The female body is a complex and well-oiled machine. There is no lack of information out there, and it always comes with its fair share of stupidities. Woman tend to listen to what the long and lean mannequins have to say about being in shape whaen it is the most smoke and mirrors business there is. If only they knew what most are willing to do to be thin like they are. Thin don’t actually mean healthy. You can be skinny and fat, which turns out to be the same as big boned, complete nonsense in a health perspective. Then there’s the thin yogi’s claiming that all you need is yoga to improve your health and fitness which would be like looking at the world through a straw. I say that if your workout is named after a celebrity, throw that in the garbage.
And let’s not get started on the outdated and somewhat over the top nutritional advice for her. Eat too much protein and you’ll bulk up like a bodybuilder. Eat carbs and you’ll look like a cupcake.
So in order to clear some of the many contradicting information and stupid theories out there, here are some of the most common questions on strength, conditioning and nutrition for her.
1. Won’t I get bulky if I increase my weights too much?
First and foremost, no one ever, in the whole history of weight lifting, never EVER, gained mass over night. In fact, girls, because of one single hormone, you probably guessed, TESTOSTERONE, which you only have a small amount and the number one reason why you can’t gain lean muscle mass as fast as guys do.
Your fear of bulking is also holding back results. You basically go at 50% of your max for fear of gaining ‘’too much muscles’’, which means that you are only training at 50% of what you should do to have results.
Ok so let’s say you actually want to gain muscles.
Do you really think that the only thing you have to use is weights to gain muscles? In reality, you need to put the body into the perfect anabolic conditions in order to do so. Let’s define perfect anabolic (muscle building) conditions. Proper nutrition, meaning the required amount of calories, specifically protein for mass building, which should represent a minimum of 1gr per pound of weight. You have to be sleeping a minimum of 7-8 hours per night, EVERY NIGHT, who’s crazy enough to do that ?(lucky bastards). Are you still with us? You might also have to go to the gym a minimum of 4 to 5 times a week, constantly for 12 to 15 weeks without fail. Put all these conditions together, and you increase your chances of gaining muscle. I didn’t even talk gut issues, genetics and supplements, which will have a major influence on your end results.
Still think you will bulk up by doing heavier weights?
2. How much weight should I use?
Where to begin? First and foremost, it’s not because your friend is using 15 pounds on the flat DB press that you’ll have to use the same weight. Strength is very different from one another, so thinking that lifting weights should have a certain ratio from you and the others is really cutting yourself short on results. If you want to know if you are using the correct weight on any exercises, given that the technique is optimal, you have to look at the repetitions. If your workout says 10 reps, you have to use a weight that you could only be able to use for 10, or maybe 11 reps. If you can do more than 10, you could probably use more weight.
3. Will Gaining muscle make me lose my flexibility?
Actually, respecting the full range of motion of any exercises will help you keep and also improve flexibility of the joints involved[i].
4. Should I do Yoga to make sure I maintain my flexibility?
Depends on how much time you have on your hands. If you do both, good on you. However, if you had to choose one, I would always lead my clients toward strength training. Strength training will always have the upper hands when it comes to fat loss and gaining strength obviously. Another reason would be osteoporosis. As woman age, bone density decrease in the inactive population so woman should stay active to keep their bone mineral density. There is only one way to increase bone density, resistance training.
5. I have been lifting weights for years but haven’t seen any results.
Can you define results? Did you define precise goals when you started? It’s easy to just workout to be in shape because you know, round is a shape. Trying to get in shape is not a goal. Losing 15 pounds is a goal. Losing 5 % of bodyfat is an even more precise goal. Lowering your cholesterol is a very precise goal.
What was your starting physical condition when you started? Did you do blood test? Did you measure your body composition? You can only know where you are going on a GPS if he can identify where you are starting from. Makes sense right?
You have done all that? Then blame the process. Are you doing the same plan for the last few years? No wonder why you see no results. The more you do an activity, the better you become at it, spending less energy doing so. Have you written down your plan or you are just going to the gym? Most people go to the gym, only a few really train. Don’t shoot the messenger. I’ve seen my share of gym goers for the last 25 years. Which leads me to my next point.
