Lifting weights can make you stronger, healthier, and leaner, but there are a million right and wrong ways to make this happen depending on who you talk to. Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove cut through the confusion with The New Rules of Lifting: Six Basic Moves for Maximum Muscle. Schuler is a health and fitness writer as well as a certified strength and conditioning specialist. Cosgrove is also a certified strength and conditioning specialist with extensive experience training elite athletes.
The title is a misnomer, since “the new rules” really aren’t new at all. But at a time when the fitness in general and strength training in particular is so convoluted by special workouts, high-tech fitness machines, and two-for-one fitness gadget deals, the thesis of this book will seem revolutionary to a lot of readers.
According to Schuler and Cosgrove, the best way to get strong and lean is to focus on six moves that have a specific relationship to basic human movements. In other words, these are functional exercises that utilize most of the body’s major muscle groups. Therefore, these exercises have the most capacity for increasing muscle mass and strength AND reducing body fat. The exercises are:
- Push (pushups, bench presses, overhead presses)
- Pull (pullups, rows)
There is nothing glamorous about any of these: They don’t require fancy machines, and they can be done in some variation outside of a gym without much equipment at all. Cosgrove applies each of these movements in a series of specific weight training routines ranging from beginner to advanced. He includes programs for muscle size (hypertrophy), strength, and fat-loss. (Fat-loss, thankfully, does not require hours on an elliptical or miles of bashing your knees, ankles and feet into concrete.)
The biggest strength of this book is its simplicity, and the fact that it takes the guesswork out of what you need to build a weight training routine. If you’re a beginner, you learn right away what you should be doing in the gym to avoid wasting your time. There is little need for machines or isolation exercises like biceps curls, and shoulder raises. These might be fun, but The New Rules proclaim that they are unnecessary for building a strong, lean physique.
Some reviewers complain that Schuler, a journalist by trade, wastes time and words with a “cutesy” writing style, and while this may be true at times, I can excuse the guy for having a bit of fun with his writing. It’s easy enough to skim past the strange metaphors and semi-witty commentary to the essential information. The fact that Schuler’s writing style might get on the nerves of some readers in no way diminishes the primary argument of this book.
If it sounds like I’m writing a fanboy review, it’s because I have already written about how I changed my philosophy of strength training to align more with these “new rules.” Based on what I’ve read from these authors and others over the last several years, I changed my training philosophy, and I’ve saved time while getting stronger and leaner. If you tackle strength training according to The New Rules of Lifting, you will not be disappointed.