Question for Patricia &T-Vixens

Hey all,

I’ve been a long time t-mag/forum reader, although I don’t post very much. Now I need help. A girl I know wants me to set up a diet for her to lose some fat. Now, she’s gorgeous (smart too!) already, and I told her that, but far be it from me to withhold my services from anyone (especially a lady). Btw, she loves running (for fun, no less. How strange.)

Anyway, here’s the problem–I need ideas for a beginning strength workout, and I really want some input from you all. I really don’t like the workout listed in “How to Build a T-Vixen”, and I don’t want to scare her off with something she’s not ready for.

Any ideas? What have you used to introduce women to strength training?

I’m no T-Vixen, but I’ve had good success introducing women to strength training with the same things you’d use to introduce men to strength training: squats, deadlifts, bench presses, bent-over rows, military presses, curls, pressdowns, and weighted crunches. Women are people with muscles that need to be trained in essentially the same way as men’s muscles.

Agree with what Chris has stated. Women should train the same as a man.

Plus, when you’re lifting the same lifts as the guys, you get more confidence. when you can squat with better form or can do pullups it sure makes you feel good. go with a few basic exercises to start and get her to learn those, for me it was kinda tricky with the big lifts to make sure i get them right. good luck!

My wife does pretty much the same things I do.

You should see the other women at the gym stare when she deads…

or box squats…

Aragorn (The King),

I train many a women where I work and I am a firm believer that they DO NOT need to train any differently than men. Introduce her to the big 3…deads, squats, bench press and incorporate as many compound movements as possible such as dips, pull-ups, BB row, push ups, etc. Its pretty neat to see men at the gym whom NEVER train their legs to walk past a 45 year old woman I am training doing squats. Also, you might want to print out the T-Vixen Roundtable Parts I and II and give them to your friend to read. I handed out so many of them where I work cause I feel that those articles really “hit the nail on the head” in terms of why women should hit the weights and eat. Gone are the days of pink dumbbell lateral raises and endless hours of cardio! Good luck my man and I will see you in December when LOTR comes out…(wink wink)

Let’s be realistic. The number of people that actually enter a gym a few times per week is low. The number of women that lift weights is very low and the number of women that train like a “man” is even lower.

I would break her in easy on something that won’t scare the hell out of her much less some of the more average men that might be watching in the gym. Now hold on to your hats folks but I’m gonna say to give her a machine workout for a while.

No. No. Not your typical circuit that is handed out to people every day in fitness centers everywhere. Not the everyday run around the gym playing around pushing one plate. Make it a challenge with real weight. A full body routine several times a week would be great to start out with and throw in some free weight movements as well. The machines will seem more familiar and less frightening. It’s also hard to screw up form on them.

Just a suggestion. Flame freely… but I’ve been there quite a few times already and you just can’t expect everyone to eat, drink, and sleep this stuff like you do.

You know, I’ve changed my tune. I don’t believe I train “like a man”. Why? Too many of the “men” I’ve seen read the paper between sets, perform smith machine squats, curl in the squat rack, gossip with their buddies much of the time; therefore only getting 6-sets of 135lb benchpresses during their “workout”.

I also know many women who are stronger and train with more intensity than many, many men. Maybe I do train “like a woman”.

I train right alongside my boyfriend (Ko). We perform the same sets, rep scheme and exercises.

I believe it’s time we stop saying things like “women are easily scared off by big weights”. Hmph, I’ve seen many men scared of big weights and scared of the thought of “bulking”. Maybe if we put aside that assumption and just treat any woman who’s interested in weight training ain’t some sort of anomaly; maybe they’d feel more comfortable stepping into the “dark” side of training.

Just a thought. Which is probably why when chicks train with me,they feel comfortable; rather don’t have any issues with lifting more. I treat it like it’s second nature (since it is second nature for me). Therefore, they begin to realize this isn’t “alien territory”.

I don’t coddle women. Neither do I coddle men in the gym. That’s every evident in my behaviour in the gym. Or even outside of the gym.

Anyways…Aragorn, sorry to digress from your original question. Let me get back on track. You can read Christian Thibaudeau’s “Fun With Women” and Chris Shugart’s “Beginner’s Blast Off Program”. That should be excellent starts. And of course, don’t forget about nutrition. Have her begin a diet log and read any/all of John Berardi’s articles. Don’t forget the “How To Look Good Nekkid” article.

Hope this helps.

The machine workout is tempting…for my six year old cousin. jk In all seriousness, while this may seem like a good idea I’ve found that people tend to adopt this as thier FINAL workout strategy. Once people find something that they like they tend to adopt it as their training strategy (this is even true of many advanced trainees). Start her with what you want to see her doing. Otherwise she’ll know no different. Build up weights over time until her intensity is where it should be.

I agree with Patricia that many men train with a complete lack of intensity so i guess the “train like a man thing doesnt work.” One thing that is nice about training women is that it doesnt take much convincing to make them put alot of effort into lower body training. Most men i train hate leg days. Just remember to emphasize to her that lifting heavy weight is good, include plenty of compound movements and it is ok to put on a few pounds of muscle because she will lose more fat that way and look better. Muscle is more dense than fat.

