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Training Program for my Wife

My wife has indicated that she would like to try working out. She said she is willing to try it out for 6 months. She has never really worked out before in her life. She likes to do day hikes, and that is really about it. She is pretty overweight, and has a knee issue where she basically does not have a cavity for her patela (so it kind of floats and she dislocates it quite a bit).

I need some advice on a program for a complete novice. I was thinking of a variation on the bill starr/madcow 5x5. I am shooting for exercises that are hard to do wrong, will give a good return for the effort, low injury rate, and will transfer to her daily life (ie she will be able to tell that working out is helping her in other activities).

workout A
A1 goblet squats 5x4-6
A2 pushups 5xamrap-12(starting elevated on the bench transitioning to the ground as she gets stronger)
A3 barbell row 5x4-6

B1 leg extensions 4x8-12
B2 some core excercises (havent really decided)

Workout B
A1 Landmine Front Squats 5x4-6
A2 dumbbell military press 5x4-6
A3 RDL 5x4-6

B1 Glute Bridge 4x8-12
B2 Face Pull 4x8-12

Just note about her knee issue. Her brother has the exact same problem. The difference is that he is in pretty good shape. He told me the leg extensions has done more to stabilize his knee than anything else.

leg extensions are kind of a funny one when it comes to knee issues. On one hand people say to avoid them at all costs if you have knee problems; on the other it seems like they’re very often used to rehab knee injuries.

It’s quite the conundrum; I suppose she’ll just have to try them and see.

The routine itself is fine although I would personally do the goblet squats, rows and RDLs for much higher reps.

I would start her off with bodyweight stuff and then light dumbells.

IMO I would hold back on the 5x5 stuff for quite some time even if nowhere near failure -lifting at that level of heaviness is quite a foreign feeling to most women especially untrained ones and can often put them off

Some good ideas here…

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Both for knee issues,as a teaching tool and to put mass on the posterior chain I’d go with box squats over front landmine squats and goblet

Also I don’t see the point in doing leg extensions.3-5 sets of squats are more than enough to make her legs grow imo
She’d be way better off doing some rear delt work or some extra core work in the end of her workout imo

What I’d do is

Workout A
Box squats 3 sets x 4-6 reps adding weight each time
Incline 3 x 4-6 reps
Barbell row 3 x 4-6 reps
Facepulls 3 x failure
Core work

Workout B
Box squat with a closer stance maybe to a lower box 3 x 10-15
Dumbbell seated shoulder press 3 x 8-15
Dumbbell row 3 x 8-15
Some curls and extensions 3 sets
Some rear delt work
Core work

Also do not be too strict.If she wants to do cable rows one day,let her have it.Who cares if barbell row is a superior movement or not?Having fun is a key component to keep working out imo

Thanks for the feedback everyone.
@Yogi1 @stronkfak
just so that I understand, what is the reasoning for recommending the higher rep range for beginners?

This is actually what I am most concerned with. She really has no idea what it is like to train. I was planning on starting the first two weeks with body weight only for the squats.

Its hard not to be a nazi on the routine, but I think your right. I have to kind of let those things go for now. Ill give some thought to the box squats, they definitely fit the bill of easy to learn, and high return on the effort.

Her knee issue is a tricky one. Her brother has pretty developed VMO’s, but since they both share the same genetic issue, and he has actually gone to rehab for it, I think he probably knows whats best here. If she dislocates it, she wont be working out for a couple of days. It really swells up quite a bit.

I suggest playing around with rep ranges cause,why not?Progress can be made in a multitude of rep ranges.Mixing lower and higher rep ranges makes things more interesting

Also I get what you say on being strict,but you’ll have time for that when she really get’s hooked to lifting.2 years of lifting with a not so strict program will give her a way better body than 3 months of training with the best routine man can make

try and do a goblet squat with your 5RM and you’ll see for yourself.

Rows and RDLs just lend themselves to higher reps for whatever reason.

I read this post and decided it really doesn’t belong in BSL. It’s more a beginner and/or injury sub-forum topic. But since it’s here, I’ll give you my thoughts.

OP, I don’t know how long you’ve been training but I can tell you that you’re doing your better half a disservice if you implement some of the things you mentioned.

Based on what you stated about your wife, this program is mediocre at best - and that’s putting it gently.

