122 of 128 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2009
I have read and admired Rachel Cosgrove since reading New Rules of Lifting for Women and bought a subscription to Women's Health when I saw her name begin to appear regularly. Her new book is very solid: well-researched nutritional advice, common sense and rational approach to health and fitness, and full of useful photographs and descriptions. The reason I subtracted a star I think may be attributed to her editors rather than the author herself. I enjoy reading Ms. Cosgrove because she's smart, reasonable and walks the walk. I do not read her because she's a woman. I "trust" the advice of people who know what they are talking about because they're educated, well-researched and respectful of their audience. Their chromosomal make-up doesn't usually factor in for me. I don't know if this makes me an anomaly, but someone on Ms. Cosgrove's team felt it important that the reader understand that she gets women because we share body parts.
By the end of the second chapter, I was twitching every time I read the word "girl", "feminine" or a double-dose of exclamation points used to stress the fact that she's fun! friendly! and you don't have to sacrifice femininity to be strong! I found myself skimming sections and actually felt like I was betraying Ms. Cosgrove's hard work in creating what is, in fact, a solid health and workout plan. I lost 75 pounds following the guidance she and her husband set out in New Rules and was looking for her advice on getting to the next stage. I appreciated the fact that some issues that are unique to women (i.e. hormones) were in their own chapters and given the time they deserve. However, I wish they had dialed back the "sisterhood" factor to a 6-7 instead of a 10. Well, at least the cover isn't pink. . .
109 of 120 people found the following review helpful
on February 15, 2011
An overview of the book:
Chapter 1: "secrets" of being a fit female and real life examples.
Chapter 2: the author's story and more real life examples.
Chapter 3: why steady-state aerobics doesn't work.
Chapter 4: decide what you want and write it down.
Chapter 5: think about how food makes you feel.
Chapter 6: how PMS and hormones affect workouts.
Chapter 7: how to measure your starting line (so you see progress).
Chapter 8&9: three phases of nutrition over 16 weeks.
Chapters 10&11: three phases of workouts over 16 weeks.
Chapter 12: the importance of stretching and foam rollers.
Chapter 13: conclusion (followed by references and an index).
- This book covers weight lifting, cardio, nutrition, and motivation, which is pretty much everything you need in the fitness picture.
- There is a good discussion, with references, about the need for weight lifting (presumably focused at women who have a bias against it).
- Most of the secrets of being fit are pretty basic, but probably need repeating (think positive, keep a journal, manage stress, anticipate obstacles, etc.) The secret of exercising in the morning was poorly worded. On the surface, it seems stupidly rigid. The underlying message -- you'll never regret working out, but you will regret not working out -- was valid.
- The nutritional and workout guides are progressive, which makes progress possible and more likely.
- There's a discussion of common muscular imbalances that women have (and I nodded my head for almost all of them) and how these workouts and stretches would help address them.
- The warmups and workouts look straight forward and challenging.
- A lot of common nutrition and workout obstacles and issues are discussed.
- The nutritional plan is a little extreme (except for four splurges a week). Of course, soda, juice, and processed foods are gone. In phase one, so are bread, pasta, and crackers. In a later phase, dairy and nuts go, too. That leaves meat, beans, vegetables, and fruit. In addition and in an obvious contradiction to the prohibition on processed foods and dairy, two scoops of whey protein must be ingested after every workout.
- The need to number and letter everything got confusing. There are 15 secrets and 14 workout principles. There are workouts A and B for weeks 1&2, 3-8, and 9-16. Within workout A for weeks 1&2, there are exercises called 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, 3A, 3B, 4A, and 4B. Within workout B for weeks 1&2, there are also exercises called 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, 3A, 3B, 4A, and 4B, but they are completely different exercises. The problem is repeated for the next two sets of workouts A and B. Then you get to the metabolic exercises, which has a whole set of 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D, 2A, 2B, 2C, and 2D exercises.
- My knees started to hurt looking at the warmup, and there wasn't any mention of modifications.
- A home gym will not have all the equipment. These workouts require dumbbells, Swiss balls, a exercise tube or band, a sturdy bench for step ups, a cable pulley machine, a chin up bar, and an Olympic bar in a squat rack. Kettlebells and weighted bars and balls would be nice, too.
- The pictures of the exercises are spread out over 60 pages. A one-page summary of each workout in pictures would have been helpful, particularly given the confusing charts.
- The rants about aerobic exercise are unhelpful and diminish the author's credibility. While aerobic (steady-state) exercise may not be the best way to lose weight and become fit, there are lots of people who exercise that way and are quite fit.
- The relentless references to girls and ladies (and the bitch acronym) were probably intended to be cute, but weren't.
