T Nation

Beginner Women Training Program

This girl I know wants to start lifting, so I’m helping her out. I made her a program, and before I have her do it I’d like some of you to critique it. I think the program itself is fine, but I spend 15 - 20 hours at the gym every week so I’m used to the volume. She’s relatively new so I’m not sure if she can handle it. Here it is:

Monday - Legs
#. exercise - (sets/reps)

  1. Stiff-Legged Deadlift - (5/12)
  2. Squat - (5/10)
  3. Standing Calf Raises - (5/12)
  4. Leg Press - (5/20)

Wednesday - Upper Body (Chest, Shoulders, Arms)
#. exercise - (sets/reps)

  1. Bench Press - (5/8)
  2. Incline Bench Press - (5/8)
  3. Military Press - (5/8)

Friday - Back
#. exercise - (sets/reps)

  1. Lat. Pulldowns - (5/8)
  2. Deadlifts - (5/8)
  3. Good Mornings - (5/5)

Why stiff leg deadlifts before squats. If she is a new lifter the last thing I would want her doing is trying to squat with a fatigued lower back and hamstrings. Just my two cents.

Well from both what I’ve read and experienced, stiff-legged deads help warm up for squats. I considered using leg curls + extensions instead, but then I decided I just wanted to keep it simple and use solely compound movements. I may end up putting them after squats instead, but I don’t know. She isn’t totally new, I’m not sure exactly what she did before but she told me she does bodyweight stuff so I’m pretty sure that means little to no leg work. Bleh, I don’t know.

I think squats are great warmup for squats lol even if you have to start with body weight then move on to the bar. But that’s just me.

you think it is more important to post that she is a woman than post her goals?

There is so much literature on training for a beginner, why would you not take advice from it?

In my opinion, this program is not very good. The reps are way too high, you have ONE rowing movement compared to 3 presses, and you did not mention any method of progression at ALL.

Reed,
Yea that’s a good point lol I might end up switching it like I said.

Alexus,
Well yea she doesn’t really gave goals yet, she’s just starting out.

Chris87,
I read a lot of stuff before putting this together. The reps will only be high for the first couple of weeks to help learn the movement. Does the amount of rowing movements matter? I think the amount of back work is more important than the amount of rowing movements.

As for progression, I donr know. I’m not sure how to work progression into a program. I’ve always seen it as a play by ear thing. If youre feeling overtrained, start a deload, if you feel like you can, go up in weight.

Sorry for double post, doing this from y phone.

A few general notes on the program you listed:
Leg press 5x20 is torture (and a certain kind of boring) for an experienced lifter. I wouldn’t use it for beginners. I actually like multiple sets of 5 on leg presses, especially for beginner women. Among other things, it helps them to overcome the mental barrier of “holy shit, I’m really lifting 200 pounds.”

Your “chest, shoulder, and arm” day has zero arm work and hardly any shoulder work.

Your back day has only one exercise that primarily targets the back. Deadlifts are, as you know, such a big basic lift that they hit everything (especially in a beginner) and good mornings, while a good movement, don’t contribute much to total back growth.

Without knowing her goals, expectations, or abilities, I’d scrap this plan and print out almost any Chad Waterbury routine. Hand it to your friend and tell her “good luck, enjoy, call me with any questions.”

[quote]Peter Noto wrote:
Well yea she doesn’t really gave goals yet, she’s just starting out. [/quote]
If she doesn’t have goals or at least some idea of what she want’s to achieve, how in the world do you know how to get there?

What are her general stats - age, height, weight, general bodyfat level (not a %, but pudgy, average, athletic, lean, etc.). What’s her exercise and sports training history - is she a former college athlete or a couch potato?

EDIT: I just noticed that you said she “does bodyweight stuff.” That’s vague and could be anything from hardcore serious bodyweight moves to a Zumba core blast dvd. The more info you have on her present abilities and her goals, the better you can fine-tune an approach.

Higher reps tend to increase fatigue rather than teach technique. I’ve found slightly more sets of relatively-lower reps to be more beneficial. Since you’ll be keeping a few reps “in the tank”, it’s not like she’s diving right into super-heavy lifting anyhow.

For shoulder/elbow/upper body health and performance, it’s generally recommended to have pushing and pulling equal in volume, if not more pulling than pushing.

Honestly, if she’s just starting out, she probably will hate this program. I say this as every beginner I’ve ever helped out wants their workouts to be fun and many ladies, when first starting to lift, are self-conscious about hitting the big boy gym (i.e.: not using the stairmaster or crosstrainer).

I love that you’ve included the foundation elements: squat, deadlift, press - but there is a lot missing. I would love to provide some specific suggestions but like others have said, get her goals out of her first and then come back. At the very least, we should know if she is trying to lose 10 lbs, wants to look like the girls on Oxygen Magazine, get strong, etc. If she doesn’t know, she’s probably just trying to get in your pants. Don’t know why else anyone who ask a dude to train with them but not understand their objectives in doing so.