I don’t agree in using the machines as the core of a newbie program if you ever want them to use free weights. Even if she is only able to bench press an empty bar, that is better than a machine press. Start using those stabilizers from the very beginning or the transition will be difficult. I am currently having this problem with three women that want to train with me…it is “too hard” to use the free bar…duh!?! Once I explained why stabilizers and auxillary training was important they put forth the effort. They started to understand why the machine routine wasn’t going to get them where they wanted to be. I had to wipe the word “tone” from their vocabulary. Lean and strong were the replacements.

I don’t think you will have problems with her intensity or drive…if she likes to run for fun, she has the mental strength and drive already in place, you just have to bring it out in her.
Moving heavy weights and doing the compound moves are fun and big confidence builders for women. Watching myself do a push press for the first time was a true natural high.

Good Luck and introduce her to the forum. We need more Vixens

I agree. Machines should not play a large part of ANY beginning program. Proper technique and form in the squat, bench, and deadlift are key. The technique and skill (i.e. posture, bending at hips and not at lower back, etc.) learned in those 3 lifts will help learning the majority of the other exercises.


beefcake brings up an excellent point: just have her begin with bench, squat and deadlifts.

Sometimes we over complicate what should be so simple. A nice, beginner’s training program. By the mere fact she is a newbie, she will experience results when you just have her perform the bench, squat and deadlift.

These lifts require an awful lot of understanding in following correct form. Therefore seperate training days for each would be needed so that you don’t overwhelm any newbie with all this new information.

As she progresses, you can begin showing her all their variations. DB presses, front squats, good mornings (to assist with deadlifts), etc. You actually have a endless palette of exercises just from these three compound movement.

Ive introduced some lady friends to lifting and the best responses they recieved was from doing an Ian King routine like SS and Limping, composing of a four day split and focusing on structural balance. Like Patricia said there are many varieties of the big 3 and you could incorporate them all. Dont forget chins!

And finally, Aragorn, adding to all of the great advice you’ve received thus far, get your T-Vixen-wannabe friend to start reading the Training & Nutrition Forum. She needs to participate in the process and educate herself about training and diet. It’s an ongoing, never-ending process, I can assure you.

You can provide emotional support and guidance, but somewhere along the way she needs to take responsibility for building the body of her dreams.

I have to agree that machines are a BAAAD idea. Here’s my reason - meachines are VERY easy, even with high weight. You avoid balance and form issues with machines and can develop bad habits. It’s ok for advanced people to use machines (but why would they??) but keep the new people off of them if they are capable of lifting free weights.

It’s also a BIG slap to the ego when you try to transition from machines to free weights, every exercise drops dramaticly in poundage.

Put her on a basic free weights program, as a new person her weights will progress quickly and she’ll be happy to keep working.


I totally agree with the recommendations for core exercises. My wife was in the gym yesterday banging out several sets of weighted chins (she’s 5’2" and weighs 110) and a group of chics who saw her stopped in their tracks and their jaws dropped. My wife ended up spending about 10 minutes fielding questions about how in the hell she ever got so strong. I could have told them—I got my wife away from the pink dumbbells and into the squat rack. She’s now so strong (in all of her lifts) that even I can’t believe it. The core exercises are where it’s at.

Michelle, what exactly does the amount of weight that you’re moving have to do with intensity or performance? Unless you’re just looking to move a big number like Patricia and the gang then the point is moot. I used to work up to three plates on flat bench press but now I can’t because of my shoulders.

Now I knock out three sets of Nautilus flyes and then three sets of Nautilus decline presses and finish off with three sets of dumbbell incline presses with a weight that would have made me turn red with shame ten years ago. My chest loves it. I’m not after a big number and not very many women are either. Just my opinion once again.

Uh oh, I think I might be getting on the wrong side of this argument but here’s my two cents:

I’m a trainer at a gym, I work with a great number of people from all walks of life, ages men and women etc etc etc. . .

Now I agree that you’re better off starting with free weights, the results will be better, the carry over to day to day functional strength will be better.

That having been said many newbies I train are very scared of the gym environment. It’s unfamiliar, they don’t want to look stupid, they think everyone is judging them. Putting people on machines at first often helps them overcome their fear of the new environment by allowing them to get used to it in a nice safe way.

I do try to get people on free weights as quickly as possible (well, there are a few machines I like around here) but I’d rather that they come in and lift on machines three days a week than never come back again because it was too intimidating.

Plus many people have trouble remembering everything at first and the machines make it much easier to remember how to do the exercises properly, this allows people to have more confidence and thus helps to keep people coming back.

I don’t see anything wrong with sticking beginners on machines at first, afterall I’d rather that they get less of a benefit from coming to they gym than quit (which often happens if you throw them right into the free weights, particularly the big 7 exercises)


Exactly what I said Sturat. I’ve had the exact same experiences with the women that I’ve helped out. My idea, while not exactly hardcore enough for the forum regular, seems to work best for the average woman wanting to look better nekkid. I used to be stupid enough to tell 'em to bench, squat, and deadlift and never ever even think about looking at cheesecake ever again!! Guess what? They were gone in 6 weeks… never to return…