T Nation

Training Women

CT:

I work as a trainer (writing programs only) at a decent sized gym.

My problem is that most of the people who book in for a program are women who don’t give a f**k about getting strong, and just want to ‘lose some fat’, ‘tone up’ and/or don’t want to turn into ‘the hulk’ overnight.

The programs I’ve given to women who have followed my advice (tiny minority) have helped them with their goals, but as for most of them, they do my stuff once or twice then switch to aerobics classes and stay the same or get worse.

My question is: Do you have specific exercises that these types of women like to do, or is it just a case of giving them exercises that will work and explaining WHY they will work in a manner that helps them adhere to the program?

I only have an hour to spend with each client (once off), and (just to make matters more fun!) about 95% of them have never been in a gym before in their life.

Any help would be appreciated.

CT might be more elaborated now, but here’s a cool article he wrote on training women (if you haven’t already read this yet):

I always think women are surprised to find out that they have 10 times less Testosterone than guys do (as Thibs mentioned in the above article). So I mention that to any female I train or give advice to now.

[quote]Eric Buratty wrote:
CT might be more elaborated now, but here’s a cool article he wrote on training women (if you haven’t already read this yet):

I always think women are surprised to find out that they have 10 times less Testosterone than guys do (as Thibs mentioned in the above article). So I mention that to any female I train or give advice to now.

[/quote]

I have actually read that article before, but reading it again was useful. I already use some of those guidelines in the table in the article, although I tend towards slightly more exercises per session and stick to around three sets in most of my programs.
The point about the olympic lifts was good also, but seeing as I have one hour to spend with clients and generally can’t do any follow up, I find that even getting many people to squat in a way that won’t mess them up takes a fair chunk of time out of the session.

I’ve used the ten times less testosterone line before also, but maybe some women just aren’t convinced.

Also, seeing how there are exercises that most guys (or bros?) like because they feel manly doing them (bench press, curls etc), even if there might be better exercises for their goals, are there equivalent exercises for women? Maybe exercises that I may not feel are the most effective but at least get them to buy into the program so they can receive benefits from the other stuff?

Full-body routines are usually best for women who aren’t too familiar with resistance training but still need convinced about the positive effects of it. I’m sure you’re aware of that by now.

I recall Thibs saying he was kind of biased in using barbells more than dumbbells, but I’d still be curious to see what his opinion would be on this topic–especially since he is training his wife right now with a baby on the way…

As far as exercise substitutes (for bench press and curls and so forth), I actually do think dumbbells are a great idea for women. For some reason, females who are new to weights are afraid of exercises with the barbell (I guess it is understandable). That said, I would use the following susbtitutes:

A. Bodyweight Inverted Row (Supinated Grip) for Barbell Curls
B. Dumbbell Incline/Decline/Flat Bench Press for Barbell Bench Press
C. One-Arm Dumbbell Row (using flat bench) instead of Barbell Rows (Pronated Grip)
D. Any cable variations are also generally less “threatening” to females (whether for back (row variations with different attachments), triceps (extension variations with different attachments), biceps (variations with grip attachments))

Agree on the full-body thing. I usually stick with that because it means fewer exercises overall to learn, allows for more frequency to help learn said exercises and it’s easier to get most people in the gym 2 or 3 times a week rather than 4+.

Never really thought about the dumbbell vs barbell thing, but it makes sense.

As far as the substitute exercises go, I already use some of them, so that’s reassuring. Some of the others wouldn’t work because that would require doing them in the main weights room, which is far too full of testosterone for about 90-95% our female members. Other ones could be done with little to no modification in the aerobics room (which is mainly machines, with dumbbells to 10kg and barbells to 30kg).

Thanks for your help, should give me a few more options for next time.

My experience if that if you give her the chance and explain to her how your methods will help her reach her goals, the average woman will train harder and better than the average man.

The difficult thing is not only convincing her that lifting weights will not turn her into the hulk, but is in fact necessary to lose fat and look better.

As for specifics, I like to use the easy variations of the olympic lifts. Since they involve so many different muscle groups they wont cause a localised ‘‘pump’’… how is that a plus?

Women often associate ‘‘the pump’’ with growing big yucky muscles. If they don’t get a pump they don’t worry about the exercise making them difformed. Plus, the olympic lifts burn a lot more calories than most other lifting exercises.

I also use a lot of lunges (women need to strengthen the VMO as they are more prone to knee injuries), DB swings and deadlift variations (I present them as great glute exercises).

Short rest intervals are very effective with women who seem to thrive on those more then men.

I’ve trained my girlfriend and 2 of her friends, I’ve found that if you explain the positive aesthetic influence each exercise will have, then she will respond to them more.

IE Squats/Lunges/DL’s: Explain the effect on the posterior chain, and that thigh size will increase.
Lat/Back: Explain the V-Taper visual effect, and that lat spread will eliminate bra-lines.
DB Overhead Press: Shoulder’s wont put on much mass, and will enhance V-taper
etc…

Also explain that weight training will increase metabolism, and have a positive effect on hormonal profile and energy, whereas an equally strict aerobic regimen will probably tire them out (No-one actually enjoys cardio)

Plus, once she feels more secure about her image she will enjoy the attention she gets in the weight room.

Also, try to be complementary without over-doing it. IE Don’t be a rep-for-rep cheerleader, but definitely exaggerate the visual aspect of her gains.

Good luck,
-Dave

[quote]Christian Thibaudeau wrote:
As for specifics, I like to use the easy variations of the olympic lifts. Since they involve so many different muscle groups they wont cause a localised ‘‘pump’’… how is that a plus?

Women often associate ‘‘the pump’’ with growing big yucky muscles. If they don’t get a pump they don’t worry about the exercise making them difformed. Plus, the olympic lifts burn a lot more calories than most other lifting exercises.
[/quote]

Good point!

^^ Also, there’s a picture of Jennifer Lopez in a squat rack somewhere on the internet, can’t find it ATM, but I’m sure it will inspire your clients. Good luck
-Dave

Okay, this somewhat relates to women’s training. I was away today, coaching a client at a powerlifting meet. Her first one that that.

At 122lbs and 47 years of age, lifting raw, she deadlifted 285lbs and bench pressed 155lbs.

The 155lbs is quite a bit lower than her true max, but the head judge called a MUCH longer pause on the chest than normal… a good 3 seconds pause. Many lifters were 10-20lbs lower than their normal weight. A few actually failed to register a good lift because of that.

The 285lbs deadlift I have mixed feelings about. On one hand it is very good since she hadn’t been able to deadlift heavy for 3 weeks because of a lower back twinge from cross-country skiing, but the 285 went up SO EASILY that I wish I had her go a bit heavier.

Still, 7 for 7 (she had one more deadlift attempt because she broke some kind of record) at her first contest is amazing.

Damn, her deadlift isn’t too far off mine!

How long had she been training for powerlifting / training in total?

[quote]HotGymGuy wrote:
Damn, her deadlift isn’t too far off mine!

How long had she been training for powerlifting / training in total?[/quote]

Powerlifting for roughly 4 months. This was her first contest. She has a good training experience, but mostly split her time between lifting, cross-country skiing, biking, hiking, etc.

She could have pulled close to 300 without the slight injury.