Thanks Chris, hell of a lot of advice in there. I’ll change the leg press to 3 sets of 10 or 5 sets of 5. I’ve got a week to finish this so I’m glad I’m getting this basic shit out of the way. Does a beginner really need any direct arm work? Everything on shoulder day hits both the shoulders and triceps. I’d honestly say it needs more chest work in there, but I feel like I would be putting in too much stuff. As for the lack of bicep work, I wasn’t sure what to do with that so I decided it wasn’t that important to add this early on.

For the back day I considered throwing in some barbell rows, but I’m not sure if she could do them even with the bar. When I tried to get my brother to start lifting, he couldn’t even deadlift the bar. I mean, he’s 13, but even so. What back work would you suggest?

I know that she generally wants to look better, but I’m not sure what exactly she’s aiming for. As for stats, here ya go:
Age - 18
Height - 5’10"
Weight ~ 110 (Not sure)
General Bodyfat Level - Low, I’d say lower to mid teens

For exercise history, once again I don’t know. She’s told me that she does bodyweight stuff at home, but that’s the extent of what I know. She hasn’t done any sports in the past few years, although I don’t know past then.

So are you saying I should add 2 or 3 sets and lower the reps of everything to 5 - 8? For the last thing you said, I think then adding barbell rows may be a good idea. It makes it pretty close to balanced, I don’t think I could add 3 rowing movements this early on. Which makes me think that I shouldn’t have 3 pressing movements either.

Alright, moving on to phoenixforce:
Yea I realize the thing about the big boy gym, which is part of the reason I’ll be with her the whole time. I’m not saying she doesn’t know her goals, I just don’t. Which sounds like a problem, but no matter her goals, she needs a base level of strength first, yes?

From reading all these posts, I’m quickly realizing that I don’t know anything about her haha

I believe that banking on being there with her every workout is setting her up for failure. The way I look at it is, she needs a program that she’ll feel just as confident nailing on her own or if you aren’t there, she just won’t work out. Know what I mean?

I would honestly consider adding more exercises per work out and putting together full body workouts, 3 times per week. Chris’ Chad Waterbury reference is a good one and the justification for my suggestion is here: http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance/totalbody_training

There are tons of body weight or lower weight exercises like alternating t-stab rotations, glute bridges, hip thrusts, single leg romanian deadlifts, assisted pull ups, single arm rows, etc. that I personally find beginners enjoy more and give them confidence without needing a spot. They also work multiple muscle groups and a ton of core, which I am assuming as a beginner, is definitely one of her goals.

[quote]phoenixforce wrote:
“stuff”[/quote]

Great points!

I’ve got a female whose been listening religiously to my nutrition rants and now she’s going “balls” in (lol) with crossfit but feels “in danger”. Cant blame her when you have a class of 25 doing O-lifts (wtf?)

She’s at least told me what she’d like to look like.

-not skinny
-muscular but still “feminine”
-Nice butt, legs, arms, she already has a boob job and good shoulder width

I told her ditch the crunches she’ll lose the curvy waist she has over time. She loves the barbell now, but cant really write a program for her if she’ll be doing this alone all the time. I told here I’ll put some thing together on the smith and cable machine.

phoenixforce:
Yea I see what you mean, but she doesn’t have a gym membership, mine just allows me to bring guests. Those are all good ideas, I think I’ll see how she likes this modified plan and act from there.

giograves:
Pretty much exactly is what you said is what she wants, at least based off what information I’ve gathered. I’ll put up the modified program in the morning.

I’ve had two girls train with me using 5/3/1 and they both loved it. I think girls should train like guys, goal dependent.

Im finding this thread interesting as I am in the process of trying to teach my gf how to train in the gym.

Can the more advanced trainers maybe make up a list of DO’S and DONT"S, when it comes to introducing a girl to the gym. Im worried that I will scare my gf away in the first session.

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panzerfaust - 100% agreed. Although it takes a little effort with some women. I’ve got a good girlfriend for example that didn’t wanna lift heavy no matter how much research I showed her that her biceps weren’t gonna get as big as her head. She’s starting to get hooked on the endorphins from lifting and I keep adding on plates. She’s floored at how feminine she still looks while getting strong as fuck.

theBird -

-Give her weight that’s challenging but gives her confidence. Working out through soreness is a learned behaviour. Chances are, she won’t be into it right off the bat so don’t kill her first time around

-Same deal with exercises. Start her with DB squats before throwing her in the cage. Teaching proper form will allow her to progress faster

-Explain the WHY behind what she’s doing. Give her articles to read. The more she understands about training, the more likely she is to make it a lifestyle

-Give her a dynamic program that is fun to do. I had a figure athlete build me a program when I was 18 and just starting out. She made me this MET hypertrophy program with 4 quadplex’s of exercises per workout with minimal rest between. I sweat my balls off and shook 90% of the time but I loved that I could cut out the treadmill, that a lot of the exercises were multifunctional, AND I was gaining huge strength. That sort of thing tends to appeal to intelligent people (i.e.: women). Nevermind I had dudes at the gym asking me to teach them a thing or two (was probably just a ploy to stare at my ass but nevertheless, huge confidence booster)

Just my two cents.

