Thankfully there are more women strength training now than ever before. The days of aerobics, sweating to the oldies and wearing leotards are long and gone.
With that said, it's still a fact that most women don't strength train properly. The gyms are filled with women who pick up nothing heavier than a pink dumbbell. They think if they pick up some real weight that they'll wake up the next morning looking like a linebacker in the NFL.
I have seen this day after day while working in the gym. The women will make their way back to the weight room and they'll proceed to do dumbbell curls and triceps kickbacks with the puny pink dumbbells.
Most women never pick up enough weight to get a great training effect. If you're one of those women who think you'll get big and bulky from lifting weights, you need to dismiss that myth right now.
I have trained dozens of women and had them lifting hard and heavy, and that type of strength training had only improved their physiques. I had a lady who won the Mrs. Kentucky pageant (not a figure or bodybuilding competition) squatting her body weight and doing chin-ups.
Training With Heavy Weights
So here's the main point of this article: training heavy with the right exercises is the proper way to strength train and it will get you the best aesthetic results. Period.
Since you now know that lifting pink dumbbells isn't going to get you a lean, sexy and fit body, let's discuss what you should be doing in the gym.
1. Strength Train With The Proper Exercises
The best exercises to use are big, compound movements that recruit a lot of muscle mass. Here are some examples:
Upper Body Horizontal Pushing
Upper Body Vertical Pressing
Upper Body Vertical Pulling
Upper Body Horizontal Pulling
If you spent the rest of your strength training career using nothing but the exercises listed above, you would build a lean and sexy body no questions asked.
You would also build a better body at a faster rate than if you used isolation exercises and machines.
2. Strength Train With The Proper Intensity
This goes back to talking about how most women never use enough weight. Without intensity you simply won't get a great training effect. So, what is the proper intensity?
I can't give you a number because everyone's strength levels are different. This is the best way that I can explain it: if you're going to do a set of eight reps, then that last rep should be tough and you should be able to complete one more rep (maybe two) but absolutely no more.
If you do eight reps on a set of squats but you know you could have done 12 or more, that is not intensity. You need to finish your sets knowing you could have done one absolutely no more than two more reps. It is that intensity that will actually challenge your muscles and help you build a lean and fit body.
To lift with even more intensity, you simply train in a lower rep range. Example: sets of five reps. To lift with less intensity, you simply train in a higher rep range. Example: sets of 12 reps. I'll tie all of this together later.
3. Strength Train With The Proper Splits
The typical gym trainee should only be using one of two training splits: total body workouts (which aren't a split at all) or upper/lower splits in which they train upper body one day and lower body the next. These two training splits are the only two the typical gym trainee with ever need.
These splits will allow you to train your muscles with enough frequency. Plus, you will be stimulating a lot of muscle mass each training session so your metabolism with be elevated longer. Furthermore, these two splits will help you build a lean and sexy body much faster than any other split. I'll provide examples later.
4. Strength Train Wisely
By this statement I am referring to using your time wisely. The only time I recommend doing straight sets (meaning you do all the prescribed sets and reps for one exercise before moving on to the next) is on lower body days.
After a hard set of squats or deadlifts you won't feel like doing anything except resting (or maybe doing some calf raises). In the case of total body workouts or upper/lower splits, you can pair or group exercises together. This will allow you to get more work done in less time; that is always a good thing.
Sample Training Programs
Now that you know the four main principles to strength train properly, let's tie this all together to reveal how your training in the gym should look.
Option 1: Total Body Workout
Option 2: Upper/Lower Split
Note: Day three (lower body) and day four (upper body) should consist of different exercises and can be in a different rep range.
The above workouts are to give you an idea of how to spend your training time wisely. The exercises used in the examples are big, compound movements that "give you the biggest bang for your buck." Your training should mimic that setup.
Keep your training simple. Just focus on using the best exercises and train in different rep ranges. Do not spend all of your time training in a high rep range. It will greatly benefit your body if you train in a lower rep range as well.
Now that you know how to strength train properly, take this new knowledge to the gym and start building a lean and sexy body.