New Rules of Lifting for Women – Stage 1

I thought I’d do a post covering how I’ve found the New Rules of Lifting for Women as I’ve just completed Stage 1.

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Just rolling back before I started this, I was still doing lots of strength work in the gym. I’d found lots of good stuff on RunnersWorld, Kinetic Revolution and other random places. At the start of the year I was focused on getting my heart rate up while also strengthening my body. I was running three times a week low mileage and needed something else to give me that sweaty heart pumping boost. The workouts I did were a combination of HIIT and strength, but ultimately leaning more towards cardio.

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That said, I did strengthen my body during this time. I came back from injury stronger and in a better mindset to get running again and training in earnest for the Liverpool marathon. I can, hand on heart, say my knees and hips (which I had problems with last year) haven’t bugged me once this year. My tight IT band grief is a distant memory as my glutes have come into action with my running and I feel strong. My only one bug bear this year is my shin/calf that occasionally likes to niggle (and haunt my dreams with thoughts of stress fractures…).

When my running increased I couldn’t maintain the same enthusiasm at the gym and found myself a bit confused as to what I should be doing. I then found out about the New Rules of Lifting for Women and it caught my interest. I bought the book, read it, agreed with so many of the concepts and points made and decided to start the training plan (not the nutritional plan though – I don’t follow diets/eating plans in books. Just not my thing).

I was surprised at how simple the plan seemed. There are several “Stages”, each lasting 4-8 weeks depending how often you train (I tend to do three sessions a week depending on what my running was doing), and each stage would have two different workouts.

The book doesn’t tell you how much to lift but it does tell you how many reps and sets and the rest in between. The number of reps was vastly different to what I was doing before. Whereas before I’d be squatting 30 times, this specified 15, decreasing as the weeks went on until eventually eight. The point being that the weight you choose should be tough for those limited reps.

Stage 1

I really enjoyed both the routines. Yes it got samey doing the same two workouts, but at 5.30am going into the gym with a no-nonsense plan I was familiar with was fabulous.

  • Workout A: Squats, press-ups, seated rows, step ups, prone jackknifes
  • Workout B: Deadlifts, dumbbell shoulder presses, wide-grip lateral pull-downs, lunges, Swiss ball crunches

I won’t go into all the weights I lifted but just to give you an idea…in January I was squatting 20kg (for around 30 reps). I can now squat 50kg for eight squats. And proper full, deep squats. That might not sound amazing to all those warrior lifters out there, but to me this is huge! And I know I can continue to increase.

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The progress I was able to make and the confidence it gave me was fantastic. I stepped away from my ‘safe area’ in the gym and moved into the ‘male section’. There would have been no way I could have lifted a barbell to my shoulders to squat if I hadn’t have used the squat rack.

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I’m also hugely pleased with the progress I’ve made to my deadlifts. Again, similar numbers to my squats.

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What I also enjoyed was that it made me work on my upper body. In my family we seem to be blessed with naturally toned arms (check out the picture of my sister in previous posts – she hasn’t worked out in years *cough* so may say ever…and yet her arms are lovely and toned) so I would always neglect my upper body as I didn’t “need” to do it. But after Cheddar Gorge marathon and the next day my arms ached it further verified that your upper body is really important in running for maintaining good form and helping you push up hills.

I still included some of my ‘essential’ running-specific moves as well – but increased the weights and decreased the reps (things like single leg squats/deadlifts, Russian twists, box jumps, etc.). Since January my single-leg squat has gone from bodyweight to 20kg!

IMG_2226Not the most happy of faces so early in the gym!

Results: There’s a big fear of “omg bulking up” when women lift weights. I can safely say I haven’t bulked up at all. I have more defined muscles, yes, but I’m not the hulk (or at last, I don’t think I am!). I feel stronger when I run and have a better “kick” at the end. And the proof is in the pudding: I’ve been injury-free for the entire year (TOUCH WOOD, TOUCH WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!).

IMG_2967Who says girls can’t lift?

What’s next? Stage 2! New workouts and moves to get to grips with (no pun intended). I’m keen to continue with increasing my strength on the squat and deadlift moves as well so will probably go back to them frequently. They’re perfect full body moves that compliment any type of fitness. Though looking at Stage 2 workouts the deadlift move is going to be ‘upgraded’ so that works nicely.

