Women's Weight Training Program
This article focuses on a no-nonsense weight lifting routine specifically designed for the female weight lifter. And although this routine is designed for women, you will find it very similar to weight lifting routines used by men. Why is that you ask? Quite simply, a woman's physiology is almost identical to that of a man's physiology, with the exception of the reproductive system. However, the average female will not develop size and strength to the degree that the average male will due to genetic factors, more specifically, due to lower levels of growth and strength inducing hormones.
I would first like to address and dispel a common weight lifting misconception lurking in the minds of many women today. This is the belief that should they initiate a weight training program, their muscles will grow faster than spring flowers. Understand, a properly implemented weight lifting program will net appreciable muscle growth in a relatively short amount of time, however, considerable muscle growth making one appear overly muscle bound generally requires many years of discipline, focus and dedication.
Those of you women looking to "downsize" will be delighted to know that weight training will not only make you appear leaner, but will actually make you leaner. Let me explain. First, resistive weight lifting has a toning effect on the muscles. This toning effect is one of firming and tightening of the muscles.
This is seen with individuals who introduce abdominal exercises into their workout routines. They see decreases in their waist sizes even if their midsectional fat content remains the same. This is all thanks to the firming and tightening of the abdominal musculature. Second, weight lifting is an effective fat burning tool. A moderately intense weight training routine will moderately raise your heart rate and thus, provide you with a nice little cardiovascular workout that burns fat. This is especially true when you minimize your resting time between your sets to under 1 minute. And thirdly, since muscle requires extra calories just to have an existence in the body, the more muscles you have, the more total calories your body will need and subsequently burn at rest or play. So whether you're looking to upgrade your muscles, get lean, or just become healthier, weight lifting can get you there.
The first thing we must develop is the infrastructure to our workout routine. By this I am simply referring to the number of repetitions, sets, and exercises we are to do. We must decide how many days per week to weight train and which body parts to train together. We must evaluate the need for any dietary changes to implement and incorporate into our weight training regimen in order to maximize our workout results. We must also address a few other important issues essential for optimal success in the gym.
The number of repetitions you perform for each exercise will differ depending upon your overall goals. For example, some women wishing to maximize their strength and muscle gains will perform as few as 4-6 repetitions per set. Wow, that's pretty low! However, for those of you ladies seeking modest muscle growth and strength gains, but not seeking the Ms. Olympia title, keep your repetitions in the 8-12 range. For those ladies more concerned with "just" toning up, I suggest sticking in the 12-15 rep range.
Most experts suggest 3-4 sets per exercise as being optimum for the female weight lifter. But inquiring minds may ask... Just how did they decide on that number? Is it based on some scientific evidence? Maybe it's in the bible? Actually, this is based on something better... personal experience from hundreds of elite female weight lifters over the past 2 decades. It seems that less than 3-4 sets per exercise is not quite sufficient to most effectively spur the muscles on to new levels. More than 3-4 sets can lead to excessive muscular strain which eventually leads to muscular burn out, and ultimately to muscular injury.
To determine the amount of weight you require to most effectively perform each exercise you will simply have to experiment. Let's assume you wish to perform 8-12 reps for a given exercise. Start with a weight you feel that you can confidently and successfully perform 12 repetitions with. Then, gradually alter the amount of weight until you are able to perform 12 repetitions with the last 2 reps being demanding and somewhat difficult to perform. This will be your actual workout weight. Also, be certain to use the assistance of a spotter initially in case you misjudge the weight or your muscles have a power outage!
Your workout schedule will ultimately be determined by your own personal and occupational obligations. Most women find optimal results when working out each main body part once per week on a 3-4 day workout schedule. This allows adequate time to make up any missed workouts later on in the week. More importantly, it allows for adequate time for the muscles to properly and fully recuperate and excel. The actual days you chose for your workout regimen are not crucial. Keep in mind, with only 3-4 actual workout days in the week, it makes sense to not clump them all together. Also, as general rule of thumb, keep the order in which your body parts are worked out consistent. Meaning, if your last workout of the week consisted of the chest and biceps, keep your last workout of subsequent week chest and biceps.