59 of 66 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 2010
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
As a male Personal Trainer with the majority of my clients' females, I found Rachel's book to be the best complete training book for women I've read so far, and I've read all that I could find. I have purchased this book many times and have given it to my new clients before I start them on a fitness schedule.
What I found so great about her book is, first of all, she's a woman. She had many of the problems women have such as image disorders, eating disorders, that "time of the month" problems, and disorders of the mind when thinking that running is the fastest way to lose bodyfat. She doesn't write for the "Cover Girl" models, but for everyday women that you'll see at the mall, stores, gyms, or PTA meetings. She is a Sports Nutritionist, (CISSN) that addresses the very important nutritional aspect of being fit.
I'm not saying that I understand every problem that a woman brings to me during a training session, but her 16 secrets in her "Fit Female Credos" address a lot of the problems that hold back a woman from mediocrity to success. They should be read frequently, and my male clients could learn a few things from that Credo!
I have a minor disagreement regarding her statements that women don't need isolation exercises that hit the arms or shoulders, and define those muscles more. In my experience, most of the women that I train, that have been successful in losing body fat into the low 20% range, there is a request for an isolation "arm" or "shoulder" workout. This is especially true when summer is approaching and sleeveless clothing is being worn. We use these workouts when my clients have been up most of the night with kids, or not feeling up to a strenuous workout. This is such a minor point that I still think her book is the best, and she sets a very good example of a successful fit female.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2010
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For someone who is new to weight lifting this is a good book. I think the plan will generally be good, once I implement it. The food plan sounds good - pretty much like any high protein plan. But I think she is right - cutting out wheat is a large part of the answer to decreasing fat. She needs more precise instructions as to form for the weight lifting exercises - I have been lifting for about 7 months and am currently using Stronglifts 5x5, having started with her and her husband's book New Rules of Lifting for Women. I find that looking at videos on YouTube - particularly of Mark Ripptoe's training sessions are the best instruction anywhere. Less of that girlfriend stuff would be better for me - I found it kind of annoying. We're not girlfriends, I probably couldn't afford your gym and your training. It is really annoying that she charges $97 a month for her on-line advice. The b-i-t-c-h acronym is silly and her stock phrases don't mean anything to me. However, when you strip away all the excess verbiage, I think this will be a good program to follow. I had a trainer who was working with me on a very similar program and it was working. So generally, I would recommend it - I know someone who has followed it and has done very well with it.
29 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on March 26, 2010
Bottom line: The book is worth reading and maybe even buying for the diet alone, but I like the New Rules of Lifting exercises better.
Diet: I've been following the diet for 6 weeks and had great results. I had tried low-carb diets before, but they never worked for me because the first meal of the day is breakfast, and I really need carbs then. I followed the second phase of the diet: keeping a very basic food diary, no processed foods, protein and a veggie/fruit at every meal, starchy carbs only at breakfast (I have 1/4 c oatmeal) and after workout, and only 2 fruits a day, and not measuring or counting anything otherwise. I wasn't exercising because I sprained my ankle, and in the course of the month, I lost 4-5 pounds, one pound a week, and noticed my tummy was smaller. I can really eat like this for life, especially since on maintenance you don't have limits on # of fruits and # of carbs, within reason. I also really appreciated how she told her own personal struggles with weight, and spoke about all the ways in which her good intentions had only limited effectiveness for her. That's something you don't get in New Rules or any books written by men.
Exercise: I had been following New Rules of Lifting for Women on and off for a year (breaks for two ankle sprains, travel, and then just flakiness), and so I am familiar with the weight-lifting ideas, and I have gotten stronger that way, getting up to squatting 95 lbs. The NROLW workouts felt good every time, and I really felt like I was accomplishing something, and nothing ever hurt.
This book's workouts don't feel good. I found the warm-up doable and challenging. The workout proper is where I found trouble. On several moves, my knee hurt, which is a first. On others, I didn't feel like I was working muscles. Others seemed impossible to do as pictured: before picture shows a model in front of a Swiss ball with her forearms on it; after picture shows the Swiss ball rolled away about a foot with her forearms on the ball just a few inches away from where it started. When I did the exercise, the ball was practically in my armpits. Either this model's arms are each 4 feet long, or they posed the before picture and the after picture without going through the movement continuously, or one is supposed to slide the Swiss ball across the floor rather than roll it. It took me a long time to figure out that probably it was fine to have the ball roll to my upper arm regardless of what the picture showed.
Because of my ankle sprain, I just started the workout phase, so I have less experience with them. It's possible that my knee will stop hurting, but obviously that's a red flag for any workout.
