mouse over reads: “I’m as surprised as you!”
Socks with sandals. Sleeping with the window open no matter the weather. If pool can be considered a “real” sport. Husbands and wives don’t always agree and this month finds me right smack dab in the middle of a doozie of a disagreement between fitness power couple Rachel Cosgrove and her husband Alwyn Cosgrove. You may remember Rachel from my most effective Great Fitness Experiment ever when the Gym Buddies and I did her program from The Female Body Breakthrough (aff) last year. And if you’ve spent any time in the fitness world you’ll know Alwyn from his articles in every major magazine and his weight-lifting books that are considered scripture on par with the Schwarzenegger translation of the bible. It is Alwyn’s book, The New Rules of Lifting for Women (aff) that we will be using this month. And yet:
The main principle of Rachel’s book: thanks to hormones, genetics, evolution and anatomy, women need their own exercise prescription.
The main principle of Alwyn’s book: is summed up pretty well in the subtitle “lift like a man, look like a goddess.” Catchy!
So which is it? Should women exercise like men or do we need a different regimen? And if we do lift like men, will we look like one? This question has plagued us since the moment Adam first lifted his fig leaf and said to Eve, “Did yours break?” And I’ll admit to going back and forth on this subject quite a bit.
When I first started weight lifting I bought into the “train for muscle endurance because you don’t want to get bulky” school of thought that leads women to Barbie pink dumbbells and the Tracey Anderson hall of fame. Then I discovered heavy lifting and I loved how powerful it made me feel. But it did make my quads, lats and shoulders bulkier (oh yes it did!) – true I was never as big as a man but I was bigger than I liked to be. And deep down I always thought women should get credit for dealing with hormone fluctuations on a monthly basis and the fact that we have way more estrogen than men and oh by the way estrogen is a fat-storing hormone. Fun tidbit: By the end of pregnancy your estrogen levels are 400 times what they are normally.
So any time a man would say, “It’s simple, all you have to do is eat right and exercise and that baby weight will fall right off!” I kinda wanted to punch him. And then weep. Because I get very moody at certain times of the month. The truth is that men will never experience in their lifetime the type of hormone swings that the average women does, nor do they have the loosened ligaments, widened pelvis and swing-low-sweet-chariot boobs that come with childbirth. So of course a woman’s fitness plan should accommodate these differences, right?
The problem is that we don’t really know what that accommodation should be. I can tell you that the Barbie weights aren’t it. I know a lot of women actually that have got the best results for their bodies by working out like, yes, a man.
Having read both books multiple times, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: While they both stand by their conflicting positions, they both recommend pretty much the same things. High intensity interval training. Heavy weight lifting. Not much (if any) steady-state cardio. It turns out that according to the Cosgroves, women need to take a more masculine approach to weightlifting and adapt it as needed to our girly issues.
I had fantastic results with Rachel’s program but will Alwyn’s similar-but-different-in-a-few-important-aspects plan work the same magic for me? We’ll find out!
UPDATED TO ADD: We will be doing this Experiment for longer than one month! I’m not saying will draw it out for six months as he outlines – we’re starting on stage 2 – but we’ll be at this at least a couple of months.
Results from August’s Mixed Martial Arts Experiment
Bleh. There are some Experiments I just have a hard time getting into and this was one of them. I didn’t enjoy MMA as much as I’ve enjoyed other types of training. I blame the “ring girls.” As I mentioned before, MMA is one of those workouts that comes with a whole cultural experience attached. After reading the magazines, watching a few fights online and talking to some people in the scene I have to say the whole thing seems very misogonystic. While a cursory nod is sometimes given to a female MMA fighter, most of the time chicks are only around to parade in bikinis. I’m not saying that I wanted to jump in the ring – this Experiment found me saying out loud several times “If I live my whole life without ever being punched in the face, I will be happy” – but I didn’t appreciate the way the girls were reduced to fake tits and tans. But I’m not here to criticize the culture (especially since I realize that one month isn’t much time to form an opinion) – MMA certainly has a TON of fans both male and female – I’m here to talk about the workout.
If you can separate the culture from the exercise, then you will discover a seriously kick-butt workout. MMA fighters may be some of the best all-around athletes I have ever seen. Their workouts (from my limited experience) use a lot of body weight exercises, a lot of strong-man type lifting (tire flipping , sledge hammering etc.) and a crap ton of punching, kicking and other martial arts drills. It made for a varied, interesting and really really tough workout. One day had us doing punching drills while holding hammers. The next we were round-housing each other. And then we were practicing grappling. I liked almost everything about the workouts except for the split knuckles (those take forever to heal and Gym Buddy Megan’s even got infected) and the attitude.
Gym Buddy Allison however really loved this Experiment. Her favorite workout was the first one we tried that basically alternated different types of punching and kicking in 1-minute high-intensity intervals. The best part is that contrary to what we do in our TurboKick kickboxing classes, we were actually punching and kicking real things (pads and focus mitts usually, people accidentally). You pay a lot more attention to your form and your power when you’re making contact.
I’d do an MMA-style workout again in a heartbeat. If I never have to read another MMA publication it will be too soon.
Any of you try this Experiment with us – What did you think? What’s your philosophy about women lifting like men? And who’s in it with us (and Alwyn!) for September???