There are many myths and stories around weight training for women. Like “Women shouldn’t do deadlifts”. Or “Don’t go heavy or you’ll become bulky”. Or even “Tone up with high reps and just a little weight”.
By and large, most of this is stereotypical nonsense. And not all of it is spouted by lay people. Even trainers who should know better carry around some misconceptions about weight training for women. Here’s how women should approach weight training.
Women are protected by their hormones from accumulating large volumes of muscle mass the way men do when they heft heavy weights. No matter how often you lift weights or how hard you train or take protein supplements, as a woman you won’t develop the bulky physique of a bodybuilder.
That happens only when you take steroids and eat more calories than you burn off every day. And women bodybuilders who achieve this goal have worked specifically towards it, following a completely different workout plan than typical weight training that most women are interested in.
Going the fat burning route with lighter weights is not great as weight training for women. Muscle tone depends on the density of your muscles. When they are dense, they look hard and firm. Lifting heavier weights causes a hypertrophy of muscle cells, leading to denser mass. On the other hand, lighter weights with more reps leads to fluid collection in your muscles which give you a pumped look.
That’s why lifting heavier loads for fewer reps will have you looking strong without bulking up massively. The myth that has been faithfully reproduced across generations that lifting lighter loads is better for women is rooted in the inherent belief that women are fragile and can’t handle anything harder or heavier. That’s ridiculous. There are some women who can handle workouts many men would struggle with.
So forget light workouts. To get a hard body, lift heavy. Deadlifts and squats are better than isolated body part exercises. Multi-joint exercises involving compound movements bring confidence and greater strength.
There isn’t a set weight that will make you hard and strong. What matters is choosing weights that are heavy – for you. As you grow stronger, this will change. If you can lift a weight at 3 to 6 reps comfortably without sacrificing form, it’s ideal to start with.
The single sensible difference in weight training for women is to aim for higher reps than men because of their lower ability to recruit muscle units during exercise. So where men would do 1 to 5 reps, women should aim for 3 to 6 in every set.
So now that you’re convinced that the best weight training for women involves heavy training involving multi-joint compound movements, what are the best routines and workouts to follow? Let’s talk about exercises that you can benefit from.
Before going further, you must understand that to enjoy the greatest advantages from weight training, you will have to do those lifts, and do them correctly following proper form. Some of these lifts will not be easy, especially when you’re getting started. But don’t give up. After all, if weight training were easy and effortless, everyone would have a hard, toned body!
The best exercises for building muscle and getting a hard, lean, sexy body are:
1. Barbell Squats
2. Barbell Deadlifts
3. Chin Ups
4. Bench Dips
5. Dumbbell Shoulder Presses
6. Sit Ups
7. Incline Dumbbell Presses
8. Calf Presses
Work these into a routine. Perform the first exercise and then rest for a minute before beginning the next. Go back and forth between the first 2 exercises until you’ve done the target number of sets. Then move on to the next two workouts.
You are better off with short and frequent exercise sessions. Longer workouts tend to leave you exhausted and reluctant to continue. If you lose motivation, you won’t stick with it long enough to see results. When you leave the gym, you should feel refreshed and energized, not worn out and longing to just rest and relax for the remainder of your day.
Stick with this routine for 4 weeks. Once you reach a point where you can comfortably handle 5 reps for 6 sets each, you can increase the weights by 2 to 4 kilograms. Never try to overdo things when you raise your weights. That can lead to injury and soreness. Work your way slowly into the higher load and let your muscles grow used to the heavier weights.
Typically you will start seeing results from your workouts within 6 to 8 weeks. By combining this with an aerobic or cardiovascular routine involving walking or jogging, and stick with your weight training for 3 to 5 sessions a week, you can sustain that lean, hard, sexy look forever.
For a more comprehensive and detailed program about fat loss and staying slim, take a look at Shaun Hadsall’s “14 Day Rapid Fat Loss” here. Jason Ferruggia has an excellent program on gaining muscle which can also be of help. Take a look at it here.