T Nation

Advice for a Female Beginners Program?


Hi guys, I'm currently teaching my sister how to lift. So far I've started her off basically the same way I did; full body workouts 3 days a week, compound lifts, add 5lb every workout. I'm super proud so far because she's taking to it very well. 3 workouts in and she's already got better squat form than most of the dudes at her local gym. We finished yesterdays lifting and she was hungry for more. I have no doubt she'll stay dedicated when I have to fly back home.

I'm mostly wondering if their are any modifications to the basic beginner formula that I should make for a girl? Different exercises, maybe higher rep ranges? She is basically doing SS without the power cleans atm. She also doesn't have any real goals other than "look hot in a bikini this summer" so I'm wondering what weights I should have her shoot for.


If this is her goal, a good nutrition plan will do more good than all the program tweaking in the world

The correct answer here is: more than last session.


You can always break you workout into three different programs. I train one body part per week except only calves and abs, they are a lot more denser then the rest.GL


You're also a 300 lb strong dude.... not a 125 lb beginning girl.

OP, what is her current height/weight? I'm assuming strength is weak.


Jason Ferruggia once recommended that female beginners should add 2 to their rep ranges, 1 to their sets and subtract 30 from their rest periods. Apart from this - don't change anything. Basics, basics, basics for now.


The greyskull LP guy also wrote how women tend to handle traditional deloads with a bit more of a mental blow and become discouraged more easily (which, of course, his program gets around w/ AMRAP work).

There's some info here,
http://tnation.T-Nation.com/free_online_forum/sports_body_training_performance_bodybuilding_beginner/workout_for_my_wifehelp , The routine I developed was kind of a mashed up version of SS, Greyskull LP, DJ's Southwood, CC's Teaching a Kid, and something else I can't remember; it was then adjusted to work around a knee injury (and readjusted thereafter), so I don't know how it applies to your situation. However, she lost 15 lbs in about 2 months while gaining on all lifts and has kept if off since then (despite trying to gain); granted, we also had a big focus on nutrition.


I like this approach. I would just throw in some weighted hip thrusts as a accessory exercise if it isn't already in her program.


Discouraging women from doing the big basic lifts, and doing them relatively heavy, is one of the worst concepts in the fitness world. Women can benefit from some moderate to higher rep work, particularly for the hamstrings and hip/knee support structures, but as a general rule, most women will adapt and progress just fine from doing any "man's" training program.

Joy Victoria wrote a killer article that you can probably pull some info from, also has a few possible routines:

Why no cleans? Sure, they're sometimes promoted as helping to build monster traps in guys, but they're still great for the entire posterior chain (low back, glutes, and hams) and are explosive (building strength and muscle). Especially if you're leaving her soon, now would be the time to teach them to her.

Like the other guys have said, simple nutrition advice will go a long way in getting bikini-ready. What are her starting stats, general fat level, etc.?

Dan John has mentioned that when a girl can do three pull-ups and squat 135x5, she "should" be on her way to an awesome physique. Those are a decent starting point. I'd also add 10-15 legit full-range push-ups on the list. They're a confidence booster, if nothing else.

I have no idea what this means.


Yep she has a fitbit so I'm gonna force her to use the calorie journal thing on their website. She says she doesn't really care what she weighs as long as she can see results so ill probably have her on a small calorie surplus.

She's already making progress session to session so I meant more long term goals to shoot for.


Hi Chris thanks for the reply man, I love your articles. I'm not planning on straying too far from what's worked for me; hard work and heavy weight, I started the thread because I've never actually trained anyone and wanted to make sure I'm on the right track. No cleans because I'm just learning to do them myself so I'm not comfortable teaching them yet.

Shes 5'9, 150 lbs, her smartscale at home puts her at 30% body fat but I don't buy that. (No way she has 40lbs of fat lol) her starting weights were:

OHP: 60 lb
Bench 75lb
Squat 95lb
Deadlift 95 lb (she probably could've done more here but she's had back issues in the past so I was conservative)

She's also doing machine assisted pullups and bodyweight back raises.


I am not a trainer, this is an N=1 observation, and YMMV for sure, but if your sister has taken to the heavy lifting and wants a little extra stuff to warm-up or cool-down, you might consider teaching her the kettlebell swing (if KB's are available) and another KB movement or two (the goblet squat, perhaps).

My GF, who was a runner/yoga-only person until we started dating, has steadily become more and more enthralled with the kettlebell and very much enjoys one or two dedicated KB workouts per week. Something about the high reps and feel of it seems to appeal to women that don't want to get "bulky" but think it will help them get "toned" - bunk terms though they are, the point stands that high-rep KB swings as a warm-up and/or finisher are a good addition for most anyone, and seem to appeal to women who think they need "cardio" mixed in with their weight sessions.


Of the few girls that I've seen start lifting, 100% of them have had a strong preference for kB training (and trap bar deadlifts for some reason) over bB or dB training.



IME, woman tend to respond better with higher rep ranges and a little more volume, especially in the lower body. But like other said, stick to the basics.


And in my n=1, my girl hated kb swings because she found them tedious, yet loved farmer's walks.