of ready-made workouts at the back (‘The Best Workouts for Everything’), including workouts for athletes, pre-natal women, body-weight only fans and my favourite, crowded gyms.

 

The Female Body Breakthrough (2009; Rachel Cosgrove)

One of the first strength training titles specifically aimed at getting regular women into the weight room. In addition to a 16-week, progressive resistance program (a program that I return to whenever I get tired of my own programming and want to follow somebody else’s lead…), Rachel Cosgrove’s book also includes advice about mindset, exercise nutrition, hormones, goal-setting and emotional eating.

The workouts are well-illustrated and there are plenty of testimonials to her approach scattered throughout the book; perfect for those day when you need a little motivation, inspiration and re-assurance that the program works. And for those of us who love it when fitness professionals cite actual research studies to back their claims, a list of references to original research in the fields of physiology, sports medicine and endocrinology.

 

The New Rules of Lifting for Women (2007; Lou Schuler with Cassandra Forsythe and Alwyn Cosgrove)

Another title dedicated to encouraging women to take strength training seriously (the subtitle of the book; “Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess”…).

This books combines 16-weeks of progressive resistance training with a wealth of information on nutrition and eating for fat loss (including a variety of sample meal plans and recipes to support them).

The workouts are functional in nature (squats, lunges, dead lifts, rows, push ups) are rely heavily on standard weight room equipment (dumbbells, benches, barbells, cable and pulley etc.).

I love that the workouts are fairly simple in their design (typically 5-8 exercises, performed in super-set style) and don’t require more than 40-50 minutes in the gym. All exercises are illustrated with detailed instructions on how to perform them safely and with good form. This is another title that I’ve used extensively in my own training.

 

Kettlebells for Women (2012; Lauren Brooks)

Ever since I took my first kettlebell workshop, I’ve been enamoured with this relatively new-to-the-big-box-gym-goer tool. I love how it makes me feel strong and capable and bad-ass (despite the wrinkles and grey hairs…).

Because they’re not just simply a ‘weight with handles’, I recommend that all newcomers to kettlebell training either get some in-person instruction or find a good book or video to read and study before they set up for their first swing.

I think Kettlebells for Women is the perfect place to start. Beginning with a brief history of kettlebell training, the author outlines the benefits of using kettlebells (both in addition to and in place of traditional dumbbells and barbells) and provides suggestions as to the weight of bells the user should purchase (or have available to them) to maximize the benefits of her workouts.

The remainder of the book outlines a 12-week progressive resistance program. It includes 15 different workouts (with levels from beginner to advanced) and illustrated explanations of each exercise, including the exercises most frequently associated with kettlebell training; swings, cleans, windmills, snatches and the Turkish Get-Up.

The only downside to kettlebell training? The expense of the equipment. And the more frequently you do the workouts, the more quickly you’ll outgrow your equipment 😉

 

Ultimate Booty Workouts (2013, Tamara Grand aka Fitknitchick 😉 )

If you’re a relatively new visiter to this website, you won’t know that I published my first ever fitness title a little over a year and a half ago. Although titled ‘Ultimate Booty Workouts’, the book is much more than just an exercise program for building a better butt.

In it, I outline my fitness philosophy for women, including the importance of goal setting, tips for finding motivation, non-aesthetic benefits of strength training, nutrition to support your efforts in the gym as well as tips for measuring progress off and on the scale.

The program itself focuses on the core and lower body (hamstrings, glutes, calves and quads), with suggestions for incorporating upper body training and cardio into the 12-week program. All exercises are illustrated (you may recognize one of the models… hint, hint), as are the suggested warm up moves, stretches and foam rolling exercises. There are even blank workout templates for you to photocopy and take with you to the gym.

Curious as to what it was like to actually write a fitness book AND model for the photo shoot? I shared my experiences here and here, respectively.

 

Screen-Shot-2014-02-05-at-4.21.06-PM

 

Books make great Christmas presents. Especially the last one 😉

Do you have any titles to add to my fitness library?

Any books that have been particularly helpful to you as you progress with strength training?

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#FatblasterFriday | A Badass Birthday Workout

“Happy birthday to me,

Happy birthday to me,

Happy birthday, dear Tamara,

Happy birthday to me!”

badass birthday workout

Last week on Facebook, I suggested to some personal trainer friends and fellow FitFluential ambassadors, that, in lieu of a birthday present, I’d love it if somebody would design a workout just for me. Although I certainly know what exercises I should be doing, sometimes trainers need trainers too!

Less than five minutes later, I had two offers; both of whom I knew were fully capable of kicking my butt. When each asked me how old I was turning, the alarm bells started ringing. Fitness instructors love to design workouts around numbers.

