T Nation

Wife Is Brand New to Lifting

Hey all!

Let me start off by saying I am no means an expert to lifting at all, and have been on and off for the past 4 years or so, with no real dedication to see any true gains. I am 6’1/2", and about 165 lbs. I’ve been trying to gain some muscle size for quite some time by using the Men’s Health magazines ::ducks from tomatoes flying at head::, but recently discovered T-Nation about 2 months ago. I just finished up my last program, and will be starting on either one of Chad Waterbury’s programs or a Christian Thibaudeau program. The only supplements I have used before are a Protein shake from GNC, and a Creatine supplement.

With that being said, my Wife is now interested in working out at the gym with me, and I want to design a program beneficial to her.

She eats a decently healthy diet, but does “cheat” a lot more than I do. She will have a hershey kiss after dinner, or sneak a bite of a cake if someone brings it in to the office, but her goals are much less strict as mine. She wants to have the basic female workout “I really want to tone my arms and legs, and have abs”…I’m sure that’s what most beginning women lifters want, and that’s fine. I am trying to get her to eat more protein, and need clever ways to do that. She needs variety in her diet, and my diet “pre-marriage” consisted of a meat + veggies + salad for most meals, with snacks of nuts, cheese, and smaller pieces of meat. I’ve been on a low carb diet for a while, and she has no interest in pursuing that type of lifestyle. Her snacks will probably consist of just a single apple, which I know is a big no-no.

I’ve been reading through articles on the site for a day or two, and just not sure if I’ve found something that targets a beginner, but someone that’s main goal isn’t an actual competition.

I know in college she would wanter from machine to machine, usually aiming for 20 reps, and I doubt she struggled much with each rep.

She was extremely athletic in middle/high school, worked out some in college, and now has succumb to “real life” in the working world.

She is by no means overweight, and still relatively skinny. She is the type of women that if she gains weight, it is in hips and rear.

Her stats are 5’5", 25 years old, and 120 lbs.

Any more info that you would need to help me point her in the right direction? We will be on a M/W/F workout schedule, with T/Th/Sat cardio sessions. I also thought we would have ab workouts on T/Th/Sat either before or after cardio. Obviously I am not trying to put her on a workout plan that I will be doing, because our goals are extremely different.

I guess as lost as I am in the bodybuilding world for men, I’m 3x as lost in the bodybuilding world for women!

Thank yall for the help, and I look forward to reading the responses!

Also, this MAY be the wrong forum for this type of question, but I was a little unsure. T-Nation has the “beginner” section, but didn’t see that here. Just direct me elsewhere if I’m wrong. Thanks again!

a lot of views and no responses, so I’m guessing this is either the wrong topic, or a stupid question?

I have been reading more articles most of the day today, and it seems like a lot of the advice is for women to train almost like a man would (low-med reps, high weight, major exercies, etc)

Let’s say I used Waterbury’s Strenght Focused Mesocycle, or Total Body Trainging workouts…could the wife just do the program with me as well? Once she’s realized the gains she wants to achieve, either modify to hit some trouble areas, or just stop increasing weight/volume just to maintain?

As much as I hate to recommend a book, “The New Rules Of Lifting For Women” is worth reading. There’s a good article on this site I’m sure someone will direct you to shortly.


OK… here it goes… =)

First, YAY that you are getting your wife interested in lifting weights! Half the battle is OVER!

Looking at your schedule I think lifting 3 days a week and cardio 3 days a week sounds like a great place for you to start with her!
****(I won’t ask why YOU are doing so much cardio and eating so low carb when it sounds like you are already lean and trying to get bigger… that’s a whole 'nother Thread! =)

For your wife, since you only have her lifting three days a week, you want her to get the most “bang for her buck…” (actually we should ALL want to get the most “bang for our buck” but this is especially important for beginners to take advantage of “newbie” gains in strength/muscle growth… and also to keep her motivated!) she is not addicted to lifting yet… but she WILL BE if you get her great results!

I am a huge fan of BIG compound movements. Your wife should be squatting, deadlifting, rowing, lunging, doing pushups, pullups (assisted if necessary)… things of that nature. She should NOT focus on curling, and kickback-ing, and side bend-ing, etc…

If you want to put her on a full body split three days a week I really like picking 6 exercises (usually 3 lower, 2 upper and an ab exercise) and making 3 supersets out of them… so for example:

Squat superset with Lat Pulldown (alternate rest of 60 sec in between each exercise… squat, rest 60, pulldown, rest 60, etc)

Deadlift supersetted with a pushup (same rest protocol as above)

step-ups supersetted with a plank ab exercises for max time…

I also like the following set/rep scheme:

Monday: 4 sets of 6-8 (rest period 60-90 sec)
Wednesday: 2-3 sets of 15 (rest period 30 sec)
Friday: 3 sets of 8-12 (rest period 45-60 sec)

***ALSO PLEASE NOTE: in the above workout for Monday, I chose one QUAD dominant exercise, one HIP/HAMSTING dominant exercises and one UNILATERAL LOWER body exercise…