For starters, there’s a reason some people respond well to leg extensions while others do not. If you want, I can go into details as to why. The short answer: TKEs (terminal leg extensions) is a MUCH safer alternative.

Doing “pushups 5xamrap” is a horrendous idea. And this is coming from me - a guy who loves the exercise and does it regularly. First, you have to teach her proper technique. Then you build up so she stops BEFORE technical failure on each set. This will keep her from not hating exercising (other than hardcore stimulus junky meatheads like us, most people tend to shy away from pain). It will also allow her to progress in a more even manner (slow and steady truly wins the race here).

There are no activation work such as clamshells to teach her to engage her glutes.

And if she doesn’t know how to properly engage her core (btw, do you?), she can easily hurt her lower back on the rows.

strongfak made a good suggestion about using box squats. In other words, you want to regress the difficulty a step or two more.

RampantB made some good points about starting off with light dbs and staying away from 5x5 (which is a fine protocol but not suited for this).

Another example is rotator cuff work. Your program doesn’t have any. If she has poor scapular mobility (and, let’s face it, most out-of-shape people do), she stands a higher risk of jacking up her shoulders doing ANY variation on ohp. Strengthen those non-glamorous muscles like the teres minor, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, etc.

There are other holes in your plan; I simply noted the most obvious ones.

To sum up, I realize you mean well. But to implement what you described on someone like your wife is irresponsible.

You can curse me all day and night, proceed with your original plan…and you might get lucky and do no harm.

Or you can do the responsible thing and have her examined in person by a PT with a proven track record working with people like your wife. Then find a legit professional trainer and construct a scalable program that starts AT THE MOST BASIC RUDIMENTARY LEVEL.

Then feel free to bounce ideas off the real lifters on this site.

Take my advice or leave it; I have nothing to lose and now my conscience is clear.

Thanks for the feedback. I would love to send her to a PT or a trainer that really knows what they are doing, but that simply is not an option. I am asking for advice because I have no idea what it is like to start from this level of inactivity.

I did plan on having her do some activation work such as poliquin step ups for her knee, and kneeling ankle squeezes for her glutes. I guess I should have included them. Also, don’t Face Pulls work the external rotators that you mention?

Fair enough. Point taken regarding not finding a good PT or trainer (there really are some lousy ones out there).

Yes, facepulls are excellent.

However, for those with poor mmc, (and most newbies fit the bill here), it can often turn into a predominantly bicep and rear delt movement.

And even if they’re taught to engage the scaps (pull them towards each other and down), I still believe it’s best to supplement with the boring but effective classics such as YTWLs. There will be a learning curve. In fact, just the weight of her extended arms might be sufficient load at first(!)

Teach her unilateral and then progress to bilateral. It also helps to gently - and I mean gently - stretch the upper traps for a good 30-45 seconds to elicit the golgi tendon reflex and down regulate so they don’t interfere with the exercise.

And have her do it in a position where her lower back is NOT hyperextended and her head is supported (again to reduce or eliminate upper traps, levator scaps in the movement).

If she says she feels it more in her delts, make slight modifications (this is where an experienced coach can help - but I get that’s not an option for you).

Teach her the proper way to do a Y and touch/tap her lower traps.

Teach her the proper way to do a T and and touch/tap her mid traps (also explain how the rhomboids are beneath).

Teach her the proper way to do a W and L and touch/tap her teres minor/infraspinatus.

Once she knows what it feels like to have these muscles engage, then integrate more complex movements such as facepulls.

Same thing with TKEs. Touch/tap her vmo so she knows what it feels like when it’s engaged.

Same with glute movements. Obviously, there won’t be an issue with you touching that.

As for goblet squats - shelve it for now. You need to REGRESS the squat pattern even more. She needs to learn proper squat pattern before holding or carrying any external weight - which, at this point, is an unnecessary and potentially dangerous variable.

Like I stated before, strongfak makes a good point re: box squats.

Hell, you can even regress it one step more and use the reverse band method to teach her the proper hip hinge, how to the align her knees with her feet, how to drive off the heel but still use the rest of the feet, how AVOID the tail tuck, how to AVOID putting her knees into valgus collapse (especially on the concentric).

And don’t forget - women have a different Q factor than men which can play a significant role in proper knee alignment.

