T Nation

GF 'Wants Nice Abs'


"I want nice abs, can you ask people on that site what I should do?"

Hi, I've never dropped around these parts before. I'm looking for some advice on what kind of a program I can set my girlfriend up with.

Her goal is basically fat loss with increased muscle in her arms, shoulders and butt.

She's 29yo, 5'5, ~125, and Asian. (I.e., her body processes carbs in a completely different way than mine does.)

Right now she runs 2-5 days a week, for 2-6 miles at a time. She's been doing this for several years, so I think it's pretty worthless for anything but calming her mind. (Not that that's not important.) When I mentioned interval training to her, she seemed interested and willing to try it, so I don't think it should be too much of a challenge to get her to incorporate it.

In the past, she did pilates for awhile, and I guess she "took some weightlifting class in college". It doesn't sound like they actually really learned anything though.

Diet-wise, we eat together and shop together. The food choices are good, and nearly everything is cooked from scratch. She's not afraid of fats, and there's already plenty of vegetables.

My biggest challenge will be convincing her to eat enough protein. Additionally, she won't do any dairy unless it's whipped cream or ice cream... or cheese-its. I think it's really lactose intolerance, but she just claims "she doesn't like it".

An additional consideration, she's a pediatrician, finishing up the last few months of her residency, so her schedule is fairly inconsistent; with 30 hour shifts are the norm at least once every week or two. Sleep is pretty good most of a time, but there are those days that throw her off.

I saw the Jamie Eason LiveFit program mentioned a few times. I looked into it, but it actually doesn't seem to be a good fit. It's too structured for what she can work with with her schedule, and we don't have access to all the equipment.

Equipment-wise, I have a power rack, olympic barbells, ez bar, olympic dumbbells, dip/pullup belt, and a couple kettlebells. The apartment gym also has an adjustable cable stack, lat pulldown, treadmills, elliptical, and bike.

My thoughts were strength training revolving around:
pushups (she can only do knee pushups right now, so working up from that)
back squats
BB overhead press (maybe with the ez bar since it's lighter)
DB curls
DB kickbacks
lateral raises
lat pulldowns

For sets and reps, my instincts say:
5x5 squats
3x15-18 lat pulldowns
2x15 SLDL
work up to 3x10 pushups before adding weight or moving to bench
3x8-12 on everything else: curls, kickbacks, lateral raises, overhead press

And then do an A/B program, with

5x5 squats
3xAMRAP pushups
3x8-12 curls
3x8-12 kickbacks

5x5 squats
3x8-12 overhead press
3x8-12 lateral raises
3x15-18 lat pulldowns... (or maybe rack pulls?)
2x15 SLDL

And then cardio: 1-2 days a week of her normal 2-6 mile runs, and 2x a week of intervals (10 seconds sprint, 2-5 minutes recovery, 5 sets)

But, basically, I'm iffy on the exercise selection and the programming. I just don't know a thing about training women.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.


Wow. Awesome. That was me for many, many years. Lots of running which kept my weight down, but didn't make me look very athletic.

The nice thing about starting lifting, is almost anything she does will bring pretty dramatic change. Within the first 6 weeks, she'll see her arms come in.

Regarding beginning programming, I don't think it matters so much for the first few months. I started doing more of a full-body thing, like you have proposed. For me, it was mostly BW exercises at first. Lots of goblet squats to a box before being able to do a BB back squat, pushups, etc... :slightly_smiling: It took me awhile to learn some of the movement patterns. Your plan looks like a good way to get started. How much weight will depend on how athletic she is. I gradually moved to body part splits, and using heavier weights. I think the main things are to try to have fun with it together, and see if you can find the time to do it at least 3 days per week.

About her goal to have great abs, 1 minute planks are really good. I have a flat abdomen with vertical lines, but not enough thickness to have a six-pack, so I won't give a lot of advice. How you work abs depends a bit on her goals. They always say abs are made in the kitchen, but many women can be quite lean and NOT have the thickness to have visible abs.

I think something like 90% of Asian people have some degree of lactose intolerance. Bummer. She's likely more fine boned, and more likely to get osteoporosis, so the weight training is really important from a health standpoint. I know she's a physician, so this isn't news, but it's a good motivation.

I'll keep thinking about this one, LoRez. So many things to say. I hope she gets excited about lifting. It changed my body more in the first two months, than all those years of running every morning. Once I saw the results, I was just hooked. Plus, it's just so much fun.