6. How hard should I hit the gym?
The biggest problem nowadays is those stupid ‘’beast mode’’ or ‘’you can’t call it a workout if you don’t throw up’’ mentality. I’m more of a Kaizen principle kind of guy. When applied in training, we can use this principle while having performance in mind, small improvement at each workout. That being said, small improvements in each workout lead to big results. The goal is to progress with gradual increases. Too often, we see trainees increase loads by 10 lbs, only to do the same load in subsequent workouts.
If you increase by lighter loads, the intensity will not seem impossible to overcome. If you increase the load by 5 lbs on a given lift for each of your workouts, after 4 weeks, you will have increased by 20lbs. Mathematics is simple. Sometimes, even 5 lbs will seem too high, so use the 2.5 lbs or even the barbell clips could serve as increments. They weigh on average 0.5lbs, so a total of 1lbs per set gives 5 lbs at the end of the workout, and after 4 weeks … I think you can do the math yourself.
You don’t have to leave the gym on all fours. All you need is slow but steady progress.
7. Are group classes any good?
I think that for beginners, it can create a good base of conditioning while creating the new habit of regularly attending the classes. Problem is that the exercises are mostly bodyweight or very lightweight bars and free weights. Like cardio, group classes are subject to one common law, the law of diminishing return. The more you do, the better you become. Increasing the resistance is often impossible, so results fade because the body accommodates. They are great for increasing metabolic demands, especially when you pair them up.
For our athletes, we like to do sport specific modified strongman training. Our regular clients jump in as well. We build the session around the perfect blend of strength, power, agility while pushing the boundaries of strength endurance. We use exercises where you can safely increase resistance while we are there to make sure you are using the optimal technique. We bring in the techniques and exercises to improve all these abilities required for sports, but who says you need to be an athlete to do it? We often organize the workout according to the group of people we have for the classes, beginners, advanced or a mix of both. A good coach will know how to work his way around.
8. Which exercises should I focus on?
Do we agree that free weights are tougher than machines? So then you must agree that if you devote more time to working out with free weights and barbells, you will maximize your results. I see so many girls wasting so much time and getting nowhere with their results with abductor/adductor machine, kick backs, etc. Nothing will replace the metabolic demands of deadlifts, benchpress, pull ups and squats and split squats. Build your workouts around these exercises and all their varieties and you’ll see results much quicker.
9. I actually want to build muscles, what type of training should I do?
Depending on your goals, losing weight or gaining lean mass, you will obviously have to hit the gym more often, that’s how hypertrophy works. I rather train more often with shorter workouts. For mass gains, I would rather use big compound exercises, which will involve major muscle groups. My favorite is the german volume workout, which in fewer than 45 minutes gets the job done. 10 sets of 10 reps of compound exercises such as the benchpress, pull ups, squats or deadlifts will bring more results than fixed machines resistance training. Don’t forget success leaves clues. You can have a look at successful fitness or figure athletes and look at their routine and nutrition.
10. I only want to work on my butt, which exercises should I focus on?
If your main reason is to lose fat in that area, I’m sorry to say that fat doesn’t contract so doing all the butt exercises available out there won’t do crap for your butt, except maybe make it bigger since you’ll probably build more muscle in that area without burning the fat over it. Nutrition is at least 75% of your results if you want to lose fat so consider this very carefully.
If it’s to build muscle in that area and like I have said previously, choosing the right exercise is a must. Only focusing on the glutes will make the whole leg look weird. What makes the glutes look perfect is also the hamstring and the quads. Again, focusing on the big lifts such as the squats and deadlifts will have much better results than the abductor, butt kickback machine or the hip trust. And please, no you don’t gain muscle fast on the quads. The fault is often on technique. Failing to go all the way down on the squats will put way more emphasis on the quads than on the glutes. Even better yet, for structural balance purposes, do a few months of step ups and splits squats by following this progression of hamstring and glute/quads. The following list is in order of progression, from the easiest to the toughest. Mix and match to get a few months of progression.
|Front step up low
|Hip extension foot on floor unilateral
|DB Front foot split squats low step
|Hip extension on swiss ball
|DB front foot split squat flat
|Hip extension and curl swiss ball
|Barbell split squats low
|step Swiss ball leg curl bilateral
|Lying leg curl
[i] Morton SK, Whitehead JR, Brinkert RH, Caine DJ. Resistance training vs. static
stretching: effects on flexibility and strength. J Strength Cond Res. 2011
Dec;25(12):3391-8. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31821624aa. PubMed PMID: 21969080.