New Rules of Lifting for Women and podcast with Cassandra Forsythe

January 18th, 2010  |  Published in Books, Pregnancy and postpartum, Stumpblog  |  27 Comments

NROL4WLou Schuler, Cassandra Forsythe, and Alwyn Cosgrove. The New Rules of Lifting for Women: Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess. Avery; 2007.

Podcast with Cassandra Forsythe

Book review

If there’s a woman in your life who’s considering weight training (or a man in your life who trains women), The New Rules of Lifting for Women is an excellent introduction to the field of women and weight training.

NROL is written by a kickass trifecta of three major names in the business.

Lou Schuler is a well-known fitness journalist who has written several books, including The New Rules of Lifting, The Book of Muscle, and The Home Workout Bible. He’s been a contributor to Men’s Fitness and Men’s Health, serving as the fitness director of the latter for several years.

Cassandra Forsythe is emerging as one of the most authoritative voices in women’s nutrition and training. She’s a Registered Dietitian who holds a PhD in Kinesiology, an MSc in Human Nutrition and Metabolism and a BSc in Nutrition and Food Science. Her main research interests are low-carbohydrate nutrition, dietary fatty acids, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, weight-loss, female-specific nutrition and training, and the female athlete triad. Her other book is Women’s Health Perfect Body Diet: The Ultimate Weight Loss and Workout Plan to Drop Stubborn Pounds and Get Fit for Life

(She’s also, by the way, pregnant. We explore her insights on being an unusual combination — a serious female athlete, Dr. Nutrition, and pregnant — in the podcast.)

Alwyn Cosgrove is one of the best-known strength coaches in the biz. He’s a former Taekwon-do international champion who now works as a strength and conditioning coach with a wide variety of clientele, including several Olympic and national level athletes, five World Champions and professionals in a multitude of sports including boxing, martial arts, soccer, ice skating, football, fencing, triathlon, rugby, bodybuilding, dance and fitness competition.

Podcast with Cassandra Forsythe


Cassandra and I get chatty with it for nearly an hour. Topics covered:

  • What was it like to be part of the NROL team with Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove?
  • The awesomeness of
    • female muscles and strength
    • mountain biking
    • tire flipping
  • Cassandra’s early background as a gymnast and lifting after a serious spinal injury
  • What happens to women’s bodies when they weight train
  • Training with dudes in the gym
  • Challenges encountered in training more seriously, and confronting taboos about women’s weight training
  • Problems in finding social support (especially from other women), and why push presses aren’t necessarily compatible with bridesmaid’s dresses
  • Disordered eating and “exercise bulimia” among “ordinary” women — “healthy” and “unhealthy” approaches to exercise and food
  • The female athlete triad
  • The myth and pressures of “perfection” and the reality of being an “imperfect expert”
  • The role of stress in women’s lives and why we need to lighten the hell up
  • Pregnancy, nutrition, and weight training — including sugar cravings, boot camp, and log pressing while pregnant
  • The up-and-coming areas for women’s nutrition and fitness
  • What’s wrong with kids these days

As Cassandra points out, it’s unusual to have a podcast with two women weight trainers chatting so honestly about the realities of training and bodily experiences. But that’s just the kind of good stuff that is devoted to bringing to the people!

Listen online by clicking below:

Or download in MP3 format for good listenin’ on your iPod. (65 MB – yeah, it’s a biggie!) Right-click on the link, if you want to save to your hard drive first (recommended).

Book review

As I’ve mentioned, NROL is a super introduction to the field of women and weight training, and it’s solidly backed by coaching experience and scholarly evidence.

This would make a great gift for your mom, sister, girlfriend/wife, best friend, etc. — anyone who’s considering weight training but hesitant about whether women should do it. It would also make a great gift for folks who may know their way around the gym a little, but want to become more grounded in some of the fundamental principles of program design and sports nutrition.

The first section of the book provides a primer on sex-based physiology, and why women and men should train the same: with relatively heavier weights, higher intensities, and more challenge overall.

The first section debunks common myths — most notably that women will “get too big” from weight training; that certain types of training can make muscles “longer”‘; and a key point: the myth that men’s and women’s muscles are substantially different.

