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The Performance Life

The New Rules of Lifting for Abs: An Interview with Co-Author Lou Schuler

Lou Schuler will be the first to stress that nobody lifts for abs. They lift for core strength. Schuler, who edited the first Core Performance book while working for Rodale Books in 2003, is now co-author with Alwyn Cosgrove of his own successful book franchise, The New Rules of Lifting series. Their new book is The New Rules of Lifting for Abs (Avery), which shares some of the core (pun intended) philosophies of Mark Verstegen’s. Schuler recently discussed the new book.

Core Performance: What does lifting have to do with abs?

Lou Schuler: It has everything to do with abs. If you’re lifting heavy weights without developing your core strength first, you’ll get hurt. You will not be firing the right muscles in the right sequence and you’ll hurt something. If you don’t have proper endurance in the muscles, you won’t hold your lumbar spine in a neutral position. This is something I learned from Mark Verstegen in 2004 when we visited the Athletes’ Performance facility in Arizona and they put us through a workout and we—me and an editor at Rodale Books—really struggled. That was the first time somebody had alerted me that my glutes weren’t firing on some of the exercises and that was a real wakeup call. Everyone who lifts heavy weight has that wakeup call at some point where they realize their muscles aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing. What you guys did with Core Performance is similar to what we’ve done with this book. When people focus on these core muscles, everything else falls into place. It’s easier to lose fat, gain strength, and get the results you want if all of your muscles are working together.

CP: How important is posture?

LS: It’s huge. The human species was not designed to sit in chairs all day. Nothing about millions of years of primate evolution has lead us to sitting hunched over a laptop or thumbing out messages on a Blackberry constantly. So what happens is that we continually distort a posture for 8 to 10 hours a day, and if we’re not doing something to counteract those distortions we’re going to end up with not only a bad looking physique with rounded shoulders, we’ll end up injured because our bodies are not supposed to be in that position all day.

CP: Is it true that you need to be below 10 percent body fat to have visible abs?

LS: It depends on how the fat is distributed. I’ve always been mystified by this and that’s always been the perception. I’ve been at less than 10 percent and not had visible abs and have known people with less body fat than me and had less visible musculature. I’ve had to answer e-mails from readers who say they can’t see abs being under 10 percent. This emphasis on the amount of body fat doesn’t matter as much as where it’s distributed, which is largely genetic and I don’t know how you get around it. Abs aside, the larger point is that having a strong core is important for your health, posture, fitness and any sports pursuit you want to do. If you look good in a mirror, that’s great but it’s not really the main goal of the book.

CP: How would you describe the workout itself?

LS: A lot of readers will come to our books having read the first two and will expect a similar approach, which is you warm up for a few minutes and then go into the weight room and pound it for 45 minutes followed by some cardio work to burn off fat. This is a different approach. We start out with 10 minutes of mobility exercise because if your hip joints are not fully mobile, if your legs and shoulders are not able to move the way they’re supposed to, then the core training is superfluous because then you’re going to get the wrong muscles firing at the wrong times to make up for compromised mobility. What a lot of readers find is that in that first 10 minutes, they’re winded. They can hoist the iron for an hour, but they get winded doing 10 minutes of mobility exercises. They find they have very little endurance in those core muscles even though they think they’ve been developing strength and endurance for years.

About The Author

Pete Williams – Pete Williams is a contributing writer for CorePerformance.com and the co-author of the Core Performance book series.

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Tags: Posture, Pillar strength, Weight Loss, Abs, Torso