The Female Body Breakthrough

November 12th, 2009  |  Published in Books, Learning, Stumpblog  |  16 Comments

female-body-breakthrough-coverCosgrove, Rachel. The Female Body Breakthrough: The Revolutionary Strength-Training Plan for Losing Fat and Getting the Body You Want. Rodale Books, 2009.

As an oldest sister myself, I always wanted someone to look up to — someone who’d tell me the real deal about men, women, periods, getting into shape, being my own best friend, and how to dress myself. She’d be compassionate and encouraging, but honest. She wouldn’t let me get away with BS, but she’d always be in my corner.

Strength trainer Rachel Cosgrove is that woman to her clients.

Along with Mr. Rachel Cosgrove, aka some guy named Alwyn whom nobody in the strength training field has ever heard of, she runs Results Fitness in California. And let me tell you, it’s a pretty special gym.

Walk into Results on any day of the week and you’ll behold a room full of women lifting heavy — women squatting, deadlifting, Olympic weightlifting, bashing out sets of kettlebell swings or sandbag lifts, hauling shipping ropes or in other ways having their asses kicked.

This is unusual in and of itself, but even more unusual is that the majority of these women are “plain folks” of all ages, leaning more towards the “office worker” than the “WNBA player” or “superninja” end of the spectrum. Truly, it is spectacular.

Now Cosgrove has encapsulated her generous but firm approach into a wonderfully comprehensive book on women’s training and nutrition.

It’s always refreshing to read something that encourages women to train heavy and hard, as well as to nourish themselves adequately.

Cosgrove explains why the traditional women’s magazine fitness and nutrition “advice” (lift light, do lots of toning reps, do cardio till your feet fall off, live on 1200 calories of rice cakes, etc.) sucks, and her clients’ results speak for themselves. Moreover, Cosgrove provides her own experience to demonstrate that hours of low-intensity cardio don’t do — pardon the pun — jack squat.

But aside from good advice, Cosgrove gets into female-specific concerns, devoting large sections to periods, PMS, life stresses (e.g. child care), etc. This is sorely needed now that women are training seriously more than ever and need good guidance about how to address their natural hormonal fluctuations and physiological considerations — particularly in a fashion that is not condescending or dismissive. Cosgrove addresses biomechanical problems common to women, such as quad dominance, poor core stability, and the consequences of wearing high heels.

More unusual, Cosgrove tackles women’s “horizontal hostility” — aka backbiting, sniping, and/or self deprecation — head-on. “End body bashing,” she writes, celebrate your accomplishments, and don’t be a crab in the bucket. In other words, don’t pull other women down just to make yourself feel better. Don’t focus on perceived “flaws”; help yourself and other women develop strengths. It’s a uniquely collective, chick-positive approach in an industry that is often “every woman for herself”.

Cosgrove’s Fit Female Credo

1. Act as if you are a fit female.
2. Get out of your comfort zone.
3. Fuel your body to be fabulous!
4. Train hard or go home.
5. Get hooked on feeling fit, not a number on the scale.
6. Be an early riser.
7. Make rest, relaxation & regeneration a priority.
8. Obstacles will arise — anticipate them!
9. Keep a journal or a blog.
10. Eliminate the negative people known as crabs and surround yourself with positive people.
11. Think about your thoughts.
12. Attitude is everything.
13. Manage your stress.
14. Put an end to body bashing and instead celebrate your strengths.
15. Don’t rely on will power. Have strategies.
16. Stop rationalizing and making excuses.

What distinguishes this book stylistically is its clarity of voice. It’s well-structured, easy to follow, and above all, honest and forthright.

Cosgrove recounts her own struggles with body weight/fat and eating, describing her journey from cardio queen through triathlete through fitness model, and finally arriving at a place where she felt productive and satisfied. This is not a perky, post-adolescent, surgically produced cheerleader but a real woman, warts and all, dealing with Thanksgiving dinners and life stress and love handles and injuries, just like the rest of us.

gerry-clientAnd throughout the book we meet the other real women who are Cosgrove’s clients, everyone from Gerry (pictured here) to Lori, who writes poignantly:

“I can look at a photo album of myself over the past 20 years and in the photos where I am overweight and out of shape were also the times in my life when I did not have control of my life. Such a time was this past year when my life went spiraling out of control. Along with the spiral came the pounds. True, I had just had a baby (no easy feat at my age, 42) and true I had just been through a traumatic relationship with an abusive alcoholic. After going through days and weeks where I was so depressed I could barely get out of bed (only to care for my newborn, to eat, or to use the bathroom), I had finally had enough. I did what I always did when my life had tilted too far: I got back in shape… Not only did I physically get into shape, but mentally, emotionally and spiritually followed like stepping stones.”

Oh yes, and apparently Cosgrove knows the secret to getting a fantastic ass. What is it? Well, you’ll just have to read it and see! Thank me for the recommendation when your glutes are like two springy cantaloupes!


  1. Michelle Dodd says:

    November 12th, 2009at 3:17 pm(#)

    Hi Krista,

    Been a fan and a reader for nine years now and I’ve learned a lot from you – thank you for keeping the great info coming!

    I just bought the book. I dig me some muscle and have enjoyed getting back into the gym after a summer of backpacking. This might give me a few new ideas and some extra motivation.

    Thanks for the tip!


  2. ActionBabe says:

    November 19th, 2009at 5:18 pm(#)

    Just got my copy – can’t wait to read it!

    I have the biggest girl crush on Rachel. Bring on the cantaloupe-bum!

  3. Eva says:

    November 19th, 2009at 6:11 pm(#)

    That looks like a great book, and I don’t mean to neg on it, but I did want to mention that the $97-a-month price tag for her internet members group is absolutely freakin’ ridiculous. I subscribe to two wonderful fitness sites, and, for a grand total of $30 a month.

