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Question for the Female Lifters


Yeah, yeah... I could post this in the "Powerful Women" forum, but that would mean that I have to leave the safety of "Over 35".

Having prodded my wife a bit, it has become apparent that she a) wants a little size (specifically butt and shoulders) and b) wants to get stronger (so she doesn't feel like a "wussy").

Will be 35 in May.
5'3" and just over 130# (don't tell her I posted that)...part of that weight is extra skin, left over from the 190# weight loss. Yes, you read that right.
She has zero resistance training history. She worked out with me a couple of times when she was at 128# and ended up hurting her shoulder. That was far too thin for her.

I have had her on a 3x10 program for the past week, to help ease her into lifting and get her body used to doing it. I gave her 2 full body workouts that alternated, 3 days a week.

Workout 1
Lat Pulls
E-Z Curls
RDL or Deadlift

Workout 2
Seated DB Press
Seated Rows
E-Z Curls

Given her wants, I was thinking of moving her to slightly higher weights, with 3-4 sets and 5-8 reps. Before committing to that, however, I thought that I would draw on the experience of those here and see what you think might be a good starting program for her.

I don't want to get too gung ho, but, given that she has never done this before, I don't want to short change her potential newbie growth.

Thoughts? Suggestions?

Edit: Gents, this does not mean that you shouldn't chime in. I have no doubt that some of you have been with/around females starting this journey.


I started with Rippetoe's "Starting Strength". Can't go wrong with a basic 5 x 5.


5 x 5 is good. But something along the lines of 3 x 10 or 3 x 8 is perhaps more common for beginners.

If you can afford it, getting a good personal trainer can be the way to go for a period of time. The key is to find a good trainer. That's how I started with weights at the age of 40. I had a great trainer who tested my 1 RM in squat and bench the first day I trained with him. Of course, at the time I didn't know why he was doing what he was doing.

A 190-lb. weight loss is amazing. Simply incredible.


Question Strick what does she want to do? Any goals other than body comp? She work out at gym or at home?


Thanks, Yo Momma and Snap. I considered 5x5, since that is partially what I have gone to. And we might very well end up there. My big concerns with her are to keep it fun, until she really gets into it and not to "overload" her. I am concerned that 5x5 might overdo it, for now :slightly_smiling:

I also thought about testing her maxes. Given her previous injury, when jumping into it the 1st time, I thought a couple of weeks to get her in the groove, and her body used to weights would be good.

Both programs are good and I think she will use both at different times.

Snap, she is stuck with me as a trainer :slightly_smiling: She won't go to a gym. She is not that invested...or comfortable.

DJHT, her goals are vague. She wants an ass, where there is none. A little overall shape as well. The newly discovered theme (thank you kpsnap, kimba and Ouroboro) is to get stronger, so that she doesn't feel, in comparison, so weak.
She will be working out at home, with me.

And to emphasize why I worry about pushing, or guiding, too hard too fast, if I quit lifting tomorrow, she would quit right along with me. Unfortunately, despite her wants, she is not invested enough to do it without me...for now.


Stick, if what she REALLY wants is an ass (and, who wouldn't?) then I suggest every workout include at least one thing especially for the ass-al area. I'll admit, I train in part for this same reason and it always motivates me and makes me happy to do a hard work set just for this goal.

RDLs, pull-throughs, barbell glute bridges/barbell hip thrusts, glute-ham raises, step-ups.....there is lots from which to choose. Show your lady the way to a perky butt and she will train with you FOREVER!



Just do it with her then you both have a great ass to grab on to. :slight_smile:

I am growing mine, I suffer like every white man of noassatall.


I started out on 3x10, made decent progress, and got addicted to getting stronger.

Initially started with weights that were probably too light - but took a couple weeks to figure what weight I could use to get at least 8 reps on the last set. When I could do the 3x10 without feeling like I couldn't possibly do any more, I'd put the weight up. Putting the weight up was something that I celebrated.

Maybe it wasn't the best way to get stronger... Seeing how fast I was progressing in my log gave me a sense of accomplishment, though. Found internal motivation.


I agree to take it easy and make sure she has fun. Remember, you're not just training muscle, you're putting loads on the ligaments, bones, tendons. An injury now is sure to kill the program.


Thanks all!

Kimba, thanks for the list. A couple of good ones in there that hadn't even crossed my mind. She has done RDLs and did Deads for the 1st time ever, tonight. We are on our way!

DJHT, I kind of like her ass the way it is. Firmer and fuller is definitely not a step back, though.

Alexus, thanks. I think, for the time being, on the non-ME exercises, we are shooting for about 8 reps. I am trying for her not to get below 6 reps. We will see. I foresee mixing it up though, and the 10s will be revisited. Glad to hear that it has worked well for you. When I was younger, in the 19th century, 3x10 canon. And I agree. Once she starts seeing progress, the endeavor will become self perpetuating.

Cav, you are spot on. I have been worried about her getting near maximal weights. So I have been a form nazi. Since we have baselines now, we can steer clear of max for a while and just work on bumping it.


