The New Rules of Lifting


In the summer of 2004, I included this line in the proposal for The New Rules of Lifting: “[The] target audience for this book is men from their 20s to their 50s. There’s nothing in here that women wouldn’t be able to use,” I added, but suggested that the voice and tone would appeal more to a male audience.

NROL came out in early 2006, and while the target audience liked it well enough, the most persistent questions came from women. “Why did you write this for men? Where’s the book for us?”

The oversight was easy enough to fix. Alwyn and I, with our friend Cassandra Forsythe, got to work on the book that eventually became The New Rules of Lifting for Women. (The original title was Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess, which we used as the subtitle.) It came out two years after NROL, and while it never appeared on any bestseller lists, it did something far more important: It changed readers’ lives.

Women who had never touched a barbell, who had not even thought to cross over into the free-weight area of their gyms, soon found themselves lifting side by side with the guys. They were sweating, straining, occasionally cursing, and always challenging not just their muscles, but their image of themselves. With each new personal record reached, or exercise mastered, or program completed, the fear of stepping over imaginary boundaries was replaced with the excitement of finding new ones to obliterate.

Don’t get me wrong: Alwyn, Cass, and I are happy to get the credit for writing a book with such a transformative impact. We set out with the modest goal of giving women a workout book that didn’t treat them as weak, fragile, and incompetent, and we vastly overshot that goal.

Which is great, a big win all around.

However, because it is a workout book, it has at its core an element that can be improved upon. And that’s what Alwyn and I set out to do with Strong. Alwyn’s training systems have changed dramatically in the years since he created the NROL for Women program. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with those workouts, just that he’s found better, more efficient, and in many cases more interesting ways to achieve what our readers want: to get leaner and stronger; to develop higher levels of fitness and athleticism; and simply to feel better all day, every day.

Strong includes a three-phase program. Each phase has three stages, and within each stage are two or three unique total-body workouts. There are 21 workouts in all, with more than 100 exercises illustrated and explained.

For entry-level lifters, there’s a clear and simple path to learning the fundamentals and developing a base of strength and muscular fitness. For more experienced readers, it’ll start as a tune-up but then quickly shift into a program that challenges you in unexpected ways, with twists and techniques that are more advanced than anything Alwyn used in the NROL series. 

That leads to the inevitable question, the one we heard back in 2006 when we published the original NROL. Only this time, it’ll come from men: “What about this book is specific to women? Is there anything guys couldn’t or shouldn’t do?”

To answer the first question, there’s a female model on the cover and in the exercise photos (the amazing Jessi Kneeland), inspiring stories from readers who used NROL for Women as their gateway to serious lifting, and lots of female pronouns throughout.

The second question? All I can say is, I’m a guy, and these workouts kicked my ass.

It’s funny to think that, all those years ago, we exhorted women to lift like men. Now we’re saying to men, do you dare lift like a woman?

— Lou Schuler, fall 2015

Strong: Nine Workout Programs for Women to Burn Fat, Boost Metabolism, and Build Strength for Life