This really scratches the surface. We didn’t even cover core exercises. And I’m not one of those people who live and die by pumping out 10+ posts per day everyday here or on any other forum. With the exception of those on the T-Nation payroll - who the fuck does that? And why?

What I’m saying is I can’t guarantee I’ll be here tomorrow or next week or next month. I visit this place sporadically - especially since the layout changed.

Therefore, my advice is to research and absorb every prehab and rehab methods out there, find the common denominators, and SLOWLY and GENTLY introduce them to your wife. See how her body responds, then make a calculated decision to keep it, modify it, or dump it.

And it’s highly important to know how and when to regress or progress any movement. When in doubt, have her perform the easier variation. Remember - slow and steady wins the race.

Also teach her the RPE method. As she becomes more fluent in interpreting the signals her body sends her, the better she’ll be at communicating to you if a certain exercise is working or not. At this stage, she WILL PROGRESS going no higher than RPE 7 (and even that might be too aggressive).

And I hinted this in my earlier post but I’ll be more specific here. Beginners such as your wife have absolutely no business going to failure. She’ll simply start grinding out ugly reps (to please her hubby), her body will go through subtle (that you may not even pick up) compensatory movement pattern shifts, and she’ll be more susceptible to injury.

It’s a paradox in that it takes MORE knowledge to correctly train a rank beginner. However, as the man of the house, it’s up to you to properly research these things and provide for your woman. My gut tells me you’re up to the task.

That was a great post. Thank you for the information.

She definitely has something resembling postural kyphosis going on. So YTWLs is probably a good place to start. I am just concerned with over whelming her with a lot of different movements.

She has expressed concerns about her diastisis as well. Yet another thing I have no experience with. I have read that drawing in your stomach (not quite a stomach vacuum, but somewhere in between) prior to bracing the abdominal, lower back, and PVC muscles is better for people with diastisis issues. Apparently, failure to draw in your stomach can actually make it worse? However, this is slightly different than how I was taught to brace my core, so this is a bit foreign for me. Also, for people with diastisis issues, seated and lying on back only exercises are preferred for core work because they put less stress on the diastisis. So things like bird dogs are out. At any rate, this is as far as my reading has taken me on it.

I was thinking of starting with 5 second isometric holds on her back for core. Just getting her used to it. Then moving to simple movements with her legs while on her back (like lifting alternating bent legs off the ground), as well as seated isometric holds. The diastisis thing is another curve ball for me.

Personally, I love complexes.

I should expand on the above to say that I love complexes for their simplicity and speed. I do them when I don’t have the time or attention span for regular sets, and occasionally at work with very light dumbbells (10#). I do the first when I’ve passed on lifting for one reason or another too many times and need to get something turned in. At work I do it because I get seriously cold, and it’s the quickest way to both warm right up and to unkink or de-stress, usually right before lunch. The alternative is to turn on my space heater and sit there with poor posture. I keep the weights under my desk. It’s not a serious workout, but I’m not looking to get sweaty, just to feel good. And it does. At home, with heavier weights, it only feels good for a few minutes. : )

I would suggest doing some reading about women’s beginner programs with an eye toward understanding how we start and what motivates us. I fear that if you try to modify your own program you’ll lose her to a combination of boredom, overwhelm, and fear.

Comfortable cardio (10-30 minutes depending on whether she enjoys it) followed by bodyweight exercises and/or complexes might get her in the gym and feeling good and successful. Adding and increasing can come once she sees progress and starts feeling more confident.

Remember that barring injury, her emotional response is going to be the real determiner of success.

The kyphosis doesn’t surprise me. Be sure to work on thoracic spine mobility. You probably already know this - but avoid foam rolling the lumbar spine.

You don’t have to overwhelm her. Just spend 15-30 minutes per day on one or two letters. Work at the pace she’s comfortable with. Eventually, she’ll be able to perform YTWLs effectively. You’re essentially teaching her a new language, so treat the process accordingly.

Diastisis?!?! That adds a whole new level of complexity.

Getting her diet in check is so obvious I didn’t mention it yesterday. But now I’m compelled to kinda beat you over the head with it.

You’re right in that the way you or I would brace for a big lift can put additional strain on her linea alba - which can definitely make things worse.

I agree that strengthening the transverse abs with vaccums should be explored. Perhaps start by having her lie down on her back, with a neutral spine.

