10 Things Women Need To Know About Lifting Weights

8 min read

Making The Most Of Your Jungle Experience

The gym can be a confusing place when you’re starting out, and it’s tempting to just dive straight into the cookie-cutter approaches. Join a class where you get to swing 10kg barbells around, stick doing a million reps on the machines, or just copy the guys who seem to know what they’re doing. Unfortunately, you’ll be signing up for months if not years of limp progress. That’s assuming your motivation doesn’t flatline after a week or two. 

There’s a much better way to go about this. Ignore all the fancy fluff exercises and head straight for the ones that matter. Get the best out of your physiology, and train with your dream shape in mind. Here are ten crucial tips for powering up from day one.

1 – It’s non-negotiable for weight loss

Women have a tough time already dropping weight. Ignoring the uses of resistance training only makes it harder. The classic option when faced with losing a few pounds is to starve yourself and run into the ground. You don’t even need to join the gym. It’s a safe strategy, and it sure will lose you some weight, and your bum along with it. Leaving you with that problem where the legs go all the way up. Not ideal. Keep the bum.

2 – You’re not losing much belly fat with cardio alone

Here’s a fact of female physiology that may sound like a dream come true. When doing aerobic exercises, women burn a greater percentage of fat than men. Perfect. But that’s not the end of the story. After women burn fat during a workout, they revert back to burning glycogen (carbs), which can then continue on for the rest of the day. Any calories you burn in 1 hour of frantic sweaty cardio is going to be dwarfed by the remaining 23 hours. 

And then there’s weight training, a form of exercise that preferentially burns off glycogen, forcing the body to use more of its fat stores during rest and recovery. For many who find weight loss a stubborn nut to crack, lifting weights comes as a must.

Don’t settle for picking one at the expense of the other. There’s no need to pick sides when there’s a deadlier concoction nearby. Check out my guide on fasted training to see how you can mix different modes together to get some magic science brewing.

3 – There’s no tone without strength

Toning, it doesn’t really mean anything. People who wield the word are probably picturing flab turning to lean muscle, fair enough. The issue is with the means of getting there, and it’s not parking yourself at the first machine you see and smashing out fifty reps before hopping over to the next seat. The biggest fight here is not catching a snooze.

To have muscle, you have to lift heavy and then heavier. Without this bold strategy, there’s no toned look, only the starting package that genetics sent you.

4 – Weights aren’t turning you bulky

Let me preface this by acknowledging that women can eventually get really, really strong and add up enough muscle to capture the bulk look. But that’s not happening anytime soon, so head on in and face the iron. Muscle building is too much of a grind to happen by accident. It’s slow and gradual. More so than for men. Fact is, there’s a lot less testosterone floating around, and without these hormones going crazy, gains are at a premium. There are exceptions, but the exceptions are most likely unattainable naturally.

There will be a couple of months before you see physical changes. Keep a mirror handy, with a good eye, and you’ll be able to avoid the masculine transformation. Chances are you’re looking to lose weight anyway. There’s no way you’re putting on size on a deficit. The world’s only getting slimmer.

5 – Don’t train like men

At the end of the day, you’re looking for different qualities in muscle symmetry. Men love big arms, huge traps, juicy quads, so on. Pretty standard stuff. Women prefer the slim and curvy look, with extra shape in the glutes. Wide hips, small waist. Generalising, but accurate for the majority. Point being, tailing the resident gym bro might not get you the killer look you’re seeking. Train the muscles you want.

6 – Ditch the bro split

Practised since time immemorial. Or fifty-odd years ago. Every Monday starts with Chest, then it’s one or two muscles per day, with the weekend freed up for your drinking problem. So you hit each muscle once in the week, which is a little slow at pushing the stress-adaptation process. It’s not even ideal for bros, let alone their counterparts. More frequency means more volume (weights X reps), leading to more gains. Women can handle even more volume, with better performance at high reps and more resistance to muscle damage. So you’re slowing yourself down by adopting the old traditions.

Better option? Up the equations. Aim for a training frequency of 2-3 per week, which has been shown to work quite well. So if that’s three training days, Monday is Whole Body. As is Wednesday. Same for Friday. Keeps the body guessing.

7 – Spot reduction’s a fat lie

I understand that most have probably worked this out by now, but there’s still too many left grinding away on the ab machines trying to be rid of the fat lying on top. Not saying ab exercises aren’t helpful, just don’t take too long.

8 – Crossfit’s not the best route

For the purpose of shape, that is. Women have superior muscular endurance, but have less explosiveness and absolute strength. A slower lifting tempo has shown better results, being able to do more reps with relative weights, compared to men.

What am I implying? Don’t go berserk with the weights, train predominantly in the 8-15 rep range. That’s you getting the best out of your muscular potential.

9 – Glutes Central

You can get a lot of mileage from training the gluteals. Granted some start off with a bit of a free pass, as the starting package can differ in size by up to five times. If your luck’s not in, then it’s time to get thrusting with vengeance. And there is so much you can do.

Kickbacks, thrusts, swings, abductions, squats, lunges, split squats. reverse hypers…there’s little excuse for getting bored. Training is best seen as a craft, a hobby. The more the variety, the deeper you reach down the rabbit hole.

Choosing more glute-dominant exercises will also reduce the potential risk of thunder thighs. The horror.

10 – Don’t rest too long

Stay off the phone. Business awaits. There’s no great need to take your foot off the gas. Women can recover faster than men. By keeping rest to about a minute between exercises, you can train with a bit of fire, and accumulate enough stress over the session to guarantee progression. Leave plateaus for the dawdlers.

Summing Up

There’s not an awful lot of difference between women and men when it comes to weight training. Lift big weight, put big weight back down, sit and ponder the meaning of existence before the next set comes along. Repeat for a lifetime for desired results. It’s a thrill-ride for all comers. But a few changes here and there will make for a more clear and confident picture. Everyone tends to start off training a little aimless, so soaking in some knowledge can save time.

Check Out The Complete Guide To A Fitness Transformation – The Apex Blueprint

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