I think your planned start sounds good. Keep it fun and light for now. If you aren't bitten by the strength bug then it will be to much too fast and seem like just another fun suck. Let her experiment and see what she enjoys doing. You will be a great trainer for her. Unless she has immense luck, she won't get anyone that could teach what you can teach.

If it's mostly for aesthetic reasons no doubt she'll discover before long how good you can look when you lift. I grew an ass. Previously it looked like someone had smacked me in the butt with a shovel. I have more energy. I feel like I'm more alive and more physically present. My skin is much nicer too. I think general exercise will give you most of those benefits except, perhaps the ass.

I will be a bonus if she's bitten by the iron bug like you. In addition, it's just fun to train together. BB and I do it and it's a great time to talk about whatever, have a laugh and shoot the shit.

FWIW, after I did machines for a year and got completely bored, I started 5x5. It was good but I never really knew what I was doing. I had to teach myself and I'm a shitty teacher :slight_smile:



Thank you. She and I do work well together. That is where much of the fun lies, for us. And, while not a professional trainer, I do have some experience. More importantly, though, after nearly 12 years, I know my wife...where I can push, what motivates her and what will kill it instantly.

And it really has become an "us" time. She was often in there with me anyway. She likes watching me lift and really likes seeing the elation when I hit a PR. (Well, as much as I show elation.) Now we get to share it.

Of course, every time she breaks out into a sweat, she gripes...playfully. She doesn't like sweating. And, no, she is not a girly girl by any stretch. She did say that she enjoys using her body in a new way. AND, she accidentally told me she was having fun. Now she's done for :slight_smile:

One problem we have is setting goals. She doesn't want any, because of an insane fear of failure. She has always been one of those that would rather not try than risk failing. One thing at a time, though.


I really hope she can get past her fear of failure. Once I stopped worrying about failing or looking foolish, I did a lot more than I ever thought I could. Of course I've failed but I've had awesome success I'd never have had otherwise.

I have a young girl on the high school team that I help coach that seems to be like that. She never seems to try hard because it's easier to fail when you're not trying than to fail when you're trying your hardest. Sadly, she'll never succeed that way either and I've about reached the end of my patience.


"Looking foolish", that is her other concern. Though, I am not sure why. She shows no signs of retreating, though.

And I agree. You can not succeed without risking failure. And while fails may suck, much can be gleaned from them, in terms of correction and motivation.
I think, in the end, success is accomplished by never accepting failure, not by never experiencing it.


Be careful not to mix it up too soon (unless she feels that she is getting bored). So long as she is getting stronger on a program (the weights are going up regularly) why change things?

I think 8-12 reps is common for beginners (first 2-3 months) because it represents a middle ground between muscular strength, endurance, and hypertrophy. It isn't ideal for any of those goals but it is a stimulus that results in progress towards all of those goals. She has time down the track to decide which (if any) of those she wants to focus on.

Since she is new to weight training just starting to do it represents an adaptive stimulus. 8-12 reps does induce muscular hypertrophy in beginners at least so she will start to notice her glutes / shoulders etc firming up.

If one of her goals is getting stronger then every time the weights go up that is success towards her goal. Something to be celebrated. Short term goals can be as achievable as 'one day I will lift 2.5kg more than I could before for that set / rep scheme on that exercise'. Longer term... After a while of that I got curious about strength standards (by bodyweight). While I do feel achievement every time the weight goes up I take particular pride in new bodyweight benchmarks (one third bodyweight, half bodyweight, 1x bodyweight, maybe 2x bodyweight one day mwah haha)...

It is good that she has you as a role model for achievement in new PR's. Hopefully you can help her learn to take pride in her own. The good thing about little goals (seeing the weight go up) is that you get to experience it frequently. Can help give you confidence with respect to having more ambitious / longer term goals.



We are definitely going to settle on a rep range for a while. One of the benefits to being brand new to this is that anything is going to yield progress, even if not "optimal". One of the interesting dliemnas so far is that, with the weight she is using, adding 5-10# can have a profound impact on the number of reps she is gettng.

For instance, on curls, she was getting 10 reps with multiple in the tank. We added 5# and she was barely getting them...and not on every set. With the machine work (seated rows, lat pulls and tricep pushdowns), the plates are 10#. So she goes from sets of 10, with reps to spare, to sets of 8-6. We are mainly looking at the intensity she is using and adjusting weights, with what we ahve to work with. But we are are holding to the main scheme.

We have set a couple of really short term goals for her. So she will be able to hit them soon and not only see progress in the weights used by chalk up some victories/milestones. The mid to long term goals scare her, though. So I am keeping them to myself...until they can be declared short term.

And confidence and achievement are big for everyone. They are enormous for her, though. When we got together, 12 years ago, she was the most submissive, passive, devoid of self esteem person that I had ever met (long, troubling story). It took years, but we have been able to reverse a lot of that. Obviously not completely. I think this will help, though.

Thanks again for the insight.