Monday, September 17, 2007

Effective Training Programs For Females

Working in the fitness industry seems like it has to be the worst occupation in the world when you’re at a party full of people you don’t know. At least 75% of the people you meet will ask you some kind of question about how they can lose “this” or tighten up “right here.” By about the fourth such inquiry I usually start looking at the drapes and wonder how long it will take me to fashion a noose out of them and attach it to the ceiling fan while praying that it will hold my weight.

Earlier this summer I was fortunate enough to have the extreme pleasure of being at a party where I only knew about five people and met at least two dozen who had questions about how to “get ripped abs.” I couldn’t have been more excited. To say I was in heaven would have been an understatement. (pleas note the strong sarcasm)

I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around to see my friend Heather.

“Hey Jay, I want you to meet Kristin. Jay’s a personal trainer.”

I had just had this same experience with at least eight other people and couldn’t believe it was about to happen again.

“She always says that, it’s an inside joke we have. I actually work for Rawkus Records. I discovered and signed Mos Def several years ago.”

“Oh stop it Jay. He’s just joking. He’s a personal trainer.”

“Well, not really.”

“What do you mean, not really? You’ve been doing that for like 15 years I thought.”

“Yeah, but I mainly work with athletes and guys who want to get bigger, stronger and faster. Not so much the pussy stuff.”

“The ‘pussy stuff?’ What does that mean?”

“Umm… I don’t know… forget it. Nice to meet you, Kristin.”

“Ok, well I’ll leave you two to talk. Kristin, be sure to grill Jay, he knows a lot about training. He writes for a bunch of magazines.”

Note to self: plan a significant payback for Heather as soon as possible. And then sever all ties with her.

“So Jay, I have been trying to lose these last ten pounds and tighten up my lower abs and butt. I do weights three days per week, take a bootcamp class, an aerobics step class and walk three miles every other day. What else do you think I should do? I want a body like Jessica Biel’s.”

“Me too…me…too. Have you seen her ass lately? It’s like J Lo with muscles. What I would do… I mean… Wait, what was the question?

“What should I do?”

“Umm… Maybe eat less?”

“No seriously.”

“I kinda was serious. I see you need a refill on your drink, can I get you one?”


“Ok, I’ll be right back.”

En route to the bar I notice my friend Ray standing directly in front of me.
“Is that chick Kristin behind me?” I ask him.


“Thank God. Now here’s what I want you to do. Stage an argument with me and knock me out cold.”

“What?! Are you drunk? Why?”

“We’re beyond the point of questioning. Please just do this for me as a friend and carry me outta here. I can’t take it anymore.”

He handed me a very large glass of straight vodka and told me to drink up cuz he wasn’t about to throw a haymaker in my direction.

I did and a minute later Kristin reappeared.

“So Jay, how about it? Can you give me a training program? I will do everything you say and will even let you use before and after pics of me if you want.”

I looked for anything sharp with thoughts of Owen Wilson dancing through my head but there was nothing around. Since I had no other option, I slugged my vodka like it was Gatorade on a hot day and said, “Let’s grab a seat and I’ll break it down for you.”

“Everything you have read in women’s fitness magazines is probably all wrong. I want you to stop reading them immediately. As much as you may think you want and need the information in there, you really don’t. It’s like asking your boyfriend how many girls he’s slept with. You may think you want and need that information but you really don’t. And what happens when he flips the question on you?”

“Huh? What’s this have to do with training?”


Anyway, the first thing you have to understand is that there are only a few things you can do to change the way you look. The word “tone” does not exist. It is not a reality and there is no definition for it. You can only make a muscle bigger or make it smaller. The same can be said for fat cells; you can make them bigger or you can make them smaller. That’s it. You can’t shape or elongate or tone a muscle or anything like that. So basically what every female should be aiming to do is build muscle and lose fat. While the phrase “build muscle” scares some females, it shouldn’t. When you build muscle you will end up looking better and burning more calories at rest, meaning it will help you lose fat and get leaner.

While many females fear that they will end up looking like Hulk Hogan in a matter of weeks, this is a fear that is completely unfounded. Females simply don’t have the hormonal profile to build muscle at the same rate as males; not even close. And, trust me; it’s not even that easy for most males. We have to fight our way to every five pound muscle gain.

The principles that make up an effective training program for a male are exactly the same as those that make up an effective training program for a female, and those are:

Lift heavy – No matter what you have been brainwashed to believe from watching Oprah or reading US Magazine, girls should not be lifting soup cans and three pound dumbbells with the thought that it is actually going to do a damned thing. You need to challenge yourself and give your body a reason to actually change. Kickbacks with a couple cans of chicken soup aint gonna cut it.

Lifting heavy weights in the ranges of 6-15 reps should be the basis of your training. Contrary to popular mainstream belief, high reps do not burn fat or help you improve muscle definition. Heavy weight training burns far more calories than high rep nonsense with light weights ever could. You have to understand that it is not how much you sweat or even how many calories you burn during the workout that is important but rather how many calories you burn in the 24-48 hours after your workout, during the recovery period. Lifting heavy elevates your metabolism to a much higher degree and forces you to burn far more calories all day long than light, high rep training does.