It explains why weight training is essential for all women, not just athletes, and how weight training improves health, leanness, athletic performance, and daily-life function.

The first section also explains much of the logic behind the training plans provided: the importance of progressive overload, which exercises to choose and why, and why not to waste your time with gender-specific “toning”. (It explains why kickbacks suck. Hooray!)

The second section provides nutrition basics such as how many calories active women need, why protein’s important, and how to supplement with post-workout recovery nutrition. It suggests meal plan and preparation techniques, and there’s no fancy weird stuff or secret/magical ingredients — just clear, basic ideas for organizing your nutrition.

The third section provides a step-by-step, carefully crafted workout program in great detail. If you follow the program closely (and you should, if you want to reap the benefits), it’ll take around 6 months to complete. The lifts are basic yet effective. There’s lots of variation to keep you learning and interested.

Total beginners might be slightly intimidated by the presence of complex exercises such as squats and deadlifts — but hey, they can just come here and get help figuring out the technique!

All in all, this is a super starter text for anyone interested in women’s weight training.


  1. Review: The Female Body Breakthrough « Power Rack says:

    January 18th, 2010at 11:59 am(#)

    […] review. (Also, Krista has up a new interview with NROLFW with Cassandra Forsythe about women and lifting, and they bring up […]

  2. Michaela says:

    January 18th, 2010at 1:07 pm(#)

    A fantastic book! I actually picked it up about a week ago to read during my lunch break at Borders… I ended up buying it after reading chapter 1!

    Its the first book i’ve purchased in 3 years.

    A fantastic starter book, as stated.

  3. Tracy says:

    January 18th, 2010at 1:38 pm(#)

    Great podcast! I am very interested in buying this book now. I love all of the topics you and Cassandra touched on in the podcast. I’m 31 weeks pregnant, while I’ve lost some of my fitness since the this summer, I’m still trying to stay active. I get REALLY tired of having to hear “Are you sure you should be doing that?” Besides trying to lift anything heavy, I also have to defend my ability to do things like climb a ladder or lift my arms above my head (?!?). It’s so nice to hear logical talk about such matters.
    It’s also great to hear you and Cassandra are mountain bikers! Mt. biking is my true love. I work hard to help introduce more women to biking.

  4. Lori says:

    January 18th, 2010at 1:57 pm(#)

    I finished up NROLW in November. It took about 6 months or so to get through. I loved it, particularly the later stages. And lo and behold, I can do myself a couple of chin ups now! I definitely put on muscle during the training, and that helped to really make my legs strong for all the biking I did over the summer.

    I highly recommend this book.

  5. Cassandra says:

    January 19th, 2010at 7:54 am(#)

    Thanks Krista!

    Women speaking WOMAN. Awesome, just awesome :)

  6. Sheila Conlin says:

    January 19th, 2010at 10:08 pm(#)

    Do I have to weight train if I get one of these “mountain bikes”?:

  7. Mistress Krista says:

    January 20th, 2010at 9:04 am(#)

    No, but you do have to film yourself riding it without falling over or throwing up after 30 seconds.

  8. Galya says:

    January 20th, 2010at 12:56 pm(#)

    I absolutely loved the interview. I like that you went into topics that women are so sensitive about. I believe that its is lack of self confidence that causes women to attack other women about how they look. It’s often ugly and unfair, but it exists and if you are aware it, one can avoid it in one’s own behaviors. Touching on obsessive eating was also spot on. I often have to talk to clients coming from competitive trainers that the role models they have are behaving far from normal when it comes to food discipline. Thanks for talking about pregnancy. Cassandra has an amazing attitude and is an inspiration to many!
    Thank you so much!

  9. Leslie says:

    January 23rd, 2010at 1:33 am(#)

    I finished NROL in October of this year. Took me just over 6 months and it completely changed how I workout. More importantly, it gave me the knowledge and confidence to go into a male dominated weight room day after day. Now I feel like I belong there and like I know what I’m doing. In fact, I think I know more than 80% of the people in there! This book is a great place to start if you are afraid of the squat rack!! Now its my favorite place in the gym!
    This is great. I can wait to listen to the podcast!