Writing quality: She contradicts herself in a few places or makes suggestions without explaining why. For instance, she says to get rid of all breads, and then she lists bread when showing a possible day on the diet. It looks like this is supposed to be a special bread, but she doesn't explain why that's better. In another place, she says it's important to have a workout shake that is 15-20 g protein and 60-80 g carbs (300-400 calories), which she supports by a single study saying that a 4:1 ratio of carb:protein improves recovery, which contradicts NROLW that suggests many more grams of protein and just a bit of carbs in a recovery shake. [Incidentally, a recent study seems to find men and women are different on this, and women recover better with carbs-only.] Also, maybe this point is supposed to be obvious, but in spite of the centrality of the rule not to have processed foods, she doesn't explain exactly what's wrong with them, and I'm not even entirely sure what exactly a processed food is. But that's relatively minor. I'm pretty sure that when she's talking about processed foods, she means things like tater tots rather than soy sauce, no matter how many scary ingredients are in the soy sauce.
Tone: The BITCH="Be Inspiring Totally Confident and Hot" and all the girl talk is not just annoying, but it also activates that part of my brain that compares me with others and wonders why I don't look like a model. Which is just about the least healthy thought when you're trying to get stronger, have healthy body image thoughts, and feel good about yourself. [Her blog has that same obsession with others' opinions, such as an "inspiring" story about this marathon runner who was normal weight but felt blah about her body who did the program and then went to a nightclub in a mini-skirt and had lots of people tell her how hot she is.]
Bottom line: Worth reading for the diet. For exercise and writing, my preference is for the NROL books. The NROL workouts all feel good to me, the writing is funnier, and they don't activate potentially unhealthy body image thoughts.
Follow up (late October 2010): I have been following the "eating clean" plan for several months, so now it's an unconscious habit. Over the summer a few things changed for me, and the combination helped me lose 10 pounds in a few months without doing anything special, so I've gone from BMI of 25-26 to BMI of 23-24 and I think I may still be losing. The 3 things were: drinking whole milk (very filling), my boyfriend suddenly breaking up with me (lost my appetite for a few weeks), and starting a new job next door to the gym (not spending tons of time, maybe 2 hours total per week tops, mixture of swimming and lifting heavy weights.) Now I feel like this skinny girl has taken over my appetite. I actually leave food on my plate and food in my fridge goes bad before I have the chance to eat it. This book's diet helped, not that I follow all the rules or log my food. But the general framework of no processed foods, that beans count as a protein, not to limit saturated fat, to limit fruit to 2 a day (though sometimes I have 3), to eat grains only at breakfast if I want and after workouts were helpful.
Update 2, March 2011: Still eating more or less this way, and I've stabilized at BMI of 23, even with periods without exercise and a medical thing. Most of my exercise has been swimming, due to an injury and then unrelated doctor's orders that allowed only swimming and walking for a few months, but swimming is apparently how Natalie Portman lost weight for her ballerina body, so I wouldn't look down on that. I went down in bra band size (36 to 34). I would like to lose another few pounds of fat, and thanks to this book, I have a framework for how to do that. People still look at me weird when I say that I drink whole milk.
22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on February 26, 2011
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
As stated in the other reviews the "bitch" acronym was a bit much. To be truthful I found it offensive and did my best to ignore it. Also what I didnt like was that the female body spans many age groups and I found that the post menopausal group or even senior citizen group was not addressed. Plus not every one has a gym membership or even access to a gym. I live in a very small town and there is no gym. So the fact that there is no alternative stated is not helpful. Some information given was helpful but you really have to wade through too much other stuff to find it. I personally would not recommend this book to anyone over the age of 40 who has anything less than a good gym membership and access to personal trainers.
26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2010
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
The reason I gave this book three stars instead of 5, is simply because Ms. Cosgrove gives you a variety of intermediate to difficult exercises but gives you no recourse to ask questions (for safety etc...)- unless of course you want to fork out another $99.00 to join her website.
I find this very irresponsible of her as many of these exercises are difficult and someone could easily injure themselves - especially if they have preexisting conditions. Ms. Cosgrove is obviously a "business person" before being a "personal trainer". If you want to get help either with questions regarding anything in the book be it diet or proper form, you are routed to her personally owned gym where you can fork out $299.00 for a one on one with a trainer or you can pay the $99.00 a month for her website and join group discussions where your questions don't get a straight forward answer.
As a seasoned gym-rat, a Kinesiology Major, a CPA and avid outdoor-sport-enthusiast, I found Ms. Cosgrove's blatant dislike for cardio exercise on stationary machines misleading. While I agree that weight training is essential to any exercise program, I also find that women especially, need the extra boost of a mild to moderate cardio program at least 3 days a week, and not everyone has the room or physical strength to tackle her "warm-up" or her "metabolic conditioning".
All that being said - I do like the way the book's exercise program starts with a "base phase" and gradually works up. It is wonderful for making sure that the exerciser has a good strong foundation to build on. The exercise programs are tough and give you a great workout - but it is definitely NOT for a beginner.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on April 4, 2013
I love following the workouts laid out in the book. I sometimes have to make some modifications, but I always feel great afterwards.
