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The New Rules of Lifting: Six Basic Moves for Maximum Muscle

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A revolutionary method of weight lifting using today's science for maximum results.

In The New Rules of Lifting , fitness guru Lou Schuler and strength-training expert Alwyn Cosgrove boil down the most recent findings on weight lifting and fitness to create a program of workouts that focuses on the movements at which the body naturally excels. These six "real-life" movements-squat, bend, lunge, push, pull, and twist-compose three complete programs for three distinct fat loss, muscle gain, and strength improvement.

At home or at the gym, these routines can be mixed and matched for a year's worth of workouts that will keep boredom at bay and lifters challenged long after most plans have called it quits. And while coordinated, useful muscles will always turn heads at the beach, they'll also help you live better and longer. Besides providing comprehensive workout programs, The New Rules of Lifting covers much-needed background on aspects of lifting that are often overlooked, like warming up, nutrition, and meal planning. Throughout, Schuler and Cosgrove debunk strength-training myths, troubleshoot dangerous pitfalls, and clearly illustrate moves with black-and-white photographs.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published December 1, 2005

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Lou Schuler

31 books74 followers

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5 stars
293 (32%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 67 reviews
Profile Image for Ryan Boissonneault.
198 reviews2,067 followers
March 11, 2022
Pros: When it comes to strength training, there’s an endless number of programs and exercise techniques you can follow. Unfortunately, most of them are a waste of time. Done right, you can gain strength and mass quickly and efficiently; done wrong, and you’ll spend all your free time at the gym with little to show for it.

This book will show you how to avoid the most common mistakes with strength training while presenting the rules to help you develop a better body in less time, based on the latest science of exercise physiology and the experience of world-class strength coaches and lifters.

I appreciate how the book cuts through the normal BS you find online, focusing on the six basic body movements—squat, deadlift, lunge, push, pull, twist—and the associated compound exercises that will sufficiently develop every muscle group in your body.

Cons: The author is mostly correct to de-emphasize isolation exercises like bicep curls and lateral shoulder raises, but probably takes things too far. He simultaneously tells us that he doesn’t do curls—and that pull exercises like pull-ups sufficiently work the biceps—but then tells us that his arms are not that big and that it's always been a problem for him (I wonder why). While your main focus should be on compound movements, isolation exercises have their place, especially if you have weak areas you’d like to develop.

The author also essentially tells us to avoid cardio altogether, against the advice of most other authorities in the field. While there’s no need to overdo cardio if your goal is simply to increase strength, at the same time, there’s no reason to go out of your way to avoid it, either.

Additionally, the workout programs may be unnecessarily complex. For this and other reasons, I found the book Bigger Leaner Stronger by Michael Matthews to be the better book, in general, and it offers exercise routines that are simpler, more targeted, and more effective. I think there’s value in reading both books, as these are two of the best on the market, but if you can only read one, go with Bigger Leaner Stronger (even though the writing style can be annoying).
Profile Image for Duffy Pratt.
479 reviews136 followers
November 28, 2011
I first did weightlifting back when Nautilus routines were all the rage. The idea then was that one circuit of the machines, doing 8-12 reps on each machine, was all you needed. Also, the thinking then was that isolating the muscle you worked was most efficient. The only problem with these ideas is that they were probably all false.

This book makes a pretty good case against "doing the machines." In it's stead, it promotes six basic functional movements as the basis for an exercise program: squats, deadlifts, lunges, pushes, pulls and twists. It sounds pretty simple, but it turns out that there are complicating factors. (For example, a push overhead is very different than a push to the front (push-up) or a push down (dip). Completely gone is the idea of doing a single set, but there's no explanation why multiple sets are superior. As I recall, the best research still shows that there's limited benefit to doing multiple sets of strength exercises (other than the safety of going to exhaustion at lower weight).

There are two aspects of this book that make me skeptical. First, the writer has a clear bias that size itself is a good thing, and he seems to assume that his readers will share this bias. He makes clear that one of his new rules is that the amount of weight you lift is just a tool to get to your goals. But he never seems to consider the possibility that someone might have other goals than achieving maximum size or maximum strength. Neither of those things are my goals at all. I want to increase certain movement skills, and to slow down the aging process. If that means gaining size or strength, that would be fine with me, but I don't count either the size or the strength as an end in itself.

