And not just the little pink dumbbells – they won’t do anything for you at all. You need to train hard and heavy; almost identical to how a man would train really.
But most women are scared to do this because they think they’ll end up looking big and bulky. But you won’t. Women don’t have anywhere near the amount of testosterone needed to build big muscles; and all those women you see posing on stage in bodybuilding competitions are taking huge doses of steroids and other growth promoting drugs. It’s simply impossible for a woman to look that way naturally.
In fact it’s extremely hard for most men to build a large amount of muscle. If it was easy there’d be a lot more 250lb muscular guys walking around.
So don’t worry about getting big and bulky and looking like a man. It won’t happen. You will build some muscle of course, but you need that to get the shapely toned body you’re after. So exactly how should a woman train to get the best results, and in what ways will this differ from how a man should train? Here’s what you need to know…
Do Full Body Workouts
When they are just starting out men make the best gains by training with full body workouts, but after a while they usually do better if they switch to an upper/lower split routine. Women however should stick with the full body workouts.
The reason for this is that women recover faster than men, so they can continue to train their entire body on a more frequent basis. Also having an upper body only day is largely a waste of time for the ladies. What girl do you know that wants to spend 45 minutes pumping up her back, shoulders and arms?
A full body workout will help a woman to build muscle, gain strength and burn fat better than any type of split routine.
Lift Heavy Weights
There’s no point using light weights for high reps to “tone” your muscles. It won’t work. Muscle “tone” comes as a result of building firm, hard muscles and burning off the fat that covers them. And you’ll do this much more effectively by lifting heavy.
The rep range you use should be slightly higher than what a man would use however. This is because women can usually do more reps with a given percentage of their one rep max than men can. Anything between 6 and 15 reps per set will work well, but for the most part it’s best to stick to the 8 – 12 rep range.
Do Big Compound Exercises
Following on from the last point about lifting heavy, that also means doing the big exercises. Smaller exercises like curls and pressdowns might be of some value to the guys, especially when they are past the beginner stage, but they are a waste of time for females.
Big compound exercises allow you to move the greatest loads, so they will give you the greatest benefits. I’m talking about exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench press, overhead press, rows, pulldowns etc.
Follow The Principle Of Progressive Overload
It’s no use doing the same workouts with the same weights week after week. That will get you nowhere. You need to continually challenge and push your body. And the best way to do that is to increase the weights you are using on your exercises as often as possible.
When you do something new your body adapts to it so that it is prepared for it next time. But if you keep doing the same thing no further adaptation occurs and you will eventually stagnate. But if you keep increasing your weights you will keep getting stronger and your body will gradually take on the shape that you desire.
Do Sufficient Volume
Because women are generally weaker than men, and therefore use lighter training loads, they recover faster and can tolerate a slightly higher training volume. That means you can benefit from doing more sets per exercise than would be optimal for a man.
Rest Only As Long As You Need To
Again, because you recover faster you don’t need to rest as long between sets as men do. For instance after a heavy set of squats most men will need at least three minutes before they’ll be able to repeat the effort. A woman on the other hand will usually be ready to go again in as little as a minute.
That’s why it doesn’t always work for guys and girls to train together. Either the man has to cut his loads right back or the girl gets bored waiting to do her next set.
An Effective Women’s Weight Training Program
So here’s a great weight training program for women that you can get started with right now. It involves training three days per week doing just three exercises per workout – a lower body exercise, an upper body push and an upper body pull. That’s all you really need to work your entire body.
You can add in a couple more exercises later on when you are more advanced if you wish. But in the early stages doing anything extra will produce little if anything in the way of additional benefits.
You’ll do a different workout on each of your three training days. This will aid your recovery between workouts and it will also help to give a more balanced and pleasing look to your figure.
The workouts are as follows…
Squats 4 x 8 – 10
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 4 x 8 – 10
Dumbbell Bent-Over Row 4 x 8 – 10
Sumo Deadlift 3 x 8 – 10
Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press 4 x 8 – 10
Neutral Grip Pulldown 4 x 8 – 10
Leg Press 3 x 10 – 12
Bench Press 4 x 8 – 10
Cable Row 4 x 8 – 10
4 x 8 – 10 = 4 sets of 8 – 10 reps
Space your workouts out over the course of the week (e.g. Monday, Wednesday and Friday) so you always have a day off after a training day.
The sets and reps listed are your working sets, i.e. those you will do with your top weight. Do two warm-up sets with lighter weights first.
Start off fairly light so you can practice your technique, and add some weight to each exercise every week until your workouts become challenging. Then only add more weight when you can do all of your sets for the top end of the specified rep range (10 in most cases).
So that’s my guide to weight training for women. Of course your diet is very important too, but that should give you a good start with your training. But if you want a complete muscle building, fat melting workout program and diet plan that’s specifically designed for women check out Bikini Body Workouts 60 Day Transformation System by Jen Ferruggia.
Photo credit: -J. Nilsson Photography,CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, via Flickr (with permission)