I briefly contemplated lying and telling them I was turning 30, but my conscience got the better of me (and anybody who looks at my about me page and sees that I have postgraduate degrees and three kids could quickly do the math and see me for the liar I was) and I gave up my real age.

46 years young today.

Because I’d like to live to see my 47th birthday, I decided to do one workout with you this week and save the other for next (when the lactic acid finally dissipates and my DOMS is gone…).

Today’s #FatblasterFriday workout comes to you (and me!) courtesy of Shannon of badassfitness. (Now you see why I was afraid). She may look sweet, but man, she’s one tough cookie (just look at those shoulders!).

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 1.13.02 PM

To join me in the “badass birthday workout”, all you’ll need is a set of hand weights (don’t go heavy here; it’s an endurance style workout) and a bench, step or secure ottoman. Feel free to modify the workout by either performing a slightly easier variation of the exercises, or limiting your reps to YOUR age (if you’re older than I am, you can stop at 46 with me; you’re welcome).

Thanks so much Shannon! You know that I was feeling my butt for a good two days after I filmed this workout, right?

Make sure you check out Shannon’s YouTube channel for more challenging, but fun workouts 🙂

badass birthday workout

Did you like the “badass birthday workout”? Then PLEASE

  • WATCH and DO the workouts with me
  • SUBSCRIBE to fitknitchick on YouTube 
  • CHECK OUT the #FatblasterFriday Playlist for more, real time workouts
  • PIN the above WORKOUT PHOTO
  • GIVE me your FEEDBACK on YouTube or in the COMMENTS section below
  • LIKE and SHARE my videos with your friends via email, Facebook and Twitter

More VIEWS, LIKES, COMMENTS and SHARES –>> More VIDEOS!

Disclaimer: Although I am a registered Personal Trainer, I am not YOUR Personal Trainer. Always adapt workouts to suit your body and fitness level. Always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.

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#FatblasterFriday | Strength, speed and balance training on the BOSU

I used to teach a weekly Bosu class. Sixty minutes of balance training, core, speed, agility and strength. I gave it up because it conflicted with Sunday family time.

balance training

But I miss it (and my body misses it; the ‘use it or lose it’ principle definitely applies to balance training 😉 ).

Never used a Bosu balance trainer before? Here’s what you’re missing out on:

  • improved balance (guess that’s why it’s called a ‘balance’ trainer)
  • better core stabilization (just standing on the dome activates all sorts of tiny stabilizer muscles; muscles you probably didn’t even know you had)
  • stronger knees and ankles (a must if you want to protect yourself from falling on ice or tripping over your children’s toys)
  • enhanced proprioception (knowing where your body is in space)

Today’s #FatblasterFriday workout combines upper and lower body strength moves with some plyometrics and a bit of fast foot work. Only 6 exercises, performed circuit style, 30 s on, 10 s off. Twice through the circuit and you’re free to get on with your day!

You’ll need a set of hand weights and a Bosu balance trainer (but don’t fret if you don’t have one or somebody let the air out of yours… I’ve included Bosu-less options as well).

balance training

Did you like this workout? Then PLEASE

  • WATCH and DO the workouts with me
  • SUBSCRIBE to fitknitchick on YouTube 
  • CHECK OUT the #FatblasterFriday Playlist for more, real time workouts
  • PIN the above WORKOUT PHOTO
  • GIVE me your FEEDBACK on YouTube or in the COMMENTS section below
  • LIKE and SHARE my videos with your friends via email, Facebook and Twitter

More VIEWS, LIKES, COMMENTS and SHARES –>> More VIDEOS!

Disclaimer: Although I am a registered Personal Trainer, I am not YOUR Personal Trainer. Always adapt workouts to suit your body and fitness level. Always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.

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#FatblasterFriday | whole body pyramid workout

Jeesh. You guys don’t make it easy. When I asked my Facebook group for suggestions for this week’s workout, the responses were all over the map!

pyramid workout

You guys know what you want and you want it ALL! LOL! (Thanks for keeping me on my toes; I really do appreciate your feedback!)

I put my thinking cap on and came up with a quick, whole body pyramid workout that you’ll feel in your abs, arms and shoulders (among other places 😉 ).

Today’s #FatblasterFriday video is a whole body pyramid workout. We’ll be switching up the exercises and reps continuously throughout the workout, moving from single exercises to one big compound chain and back again. Metabolic strength training at it’s most fun!

