Ladies First: Honest Training For Women!

Many lifters quickly hit a wall where everything stops! What happens? Let's examine some of the more common dilemmas that hinder our progress and simple solutions so we can hit our goals.

Women, you are being LIED to! Everyday you are being bombarded with commercials, gimmicks, and everyone telling you how you should look. These companies make billions of dollars on your desire to work hard and empower yourself with being proactive in your health and fitness.

My mission is to give you the power to distinguish between result-based training ideas and simple marketing. Why? I believe women never receive the information they deserve.

Often women are more interested into learning how to train correctly than men, are not ego driven by weight, and many times are much TOUGHER than men! Yep, you heard me, they tend to not whine and complain as much as their male counterparts.

So, women, this is for you!

Myths & Truths

MYTH: Doing more repetitions is better for toning and firming.

TRUTH: The truth is performing more repetitions will often create more muscle growth. Bodybuilders often utilize repetition ranges of 8-15 to stimulate greater lean muscle mass. This method is also known in the scientific community as the repetition method. Because of the increased work, also known as volume, this is one of the most efficient ways of increasing one's muscle mass.

This means if you want to add muscle mass, using two to four sets of eight to fifteen repetitions will fit the bill. Don't hesitate to use this method though women. You will not get as big as Arnold because you have 1/16 the testosterone of men. Women also do not possess as much upper body muscle mass as the men. What adding some muscle will accomplish is increasing metabolism, helping to achieve a more "defined" look, and setting a base for more intense training programs.

" Doing more reps is not necessarily "better" for
toning and firming. Performing higher reps and less weight burns more fat around the muscle. Toning and firming is achieved by adding higher weights and proper form.

Carmen Garcia Fitness Competitor / Model

So, you say that you don't use that few of repetitions? What, you actually perform sets of twenty or more repetitions? For some reason this is often recommended to women, yet, there is little scientific evidence to support the usage of such high repetition training. Such training methods are used to build muscular endurance which generally has little training effect other than some caloric expenditure.

Such extreme endurance training is the reason that endurance athletes generally do not have appreciable levels of muscle and have higher body fat levels than their higher intensity training counterparts. The classic example is the body of a sprinter versus a marathon runner. While I am not saying one is better than the other, most people do like the more defined and muscular appearance of the sprinter.

It is also important to understand that the body can do only a few things. The body can lose or gain body fat, and/or gain or lose muscle. Therefore, when women often ask to increase their "definition" or "tone", they are actually asking to lose some body fat and gain an appreciable level of muscle mass. This is why only combining nutrition and a well planned training program can provide the results that you are interested in obtaining.

MYTH: Exercises like squats and deadlifts put on mass while flies and lunges are more sculpting exercises.

TRUTH: It is true that certain exercises stimulate more muscles, but this does not guarantee more muscle mass. Athletes such as Olympic weightlifters always use compound lifts in their training, but can often maintain a lean muscular look without being bulky.

Implementing various compound lifts (those that utilize more than one muscle) are excellent for burning body fat and adding lean muscle.

These exercises burn more calories and stimulate specific hormones that may be beneficial in body composition changes. In essence, they provide the "biggest bang for the buck" in training.

Therefore, it is important to realize that it is not only the exercise, but the other training variables such as volume and intensity that influence the result. As mentioned above certain repetition and set schemes are more specific to certain goals.

Below is listed some of the more common recommendations:

      Hypertrophy: 2-4 sets, 6-15 repetitions

      Strength: 3-5 sets, 1-5 repetitions

    Power: 3-6 sets, 2-6 repetitions

" Depending on how much you lift, squats and deadlifts are good for building muscle mass because you're adding weight in order to build muscle. Lunges do sculpt, while elongating leg muscles such as hamstrings and quads. "

Carmen Garcia Fitness Competitor / Model

What does this mean for your training? Even though these methods make things look mutually exclusive, this is not necessarily the case. In some people lower repetitions will stimulate more muscle growth because they possess more of the fast-twitch fiber make-up.

Beyond just the stimulation of more muscle, combining various training methods allows for increased variation which makes training far more enjoyable. This approach also guarantees you will find positive results in your training because you are not relying on one specific method.

Few people that train still appreciate the influence of the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS is responsible for how much force the body produces and how much muscle is activated. So, by combining methods such as strength and power training, a lifter increases their chances of benefiting from their hypertrophy training.

MYTH: Performing low-intensity, long-duration aerobic training to most effectively burn body fat.

TRUTH: By now there have been hundreds of articles describing how the old idea of performing this method of training is not the most beneficial for fat loss. In fact, it has been proven in the labs and anecdotally that performing higher intensity exercise for a shorter duration does more to promote the loss of body fat.

" Medium to higher intensity cardio activity is more effective to burn body fat because you are elevating your heart rate in order to burn fat. Personally, I alternate between low, medium, and high cardio activity each time in order to shock the body by bringing your heart rate up and down. "

Carmen Garcia Fitness Competitor / Model

Such training styles that meet this criteria are jumping rope, sprinting, and interval training. You will notice that all these forms of training are far more intense than the typical walking on the treadmill. Such training methods stimulate calorie burning for hours after training and cause specific physiological changes that will generally spare lean muscle and burn more body fat.