  10. ogglie says:

    January 29th, 2010at 10:35 am(#)

    (at first, i hope, you can read my english!)

    i bought NROL for women now. i started weight training ca. 1,5 years ago and i already changed my eating habits long before. (kind of healthy, fresh cooked low-carb worrior-diet style with many legumes, fruits, lean protein, good fats etc.) i am very happy to follow the 6-month-training-plan now!

    now, my question: the suggested meals in the book seem very strange to me. (i am from europe and used to cook with natural things all my life)
    i really don`t know where to buy “dried mustard” or or cottage cheese with only 1% fat and other strange ingredients with unnatural low fats. i also can`t buy stevia. so can i ignore the suggested meals from the book??? it seems to me that this is no real food… it doesn`t sound tasty at all to me!!!(by the way, i am not overweight and not underweight and always try to catch enough good protein)
    thanks if you have time for a short answer!!

    and thank you a lot for your webside, it is great!!!


  11. Joan says:

    January 30th, 2010at 1:49 pm(#)

    Finished NROL in July–I love how much more confidence I have on technical downhills on the mountain bike because of the increased upper body strength. Between the squat tutorial on this site and Rippetoe’s “Starting Stength” I got the technique down to be able to squat without killing my knees, which were pretty messed up from gymnastics, running and full-contact fighting. To show that the universe has a sense of humor, iTunes on my Mac qued up Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science” right after it played this piece.
    Joan (Master’s in Exercise Physio ’89)

  12. Sat, Feb 13th | CrossFit Ireland says:

    February 12th, 2010at 6:45 pm(#)

    […] New Rules of Lifting For Women – […]

  13. cavewoman says:

    February 16th, 2010at 2:31 pm(#)

    After researching several treatments/care/exercises for my mother’s health—I coincidentally discovered that strength training would be the best thing for my health.

    On your recommendation, I bought this book—and have been using it to prepare for my workout routine.
    The information is solid and well-explained—filled with helpful information for the first timer.

    I began my program this week,( starting with a personal trainer who once worked with Alwyn,) and am learning proper form, etc. I hope the extra guidance provided by my trainer will put me on the right path—and that this will become something that I do throughout my life.

    Thanks, Krista for being one of the folks who have turned me on to strength training—-and for the book recommendation.

    Best wishes!

  14. Mistress Krista says:

    March 12th, 2010at 8:33 am(#)

    Ogglie: eat real food, always. The meal ideas are just that… ideas. If you’re European you probably have way better food than many North Americans, so go with that. :)

  15. Aram says:

    June 15th, 2010at 10:10 am(#)

    NROLW is indeed a great book. My wife did start strength in her early 30s and she doesnt often throw tantrums nor complain of silly headaches. I believe her stamina and resistance have enviously improved.

  16. john says:

    June 20th, 2010at 10:26 am(#)

    This does sound like a good book. Very intested to see the different in nutrition between men and women.

    Stay Well Stay Happy


  17. Julie says:

    July 11th, 2010at 8:30 pm(#)

    Very good book and excellent program! Finished the entire program in about six months and would like to know what you recommend as the next stage. Thanks!

  18. Elizabeth says:

    August 4th, 2010at 7:42 am(#)

    I have this book. I’m going to keep up my Phase I of “resuming weight training” for the next few weeks. Phase II is when I dive into this and kick some serious a$$.

  19. Lauren says:

    September 13th, 2010at 6:38 pm(#)

    I love this book! I’m just starting phase 2, and I’ve already had to buy new pants to fit my budding squatter’s ass. I’m excited to see what progress I’ve made when I’m finished.

  20. Walter Whethers says:

    October 10th, 2010at 7:31 am(#)

    The interview is fantastic and informative. I can’t wait to read the book from cover to cover. The knowledge I gain from this will catapult all of my clients results.

  21. Denise says:

    October 10th, 2010at 2:05 pm(#)

    I’m actually very disturbed by much of the podcast interview.

    Re: supporting other women – I don’t feel any ethical or moral imperative to “support” unhealthy behavior. Does Cassandra not get that 6% body fat simply is not healthy for her friend… or any woman?

    And granted, “I don’t want to look like *her*” was a tactless comment. But I’m seeing an enormous red flag if a person is devastated by one insensitive comment by a total stranger and doesn’t pull it together until she receives a random compliment about her arms?

