Third, men and women may respond differently to low-load training. At this point, there’s a tremendous amount of evidence showing that low-load training (i.e. sets of 20+ reps) can build muscle just as effectively as heavier training (though just because you can build muscle effectively with low-load training, that doesn’t mean you should). However, only one of the studies comparing high-load and low-load training was done with women. It found that women training with higher loads (6-10RM loads) gained way more muscle than women training with lower loads (20-30RM loads). This stands in stark contrast to similar studies performed on men, suggesting that women may respond to normal, heavy-ish training the same way men do (mostly doing sets of 5-15 reps), but may not respond as well to low-load training.
Texas-based actress and yoga instructor Adriene Mishler brought her motto “Find What Feels Good” to YouTube and hasn’t looked back since. From her videos on weight loss, with a strange juxtaposition of calming words and sweat-inducing poses, to her practices focusing on specific ailments like anxiety and migraines, the channel runs the gamut of mind-body improvement. Further, with shorter, focused clips detailing proper form of popular poses, Mishler carefully instructs users on the basics of yoga in a safe manner. For both beginners and the seasoned yogi, we recommend doing any of her 30-day programs—the perfect way to measure progress in the practice over time.
However, since most women use workout routines comprised of little “girly” weights and super high reps, and are only interested in workouts that avoid big compound exercises, using lower reps, using free weights, and absolutely never attempt to make progressive overload happen or lift anything heavier today than they lifted 100 workouts ago… most women will never build any muscle.
These simple weight exercises are an effective method of strength training for women that have proven results. How do we know? Just take a look at the toned body of TV and radio presenter Caroline Flack, who, in addition to practising yoga, is a fan of free weight exercises. When WH found out that the Love Island presenter enlisted the help of PT Sarah Lindsay of Roar Fitness, to devise free weight workouts for her to follow, we were keen to find out exactly what free weight exercises for women she recommends. And we did.
Take this a couple of times during the rest periods of your workout to monitor your heart rate. If you don’t have a stopwatch handy, think of this as a perceived effort of 6 to 7, on that 1-10 effort scale described above. You should be breathing heavily, find some difficulty in holding a conversation (speaking just a few words or a sentence at a time), and on the verge of becoming uncomfortable.
Begin with three weight-training sessions each week, recommends Joe Dowdell, founder and co-owner of the New York City gym Peak Performance. For the greatest calorie burn, aim for total-body workouts that target your arms, abs, legs, and back, and go for moves that will zap several different muscle groups at a time—for example, squats, which call on muscles in both the front and back of your legs, as opposed to leg extensions, which isolate the quads.
We cannot stress enough how important it is to maintain strict form on all movements. This means stabilizing your body and contracting your abs so you isolate the primary intended muscles. For example, when doing a standing barbell curl, tighten your abs and do not rock or swing the weight. By tightening your abs, you stabilize your body and prevent momentum. This will also help condition your abs and save your lower back from injury.
Start lying on your back, arms and legs extended. Tighten your abs, pressing your lower back into the floor as you do so. This should lift your legs off the floor; work to keep them straight. Lift your shoulder blades off the floor as well; keep extending your arms back as you do this. Do 3 reps. During Week 7, try to maintain the hollow hold for 40 seconds, then rest for 20. During Week 8, aim for 50-second holds, then rest for 10 seconds between reps. Can’t hold that long? Hold for as long as you can, then come out of the hold and get right back into it until time’s up.
If you’ve ever skipped a workout because you’re just too sore from a previous one (hey, these videos are tough!), you’re definitely not alone. That’s why we love this easy-to-follow routine. It features exercises that stretch and strengthen your muscles simultaneously so you give your body the chance to recover—without skipping a workout altogether. That’s what we consider a win-win.
This is true and this should be the focus. Not ‘you can’t get bulky so lift’. I’m a dancer and heavy weight training ruined my lines (which I need to work). I’m fit and strong either way but I need to be more careful with how I train because looks matter to me professionally. It would be nice to hear trainers talk more about how they tailor workouts to clients needs and wishes than to make sweeping statements about women’s bodies.
Progression is the secret ingredient for every successful training program. It's the reason your body changes over time. You can't do the exact same movements using the exact same weight for weeks and weeks and weeks and expect new results. You have to constantly push yourself. Once you develop a solid base, increase the weights, increase the reps, or decrease the rest periods.
Finally, women also have to deal with the menstrual cycle (women taking hormonal contraceptives can probably ignore this paragraph). There’s some evidence that women’s response to training varies based on menstrual cycle phase. For starters, it takes women longer to recover from training during the luteal phase (last half) of the menstrual cycle. Building on that, several studies (one, two, three) show that concentrating your training during the follicular phase (first half of the cycle) can lead to larger strength gains and more muscle growth than concentrating your training during the luteal phase or evenly dispersing it across the entire month. On a more practical level, it’s probably not wise to use an extreme program like the ones used in those studies (for example, training 3-5 times per week during the follicular phase, and only once per week during the luteal phase), but it’s possible that you can increase your progress in the gym while minimizing overtraining risk by adding an extra workout or two per week during the follicular phase. For example, if you normally train three times per week, every week, you could probably keep training three times per week during the luteal phase, but increase your frequency to four or five times per week during the follicular phase. This would help you take advantage of faster recovery rates and reap the benefits of the larger strength gains and enhanced muscle growth that occur during the follicular phase.
We're going to mix it up this week! Instead of Straight Sets, you're going to complete your workout in a circuit style. This week, you'll complete 1 set of each exercise for 15 reps, then you'll immediately move on to the next movement with no rest in between. For example, on the Day 1 workout, you'll perform your first set of leg presses for 15 reps, then you'll immediately go to the goblet squat and perform 15 reps and then continue on to the next exercise with no rest in between movements. At the end of these four movements, you'll rest for one minute, then complete the circuit two more times.