The length of each workout should run 45-60 minutes. This provides adequate time to perform a thorough warm up, and effectively train one larger and one smaller body part. Each body part should take 15-25 minutes depending on the number of exercises you perform. Never train a body part for longer than 30 minutes. The above suggestions allow for optimal recovery of the muscles which is so vital for success in the gym.
A proper warm up prior to any and every weight training routine is essential to prevent needless injuries. Your muscles are too "cold" for you to grab your usual workout weights right out of the gate. First, do a few sets of basic stretches for all the major muscle groups to be worked out. The stretches should be held statically for a minimum of 30 seconds... no bouncing ladies! The stretching should take about 5 minutes. Next, for each body part to be worked out, perform 2 sets of a light weight exercise. This can be the same exercise you plan to begin your workout with. The exercise should be performed with approximately 25% of your usual workout weight and should consist of 20-25 repetitions for both sets. This is like a trip to Starbucks, but for your muscles. Your muscles and other soft tissues are now primed and ready for business.
The number of exercises that should be executed per body part is mostly determined by the size of the muscle or muscle groups. Larger muscle groups like those in the thigh will generally respond most favorably to 3-4 exercises per workout. Smaller muscles and muscle groups like the biceps muscle will best respond with only 2 exercises.
Picking choice exercises to include in your weight training regimen is extremely important. I'm not a fan of exercises that look as those they were designed from the dance moves of "Saturday Night Fever" by someone who recently experienced a 70's flashback. Women looking to gain muscular size and strength, or perhaps just tone their physique will receive maximal benefits from sticking to those very basic exercises that have been performed by female and male weight lifters for decades. The exercises contained in this month's workout are the most effective basic fundamental exercises that maximally stress those muscle fibers in a relatively neutral and natural bodily position. Now on to our workout.
Dumbbell Flat Bench Presses - 3-4 sets 8-12/12-15 reps
Dumbbell Incline Bench Presses - 3-4 sets 8-12/12-15 reps
Flat Bench Dumbbell Flys - 3-4 sets 8-12/12-15 reps
Dumbbell Standing Curls - 3-4 sets 8-12/12-15 reps
Dumbbell Preacher Curls - 3-4 sets 8-12/12-15 reps
Wide/Close Grip Cable Pull - 3-4 sets 8-12/12-15 reps
Seated Cable Rows - 3-4 sets 8-12/12-15 reps
Hyper-Extensions - 3-4 sets 8-12/12-15 reps
Caution: Individuals with a history of lower back problems are encouraged to check with their chiropractic physician prior to performing this type of exercise.
Standing Cable Pushdowns - 3-4 sets 8-12/12-15 reps
Seated Machine Pushdowns - 3-4 sets 8-12/12-15 reps
Dumbbell Seated Presses - 3-4 sets 8-12/12-15 reps
Dumbbell Side Laterals - 3-4 sets 8-12/12-15 reps
Standing Dumbbell Shrugs - 3-4 sets 8-12/12-15 reps
Squats or Leg Presses - 3-4 sets 8-12/12-15 reps
Machine Leg Extensions - 3-4 sets 8-12/12-15 reps
Machine Leg Curls - 3-4 sets 8-12/12-15 reps
Standing Calf Raises - 3-4 sets 8-12/12-15 reps
Experimenting with other exercises is fine and there are a number of other exceptional exercises available. Just be sure to choose exercises that effectively work the muscle while you maintain a safe and natural bodily position. Also, periodic weight increase are a must. This will spark new growth and size increases into those muscles and keep them from getting lazy. The idea is to gradually subject the muscles to slightly heavier weights over a period of time. And given adequate time to rest and regenerate, the muscles will be forced to grow and strengthen. You may also wish to periodically switch from dumbbell exercises to barbell exercises. This seemingly benign adjustment in your workout regimen generally results in remarkable muscular gains.