T Nation

HIIT/Circuits for Mostly Female Fitness Class


#1

Hi all,

Ok so for the last month i've been taking indoor fitness classes, Mon, Wed & Fri, with other trainers taking them for Tues & Thurs. I don't think many do all five, they just dip in and out when they can during the week, and I have a few that just do all three of mine and rest between.

I'm keen to show them that heavy weights are nothing to be feared and, as I was accused of on Wednesday, won't turn them all into Hulk Hogans. My only experience training with women is in athletics and even some of them are scared of lifting heavy.

What i'm hoping people can help me with is session ideas, exercises to include and avoid and general tips for training women. I've spent the last month looking online and gathering a lot of good information but T-Nation is the hub of female excellence and I intend to read through the training logs after this but as I don't have access to gym equipment i'm not sure how much I can use.

I'm happy to give more detail if you need it, but below i've covered the main points to consider.

Clientele: 90% women, age range 18-50+, varying from those looking to lose 5 stone to the ones who are only a few pounds away and want to 'tone' and get a flat stomach. I provide alternative exercises for those with bad knees/shoulders and it's low impact as many haven't exercised in the last five years.

Equipment: Kettlebells 4,6,8kg, Dumbbells 3,5,7kg, Steppers, Resistance Bands, Heavy Medballs (only 8kg or 10kg), Powerbag (10kg and 25kg), boxing gloves and pads.

Session: 40 mins, minus 4 mins for warm up & warm down leaves 32 mins to fit in a workout.

I've put the heavier lifting Mon & Fri and try to keep Wed aerobic and non-stop.

e.g.

Wednesday might be bodyweight intervals but 40/10 as they don't have the intensity for 20-30 secs to be effective. So I might do 8 mins of that, 16 mins of burpees, jogging on the spot, bear crawls, TGU etc. then repeat the 8 minute interval stuff.

Mon/Fri: 6 exercises, so for example Monday is going to be

  1. Lat Pulldown with a resistance band
  2. Static Weighted Lunge
  3. Renegade Rows
  4. Calf Raises
  5. Medicine Ball Floor Press
  6. Double or Single Leg Hip Raise

45 secs/15 secs work/rest (more like 40/20 if you take out time to start exercising) then maybe Wall Sit 2 x 45 secs, 3 minute ab circuit.

Oh and the classes are with up to 20 women, so I don't know if i'm taking the wrong approach and making a session that would be great to do 1 on 1, though I try to be inclusive with exercise selection and offer an easy/medium/hard version.

Main questions i'd appreciate getting an opinion on: a) Work/Rest ratio's to build muscle or burn fat, b) key exercises (e.g. squat, RDL, press, pull), I try to include heavy compound lifts c) best sessions for fat loss (they do get a paleo-style nutrition booklet to follow as well) and d) anything you think would be useful as a rule of thumb (like pulling twice as often as pressing).

Thanks for reading all that :slightly_smiling:

Fezz


#2

Hi Fezz, I’ll throw my hat in the ring and answer your questions based on my experiences.

a) Work/rest ratio: Well, every woman is different, to a certain extent. When I was on my best weight loss stint, I was doing a good mix of sprints on the elliptical and circuits that worked the major body groups (goblet squats, burpees, push ups, kettle bells, planks, etc). I was doing more high rep, medium weight range because I had the equipment to do it at home.

I still say the best way to build muscle is medium reps, medium weights mixed with low reps, high weight. I can guarantee them they won’t ‘hulk’ up. I actually dropped a couple sizes due to the change in body composition.

b) Key exercises: Your mileage may vary here. I love heavy/medium kb swings. I use a 35# kb (16kg) for single hand swings for a 10/arm x 3-5 set range and a 70# (32kg) kb for double hand 15x3-5 set range. I LOVE the way my legs feel when I do them consistently. They tone and strengthen without bulking. To be fair, I’m not eating enough to bulk. If they want a firm ass, kb swings, glute bridges, rdls and deadlifts will do wonders. If they want a great upper body, ohp, bent over rows, lat pulldowns. Flatter stomach: planks. Screw sit-ups. They’re harmful and teach the core to do something it’s not supposed to do. Yet again, this is all based on my own experience.

c) Fat loss: This is all in the kitchen. Doing some sprint cardio of some kind after the major workout will help a little, but if they’re not following a good diet, it doesn’t matter how much they work out. I’ve learned to stay away from anything with white flour in it when I’m trying to lose weight.

d) Useful tips: Try to hit the triceps more than the biceps for arm stuff. If they have strong triceps, they’ll lose the “chicken wing” look and feel a lot better about themselves. For anyone with knee pain, really watch their form. If you want to incorporate squats, get them doing goblet squats. It will force them to push their knees out and keep them in a proper position. The only other tip I have is do two hamstring exercises for each quad exercise.


