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I am really excited to share this review of The Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises with you today. I recently shared my springtime update on my health journey and one thing I mentioned was that I was starting to incorporate more strength training into my routine, since my fatigue has improved substantially. I have always preferred weight training to any other form of exercise, but about 8 months ago, I started experiencing such horrible fatigue that even doing a set of push-ups or lunges would leave my muscles so tired that I could barely walk up the stairs. So, I took a break from strength training and focused just on walking and yoga.
I am pleased to say that while I am far from optimal health, my fatigue has greatly improved. So much so that I am now incorporating some strength training into my routine 2-3 times per week. I am still cautious not to overdo it, as too much exercise can be taxing on the adrenals (and I am still working on getting my adrenals healed), but I am actually experiencing a lot more energy from the strength training now, provided that I don’t overdo it. I am excited that my muscle tone is back and continues to get better. Over the last 8 months, I lost a lot of muscle tone, which didn’t make me feel to hot! My ultimate goal is to get my health to a point where I can start doing Crossfit. I follow a lot of Paleo/Primal bloggers and many of them participate in Crossfit and I always think it looks like so much fun. Hard work, but fun. I’m definitely not at a place health-wise to tackle that now, but I’m hoping in the next year or two. I also think it would be something that my husband and I could do together. He works out at his gym 4-5 times a week with a couple of his friends, one of whom is a personal trainer, while I work out at home. It would be nice to have an activity like Crossfit that we could do together.
When it comes to strength training, I normally do a lot of body weight exercises. There is so much that you can do with just your own body weight that doesn’t require any special equipment. So, once I started feeling better, I started checking out some books from my local library to get some new exercise ideas. I just happened to stumble across this book, The Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises, and checked it out. I knew immediately that I wanted a copy of my own, so I purchased a copy from Amazon and am here to review it for you today!
Please keep in mind that I am not a personal trainer or an expert by any means, but I have been interested in and participating in strength training for many years and have had a number of sessions with personal trainers, which makes me feel confident in my skills at home. If you’ve never done any weight training before and you want to get started, spending a little money up front to work with a trainer is often a great idea. They can really help you get the fundamentals down, so that you are better prepared to avoid injury in the future. You don’t have to join a gym to do so, as there are many personal trainers out there that do 1-on-1 sessions in the comfort of your own home. Also, some trainers even offer group sessions with other beginners, which is a great way to make new friends and keep the cost down. Look on Google, ask family or friends for recommendations, or even throw it out on Facebook!
The Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises Review
I normally am not a fan of a lot of the mainstream “health” books and magazines, because much of it is still based on the “old” dietary advice of low-fat, high-carb, USDA-based “MyPlate”, etc. I am very anti-low-fat, high-carb, and believe that this old dietary advice has caused a lot of harm to many people. So, I really wasn’t expecting much in the way of nutritional guidance in this book. I really just wanted it for the exercises. That said, I was pleasantly surprised with the nutritional guidelines within the book. Do I agree with everything? No, but it was a lot more on target with my dietary style than I ever expected. The things that really stuck out to me (and that I agree with) are:
- Eat high-quality protein with every meal.
- Go ahead and eat fat (and they even list butter, coconut, heavy cream, and sour cream as healthy options!).
- Eat lots of veggies.
- Avoid foods that contain sugar and starch (i.e. pasta, bread, potatoes, sweets, etc.).
- Limit your fruit intake.
There were some things that I didn’t agree with, such as giving the OK to drink diet sodas and Crystal Light, but hey, I’d say just the fact that they told people to eat butter, coconut, and heavy cream is a MAJOR improvement over most mainstream dietary advice given today!
I recommend this book to beginners and experts alike. I think there is something in here for everyone and if you are tired of the gym, or just don’t want to spend money on a gym membership, this book will give you more than enough to get your started building and maintaining your strength. There are a total of 619 exercises shared in this book (yes, you read that number correctly – 619!), with each specific muscle group broken out into individual chapters. In addition, there are tons of pre-designed workouts that you can get started with from day one, depending on your fitness goals.