My other main problem with the book is the repeated disdain the author shows for yoga. He makes it clear that he dislikes yoga, and that he wants nothing to do with it. But he tends to bash it without understanding it at all. And it's that lack of understanding that makes me wonder about the quality of the programs that he suggests. I'm pretty sure that for people who truly enjoy lifting, this book is a great source of information and advice. But the focus is a bit myopic, and I'm not sure whether its for me.

That said, his arguments against the machines are very convincing. And the arguments for doing compound exercises to increase strength are just as convincing. I can buy into those, but I'm not sold on the overall program.
Profile Image for Sean Blevins.
321 reviews35 followers
January 15, 2018
If you only buy one book on weightlifting - and you're just interested in fitness, not competition - this should be it.

New Rules contains programs for fat-loss, hypertrophy, and strength training, as well as explanations about how muscles grow, how the body uses fat, and how the skeleto-musclular system becomes stronger.

The book's basic organizing principle: your time weight training is best spent doing compound (multi-joint/muscle) exercises that mimic basic real-life motions. There are six such motions: squatting, lunging, pressing, pulling, twisting, and [dead]lifting. These motions involve several muscles working together, which, with practice and training, not only improves skeleto-muscular strength, but also improves proprioception, balance, coordination, cardiovascular and muscular endurance.

Maybe for fitness books one of the best gauges of their value is the results they produce. I've been using the routines from this book for a year now and have gained about twenty pounds, while maintaining very low bodyfat, and increasing my strength in all my lifts. After using the routines in this book for 12 months, my bodyweight to press:bench:squat:deadlift ratio is 1:1.25:1.65:2.15. Which isn't too bad by most standards; not a champion powerlifter, or bodybuilder, but not bad. Really, if you only buy one book on weightlifting - and you're just into it for fitness, not competition, this book is my recommendation.
3 reviews
January 4, 2012
The good: This book is better than 90% of the workout books out there. The author rightfully points out the importance of getting off the machines and primarily using free weights. The book also introduced me to two of the most important exercises in the gym: The barbell squat and deadlift.

The bad: There are better books out there. I gained more in the gym in less time in 6 months with Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe than I did over a year with this book. New Rules presents too many plans for the novice to follow. I gained with these programs, but the gains were erratic and my time could have been better spent. Starting Strength provides a simple plan and concentrates on 5 compound exercises to drive strength gains, and if you are lifting weights, that is what you want.
Profile Image for Derrick.
302 reviews24 followers
July 26, 2013
An excellent overview for both exercise beginners and more advanced lifters alike. Schuler starts with the importance of resistance exercise in fat and health. He then explains his six core moves (squat, deadlift, lunge, push, pull, twist), and gives variations on exercises for each category (with descriptions and photos).

Then he provides a workout plan that builds on fat loss, muscle growth, and strength-building. The programs could take a full year if one wanted to follow them completely, with frequent changes in exercises so as to prevent boredom and adaptation.

Finally, we get a few chapters on nutrition.

The scientific points are well documented in an extensive notes section. The writing style is approachable and frequently humorous. And as one always hopes from a book like this one, you should have little trouble finding a few tidbits that you can carry with you -- even if you elect not to follow the exact workout programs.
Profile Image for Doc.
Author 4 books27 followers
September 27, 2009
This book focuses on using large muscle group exercise to build all muscles. For instance, if you're doing pulldowns, then you're working biceps and forearms and back and so on. While I'd say it works, it does not provide the same kind of sculpting and focus that many other programs do. For me, it caused me to thicken all over - my legs and buttocks grew, as did my waistline. When I stopped, I looked more rectangular than ever before.

So if you're interested in building overall strength, more so than looking good, this book provides an excellent means for doing so.
Profile Image for Melody.
2,644 reviews270 followers
February 2, 2011
I liked this well enough to chuck my current weightlifting routine and switch to the one laid out here. At least for a couple of months, depending on what sort of results I get.