In addition, she’ll need to learn mmc, proprioception, proper breathing patterns, rib cage to pelvis alignment, and even seemingly trivial things like how to get out of bed the correct way.

When she improves, consider progressing to sitting or standing variations on the vaccum. But it’s CRITICAL she acquires the skills listed above.

As you stated, bird dogs are out, which I think are over rated to begin with. Now add her knee issues as well as the diastisis and it makes it an easy decision to drop.

And bb rows you mentioned in your first post, or even db rows, for that matter, are out. When she’s ready, seated rows where she can place her torso against support is a better option. Watch her closely to make sure she doesn’t hyperextend at the lumbar spine to ‘pull’ the weight back. If she does lat pulldowns, watch her closely and make sure she doesn’t do a mini-crunch to finish the rep. Both these subtle shifts - which are very common - can put further stress on her condition.

Even the push up - in its easiest variation - should be avoided until things dramatically improve. Remember - when you’re a doing a correct push up, you’re simultaneously doing a variation on the front plank - which is obviously out for now (and don’t even dream about crunches in any shape or form).

Db floor press is a safer option for now. You can spot her from above and give cues regarding packing shoulders, etc. Have her do it the standard way, then add variety by doing things such as two up, one arm down, same arm up, the other arm down, etc. Several variations you can work with.

Once she learns proper glute/quad/posterior chain activation, step ups should be something you can implement. But like the facepull example I gave yesterday, she needs to SAFELY learn how to engage the muscles involved (using clamshells, TKEs, etc.) BEFORE she integrates them into a complex movement. As she advances, further unilateral work will play a key role.

Anti-rotation work, such as Pallof Presses, might be feasible down the road. But hold off for now. It’s a movement where you have know how to engage and keep tension from bottom to top.

Someone mentioned complexes. I’d hold off on that for now. As you stated, you don’t want to overwhelm her. And, going back to my learning-new-language analogy, she’s still at the stage when she’s learning basic words. She’s not ready to string together sentences. Down the road, sure, it’s an excellent proven method.

This is what I meant when you have start at the most basic level and construct a scalable program.

Going back to her diastisis, you can look up things such as the Tupler technique.

However, I’m going to stand firm by my earlier comment. By hook or crook, find a qualified specialist with a proven track record. At least discuss this possibility with your better half. She’s your wife but it’s her body.

And if you two want to proceed in that direction, ask for references (watch for shills), check backgrounds, and narrow down the possible candidates. If possible, speak to them on the phone or via email to get an overall feel. If they have a website or blog, a close reading can reveal plenty.

Learn as much about diastisis and treatment options so, on your initial visit, you can ask intelligent questions that: 1) will further your knowledge on the subject; 2) sends a subtle message that you are not to be fucked with. As long as you’re polite and tactful, no legit professional will get her panties in a knot.

And if that little voice tells you the person is a joke, thank them for their time and move on. Should you find someone you and your wife feel comfortable working with, be an active (but not meddling) participant in her treatment.

This is the course I’d take if it was my GF. But I realize your circumstances may differ.

Regardless the decision you two make, remember what I said the other day. When in doubt, go with the easier variation. Get constant feedback on any given exercise. Never go to failure or grind out ugly reps (c’mon, she’s an out of shape beginner with two significant issues). When introducing any new exercise or protocol, keep the RPE low, wait a few days, and see how her body responds before proceeding.

Re: Diastasis Recti - It’s really common. Here’s an old TN thread where I talk about my experience with it and gave some links for Postpartum Ab Rehab and Info.

Re: Postural Kyphosis / Forward Head Position/ Upper Crossed Syndrome.
This kind of thing might be a really good place to start. I’m trying to help a friend of mine with this right now.

i know a person arond 13 years old with the same problem should i suggest this same exercise and will this make the posture better :slight_smile:

Yep. I notice it in kids all the time. That video talks like this is a problem with aging. It’s really a problem with so many people who sit too much, or who spend too much time looking down at their phone playing Pokemon.

My friend who is concerned with this is just a very cerebral person who’s spent way too much time slouched over a book or computer screen. It’s going to take some persistence over time for her to change it at this point. She went to a PT about it and he wasn’t very hopeful about her being able to correct it. I think NOT TRYING is a huge mistake.