"I've always hated running. I was the kid who would get a doctor's note saying I had 'bad knees' to excuse me from running in gym class. But then I heard about the program C25K (Couch to 5K) that is geared specifically for non-runners. The program is eight weeks, and you can do it all without a gym. The first time I ran eight minutes without stopping, I sobbed for joy. Soon enough I was running a full 5K without a problem. That was huge for me! At that point I added TurboJam DVDs to my workout routine on days that I couldn't run outside. I also started tracking my nutrition using the My Fitness Pal app. It helped me realize I actually wasn't eating enough calories! I upped my calories and kept working out at home and I ended up losing 20 pounds. My clothes fit so much better now. The funniest part is that all the running has actually helped strengthen my bad knees." —Mandy Powell, Mendon, UT
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When you strength train, your muscles are broken down, and then rebuilt over the next 24-48 hours. While your body is rebuilding those muscles, it’s recruiting more calories and energy to make the process happen (generally referred to as the ‘afterburn’ effect). What this means is that your metabolism operates at a faster level even while you’re sitting on the couch after a workout.
Hold light-to-medium-weight dumbbells at your sides, then brace your core and hinge at your hips until your torso is at about a 45-degree angle with the ground. Let your arms hang naturally with the weights. Squeeze your shoulder blades and continue bracing your core. This is the start. Keeping your shoulder blades squeezed, row the right dumbbell upwards, driving your elbow up high and pulling the dumbbell to your ribcage. Pause then return to the start. Repeat on the other side. Alternate reps on both sides until time is up. Do 3 sets.
"I started with seven or eight rounds of P90X, not to get ‘ripped’ but to stay in shape. I have also tried and loved the expansion packs, P90X2 and P90X3. I love that I can switch loads of laundry during a water break, not worry about what kind of weather is outside, and work out while my kids are home. The biggest changes I have seen are in my arms, back, legs, and stomach.” —Wendy Brown, Boise, ID
The exact duration, frequency and intensity depends on each person’s individual needs and preferences. And even more importantly, their goals. Someone interested only in muscle growth has no true need for cardio and may not do any. Someone looking to lose fat on the other hand may need cardio to create their deficit. Then again, that same person could have created their deficit through diet alone and therefore no longer needs cardio.
With that out of the way, this article is going to start with a review of the research comparing strength and muscle growth in men and women. After that, I’ll focus just on the research using participants with prior training experience, and then I’ll review the inferences we can draw from sex differences in strength sports. At the end, I’ll discuss some other sex differences and female-specific considerations beyond rates of strength gains and muscle growth.
For starters, women tend to be less acutely fatigable than men, meaning they can generally do more reps per set at a given percentage of 1RM, do more sets with a fixed number of reps at a given percentage of 1RM, or both. There are several factors underpinning this difference, but the two most important seem to be a) women tend to have a higher proportion of type I muscle fibers, which are more fatigue-resistant and b) women tend to have less muscle mass, so they don’t occlude blood vessels quite as quickly when lifting, meaning they can more efficiently deliver oxygen and clear metabolic waste products from their muscles. (However, I’ll note that this isn’t a unanimous finding).
“Absolutely ridiculous!” This is what I thought aloud while reading a popular diet book for women. It was appalling. Yogurt, cereal, coffee and a glass of juice for breakfast. Where the heck is the protein!? Sure, yogurt has some, but not enough to sustain the energy, satiation and nutrition that an active woman needs. It is time to set the record straight. We need to take these old school, fairy tale diets and trash them! Just as we burned our bras in the 60’s for equal rights, let’s burn our old diet books and get with the program—Women NEED protein!
I hope you can take something away from this article. If you’re a woman, I hope it was illuminating and empowering. If you train women, I hope it was informative. Men and women are more alike than different when it comes to training responses, but similar doesn’t mean identical. Women are not just smaller versions of men, though they should expect the same relative rate of progress a man would.
The ratio of how many calories you get from proteins, carbs, and fats is important to your body composition. The general macronutrient composition split is 40 percent carbs, 30 percent fat, and 30 percent protein, but that ratio doesn't work for everybody. For a more accurate and personal macronutrient ratio, it's a good idea to figure out your body type. An individual's body type is more than just physique; it provides crucial information on how your body responds to and processes the macronutrients.
Fast forward to now and I’m incredibly proud of where I’ve gotten in the past few years. I’m a personal trainer and group fitness instructor in NYC. I went from zero strength to being able to dead-lift over 200 pounds, doing several pullups in a row, and can clean and jerk almost my body weight. [Editor’s note: “Clean and jerk” refers to a weightlifting movement in which the barbell is pulled up to chest and shoulder height and then hoisted above the head.] I tell every woman I meet to stop being shy and get in that weight room! If you don’t know where to begin, hire someone. You will never realize what your body is truly capable of until you start picking up real weights.
If you are a woman and want to gain muscle and improve your shape and curves, then you are going to have to lift heavy weights. This means that instead doing endless reps with light weights, as the media often prescribes women to do, you need to lift some heavy weights and really challenge yourself! While performing high rep sets (15-20 reps) does have some benefit, it is not optimal to adding muscle mass.
One strength training tip: Don't forget to breathe freely when you're lifting the weight. Most people think that they're breathing when they're doing strength training exercises, but they may be holding their breath. It's important to inhale and exhale fully between each repetition. The key is to keep from straining when holding your breath. You may find it helpful to exhale during the more strenuous phase of the exercise and inhale during the less strenuous phase.
Thank you so much for explaining this in such a clear manner. I am also sick to death of most women’s negativity towards weight lifting created by their stupid beliefs which you have discussed here; The ingrained fear that lifting weights will make you bulky/manly! Lifting weights it the best thing I have ever done for my body and I could not be happier with the results I have achieved. The internet can be an excellent tool for research and source of information about training and nutrition. Sites such as yours are truly valuable and ones I turn to very often for guidance! So thanks again, it’s appreciated.
Why she switched: I decided to truly switch my focus after the summer of 2016 due to a hip injury while training for a marathon. I could perform most lifts without pain, yet couldn’t run a mile. This is when I saw a shift in my body, energy and success lifting. I entered my first powerlifting competition the winter of 2016. After the second time I competed, I ran a personal-record half-marathon the next weekend.
Hi, this program looks like a great intro to weightlifting! I do have a few questions though. I'm trying to get back into strength training after a 3+ month break. My main goals revolve around building muscle rather than losing fat. I definitely wouldn't mind shedding excess fat but I mainly want to focus on creating a more hourglass illusion with a more defined upper body and bigger, rounder glutes - would this be a good program to get started on? If so, is it better to start off eating at maintenance or a surplus? And if I want to build muscle, should I skip the optional cardio? Thanks!