The book is persuasive, clear, and sensible. The exercises are ones which help your body to do everyday tasks, rather than make pretty bumps in places regular folks don't have pretty bumps. These are routines designed to help one's everyday life work better, and as a bonus they are quick. I was in and out of my gym today in under 45 minutes.

Recommended, if you like this sort of thing.
3 reviews
February 29, 2016
Great read

Wide range of knowledge with experiments/tests cited to back up his opinions. Also, he enjoys the skeptical reader which is a major plus imo. Very sarcastic...made it all the more enjoyable...if you are new to lifting or admittedly express that you have limited knowledge in this area then you should get this book. There seems to be a few things you do in life that is life changing...allow you to crack a smile in this miserable world. This book may very well be a life changing event.
9 reviews
November 12, 2017
It was a good attempt, but the book lacked clarity. I think the primary author spent more time comparing and contrasting to talk about differences than to actually drive home the point based on sound fundamentals. There are good nuggets out there, but has to learn to stay put with all that is going on.
Profile Image for Cameron.
39 reviews
May 10, 2017
Interesting training background

I truly enjoyed reading this author. I even started putting a plan together. And then from the squats I blew out the t-band in my left leg and it has been hurting for three months. Can't do squats now. And then with all the excellent increase in weights I was feeling great. And then the pressure caused a torn retina so after laser surgery I'm not allowed to do any exercise or lift heavy weights for two weeks at least. Sigh. There goes the making of a six pack.

The hard part is that due to my hectic work and life and commuting schedule living in Tokyo where I leave home before 8am and get home after 8pm, fitting in this many workouts a week is close to impossible. I don't want dinner at 11pm and go to bed at midnight or later only to get up at 6am or earlier. The energy factor is too intense to fit in three workouts a week. I'm lucky if I can get to the gym once a week. So the training programs won't work for me but if they work for you, that's great!

As for the last chapter on food, I have to part from the sound advice as most of what the author has written regarding carbs and healthy foods I, from my decades of research on protein, fat and carbs, have come to a completely different conclusion.

Fun book.

Thanks for writing it.
Profile Image for Steven R. McEvoy.
3,168 reviews105 followers
January 8, 2023
The problem with most health and fitness information is that everybody has a different opinion, and far too often none of the ones you look at seem to match up. The advantage of this new book is that it goes back to basics. It has a focus on six basic moves that will help to optimize for maximum muscle. The focus is for both beginners and for elite lifters.

Schuler and Cosgrove write with a very fluid and engaging style. Their writing not only makes you want to keep reading but to try to implement their ideas. They go through a series of techniques, exercises, programs, nutrition and life. In the end they remind us that lifting is not life, and that we need to have a balanced life.

The six core exercises they focus on are: Squat, Deadlift, Lunge, Push, Pull, Twist and Combo moves. They use these core exercises to build the core of your strength and of your routines. For each of the exercises they have a range of variations.

Lou and Alwyn have written a great fitness book. The writing is excellent, the research impeccable. The book also contains an extensive section of notes, and a great index to go back and search for something you read months ago when it comes time to make a change. This book is easy to read, easy to understand and if you're motivated, trouble-free to implement.

So if you are looking to start working out, or have been for years and need to change things up, check out this book. It has tools to help you here while at university and for the rest of your life.
Profile Image for Levan.
20 reviews6 followers
May 18, 2023
The New Rules of Lifting: Six Basic Moves for Maximum Muscle" presents a refreshingly simple approach to strength training. While I have not yet tried the workouts, I can't comment on their effectiveness, but the book's unique quality lies in its ability to explain complex workout plans in a down-to-earth manner that truly makes sense.

What sets this book apart is its ability to demystify the world of fitness and debunk common misconceptions. Schuler and Cosgrove rely on scientific evidence to challenge prevailing myths and offer readers a solid understanding of the science behind muscle growth and strength training.

