The Guide to Strength Training For Women
Many women who go to the gym are all but wasting their time, sticking with the same routine for months on end, never lifting anything heavier than a dumbbell and barely even breaking out a sweat. If you want to build firm, toned muscles you have to be willing to put in the work. And it all starts with learning how to train your body properly.
Ready to start building the body you’ve always dreamed of? Follow these tips:
- Push yourself to the right level of intensity
Probably the number one mistake most people make with resistance training is not pushing themselves hard enough. This might be because they’ve heard the myth that lifting heavy weights will make you bulk up. Lifting heavier weights will make your muscles stronger and more defined, but they won’t necessarily get bigger. Whether or not your muscles actually get larger depends on your body type and largely also on your diet. Of course, if you decide you’re also going to start supplementing you’ll likely get bigger muscles, but the weights themselves won’t do it.
The other big reason why women don’t push themselves hard enough is simply because they don’t realize how hard they can push. It isn’t enough to simply feel the burn in your muscles. If you really want to get the absolute most out of your workout, when you finish your last set you should feel like your muscles absolutely could not do more than two reps. Your muscles shouldn’t just be tired at the end of a workout, they should be exhausted—and they should be a little bit tender the day afterwards, proving that you’ve worked your muscles hard enough.
- Make your own workout plan
One-size-fits-all workouts do not work. That’s why at EFM, you have a personalised fitness coach to guide you through your workouts. You can start with a workout plan somebody else gives you or by attending classes, but in the end there is no one workout plan that actually works for everyone. Our bodies are all different, which is why we thrive off of different diets, use different hair products and wear different clothes. Taking a class or buying a workout DVD gives you a framework to start with but won’t actually give you the results you want.
In addition, variety is a great addition to a workout routine – you want something that’s always
- Don’t be afraid of the big weights
If you’ve gotten used to those little pink dumbbells that means it’s time to upgrade to something bigger. The barbell, kettlebell and various strength training machines at the gym are all your friends. They might seem intimidating but you’ll adjust to using them more quickly than you think. Just go for it.
Still feeling nervous? See if your gym has a personal trainer you can consult to figure out the ideal starting weight for you and help you learn proper form.
- Use your body weight well
Your own bodyweight can be your best strength training tool. Push ups, chin ups, squats, planks and more are all powerful exercises that rely entirely on your body weight. A new exerciser can build themselves up to an impressive level of fitness using only exercises like these.
Advanced exercisers can still build entire workout routines using primarily their bodyweight and only a couple high intensity weight. There are entire books dedicated to different workout routines you can do without any exercise equipment, so pick one up and get to work!
- Remember that there are multiple ways to train strength
Strength training doesn’t have to mean dumbbells or exercise machines. There are many other ways to build your strength. Whether you’re doing bodyweight exercises, taking a yoga class or carrying your kids around the park, if you are straining your muscles you are getting a workout.
Lifting heavy weights every day is a great way to burn yourself out and risk serious injury, but doing half an hour of yoga every day on top of strength training three times a week will help you see results even faster. Going out of your way to be the one lifting heavy things around the house is another way to speed up your muscle growth. Don’t discount a single heavy object lifted. Little actions do add up.
- Get some simple home equipment for when you can’t get to the gym
Let’s face it: sooner or later there will come a day when you’re unable to get to the gym. Or a day when the weather is so terrible you don’t want to go anywhere, let alone to the gym. There might even be a string of days when you can’t go because you’re either traveling or unable to leave the house (perhaps caring for a sick child). Having a couple pieces of home gym equipment can help you get a great workout at home.
Home equipment doesn’t have to cost a fortune or take up an entire room of your house. A jump rope for your cardio and warm up, a chin up bar and an exercise mat you can do bodyweight exercises on are a great start and altogether will cost you less than $100. Add a kettlebell and a medicine ball for even better strength training (for about another $100). If you travel a lot a $20 pair of resistance bands and a $30-50 suspension training system are great companions you can use anywhere.
If you truly want to get fit there is no reason why anything other than being sick yourself (which means you have to rest) should stop you from getting a good workout.
- Eat the right foods (and the right amount)
We all understand that soda and junk food are full of empty calories that do nothing more than add to our waistline, but having a healthy diet is a lot more complicated than avoiding fast food and dessert. It’s so complicated that a lot of the science is still up for debate and findings are being overturned all the time, but there are a few general rules you can follow.
As much as we love them, carbs and dairy are harder to digest for most women and are more likely to be turned into fat. Focusing primarily on foods with high concentrations of protein—meat, fish, nuts—and vegetables(preferably a wide variety) will help you trim your waistline and build muscle more quickly.
Eating enough is also crucial to building the sexy, toned body you’ve always wanted. If you’re actively strength training there is no reason why you should restrict your diet to fewer than 1800 calories. Depending on your body type and how hard you’re training you may well need to eat significantly more than that. Your body will only build muscle if you give it enough fuel to do so.
Counting calories is a quick way to make yourself miserable. Just focus on eating the right foods and learning to know exactly when you’re full.
- Rest well, rest often
You should never have two strength training days focusing on the same muscles in a row. Either alternate between upper body and lower body workouts or do total body workouts and take entire days off in between.
On your days off make sure to actually take care of yourself. Eat properly, do some light stretching and maybe a cardio workout, soak out the soreness in your muscles in a bath. Get a massage. Your body will do better in the next workout if you actually take the time to help it heal.
Getting the body you’ve always wanted requires a serious commitment but it is possible if you are willing to put in the hours and actively change your lifestyle.