I agree with puff. She's going to see results no matter what she does and there's no problem with the way you've split it up or what you have her doing. If she wants to build a great ass, get her doing kb swings and glute bridges. I find it's a great warmup. For myself, kb swings make my legs feel great. I'm using a 35# kb and it's the shear volume I do that gets it. If I'm watching tv, I'll grab it and do 3x10/arm. Boom. Just did 60 kb swings and it cost me absolutely nothing.

If she doesn't like dairy, she doesn't like dairy. No great loss. For protein, ask her what she likes. Get her a protein powder she likes the taste of. She can take that to work and grab a shake in the small amount of downtime she'd get in a 30 hour shift.

Bodyweight movements are great, too. Lunges, squats, bulgarian split squats will all help her start building strength and she can do them anywhere.

So much to say but I'll stop there. The key to the whole process is finding out which exercises she likes and structuring her program around them so she stays excited about her workouts.


Good info from the ladies so far, no surprise. If I can toss in a few thoughts:

There seem to be a bunch of "how do I train my girlfriend" threads popping up the last few weeks. Hurray, beach season, I guess. I've been mentioning this link in them, because it's totally relevant:

Check Nate Miyaki's articles. He has a bunch of fat loss nutrition info that incorporates carbs.

And you, Major Milk Mustache, still hang out with her? :wink:

I hate push-ups from the knees. Hate them. Hate them more when people actually call them "girl push-ups", but I hate them anyway.

It's much more beneficial to do them on the toes with the hands up on a bench and set the feet a bit wider if needed. Easier to eventually progress (lower the hand height), more core work because you're still maintaining a straight line from shoulders to ankles, and it helps to break that mental hurdle of "Blah, I'm just doing the easy version on the knees."

I prefer to start by treating them almost like a basic strength move, low reps for low to moderate volume (something like 3-5x4-6) until you're doing them with hands on the floor.

Especially if she's a long-time runner, knee and hip health is important. So hamstring and calf work should definitely be given dedicated attention. Other than that, the more she trains like the badass ladies around here, the better.

x2 on this.


Lol, it actually works out all right. She tends to eat as much as me during dinner -- it's often more communal style, 1 or 2 vegetable dishes and a meat dish that gets shared -- so this way we can scale the dinner portions to her, and I can use milk to get in the additional calories and protein for me.

I did have to learn how to cook without cheese and butter though. But there's plenty of flavors you can build with rice wine, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, scallions, chicken broth, etc.


Thank you all for the help. On the one hand, she just wants a routine she can follow; on the other hand, it's obviously not quite that easy.

I think I'll spend some time with her in the gyms to get an idea of what she can and can't do right now. Then spend some time with some ideas and run it by everyone for more input.


Why not write down what Jake has me doing?


And that whole thing worked fantastically judging by the midriff bearing last picture. (no creepy, at least intentionally anyway)


Thank you! No creepy taken :slightly_smiling:


Hello!! I am Korean American and about the same height and weight as your significant other and lifting weights changed my body comp quite a bit. I gained 15 pounds over about 2 years but feel much healthier and stronger (my stress tolerance and general mental health has also been much better). I also think I look much healthier and have a pretty positive body image. I started off doing much of what you mentioned in your log above as well as what the other super helpful women in this forum also suggested.

Note: My boyfriend has been training me for almost a couple of years now and it has been such a huge motivator and it's really a fun part of our relationship (so good for you being willing to go with her, assess her baseline, and support her while she figures out what works for her).

I think you mentioned something about Asians responding metabolically to carbs differently than other "groups," and I don't really know much about that. It is interesting however, to review the literature on body fat placement and how Asians tend to be built and how we like to carry our padding. This may be of interest to you/her and helpful too, maybe? Lastly, it was a HUGE struggle for me to incorporate protein into my diet. I have always done the high fruits and veggies thing but struggled to ingest enough protein - especially meat protein. Once I started reading more about the different types of protein (e.g., hematologic based versus plant proteins) and trying a few different protein powders and figuring out ways to eat meat less overtly (e.g. veggie stews with roasted chicken), I started acquiring a taste for meat and I eat a ton of eggs. I still don't have enough protein on a daily basis but try really hard to; I also found a really great S'mores protein powder mix two weeks ago and have almost had a protein shake after every workout. Best to you and to her. Exciting stuff!!