Last Updated 11th August 2016: This article is one for the ladies and one I’ve been meaning to write for quite some time. The topic is going to be on what should you do in the gym if you are a female. AKA A female workout program for the gym.
Unlike the common misconception that you should just do cardio to lose weight and weight lifting to get bigger, for girls this is even more incorrect. Lifting weights won’t make you “buff” in a few months, just as running for 10 mins on the treadmill won’t make you skinny in a few months. It depends on the individual and nutrition more than most people even imagine. In the following article I will aim to kill some of the myths on this topic and add a few of my personal recommended workout programs.
Before starting with the programmes themselves and the training styles I actually recommend. I’m going to clear up a few of the many weight lifting myths that are generally targeted at women looking to get fit / lose weight / “tone”….
Myth 1 – Lifting weights will make you “buff” or “too big”
This phrase is almost always said by the individuals who are just about to start training. Many believe that lifting some 5lb dummbells will get you “too buff”. That’s BS. Training is hard, you’re not going to get bigger than everyone in the gym just because you try hard! Doesn’t work like that! 80% of guys who go to the gym, don’t look like they do! So why do you think you would suddenly get “too buff”. The truth is, even if your training was perfect, your nutrition on point and everything else 100% optimum, you still wouldn’t build as much muscle as a guy going to the gym a couple of times a week. The reason is hormones and testosterone. I don’t want to get to much into that now, if you want more information you can check out breakingmuscle’s guide here. But just note that if you don’t take drugs and your aim is to build muscle whilst staying relatively lean, you will not get “too big” or “too buff”
Myth 2 – Cardio will give me a good body.
Cardio although important in the right amounts, is not the only element to a “good body.” You also need to define what a “good body” is to you. If you weigh 300+lbs then cardio probably is the correct option. But for the majority of people they are looking to “tone up” and “lose fat”, translating this: Reduce body fat & build muscle. There is no such thing as to tone up, it was created by the fitness magazines to pedal whatever crap they are promoting in this weeks issue.
Cardio is great for burning calories, that’s a given. But for overall body development, you want to concentrate on strength training or weight lifting and here’s why. Strength training not only builds overall strength, it also burns calories in the process, AND it also aids in muscle growth, which means you are hitting all the positive aspects when training. Mix this training with correct nutrition (which remember is the number 1 element in losing weight / building muscle anyway) and you will be extremely close to the “perfect” training plan. Below is a visual demonstration that pretty much sums up the only cardio vs strength training argument.
Myth 3 – If I run/lift a lot I can eat whatever I want
There are so many weight lifting myths that are targeted at women, but this one is probably the most dangerous. Whereas many are targeted around training, this tries to mix nutrition with training. They are 2 very different things and should be looked at individually. The routines I recommend are below, this will sort the training portion out for you. Nutrition on the other hand is more complicated, but saying you can “eat whatever you want” is absolutely crazy. Ignore any hype or BS, anything that comes close to stating something like this should be 100% ignored.
You can lose weight on pizza and burgers and you can gain weight on salads! It’s all about calories in vs calories out. The more you train the higher your daily maintenance calories becomes, but if you still exceed this, then you will put on weight. This is basic science. Don’t let some magazine tell you otherwise! The could tell you this, but then they wouldn’t be able to sell you new diets every year, once you’ve failed the old ones!
The Programmes Themselves
This section is going to be the workout programmes I specifically recommend for women. There shouldn’t be that much variance between a male or female workout program, and as such you should simply search for a programme related to your overall aims, regardless of gender. For example; If you’re primary goal is to lose weight, you should mix a strength training workout routine, with a fat burning cardio routine. And even more importantly you should concentrate on what you eat and work on reducing your calories to a level where you are a in a daily calorie deficit of between 300-1,000 calories.
Program 1 – Stronglifts 5×5 – The tagline states “the simplest workout to get stronger” and we’d have to agree. Building muscle and gaining strength go hand in hand, and as we know from my mini-rant above, building muscle is a definitive factor in “toning up.” Almost all fitness goals should include a strength training element. For more information on the program itself go to: http://stronglifts.com/5×5/
Program 2 – Wendler 531 – A linear based strength program that I love. Based on a relatively low number of “working sets” only 3 in total, Wendler is designed to have 3 “working” sets at a heavy weight and high intensity for the individual training. There are then a number of back-off sets that you can also implement, these are the same compound exercises used in the 3 working sets, but the volume is higher, usually 5 sets of 10 reps each. For more information on the program, read Jim Wendler’s article itself here.
Program 3 – More of a beginner program and designed for individuals looking to lose weight as a primary goal and “tone” or build muscle as a secondary goal. The workout is featured on Muscle and Fitness here. Although I don’t love this program as there is no mention of heavy compound movements. There is a lot of volume, and the more volume you do (and the higher the intensity) the more calories you will burn, and hence the more weight you can potentially lose.
Don’t fall into the huge amount of women workout bullsh*t that is online. If you are looking to lose weight, you simply have to be in a caloric deficit. You can do this however you like, but the most efficient way to do so is to mix a strength training program that includes a number of heavy compound movements, with a healthy amount of cardio. If you’re primary goal is to “tone” remember that word doesn’t exist apart from in the fitness magazines. “Toning” is simply losing weight to reveal your muscles…. But if you have no muscle in the first place then your primary goal needs to be building muscle, then you can go into the “toning” stage, once you have a small amount of muscle in place.
3 Great articles you should also read if you don’t yet believe me, one is by Nerd Fitness, the second is by FitnessBlog.co and the other by aworkoutroutine.com both well written and go in-depth on the amount of BS in the fitness industry for women and how you should actually train if you a lady! Thanks for reading and remember to share and comment below.