#3

Thanks for the reply!

I’m really keen to get them doing KB swings but it’s causing a few of them back pain and i’m not sure of the source. I think some of them are bringing already tweaked backs into my sessions, but I found swing tutorials and I think keeping the weight really close to the body when it goes between the legs will make the difference.

I started them a few weeks ago on Waiter’s Bow with no weight just to get the feeling of hitting the posterior chain and not moving at the knee joint, and i’ve progressed it to holding a 2.5 then a 5kg plate to their torso. Next step is a proper RDL where the weight is lowered between the legs.

I finished today with 20 sec speed squats & 10 second squat hold x 4 and they were really feeling the burn.

Wednesday is 40 on 10 off, twice on each exercise then move round. It’s hard to get consistent exercises when the whole gimmick of bootcamp training is that it’s a different workout every day.

I’m a bit short of hamstring exercises, got variations of RDL, hip raise and KB swing and that’s it. I can’t see them doing GHR’s or deadlifting with good enough form for it not to be dangerous.


#4

For the back pain - what if instead of doing a kettlebell swing, you do a squat and row? I don’t know exactly what it’s called… squat and extend the arms down, then stand and pull the weight up to chest height but close to the body. I haven’t ever done it with kettlebells, but have done it with dumbbells.


#5

good looking training sessions you had.


#6

Yeh squat to upright row is in my program somewhere, but it’s more to make an upright row more difficult as the weight they can row won’t be a challenge to squat.

Today was

  1. Zercher Squat ? 8 or 6kg KB?s (one in each hand)
  2. Face Pulls - resistance bands
  3. Weighted Hip Raise ? 20kg, 15kg, 10kg plates
  4. DB Rows ? 7kg, 5kg, 3kg
  5. DB Floor Press ? 10kg, 7kg, 5kg
  6. Mini Crunch

I did 65/10 tempo, made them work on 3 seconds eccentric, 2 seconds concentric, so hitting about 12 reps on each exercise, 4x through and done. I was at a gym open day y’day and I asked the guy about squatting and he said front loaded squats are much easier for them to ‘get’, so I did a zercher/goblet squat with a KB in each hand and wrists together so it rests on the inside of their elbow.

I think much longer than 65 seconds and their attention would go, but I got in 4 x 12 of some key lifts so i’m happy, and I re-assured them that they won’t get bulky muscles and that this will promote fat loss even though they aren’t massively out of breath or sweating buckets. I counted reps and some were up around 16-20 but they were choosing their normal 45 second weights and surprised themselves by what they could lift.

I’ve been adding in planks after each session to get the correct pelvic tilt and engage the abs, had a woman on Friday doing KB swings and not feeling it at all? I got her to do a weighted hip hinge and she didn’t feel that either. I thought it could be a) she’s quite flexible, b) glutes aren’t activated or c) needs a heavier weight than an 8kg KB.

Anyone have some good beginner-intermediate finishers that they can do without compromising form too much?

I have wall sit, planks, turkish get up (til you can’t get up) and a few others, want them to leave with the feeling of lactic as that’s what they associate with burning fat.


#7

In JNLs bikini model program she says to avoid heavy oblique exercises for women, that build the waist outwards at the sides- like side bends. I don’t do them anyway.
I also built up my traps accidentally from doing farmers walks to the point where people were commenting on the beach- it is very unfeminine- so my trainer removed all direct trap work out of my program and got me to stop shrugging and they went back more normal.

I’m cutting for my first contest at the minute, and I’m doing kettlebell swings at end of weight-training session- 10 sets of 30 swings with 16kg k.bell, 30 seconds rest between intervals. Sweat-ball!! - I had back pain only on first day but my technique improved every day and now after a few weeks I have no pain but it’s still not getting any easier :slight_smile:


#8

[quote]PixieThrower wrote:
Hi Fezz, I’ll throw my hat in the ring and answer your questions based on my experiences.

c) Fat loss: This is all in the kitchen. Doing some sprint cardio of some kind after the major workout will help a little, but if they’re not following a good diet, it doesn’t matter how much they work out. I’ve learned to stay away from anything with white flour in it when I’m trying to lose weight.

d) Useful tips: Try to hit the triceps more than the biceps for arm stuff. If they have strong triceps, they’ll lose the “chicken wing” look and feel a lot better about themselves. For anyone with knee pain, really watch their form. If you want to incorporate squats, get them doing goblet squats. It will force them to push their knees out and keep them in a proper position. The only other tip I have is do two hamstring exercises for each quad exercise.[/quote]

I really liked points c and d. Point d made me smile, laugh, and nod my head.