on March 2, 2012
I got this book because she had a special for pre-ordering this book and getting a discount on any one of her DVDs. I already had her Ultimate Body Sculpting and Conditioning Volume 1 DVD for a long time and loved it, and this was a great opportunity for me to get the second volume. I really like her workouts on both of the videos, and I have been following her blog and her website for a long time. I've grown to be quite a fan. She has a great positive attitude and a no-nonsense approach to fitness and nutrition.
If you are new to kettlebells, this is a good book to start with. I also have Pavel Tsatsuline's book, Tough Love From Russia, and I like that book as well. Pavel is the guy responsible for bringing kettlebells to the U.S. and Lauren trained under him, too. His book is harder to get through though, because Pavel uses a lot of goofy sarcasm, and his book is filled with quotes from other kettlebell enthusiasts talking about how great they feel about their results using kettlebells. If you still need to be convinced that kettlebells are effective at burning fat and increasing strength rapidly, Pavel's book will do it for you. But if you're already convinced (as you should be!) and ready to start working out, and you are looking for a straightforward program to get you going, I recommend Lauren's book.
Her book has a short overview, which includes a few pages of kettlebell history, the benefits of training with them, what you need to begin, including tips on the weight of the bells to buy etc, and a short bit about nutrition. I personally wish the nutrition section was a lot longer, because I know Lauren is very well informed and educated about nutrition, and her sample menu leaves me wanting to know more about her rationale (for example, there is no wheat/gluten in the sample menu, and you gotta believe she has a reason for that, but she doesn't say anything explicitly about it.) Anyway, she makes it clear that this is not a book on nutrition, it's a book on kettlebells. So I can't dock her a star for this.
The next part of her book is the program itself. It's broken down into three levels. I've only just started the first level, and I have to say it's pretty easy compared to the video workouts. I've been working out to her videos now for several months though, and those leave me wiped out, and sweaty and SPENT every single time. The first week of workouts in level 1 (in the book) are no where near as challenging. However, as she points out in her section on "How to Use This Book," you can adapt it however you see fit. You could, for instance, start on level 2. Or you can start at level 1 but use a heavier weight, or do more reps, or more sets, or take shorter breaks in between exercises. That's what I've done to modify it for my own needs. So someone like me, an intermediate, can still get stuff out of the beginner workouts. Not only do I find those beginner workouts helpful and useful, I am totally blown away and amazed that when I e-mailed Lauren for her advice on how to incorporate her level 1 program from the book with the videos that I already have, she sent me long personal e-mail along with a 3 page attachment of her suggestions on how to make it more suitable for me. She had every day of the week written out for me, detailing what I should (or could) do! A busy lady like her, with 2 little kids at home and a business to run, I couldn't believe she emailed me back only a few hours later. All I can say is I am certain that she really cares about people succeeding.
I should point out that the book itself has charts with what workouts to do on what days of the week, and then charts with what to do for each particular workout. For example, Monday is workout 1. So then you look up workout 1 and perform it. Workout 1 is a series of exercises with a specific number of reps, then a 30 second break, and then repeated 2-3 times. The name of the exercise is followed by a page number, where you can then look up how to do the exercise if you are unsure. If you're new to this, you'll have to study the moves a few times before you can do the workout. Otherwise, you'll be flipping pages back and forth, and that would just be annoying. What I've done and found to be useful is this: I read through the workout, make sure I know the moves, then I write them down on my own piece of paper in large print. I actually write it on a post-it type of paper, so I can stick it to the wall in front of me, so I can read it while looking forward. (Looking down would make you have poor form.) You might also want a timer, or a clock with a seconds hand, to help you keep track of the length of your breaks. I have an iphone app that does this for me. An interval timer would work well, too.
I have not yet made it through the level 2 or 3, so I can't make any comments about that (yet). Maybe I'll come back and update this review in another 2 or 3 months when i've made it through them!
The last part of the book comprises detailed descriptions (including black and white pictures) of women doing each of the individual exercises. I've found them to be pretty useful and very descriptive. Since I have some experience, I haven't needed to scrutinize them much. But, they point out common flaws people make in their form, and with kettlebells, form is everything! I do think (and Lauren would agree, as she states this in her book) that if you are brand new to kettlebells, you should definitely work with a certified instructor in person before really getting into it. At the very least, watch a video. There are a lot of exercises in this book that I have not seen in her videos (the 2 I own), so it's great to have this book as a resource for new exercises.
The only other comment I would make about this book is that it is not just for women. My husband really enjoys working out to her videos, and they are not easy for him either. Lauren is no wimp! Kettlebells are for men and women equally, I'm sure it's just that her publisher believes she'll fill a market need by writing this book for women.
I said I'd update my review when I made it through the rest of the book, and so I am! First of all, it took me a while, because I got sick, then I restarted the program from the beginning. I originally said that the first few workouts were easy, and they are in comparison with her videos. But they get harder as you go along. I actually really enjoyed and appreciated the workouts that were "easier" because it really helped me perfect my form. The second time through the workouts in level 1, I was also able up the weight on my kettlebell. I had been using a 12 kg, and could move up to 16 kg. By the end of level 2 with my 16 kg, I felt like I could go heavier, but I don't have a heavier bell yet. Then in level 3, it worked out for me because many of her exercises involve using 2 bells. And I have two 12kg, so it was perfect. If you don't have 2 equal weight bells, you might feel limited with what you can do in level 3. However, in the demonstration section of her book, she has a lot of modifications, and you could easily do single bell versions of those exercises. I found that by level three, I was able to adjust and modify the exercises to suit my needs and abilities. By the end, I wasn't even following the schedule exactly, but fitting it in when I could, mixing it in with some of her video workouts, and changing it up with other types of exercises of my own preferences (mostly body weight lifting like pushups and pullups, along with some running). Having all that practice from the first part of the book made me feel more of an "expert" on what my body needs from the kettlebells. I'll definitely be using these workouts again and again.
Oh, I also lost about 14 pounds. I didn't have a ton to lose, as I started the program already at a healthy BMI. My muscles are also stronger, especially my abs. I definitely think that you need to adjust your diet if you want to lose weight on this program. Just exercise on its own won't cut it. Pulling wheat out of my diet was key for me. Thanks to Lauren Brooks for her suggestions on overall nutrition and exercise. I feel great!