Use big compound exercises- Females should not be relegated to the butt blaster and the abductor/ adductor machine while avoiding squats and deadlifts at all costs. If you want to build muscle and lose fat you have to focus on the basics. These include military presses, bench presses, bent over rows, chin ups, dips, squats, deadlifts and all their variations. Isolation exercises like flyes, leg extensions and triceps kickbacks are a waste for most females and do very little to build muscle or burn fat.

Follow the rule of progressive overload- Some people, both male and female, do the exact same workouts with the exact same weights over and over again for months or even years and never get anywhere. It’s no wonder why. Once you do something new, your body will do all that it can to adapt to the stimulus so that it is prepared for it the next time and does not suffer the same shock and trauma. So if you bench press 65 pounds for two sets of ten reps today, your body will rebuild itself bigger and stronger to prepare for that challenge again in the future. When you do it again next week you have not presented a new challenge for your body to adapt to and thus nothing will happen. You need to continually challenge your body. You can do this by adding more sets, decreasing your rest periods, or most importantly and most effectively; increasing the weight.

Females should not be afraid of getting stronger or increasing their training poundages. I never understood why more females didn’t have the desire to get stronger. What could be a better feeling than looking sexy and feminine yet being incredibly strong? A friend and client of mine named Megan possesses this attitude and is obsessive in her quest for strength. Not only does she look great but she can out lift a lot of men in the gym. It has to be an incredibly empowering feeling.

I once wrote an article for a female fitness magazine and when I suggested that the readers increase the weight once the movement became too easy the editor I was working with freaked out. “Isn’t there something else we can tell them other than to increase the weight?” Yeah, tell them they should be in the kitchen, bare foot and pregnant like they belong, for Christ’s sake! Isn’t that the equivalent of telling them that they should remain weak forever? Jeez…

At this point Kristin had her hand on my thigh and over the course of the last half hour as the vodka kicked in, she started to look less and less like a girl I used to make fun of in high school and more and more like Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussy Cat Dolls. Because of that and since she seemed way more interested in what I had to say than anyone ever should be I decided to continue…

While many of the principles of effective weight training are exactly the same for males as they are for females, there are a few differences that need to be pointed out. These differences are not of major concern and the fact is that many females could get great results doing the exact same workouts as their male counterparts. But since I brought it up, here they are:

Females seem to achieve better results with a slightly higher rep range than males- While most males build muscle most effectively in the range of 5-10 reps, females often tend to do better while working in the range of 8-15 reps. Notice I didn’t say 15-50 reps. Remember, that stuff is useless nonsense. Heavy sets of 8-15 reps to failure or near failure are the way to go for most females looking to build muscle and burn fat.

Females can tolerate a slightly higher training volume- Because they are usually weaker and have less overall muscle mass than males; females recover more easily and quickly and for this reason can tolerate a greater number of sets in their training. For males I usually recommend an average of 12-18 hard sets per workout but for females I prefer to stick with 16-28, sometimes even higher.

Just because they can tolerate the higher volume, does that mean that they actually need it? This is a question I have often pondered but have never really experimented with because of the mental and emotional aspect of training females (trainers and coaches pay attention). Most females have been conditioned to believe that a good workout consists of sweating their asses off and nearly needing to be carried out of the gym when it’s over. For this reason you simply can not tell a female to do ten hard sets 5-8 reps on squats, rows and presses with long rest periods and expect her to be happy about it. If I had a female do one of my workouts with me that consisted of two sets of squats, two sets of deadlifts, two sets of glute hams and a few shrugs, neck extensions and grip work she would hate it with a passion. It is mainly because of this that I always prescribe more sets for my female clients than I do my male clients.

Females require less rest between sets than males- This is very similar to the rule about training volume. Because they are weaker, less muscular and recover faster, females don’t need to rest as long between sets. While most males will need at least 3-5 minutes between a brutally heavy ten-rep set of squats before they will be able to repeat the effort, most females can do so in just a minute or two; sometimes even less. If they are extremely weak, they may actually be able to repeat the effort in as little as 30 seconds. If you give them a workout that calls for the same rest periods that males use they will be bored to tears. This goes along with the mentality that females have been brainwashed into having; that an effective workout must leave them rolling in a pool of their own sweat and puke.

Take note of this if you are a trainer because prescribing shorter rest periods for your female clients can eliminate some uncomfortable situations for you. When a girl is not slightly winded from a set yet you decide to give her a 90 second rest period like you would a guy, you are going to be in for a lot of awkward silence while frantically searching for something to talk about after about the 15th set.

“So, umm… is Lauren still dating that alcoholic dude on Laguna Beach?”

“It’s actually The Hills now.”


Trust me; 90 seconds will never seem so long.

After our discussion Kristin seemed satisfied, and since I can’t say that for most girls after they spend a half hour on a couch with me, I was pretty happy myself. “I think this chick loves me,” I thought. “How could she not? I mean they all do…”

“So Kristin, whattaya say me and you get outta here?”

“That’s my fiancé right behind you. And I really gotta get going. Thanks for the info.”

“Uh…right…will you buy my book at least?! Don’t forget…”


For a highly effective training program for females go to right now.

I have been shocked at the number of female buyers I have had and all the great feedback I have gotten from them. I look forward to hearing your success story next.