All you’ll need is a set of hand weights (moderate to heavy) and a mat, as well as a little faith that the above description will all make sense when you watch the video!

pyramid workout

Did you like this workout? Then PLEASE

  • WATCH and DO the workouts with me
  • SUBSCRIBE to fitknitchick on YouTube 
  • CHECK OUT the #FatblasterFriday Playlist for more, real time workouts
  • PIN the above WORKOUT PHOTO
  • GIVE me your FEEDBACK on YouTube or in the COMMENTS section below
  • LIKE and SHARE my videos with your friends via email, Facebook and Twitter

Disclaimer: Although I am a registered Personal Trainer, I am not YOUR Personal Trainer. Always adapt workouts to suit your body and fitness level. Always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.

#FatblasterFriday | Spartacus Workout for Women

A few months ago I posted my own version of the popular Spartacus Workout.

My Spartacus Workout for Women focuses on four ‘trouble’ spots that most of my female group fitness participants and personal training clients want to work on;

  • triceps
  • tummy
  • thighs and
  • tush

The Spartacus Workout for Women combines whole body, fat-blasting moves with exercises that target the 4 T’s.

Because I get so many ‘how to’ questions about this workout (my earlier post only listed the names of the exercises…hint, you can click through to the original post for a printable version of the workout), I thought we could do it together, today, on #FatblasterFriday!

Grab your weights, a mat and a bench or chair. Do a quick warmup (5 minutes of light calisthenics ought to do it) and click on the link below to sweat alongside me!

Show me how much you liked this video!

  • SUBSCRIBE to fitknitchick on YouTube 
  • WATCH and DO the workouts with me
  • GIVE me your FEEDBACK on YouTube or in the COMMENTS section below
  • LIKE and SHARE my videos with your friends via email, Facebook and Twitter

More VIEWS, LIKES, COMMENTS and SHARES –>> More VIDEOS!

Disclaimer: Although I am a registered Personal Trainer, I am not YOUR Personal Trainer. Always adapt workouts to suit your body and fitness level. Always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.

High intensity interval workout: welcome to #FatblasterFriday!

After receiving some queries from readers as to

  1. when I might be releasing a workout DVD (answer; not anytime soon!)
  2. whether I could show rather than describe my workouts (a video is worth a million words) and
  3. why, in my workout videos I only demonstrate the moves (rather than do the entire workout for with you)

I decided that it was time to start a regular, real-time workout video series.

Welcome to #FatblasterFriday!

Most Fridays (in the wee hours of the morning, so my East coast viewers can make it part of their day), I’ll be posting a short, but intense workout video that you can do in real time with me.

But I need your help to make this work. How?

  • SUBSCRIBE to fitknitchick on YouTube 
  • WATCH and DO the workouts with me
  • GIVE me your FEEDBACK on YouTube or in the COMMENTS section below
  • LIKE and SHARE my videos with your friends via email, Facebook and Twitter

More VIEWS, LIKES, COMMENTS and SHARES –>> More VIDEOS!

Today, we’re doing an 8-minute, whole-body, high intensity interval workout. The best type of workout for torching calories and blasting fat.

Four moves, 45 s work/15 s rest, times two. No equipment, other than a bench and a mat, required.

Ready to rock it?

The Workout:

  1. Plie squats
  2. Pushups (from knees or toes; hands on ground or bench)
  3. Squat jumps (or squat to toes to reduce impact)
  4. High plank knee twist (hands on ground or bench)

Drop me a note below if there are specific types of workouts you’d like to see!

And a very Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian readers!

Disclaimer: Although I am a registered Personal Trainer, I am not YOUR Personal Trainer. Always adapt workouts to suit your body and fitness level. Always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.

5 tips to up the intensity of your strength workouts

Lifting weights is the best way to sculpt a strong, lean physique.

Want to see results more quickly? Follow these 5 tips to up the intensity of your strength workouts.

  1. Ditch the isolation exercises. Compound, multi-joint movements burn more calories than single-joint exercises. Trade those bicep curls for a lunge and curl combination.
  2. Choose supersets over straight sets. Alternating two different compound exercises not only saves time, it keeps your heart rate elevated, which in turn, burns more calories than traditional straight-set training.
  3. Minimize rest time. Long between-set (or between-superset) breaks result in a lower overall workout intensity than moving quickly from one exercise to another. Keep moving to keep burning calories and reveal those muscles sooner!
  4. Add in cardio intervals or plyometrics between strength supersets.
  5. Finish with a ‘finisher’. After all your reps and sets are done, throw in a single Tabata interval or my favourite leg ‘finisher’; 20 squats, 20 squat jumps, 20 alternating lunges, 20 split lunge jumps. NOW, you’re done!
How do YOU up the intensity of your strength workouts?