All in all, I’m hugely impressed with NRLW and hope to continue the stages until the end. Obviously my running is the priority so the workouts will always come second best, but the time it takes to get through the stages doesn’t bother me. It just gives me a good focus on how to further strengthen my body to be a good marathon runner.

Do you lift weights?

How do you remain injury-free for running?

Do you like to do the same thing at the gym or do you mix it up?

18 thoughts on “New Rules of Lifting for Women – Stage 1

    • Honestly this book is fantastic. It has a good chunk of it dedicated to explaining the rationale on the approach they’re using and nutrition. Very interesting. And loads of good diagrams/photos for how to do the actual exercises.
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…Back in the gameMy Profile

  1. I used to lift weights at university when I was an UG. I got seriously out of the habit after I left Warwick. And, I really used to like it.

    Now I’m wondering how to build it back into things. I bet it would help both N and I! We just run, which strikes me as not the best way of doing things.
    Jane recently posted…Things That Need DoingMy Profile

  2. I remember that pic of you and your sister and I always assumed she was as dedicated to working out as you are! Even when you weren’t doing such focused strength training, you still definitely had amazing arms. No-one in my family builds muscle very well – my Mum’s side are all tall or super-petite and very thin (yeah, definitely didn’t inherit that!) or pear-shaped on my Dad’s side. It’s taken me years to even get the faintest hint of a bicep – I still love Body Pump though and it’s nice to increase your weights even if there isn’t any real aesthetic indication of ‘gainz’ 😉

    I’m definitely in no position to advise on injury, but I don’t think the shin/calf is your fault at all. We all have niggles and areas that are more prone to problems due to our running style and general biomechanics. For you it’s shins, for me it’s a million hip and lower back-related issues. All we can do is be as diligent as possible in protecting those areas and hope for the best!

    Your back looks freaking amazing. And I wish I could deadlift as much as you!
    Jess recently posted…Finally…A Vegan Quest Bar! Introducing Ds Naturals.My Profile

    • I’ll tell my sister you said that – she’ll laugh a lot I’m sure. She’s one of the unhealthiest people I know. She eats rubbish (lots of pizzas and cereal) but rather sporadically, hasn’t exercised for YEARS and she smokes. I do harp on at her about being more healthy but only so much I can do!
      Your “gainz” comment made me laugh! 🙂
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…Rants and Raves #19My Profile

  3. You’re the second person just lately to sing the praises of this book. I actually bought it not long back, although haven’t gotten round to doing much more than flicking through it yet. I like having set routines to follow at the gym, rather than struggling through aimlessly.
    Echoing Jess’ comment about your back!
    Mary recently posted…Nineteen milesMy Profile

    • I really like having a routine now. It used to make my head hurt the night before working out what I’d do in the gym the next morning. It’s nice to be “told”. And it gives very details instructions of how to perform the exercises which is always handy!
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…Rants and Raves #19My Profile

  4. It sounds really good- I can’t remember who but I have read about someone else doing this on a blog before. But I just don’t have the inclination to join a gym, or get all the equipment at home. 50kg for a squat is amazing! I have no idea how you do that, although I suppose I have never used a rack- at body pump the worst part is getting it back off my shoulders, I am always so worried I will drop it behind me.
    Maria @ runningcupcake recently posted…Back to work runningMy Profile

    • Since using the squat rack it is a lot easier. When I was doing my own thing and keeping away from those sorts of machines I really struggled getting the barbell over my head and had to resort to dumbbells as my weights increased. But the squat rack is so handy and I feel a lot more safe with it as if it gets too much it’s just behind me.
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…Rants and Raves #19My Profile

  5. Ah this is such a good post! Maybe I will invest in this book, it might give me the instruction, knowledge and confidence I need to actually go to the ‘male’ section of the gym!!!

    • No no, before reading this book *I* was doing 30 reps of squats which I realised wasn’t great! This book recommends (at the beginning) absolute max 15, but then you go down to 8 after you’re comfortable with heavier weights and the form. I agree, 30 reps isn’t good!

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