Profile Image for Sydney Stories.
287 reviews23 followers
July 2, 2020

I really enjoyed this book. I'm more experienced of a lifter and didn't need the programs, but the information presented earlier in the book (the first 200 pages or so) was really helpful to me. The author's voice was a little annoying sometimes but overall he taught me a few things I didn't know before and reinforced what I did. Really more geared to newbies and men (as always- lifting books always focus on men :/) but I found the information very helpful, presented in a straightforward manner and overall a useful book.
112 reviews1 follower
April 20, 2022
Lots of great take aways and workouts if you’re looking to lift. It was an excellent addition as I continue to learn about weight training and my metabolism.
Profile Image for Doyle.
162 reviews6 followers
July 9, 2018
Probably one of the best lifting workout books for everyone who is just looking to be more it and develop strength. Not for competition body builders but the regular joe. Looking forward to starting the break-in program and begin the journey.
106 reviews18 followers
August 1, 2009
I'm not sure how new most of the information in this book is, but I found it very helpful in moving off the machines and starting a more functional, more time-efficient weight training program. The writing style is breezy and easy to read and the information very useful to a novice.

This book emphasizes compound movements that work the body the way that it usually functions in real life, such as squatting, deadlifting, lunging, pushing, pulling, and twisting. It contains programs for various levels of exercisers that include periods of fat-loss, hypertrophy, and strength training. I've been going through one of the programs for about 6 months now and am getting stronger as a result and feeling healthy, thus meeting my goals. Even though I'm not into bodybuilding or dieting and don't follow his eating guidelines, I think I'm getting leaner, too. And I'm spending less time working out in the gym (about 45 minutes twice a week, rather than an hour and half 2-3 times a week before). Most of the workouts get my heart rate up high enough that I'm basically interval training already, so I usually skip the time that I used to spend on the exercise bike after strength training, without any obvious averse effect.

There are a few ways in which the New Rules of Lifting is lacking. I don't think that it gives enough information on how to do some of the exercises with correct form, particularly squats and deadlifts. Some people may need more clarification on a few of the details of the book's programs. Also (this is not a critique of the book so much as it is a warning), these workouts can be challenging. I've been trying to get my husband to work out with me rather than doing his own thing on the machines, and he did try starting one of the programs, but gave it up. It was too hard. He still comes down to the free weight room to keep me company and work out once in a while, but always ends up complaining that it's too much work and going back to the machines. So I think that a fair amount of motivation or an enjoyment of exertion may be necessary for a reader to actually take advantage of the program.
Profile Image for Jack.
11 reviews4 followers
June 26, 2013
Full stars in this context- for what I am currently looking for in the gym, this is a perfect companion.

I've been hitting the gym consistently 4-5 times a week for the last three months. My training started with sessions half on the treadmill then half on the machines. I wasn't enjoying myself enough so I switched from the machines to free weights. Then I wanted to increase my gains and ditched the treadmill. From there I started watching vids and other folks in the gym to learn new exercises to test my target muscles. The gains have been sporadic, and I'm ready to kick this in gear for a full program.

Enter NROL. The book starts with rules and backgrounds of exercise specific to weight-training. If you're like me, you'll find this helpful in context. If you're a seasoned lifter or gym rat, this info would assuredly be old news unless you've read nothing since lifting your first barbell. The second half of the book is all exercises along with suggested programs based on your experience.

This is why I give NROL full stars. It's complete. You gain knowledge and a full plan that's scoped for at least a year and beyond. It's also moduled so you can fit in a 4-5 week fat loss routine then 4-5 weeks of hypertrophy to start building muscle.

This won't be the last book you ever buy if you are interesting in lifting, fitness, and nutrition. But it's an excellent, well-rounded place to start.
February 9, 2017
Well written, simple to follow