[quote]Peter Noto wrote:
Does a beginner really need any direct arm work?[/quote]
Some coaches think so, some don’t. there are cases for and against both methods, so there’s no right answer. I was more commenting on your labeling the day “Upper Body (Chest, Shoulders, Arms)” and not fully addressing those bodyparts in that workout.

[quote]Everything on shoulder day hits both the shoulders and triceps. I’d honestly say it needs more chest work in there, but I feel like I would be putting in too much stuff. As for the lack of bicep work, I wasn’t sure what to do with that so I decided it wasn’t that important to add this early on.

For the back day I considered throwing in some barbell rows, but I’m not sure if she could do them even with the bar. When I tried to get my brother to start lifting, he couldn’t even deadlift the bar. I mean, he’s 13, but even so. What back work would you suggest?

So are you saying I should add 2 or 3 sets and lower the reps of everything to 5 - 8? For the last thing you said, I think then adding barbell rows may be a good idea. It makes it pretty close to balanced, I don’t think I could add 3 rowing movements this early on. Which makes me think that I shouldn’t have 3 pressing movements either.[/quote]
The most basic full body template will have a vertical or horizontal press, a vertical or horizontal pull, and a lower body exercise in each workout. That’ll cover the push/pull issue well-enough for now. A lack of strength isn’t a problem for beginners. If the “minimum load” is still too heavy for a given exercise, either find a way to reduce the load (like the short fixed weight bars instead of the Oly bar) or find another exercise.

[quote]Age - 18
Height - 5’10"
Weight ~ 110 (Not sure)
General Bodyfat Level - Low, I’d say lower to mid teens[/quote]
For reference, a female with bodyfat in the low to mid teens is pretty defined and on her way to being ripped, like an on-stage fitness or figure competitor. It’s not at all the same as a guy at the same percentage number. At that height, weight, and leanness, she must look “skinny-ripped” (for lack of a better term). Rachel Cammon, pictured above, is 5’10" and around 140-145. When you talk with your friend about nutrition (I prefer not to use the word “diet” due to the connotations), maybe reference this pic or one like it when the subject of building lean muscle/increasing bodyweight comes up.

[quote]theBird wrote:
Can the more advanced trainers maybe make up a list of DO’S and DONT"S, when it comes to introducing a girl to the gym.[/quote]
DO: Treat beginners as essentially genderless. Yes, women athletes can generally be more prone to knee injuries, but overall, individual exercise history and injury history is more important that the presence or lack of ovaries. Also, each individual comes into training with their own misinformation. That could be a skinny kid saying he wants to keep his abs while gaining 75 pounds or it could be a girl who thinks anything heavier than 7.5 pounds will turn her into a She-Hulk. Successfully deprogramming that misinformation is a big part of being an effective trainer.

DON’T: Think that just because you’ve had a gym membership for X number of years you know dick-all about training someone else. I’ve been putting my own band-aids on since I was 12, but I don’t go around offering first aid advice. If you’re still figuring out what works for you, you’re probably not in a position to give a lot of useful advice to another beginner. If that beginner is your significant other, you’re opening a big can of worms and the frustration you can experience (from you or from them) might not be worth the trouble.

[quote]phoenixforce wrote:
… I loved that I could cut out the treadmill, that a lot of the exercises were multifunctional, AND I was gaining huge strength. That sort of thing tends to appeal to intelligent people (i.e.: some women)[/quote]
Sorry, but that had to be fixed. :wink:

The fact that Shape Magazine (a longtime advocate of stereotypical lightweight “girl workouts”) has more subscribers than either Newsweek or Rolling Stone shows that not all women are interested in ditching the treadmill and discovering the benefits of heavy lifting. Wish it were so, though.

Damn, hell of a lot of helpful stuff to respond to lol

panzerfaust:
Yea totally agree

Phoenixforce:
Lots of stuff to think about, thanks

Chris:
It’s labeled arms too because of the tricep work that comes naturally with pressing and so it can act as a template of what exercises to eventually add to it. I guess right now the label is off, but bleh, I don’t think the label is too important.

She’ll be training 3 days a week for now, so would you recommend a full body workout each day, or more so how it’s set up now, with a different bodypart on each day?

Yea I was wrong about the bodyfat % in that case. She’s probably more like 17 - 22%, semi-leanish. Maybe 8 - 12 more percent than the woman in that picture you put up.

Those dos and don’ts are super helpful, thanks for all the advice you’ve put up here man!