One thing that I appreciated was that they spend a lot of time going over the basics of exercise. This is especially helpful for those who may have never done much “working out”, but it was also good for me to get a refresher course. Chapter 1 discusses the importance of strength training, including all the ways that it helps your body, mind, and spirit. Chapter 2 dives into a long list of FAQs, covering pretty much any question you could think to ask. Another great feature for those who may just be starting out.
I loved how many of the exercises you can do without any special equipment. Just your body weight is often enough, however, there are lots of things around the house that you can uses for weights — gallon jugs of water, canned foods, frozen foods, big reference books, pets, etc. (just kidding on that last one.) 😉 Get creative and you’d be amazed at what you can figure out.
If you do want to invest a little money in creating your own home gym, which is what I have gradually done over the last few years, here are the items that we have. You don’t need any of these to exercise, but over the years, we have collected these items and I find that I use them all regularly. I will try to link to the ones we have, so you can get an idea of costs, should you want to invest. Our equipment is FAR from being top-of-the-line, but it works for what I need right now. Eventually, I will probably invest in higher quality equipment, but for now, I’m set. While our equipment is all “bottom of the line”, I have seen some smokin’ deals on Craigslist for exercise equipment, so that may be a good placed to start your search. Garage sales and estate sales are also good places to check out as well. For now, we have:
- A weight bench. You’ll use this for all sorts of things, more than you might expect. This is the one we have.
- A barbell set with interchangeable weights. This is the one we have.
- A set of dumbbells. I like the ones that you can load various plates on, though I just have the regular dumbbells. We have these in 5 and 10 pounds. I would like to get some heavier ones, as the 10 pounds are too light.
- A thick mat for doing floor exercises, especially if your home gym is located in an area with a hard floor. This is similar to the one we have.
- Kettlebells. These offer a lot of variety in regards to exercises you can do. These are the ones we have in 15, 25, and 35 pounds.
- Punching bag. A great way to work on coordination and get your heart rate up. This is similar to the one we have.
- Resistance bands. These are handy for both exercises and stretching. These are similar to the ones we have.
- Exercise Ball. Great for ab workouts, weight training, and stretching. Makes a nice desk chair too. You can find them online or locally. Amazon has a ton.
- Jump rope. Cheap and a great way to get the heart rate up. You can buy these almost anywhere!
The book does use cable exercises, which is something I don’t have, but may look into getting at some point in the future. The resistance bands can be used as a replacement for some of the cable exercises. Here are some pics of my little home gym. Please excuse the mess. My basement is a massive junk collector.
Now that you’ve seen my little gym, let’s talk more about the book!
Each chapter focuses on a different muscle group. The intro discusses why this muscle group is important and gives as a basic anatomy lesson about these muscles. Then, they present the exercises with great photographs and detailed instructions on how to do each exercise safely to avoid injury. They also offer lots of variations for many of the specific exercises, giving you a lot to choose from, depending on your fitness level and capability.
- Chapter 4 focuses on Chest
- Chapter 5 focuses on Back
- Chapter 6 focuses on Shoulders
- Chapter 7 focuses on Arms
- Chapter 8 focuses on Quadriceps and Calves
- Chapter 9 focuses on Glutes and Hamstrings
- Chapter 10 focuses on Core
- Chapter 11 focuses on Total Body
- Chapter 12 focuses on Warmup Exercises
I love the pre-made workouts that they provide in the book, which are presented in Chapter 13. While I do like making up my own workouts from the variety of exercises in the books, sometimes you just want someone to tell you what to do. There are a wide variety of pre-designed workouts, depending on your goals and your available time. Sometimes I will find that I don’t have a specific machine or weight that they require (i.e any of the cable exercises), so I just select a substitute from that same muscle group and do that one instead.
Some of the workouts include:
- The Wedding Workout
- The Skinny Jeans Workout
- The Prenatal Workout
- The Time Saving Couples Workout
- The Spartacus Workout
- The Best Body Weight Workout
- The Best 15-Minute Workouts
- The Hard Body Workout
- and more
My Final Thoughts
All in all, I have been very pleased with this book. It is well worth the investment and I will refer to it over and over again as I continue improving my fitness. I think it is laid out in such a way that anyone could do the exercises and workout in it, no matter their level of expertise. Tell me. Do you work out at home? What kinds of exercises do you do?