I read Bryan Kenny's article about female weight training and have decided to take it a couple steps further. I too know a lot of girls that go to the gym and do things ass-backwards. Once in a while I'll also get emails from girls looking for advice or questions from the girls in my dorm (a quick shout out to all the ladies in Coddington). In this article I'm going to touch basis on what the average female is looking to accomplish in the gym, and then talk about how to get there.
Ok, I may be wrong here, but I think the goal of about 95% of the girls that workout are either looking to burn fat, tone up, or simply stay in shape. Those of you looking to build muscle, hit back and scroll up; there's plenty of info there. I'm going to center this article around burning fat and toning.
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The most important factor of burning fat and looking fit is your diet. What you eat determines how you will look. First off, we need to get beyond the 80's theme of "fat makes you fat." This is totally untrue. If that were the case, then we wouldn't have fat ladies munching continuously on Snackwells and complaining.
Fat is actually needed to burn fat. Not just any fat will do though; you need to get essential fatty acids (EFA's). The EFA's omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids have thousands of functions in the body. One of those includes control over the thyroid gland and your T3 (the fat oxidizing hormone) levels. Some good sources of EFA's include olives and olive oil, fish fats, nuts, and flaxseed oil. Try to include a small portion of good fats at each of your 5 meals.
Next is protein. Now, seeing as most of you are simply looking to burn fat and tone up, great amounts of protein are not needed. However, you do need more than the average person does. Try to get about 15-20 grams of protein at each meal. The best sources of protein are low-fat dairy, lean meats, and fish.
Lastly are carbohydrates. Over the past 10 years, the notion has came about in everyday society that carbs cannot be stored as fat. This is totally untrue. Certain carbs are more likely to be stored as fat than fat itself (imagine that). So what should you try to avoid? Anything refined to begin with. This means no white bread, white rice, pasta, pancakes, white potatoes, French fries, bagels, etc. Doesn't that suck? Next are sugars. Foods like soda, cake, candy, chocolate (sorry), syrup, most fruit juices, Jell-O, hot chocolate, etc. should all be avoided. Sugar quickly raises your insulin levels sending nutrients to your muscles, however, if your muscles have enough energy already, they will reject it and it will be stored as fat. Now, giving up all those food you once thought were good for you is going to take some will power, but just think - beach weather in another 2 months. So what should you eat? Lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains (in moderation), lean meats, and healthy fats. Try to eat 4-6 small meals per day, each with a small portion of proteins, fats and carbs. Or eat 3 moderate sized meals and a couple healthy snacks. This will keep your body properly fueled and speed up your metabolism.
Let's start out with cardio. To efficiently burn fat you need to do cardio, there's no question about that, but are you doing your cardio right? Cardio should always be done at around 65-75% intensity. This means you should be breaking a sweat, but not killing yourself. Why, because below this intensity, you're really not burning calories fast enough to burn fat, and above it you're burning more muscle than anything. Remember that your muscles are what burn fat. Cardio should also always be done AFTER weight training. The reason is that when you train with weights, you burn off all your glycogen stores (energy stored in the muscles). If you do cardio after wards, there will be no energy left and your body will resort to burning fat. If you do cardio before weight training, you'll burn off all your glycogen and blood sugar, and your body will resort to using muscle to fuel the rest of your anaerobic workout. Let's next venture into weight training. Now, the idea here is to tone. Being toned depends on two variables: body fat and muscular maturity. What we're looking to do here is develop and shape your muscles, but not cause too much growth.
|Intensity is key here. You can't just go through the motions and expect results. Now, I'm not saying you should be yelling or screaming, but each set you do should be to concentric failure (where you can't do any more). An ideal rep scheme to help shape and develop muscle is about 10-12 reps. This means that each set you do, you should pick a weight that will allow you to get no less than 10 reps, and no more than 12. Keep a journal, it helps. What I would do is train each body two times per week. Doing 2-3 exercises per body part and 2-3 sets per exercise. Concentrate on shaping and isolation exercises over compound.|
A quick example workout for someone who goes 4 days a week is this:
Bench press: 2 sets x 10-12 reps
Dumbbell flies or peck deck: 2 sets x 10-12 reps
Front dumbbell raises: 2 sets x 10-12 reps
Side dumbbell raises: 2 sets x 10-12 reps
Triceps press: 2 sets x 10-12 reps
Crunches: 2 sets to failure
30 minutes of cardio
Leg extensions: 3 sets x 10-12 reps
Leg curls: 2 sets x 10-12 reps
Calf raises: 2 sets x 10-12 reps
Wide grip pull downs or chin-ups: 2 sets x 10-12 reps
Back extension: 2 sets x 10-12 reps
Dumbbell curls: 2 sets x 10-12 reps
30 minutes of cardio
Thursday: Repeat Monday
Friday: Repeat Tuesday
*Make sure to use good form on all lifts and go to concentric failure.
*Get a spotter when needed.
*Take a 45 to 90 second rest between sets.
Note: You cannot spot reduce. This means you cannot do a thousand crunches and expect to lose weight from only your abs. In fact, crunches don't burn fat at all. The most important part of getting abs is your diet and body fat. If you have a low body fat, your abs will show. The rest is just shaping them, just like you would any other muscle.
A quick note on supplements:
There are some supplements that can help you in your goals, provided you training and eating right. The first one is an ECA stack such as Hydroxycut, Xenadrine, Adipo-Kenetix, Dymetadrine Xtreme, etc. What an ECA stack does is speed up your metabolism allowing you to burn more calories and thus burn more fat. They also give you a great energy rush.
Next are protein bars like Myoplex Lite and Hi Protein Bar . Everyone gets cravings, and often it's hard not to give in. By having bars on hand that are specifically designed for the needs of active women, you can eat one of these when a craving comes. Granted, they're not going to taste as good as a candy bar, but it's much better for you.
Lastly are multi-vitamins. Make sure you are taking one of these. Vitamins control over 500 biochemical reactions in your body. If even just one vitamin is absent, you won't be working up to full potential.
So after reading this I hope that I have explained the basics of training and how to achieve your goals. I really hope I'll see a lot more girls training right in the gym, and getting the results they are looking for. As long as I'm speaking about results, let me just say that they will come. Not fast, but they will come. Don't expect to lose anymore than 1-2 lbs per week. Gauge yourself every couple of months. This is the road to a better lifestyle and body, not a 2 week fix.