I also chose 1 PUSHING movement and 1 PULLING movement for upper body… if I were you, since most women have weaker upper backs and weaker hamstrings/glutes/posterior chains in general, I would err on the side of a little EXTRA hamstring/glute and back work… and a little less chest and quad work… nothing crazy… maybe 4 quad dominant lifts a week and 6 ham/hip dominant lifts a week and the same for back/chest… 6 for back, 4 for chest/shoulders

(also, try to make sure that there are relatively even amounts of both HORIZONTAL and VERTICAL upper body exercises… pushups, seated cable rows, bench press, bent over rows, etc are all HORIZONTAL while pullups, lat pulldowns, overhead presses and dips are VERTICAL…)

I would also suggest HIIT one day a week, since it sounds like she is pretty lean already
This would consist of maybe 30 seconds high intensity activity followed by 90 seconds recovery/moderate intensity activity… repeated 6-10 times

this can be done sprinting, dragging a sled, on the elliptical, on the bike, etc…I would really recommend sprinting though if she has good form… this will help to tighten up that lower body!

She should also do low intensity cardio 1-3 times a week for 20-30 minutes per session to help facilitate recovery. noting crazy… heart rate between 120 and 130 would be ideal…

Finally, make sure her workouts progress.

I like to do the following:

Week 1: do workout at planned

Week 2: try to increase weights on any exercise I can while maintaining good form.

Week 3: Use same weight as last week (more it the weight is WAY too light…) and shorten my rest periods by 10-15 seconds

Week 4: Keep weight and rest periods the same as last week and try to add 1-2 reps

Week 5: Add 1 set to every exercise, keeping all other variables the same as last week…

By this point, she should be doing the same workout as week 1, but with more weight, an extra rep or two, an extra set of each exercise, and her rest periods should be 10-15 sec shorter…

Week 6: DE-LOAD! Cut # of sets in half and reduce weight by approx. 10%…

Does this make sense or is this an info overload?

Told you I wanted to give a thoughtful response!

Hope this helps!


ALSO… this is NOT a “cut and dry” routine
… these are recommendations based on a healthy individual who wants to get into weight lifting and see good results… there are ZILLIONS of modifications that could be made to this routine to make it fit a particular individual better than it does now… Just wanted to give you an outline of a good, balanced program…

[quote]stuward wrote:
As much as I hate to recommend a book, “The New Rules Of Lifting For Women” is worth reading. There’s a good article on this site I’m sure someone will direct you to shortly.


I’d buy that book. It’ll save you a lot of headaches. It explains lifting/cardio/diet in a way that a novice can really get behind. For some reason if my female friends ask me for advice they won’t actually listen to it. Maybe they don’t want to get too big? (which they won’t, of course). If it comes from a book it’s practically gospel.

[quote]stuward wrote:
As much as I hate to recommend a book, “The New Rules Of Lifting For Women” is worth reading. There’s a good article on this site I’m sure someone will direct you to shortly.


Agree with Stu! That book is quite good for women wanting to learn more about weight training.

Also, agree with Neely… she should be around maintenance for her calories and she would prob do well on a pretty well balance macro profile… maybe 40% protein, 30% carbs, 30% fat…? I don’t really think that it is necessary to calculate this exactly for her right now… just make sure she has protein with each meal… have her consume the bulk of her starchy/fruity carbs in the first half of the day or after weight training, and have her consume protein, fibrous green veggies, and healthy fats at night…oh yeah… and give the woman a cheat meal or two!

She is better off having a planned cheat or two that she can enjoy than trying to adhere to a “no-cheat” diet where she sneaks little “cheats” throughout the whole week and then feels like a guilty failure… if she starts gaining too much fat (which I REALLY doubt) then cut back… but for now, give her some cheats! =)


Hope my first post wasn’t too overwhelming… I sometimes can’t stop typing once I start! : l

check out the recipe section for some killer recipes!

Holy Good God, Molly and Neely for the win!

I was going to type something out for you, but there’s no point now. You just had two very awesome figure competitors do the job. I would tattoo that information onto your forehead :).

Way to go vixens!

I think the program Molly wrote up for you would be great, if I was going to create a newb program it would be very similar to that. It’s a shame she’s been here over three years and has only posted 80 times, we could use more posts like that from women (and men).

Having said that, it may be overwhelming to jump into such a routine. I know she didn’t specify movements, but I got the feeling she is leaning towards compound lifts like dl’s and squats and there variations. There will also be a lot of movements to learn. Depending on the attitude of your wife, it may be better to start with something simpler. CW’s Sexy Female Training may be a better place to start.


For the record, I am not really a fan of a workout like this one, I think the one Molly outlined is infinitely better. I do however think that SFT may be a better way to introduce your wife to weightlifting, and after 8 weeks or so she should definitely move on to something more like Molly’s workout. This is something that the two of you will have to decide. It is much better to ease into things than for your wife to do it for a week or two and get discouraged.

Definitely appreciate the props Tedro and I totally get what you are saying about starting her off slowly… might be a much better idea depending on her attitude and willingness to learn… However, if she was a natural athlete in her younger days she might LOVE the challenge!
Nevertheless… I should have noted that squats should probably be with bodyweight in the beginning and push-ups may be on her knees…just help her pay close attention to form and she will keep getting stronger! Good Luck and please keep us updated on what the two of you decide!