This book answered all my questions in a very clear and concise manner. I have been lifting for years, and i think i know quite a bit, so it is refreshing when a book comes along reminds you of ways that worked in the beginning. For example, i used to workout and do cardio in some combination every day and wondered why i had no gains. Now my gains have stayed again by doing two sets of watch exercise the times a week. Definitely a time saver and a way to stay song improvements again.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
47 reviews1 follower
August 4, 2008
This book brings sensible, time-tested advice for getting started or out of a rut in your lifting. (If these guys don't know the right stuff, nobody does!) I cherry-picked some of the information that I found most useful, but if you want to you can use this book as a complete step-by-step guide to lifting effectively and efficiently. It includes information about training, diet, motivation, and lifestyle. Also, the writing style is very accessible and smooth. One failing: the text really excludes female lifters throughout, except in a few token comments. If you want a book tailored towards the slight variations that women's lifting may need, this is not your book. (Edit: The authors have written a companion volume specifically for women since I read this book originally.)
Profile Image for Andrew.
12 reviews4 followers
February 27, 2012
I don't know how new these "rules" actually are. A lot of the information here has been around for quite some time. In fact, all the studies quoted by the author are from 30+ years ago. He also tends to under-explain things. In the section about aerobic exercise he states that strength and endurance should not be trained concurrently because the "interference effect" will force your body to choose endurance over strength. Nothing further is said on the matter, and I for one would be more inclined to believe him if he actually went into the science of it, even a little. All in all not a bad book for the beginner lifter, but there are other books and even free web pages that offer the same info in more detail.
15 reviews3 followers
October 12, 2009
With my recent weight-loss I have been "re-booting" my approach to fitness overall. About half way through my weight-loss I started using the kettlebell. I'm considering a move back into traditional weight lifting.

Contrary to the title, the new rules are pretty much the old rules. I gathered that much thumbing through the book in the book store and that's why I got it. They're very focused on 2 things that I like.

1) Use large muscle groups and multi-joint movements
2) Training that doesn't focus on improving your functional performance is pointless

I recommend the book for anyone; beginner to experienced lifter.
7 reviews
October 25, 2010
Functional compound lifting movements with an emphasis on power are becoming increasingly popular in the weight rooms these days. Likewise, more and more books are coming out with this sort of topic in mind. This one is no exception but it is generally one of the more practically applicable. That said, there are some workout recommendations that really are just not practical at all unless you own your own fully-equipped gym. I'm specifically speaking about the final weight loss series of workouts that require the gigantic supersets. Still, aside from a few quips, it is a good lifting book.
Profile Image for J..
171 reviews3 followers
May 18, 2010
This is the book that got me to enjoy going to the gym! It has helpful diagrams and (usually) clear explanations of tons of lifts, as well as a whole bunch of workout plans to follow, so it feels like you have a clear path and goals. The philosophy is one that makes sense, and the advice generally accords with methods I have heard and seen people get good results with. He's a decent writer and leavens the book with a little humor, too.

I've heard nothing but good things about the New Rules of Lifting for Women as well.
Profile Image for Ash Moran.
79 reviews32 followers
January 8, 2010
NRoL applies very simple principles to generate an effective strength training programme. It is based on the idea that compound exercises that work your body in the way it evolved to be used are most beneficial - so squats and deadlifts, pullups and presses etc feature heavily. Definitely the best introductory book I've seen. (Although, I slightly prefer the workouts in Built for Show: A Guy's Guide to Looking Good Enough to Hook Up)
Profile Image for Daniel.
246 reviews56 followers
April 1, 2016
When it comes to getting stronger, this one doesn't hold a candle to masterpieces like Starting Strength, but this is a good overview of a lot of important concepts and it's written in an engaging way.

It also serves a market of people who aren't necessarily after getting stronger (perhaps they just want to look strong or lose fat). I would argue that being actually strong helps with either of those goals, but that hardly negates the book itself.

An enjoyable read.
Profile Image for Steve H.
447 reviews3 followers
April 27, 2010
Easy to skim. A bit wordy and self-aggrandizing. Still, it has some good ideas for overall strengthening and fitness: don't focus on isolating muscles or groups. Instead do exercises that work the whole body and help with natural activities, like twisting, lifting, pushing, getting out of a chair when you're 90. Also, vary your workouts to exercise all of your body over time.

Didn't bother with trying the 52+ weeks of workouts.
Profile Image for Paul.
171 reviews
June 20, 2012
Picked up this book on the recommendation of a friend who has been following the program for the past year. I must say I have seen noticeable changes in his physique. Whether or not I can stay consistent with the program and see the same changes is up for debate but I am determined to try. I don't want to become the "fat dad" and gain 30 pounds while "sharing" pregnancy with my wife. This is the first step in that process!
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