My brain has always been my favorite muscle and it shows, but it is always easier for my body to follow when I understand what I am asking it to do. So here's a book I got myself as a birthday present, and the authors are teaching me a lot.
The New Rules of Lifting is organized around two lists. One is the list of twenty rules based on common sense and a good humor. The last is "If it's not fun, you're doing something wrong." The narrative voice of New Rules... belongs to Lou Schuler who has a rare combination of expertise, humility, and humor about himself that keeps the text light and effective.
The other important list - the one that provides the spine for the functional part of the book is this one:
- Periodization - stick with a good program for an extended time, then switch when your body starts to adapt to it.
- Variety - don't repeat a workout. Try to lift a little heavier, a little faster, a little more powerfully each time you go to the gym.
- Compound movement - do a full body workout every time.
- Using muscles the way they were designed to be used - There aren't a lot of situations where you will be required to stand still and bend your elbow under a heavy load the way you do with arm curls. On the other hand, bending over and picking up heavy stuff is a daily part of life. Strengthen your arms as part of a bigger movement like a deadlift or a clean and press (honey, can you pick this up and put it on the top shelf for me?)
- Intensity - Work hard and fast. Because the workouts are so simple and so short, loafing through them is a waste of time. Rest between sets is built in, but as Schuler points out, Work = Strength + Speed. I've been watching olympic lifters lately and they exemplify this principle as much as anyone. It isn't just that they move amazing amounts of iron off the floor - it's that they move it so fast that they can hop underneath and push it up over their heads.
There's also a version for women whose subtitle is Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess. I have not read that one, since that isn't really the look I'm after, but I would be surprised if it doesn't share many of the qualities of the one I have.
The authors don't speak very highly of running. I find this to be pretty common among resistance advocates. Runners tend to speak ill of the weight room too. Typically, I have managed to delight in two antagonistic activities. Since I haven't really found a guru who says much about combining them - except for old Arnold Schwarzenegger who used to run a lot while competing - I'm going to have to find my own way to reconcile them.
And now, off to the gym. Seriously.