I’d Just Like to Be Strong, Thank You Very Much

796.41  The New Rules of Lifting for Women: Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess, by Lou Schuler (2007)

Apparently, all women want to look like Goddesses.  And, no, apparently it doesn’t mean that all women want to wear diaphanous white robes and lounge around playing the lyre or napping on clouds or tossing around lightning bolts (though that latter activity could be kind of fun).  No, the “Look Like a Goddess” in Schuler’s subtitle is apparently shorthand for “There’s no earthly reason why a woman would consider lifting weights other than trying to lose fat.”

I started lifting weights this past summer, largely to try to strengthen certain leg muscles enough to fix a sore knee.  To my great pleasure, my time in the gym seems to have done what a dozen sessions of physical therapy and some very expensive orthotics did not; my muscles are stronger, more balanced, and (thanks to a lot of stretching) more flexible, and my knee is feeling better than it has been in years.  As I kept lifting, I realised how much I enjoyed the feeling of being stronger, not just in my legs but in all sorts of muscles that I’d been neglecting.  So now it’s been– what, 7 or 8 months?– since I started lifting and I figured it was time to try something new.  As a bookworm, I went to the library and looked for a couple of books to learn more about how weight lifting works and find some new exercises.  Free weights, maybe, instead of machines.

When I found Schuler’s book, I was a bit put off by the gendered nature of the title, but I thought that it had a good premise: muscle fibers are essentially the same for men and women, so put down the pastel 2.5 lb. weights and push yourself.  Then the  internal contradictions started to bother me.  It turns out that he wrote this book for women after receiving letters from women asking why his earlier book, The New Rules of Lifting, didn’t have any advice for women.  So here’s an author who advocates sex-blind weight lifting programs yet writes specifically for women.  Now, perhaps that’s all about marketing the book to different audiences; I get that.

What I don’t get is his continued insistence that women only weight lift to lose fat– and that there’s no point doing any other kind of exercise because it won’t make you burn enough fat.  Running?  Biking?  Swimming?  All wasted effort.  Perhaps, he says, you can fit a little of this in if you enjoy it, but recognise that cardio is an indulgence, not a beneficial activity.

Come to think of it, I do get his fixation with women losing fat.  It reflects a retrograde and counter-productive attitude that says that women are to be judged on appearance or body measurements.  I honestly don’t know whether this attitude is Schuler’s, as an individual, or whether it reflects the desires of this book’s market.  All I know is that the useful information, clear explanations of technique, and detailed workouts in this book are not nearly enough to balance out the sexism running throughout the book.

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