  4. Mistress Krista says:

    November 20th, 2009at 6:24 am(#)

    Everyone’s got the system that works for them. For some folks, it’s worth the $ to be part of more intensive coaching support communities — they benefit from the structure and accountability. Others who are more independent may not want that as much. For some folks who really need more in-depth attention, it might be the best $97 they ever spent.

  5. Alicia says:

    November 20th, 2009at 7:51 am(#)

    I ordered my copy as soon as I saw this post.

    I love that the first half of the book is about mindset and motivation. That’s always been the hardest part for me, as a (former) lifelong emotional eater. The visualization techniques have made a difference in my thinking already.

    I also love how the nutrition plan is meant to fit together with the phases of workouts.

  6. botgurl says:

    November 20th, 2009at 3:10 pm(#)

    After reading what you get for the $97/mo coaching group I would pay it if I hadn’t already joined Lean Eating Coaching.

    Just the monthly workout will be worth the cost! Add to that access to specific coaching advice! It’s really a small price to pay.

  7. Eva says:

    November 20th, 2009at 6:36 pm(#)

    well….I don’t work for these sites or anything, but ghf (correct url is and tom venuto’s together offer a great deal of personalized support/attention/articles/personal emails from trainers/workout programs — all for a grand total of $30 a month. I don’t see anything her site is offering that they don’t, together, offer. Is her extra girl power and charisma or what have you worth another $67 a MONTH over the price of those sites? I guess that’a each “fit female”‘s call to make.

  8. Alicia says:

    November 23rd, 2009at 8:50 am(#)

    I’ve been following this book since it arrived, and I can already tell a difference.

    I had been on an eating plan designed to reduce inflammation and increase leptin sensitivity, because of some blood work I had done; it wasn’t really working. Eating to raise my metabolism, though, seems to be working like a charm.

    The FBB nutrition plan is really similar to what Krista recommends, with some significant additions such as four phases to cycle through.

    And like Krista mentioned, the mentor/older sister voice is great. It’s taught me a lot about the mindset I need to have to meet my goals.

  9. weight after pregnancy says:

    December 16th, 2009at 1:04 pm(#)

    I have never seen before and after that good. My God. You are trully a winer. Congrats. Have to show this to my wife. :)

  10. Rita says:

    January 18th, 2010at 10:14 am(#)

    Ordered the book the day it came out, after reading this review, started to clean up my diet right after I read it, and started the 1st phase at the beginning of January. Holy crap!!! I’m seeing results really quickly, and the fat that’s been camping out on my upper arms for the past several years is slowly being evicted – 1/2 inch in two weeks! Thanks so much for the review.

  11. The Female Body Breakthrough « Power Rack says:

    January 18th, 2010at 11:56 am(#)

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

  12. Jill says:

    February 12th, 2010at 4:26 pm(#)

    I have read NROLFW (and I started the program. I am in Phase 1… about 4 weeks in) and now I have just read FBB. It seems really good too!! Which program would you recommend? I have fat to lose and I want to build muscle. I am just wondering about your opinions of one versus the other…. pros/cons, differences, etc. Any help would be great!
    p.s. I love your website. It has been so helpful and your section on squats got me really doing them right! Thanks again.

  13. Ali says:

    April 29th, 2010at 11:58 am(#)

    I thought I was in shape, I have been working out steadily for the past two years lost 80 lbs but had stalled out and want to lose 40-50 more. Since buying the book I have all motivation back thanks to a lot of the fantastic motivational quotes throughout and am back on track seeing amazing results in just one month!! The workouts are hard but you feel so great it is totally worth it!

  14. greengirl says:

    May 4th, 2012at 5:41 pm(#)

    I bought this book and the workout and diet information looks great. However I am having a bit of a problem with some of the tone of the writing. On one hand Rachel does promote focusing on strengths instead of flaws and not beating oneself up over the things you don’t like about your body.

    On the other hand, though, she does really promote the idea that losing weight and being smaller causes increased confidence and satisfaction with one’s body. She really uses that as a tool to motivate readers to stick with workouts, e.g things like “think about how hot you’ll be looking in your bikini on the beach after doing this exercise”, or “Think about how confident you’ll feel when you fit in to those smaller pants (aka the thermometer jeans.)” It really seems to buy in to the idea that if you’re a larger woman or an out of shape woman, you will feel poorly about yourself or unattractive, and that smaller and fit = more attractive. I really am interested in exercising and nutrition from a health point of view, but honestly I don’t feel badly about my appearance currently, so I find this tone very off putting. Other than that the book seems great. I guess as a bit of a bigger woman, I feel like I get hammered over the head constantly with messages that I should dislike my body because of it’s size. It would be nice not to read that in this book, too.

  15. Lita Scruton says:

    May 25th, 2012at 7:45 am(#)

    Green Girl,
    I agree with you. I have yet to read this book, I am going to borrow it from the library first. I did purchase the book by Cassandra Forsythe and Lou Schuler on The new rules for weight training for women.
    I am 45 years old and just re found this site. I have been weight training for 25 years plus. I have two children. I have gone through the entire bodybuilding competing, heavy training, training through pregnancy, now teenage years. I listened to Cassandra and Krista on the interview of her book and I laugh at the many phases Cassandra will yet face. It is amazing what a family does to your training.
    Greengirl, Love your body, it will change throughout your lifetime. Love it for all that it allows you to do. Muscle is amazing and skinny is scary, I tell that to my 13 year old daughter all of the time. Best of luck.

  16. greengirl says:

    June 9th, 2012at 2:50 pm(#)

    Thanks Lita, I appreciate the words of wisdom. 25 years, wow that’s awesome!

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