I’m not a personal trainer, physiotherapist or anything like that. Still people ask me from time to time how women (also men but that’s irrelevant) should train when they go to the gym.
I tend to answer: Like men; with barbells, dumbells, bodyweight exercises but most important of all they have to ditch the machines and the threadmill (at least to some degree).
Her take on how women should train is quite similar to mine although she doesn’t think women should do as we (the males) do. Because we’re idiots (that’s my words). We tend to overdo everything we do when we work out (too much weight, bad form, an odd focus on the chest and biceps, reduced range of motion and so forth) which is bad.
The saying should go like this instead: women should train like athletes.
So girls, what should you do? Do the exercises that give you the most “bang for your bank” as Nia says (Charles Poliquin is also a big fan of this phrase). These exercises include squats, deadlifts, chin ups, some kind of press and some kind of rows. Which is the same exercises men should include in their training regime.
And no, these exercises won’t make you big and bulky in a matter of weeks. If you inject yourself with illegal substances you might get big and bulky within a few years but for the most part you will start to look leaner, more fit and healthier – commence training!
The exercises will give you a more balanced body and have more carry-over to the real world. As Nia points out a program could look like this:
- squats (dumbbell, or barbell—do not use a Smith machine . . . ever)
- deadlifts (or at least some romanian/stiff-legged deadlifts)
- dumbbell/barbell chest presses
- rows (bodyweight, dumbbell, barbell, cable)
- overhead presses or dips
- (planks and other core stabilizers)
I’ve removed push ups as I believe a horisontal and a vertical press is sufficient. Furthermore core stabilizer exercises is optional as a lot of the exercises above will provide plenty of core work for most people.
The program above is in fact also a good program for males and more advanceed trainees. With some periodization and progression you could actually achieve great gains in both strength and muscle mass with this fullbody program.
Actually Birgitte Larsen, personal trainer and a good friend of mine, specializes in women on her blog and uses many of the above mentioned exercises along with a handfull of other exercises with great results.
And what does science say? Science says that women aren’t all that different from men so why should they train different? And besides; a girl who squats is just sexy as h*ll.
Nia Shanks’ take on how women should train: Robertson Training Systems