    I also don’t get that Cassandra claims on her webpage that she is “passionate” about preventing Female Athlete Triad (F.A.T.)… and it is mentioned exactly ZERO times in her books. And on her website, she has links to colon cleansing products. She also talks about glucomannan over and over and over and has it added to EVERY recipe in The Perfect Body Diet. Glucomannan mentioned 60 times. F.A.T. zero. Where’s the passion????

    I find it very disturbing. I’m guessing that female body builders experience rates of F.A.T. comparable to gymnasts and ballet dancers… because it is ALL about the body and looking a certain way and getting as lean as possible.

    And sometimes the best way to support another woman is to say, “I don’t care about how shredded you are. You shouldn’t be at 6% body fat. My clients do not want to look like you because you are NOT physically, mentally nor emotionally healthy at this level of body fat.”

  22. Lycaea says:

    March 3rd, 2011at 9:49 pm(#)

    Finished reading the book and am excited and set to get started on those workouts! :) Gotta admit I’m going to be one of those people training at the gym at weird hours. Partly because of my job, partly because I feel uncomfortable trying to figure things out for the first time in a place I don’t know when there’s lots of people around.

  23. Margie S says:

    April 18th, 2011at 5:24 pm(#)

    My husband (then boyfriend), who is a lifting buff/enthusiast, got me the NROLFW book as a gift after I sheepishly asked him for training advice. I have to say that it has been more than a simple gift of a book, it has totally changed the way that I feel and work at the gym. The book is informative and demystifies the “testosterone zone,” which is a very scary place for females starting off on the lifting path. I probably project my comfort well enough, because many of my friends and gym-goers of both sexes ask me what program I use. I ALWAYS recommend this book as a beginner’s bible for women.
    As for this site, my hubby found it yesterday and sent me the link. I have read a handful of articles already and have found them to be well written and useful. Thank you for sharing your knowledge!

  24. Rebecca says:

    August 8th, 2011at 10:17 am(#)

    I finally listened to this podcast earlier this summer and it was wonderful! It is especially great to hear about lifting during pregnancy. I wouldn’t expect to squat 150 at 8 months – center of balance, anyone? – but I hate the perception that from conception to six months postpartum you are limited to walking, yoga, and water aerobics. Thanks for existing, Mistress Krista!

  25. Patricia says:

    February 1st, 2012at 9:23 am(#)

    This book is outstanding – a must-have for both novices and training enthusiasts. The workouts are great, and I especially appreciated the suggested modifications. (In case you do not own a particular piece of equipment.) The only issue I found with this book was the meal plan section. Many of the meal options were great, however, I found it highly irresponsible that a nutritionist would offer suggestions containing Splenda, cooking spray, and worse – Slim Fast! Stick with real food, not the highly processed shit. Any “nutritionist” who recommends Slim Fast loses all credibility in my opinion…just saying.

  26. Lita Scruton says:

    May 25th, 2012at 7:53 am(#)

    Hello Ladies,
    I am awaiting my copy of the book. I have been training for over 20 years. I am now 45 years of age and now have two teenage children. I listened to the pod cast interview, I laughed. I can totally relate to all of what is said. I have experienced much of what they spoke about. I competed in bodybuilding in my 20’s, have most of my life weight training heavy. Trained through both pregnancies. Have suffered injuries, disordered eating, the psychological stress of looking a certain way. I laugh because on the interview Cassandra has no clue for what she is in for. Children change your life in so many ways, your training, your diet. Also age changes your body, whether want it to or not. After years of following rules regarding training and nutrition something happens, or at least it did to me. That you don’t want to beat yourself up, or you can’t, in the gym, and follow such rigid rules of eating. Not that I don’t train hard or eat well. You just learn to chill. You chill or make yourself crazy. Thanks ladies for being strong women. For training hard and heavy and loving it. Looking forward to reading more on your site Krista. I re found it, I used to read your site years ago. Take care.

  27. Raeesa says:

    June 5th, 2012at 8:19 am(#)

    Just got the book and started the program. I so appreciate a sensible diet without the calorie slashing – yes!
    I completely agree (as a newbie) that this book is so awesome for a beginner!

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