However, there are some things I disagree with. Her comments about yoga, for one. I don't know how much experience she has with yoga, but she claims it is ONLY for stretching and not a good workout. But regularly practicing Ashtanga and/or Vinyasa yoga will definitely increase one's strength AND stamina. In fact, a number of studies have been done showing that folks who practice vigorous forms of yoga only, no other forms of exercise, are equally, and sometimes more, fit as those who lift weights, run, cycle, etc. And that doesn't account for the mental benefits of yoga.
I also firmly believe that exercise has to be enjoyable in order to stick with it. So if someone enjoys distance running, cycling, hiking, etc., they shouldn't have to give it up. In the book Ms. Cosgrove states "You have to earn the right to run." I'm sorry, no. If you want to start running, do so, but do it sensibly. Listen to your body and don't try to do 10 miles your first time out.
She also makes the same statement about wearing sleeveless tops. Again, I disagree. If it's hot out, I'm going to wear a tank top. If someone doesn't like the way my arms look, they're free to turn their gaze away. This is is my main sticking point, this type of attitude. I don't believe in shaming people into fitness. It doesn't work. I also don't work out so I can look good in a swimsuit. I work out because I have 2 kids with special needs and plan to be around for as long as I possibly can for them.
So I will continue to do her workouts, because they're terrific. I think she's a great advocate for women in the weight room. And I LOVE the fact that she created the most popular "Men's Fitness" workout in its history! (The Spartacus Workout.) But I'll also continue my yoga and Spin classes.
59 of 76 people found the following review helpful
on June 5, 2010
I'm glad I borrowed this book from the library instead of buying it. It is insultingly patronizing and shallow. The core message of this book is that women are catty and that the best motivator for weight loss, fitness, and health is to show off our bodies and be the center of attention. The B.I.T.C.H. acronym used throughout the book is offensive and juvenile. The author repeatedly talks about how women should wear skimpy and sexy clothing to the gym and flaunt their bodies. This is not reflective of my values as a woman nor of the values of the women I know. We are smarter than that, and deserving of genuine respect that has nothing to do with revealing clothing. Additionally, the author is completely off the mark regarding cardio work and walking/running, saying that these activities encourage our bodies to store fat and should not be done for exercise at all. She puts down aerobics instructors, making fun of their bodies in a way that illustrates just how catty she can be. If you think that being fit should be about with being healthy and feeling strong and positive, then this is NOT the book for you.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
In purchasing the book, I assumed the author would assume I'm already sold on the idea of weight lifting for women & am relatively new or a somewhat experienced weight-lifting exerciser looking for new information.
Instead 80 pages are spent exhorting women to accept themselves, be real about where they are, wear tighter workout clothes, stop hiding & work out work out work out, but stay away from cardio. ? What trainer in their right mind urges people to stay away from cardio? Or says that doing Pilates stretching exercises won't give you a lean, long dancer's body? Does anyone really expect that it would?
Author appears to be fighting their own demons in retrospect. Every few pages for the first 80 pages there are whole single page testimonials & before & after photos endorsing her gym/method & bulleting the person's accomplishments. That's great, but if I wanted a book filled with photos of women who each lost 10-40 pounds, I guess I'd buy a book titled "Before & After Photos of Results Gym Members."
There is very little information on actually lifting weights, almost nothing on good form & technique, the nutrition information is solid but spartan. The menus are not recipes, just a prescription.
The exercise "plans" are weird little graphs that are extremely puzzling & the book is so weirdly done that it would not even be easy to take it with you to a gym (where you'll certainly need their equipment!) to try to follow along recommended sequences. You might need to make index cards. In fact it is just circuit training but presented in a mystifying manner.
A lost opportunity from a talented trainer- maybe just lost in translation from gym to written word. I would even say the entire first half of the book is just creepy- Author once ballooned to size 12 or "even a 14!" Endless, endless pages of the author supposedly debunking every "myth" a woman tells herself or believes about body image.
For me, I would look elsewhere if you're trying to incorporate weight lifting into an exercise routine- some personal training or group classes seem like a better route. This book does contain convincing bits of research that make me want to incorporate weight lifting into my life, and help me understand how cardio has to be kicked up a notch to do much. Long segues into the author's past experiences are just plain weird & irrelevant, it would be a kindness if her next book is more about her clients & less about her. The few truly useful tips & insights are buried in a deplorable signal-to-noise ratio. Learning that when you can do 10 pushups you are ready to do X was helpful, for example. But there's very little of that.
Not a practical hands on guide, more a hybrid self-help meets your average printed out list of basic exercises. If the first 80 pages of self-talk speaks to you or resonates with your life experience you, you might really enjoy it for what it is.