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Can't judge an exercise book by its cover

By Vicky Hallett
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, March 1, 2011; 3:55 PM

Crack open a copy of "The Men's Health Big Book of Exercises: Four Weeks to a Leaner, Stronger, More Muscular You!" and you'll find a compilation of 619 moves designed to work every muscle in your body. If you thought you'd see anything all that different inside "The Women's Health Big Book of Exercises: Four Weeks to a Leaner, Sexier, Healthier You!" - well, you'd be wrong.

"We're all humans. We're basically the same," says Adam Campbell, the fitness director for Men's Health and author of both books. There aren't any exercises only men should be doing, or vice versa, so he saw no reason to alter the content of the books.

But he's aware of the importance of presenting information in a way that's palatable to each sex. So for a male audience, he uses such words as "define," "carve" and "build." When he switches to addressing women, it's "shape," "firm" and "tone."

Language can have a huge impact on how readers digest information, explains Women's Health Executive Editor Lesley Rotchford. "We want to speak to goals they have. A 'six-pack' isn't relatable," she says. (The flip side is also true: "You're not going to tell a guy to work out to fit into skinny jeans.") By using more female-friendly terms, the magazine is able to promote resistance exercises in a way that makes women more interested in doing them.

For the same reason, Campbell insisted on doing two books, one with images of men and the other with images of women. "Presentation matters. Seeing a woman doing a barbell squat looks very different than seeing a man doing the same thing," he says. "It's less intimidating."

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