Putting It All Together

WOW! So, what does one do with this new way of thinking? Don't sweat it, the goal is not to worry about creating the "perfect" training program. Instead, think about developing a program that allows you to be consistent and implement as many of these methods as possible.

Step 1:

      Determine what is your goal. Be specific and have a method of measuring progress.

Step 2: Think about how many days of training you can devote to performing on a consistent basis. Remember more is not always better!

Step 3: Realize if you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced lifter. Don't rush into performing complex routines or exercises that you are not confident in executing correctly.

        Be sure to check out our

Workout Database

        for hundreds of workout programs.

Step 4: Start delegating specific time frames to different areas of training. Many times 45 minutes of strength training and 20-35 minutes of various interval training is more than adequate.

Step 5: Begin to organize exercises on specific days. Unless you have the ambition to become a professional bodybuilder, you should try to avoid using programs that focus on one muscle group at a time. This is often not practical or the most efficient strategies for most lifers. Below are some easy and effective splits.

        Day 1: Upper Body

        Day 2: Lower Body

        Day 3: Upper Body

        Next week rotate

Day 1: Hip Dominant/Trunk Flexors
Day 2: Vertical Pushing/Vertical Pulling
Day 3: Off
Day 4: Quad Dominant/Trunk Rotators
Day 5: Horizontal Pushing/Horizontal Pulling

There are many other, hopefully this stimulates some ideas.

Step 6:

      Always have more demanding


      in the beginning of the routine and more isolated exercises towards the end. So, squats would be at the top of the list while arm curls would be near the end of the routine.

Step 7: Heavier weights should be implemented when the body is fresh at the beginning of the program. Higher repetition ranges should be placed towards the end.

Back Squat

        4 sets of 5 repetitions with 90 second rest-Beginning of routine

Back Extensions

      3 sets of 12 repetitions with 60 second rest-End of routine

Step 8:

    Make sure the routine is written down next to your goals. Keep a log to measure progress, keep notes, and to be confident not to repeat training mistakes.

Bonus: How Do I Use A Log?

Not sure how to use a log? Here are some great ideas from writer Chris Zaino:

Top 10 Advantages & Benefits In Keeping A Daily Journal:

      1. Able to keep track of exactly what and when you are eating.
      2. Able to keep track of what and how you are training.
      3. Allows you to keep a record of your daily habits that might influence your training regime.
      4. Let's you see and document how you are progressing.
      5. Enables you to experiment with different foods, food ratios, training routines, supplements, and how you respond.
      6. Keep track of cardiovascular routine, H2O consumption, sleep, weight, and body fat percentage.
      7. After time, a daily journal will allow you to go back and look at what worked and didn't work in the past. This will allow you to continue or make modifications accordingly. (Eliminates Guessing!)
      8. Finally helps you to understand your body and what is the best plan for you. (It's all documented!)
      9. Makes you more disciplined in achieving your goals in fitness no matter what they are.
      10. IT WORKS!

Just from personal experience I can honestly say that keeping a daily journal for about 2 years, with proper documentation of the above, has helped me achieve my greatest gains and allowed me to understand what works for me.

Any time I want I can look back and see exactly what I did to bring my conditioning to the point it was when I won any of my bodybuilding contests. This is a must tool for any bodybuilder.

With each competition you will become better and better when keeping a journal to ensure you will look your best the Saturday of the show and not peak the day before or after. If the daily journal is kept, you will be able to pinpoint if you needed more or less food that last week for your next show. I consider my daily journal a major component in my training.

O.K.! Now, let's go over the major components in creating a complete daily journal. Remember we want to be able to keep track of the variables in our day that we can control. The valuable elements constituting the daily journal are:

      • Date and Body Part(s) to be worked.
      • Record the Time, Calories, Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fat for each item in each meal. Example:

        Time Cals Pro Carbs Fat
        6 oz. chicken 191 40 0 3.5
        12 oz. broccoli 125 10 20 0
        Total 316 50 20 3.5
      • At the top of the page put the total number of calories, protein, carbohydrates, and fat for the entire day.
      • H20 Amount: very important to hydrate your system.
      • Hours of Sleep: You would be amazed on how one extra hour of sleep could help your progress and recovering capabilities!
      • Cardiovascular Exercise: How many minutes for the day
      • Bodyweight: See how much your bodyweight fluctuates from morning till night. If you are dieting, you can see if you are losing too much too quick.
      • Supplements: Alternate different supplements, and finally find out which ones work best for you by documentation.
      • Training Routine: For the muscles worked that day.
      • Comments of the Day: This is your time to reflect upon your day. How did you feel? Look? Energy? How was the workout? Any other comments. This is very important because if you looked great and had a great workout, all you have to do is look back at the last few days to see what you have been doing. Vice Versa.

Go grab that empty notebook and start keeping a daily journal. There are NO excuses to not finding the time to complete one. This will help to discipline you more and serves to make you more in tune with your body. Remember we need to have a plan and with keeping a daily journal, no one knows your body better than you do. Until next time, Train Hard, Train Smart!

What To Do Next?

I have worked with hundreds of women ranging from athletes to grandmothers. So, trust me when I say these methods work, but don't take my word for it. Implement them, research them, and see how much more fun and productive training can become!

About The Author

Josh Henkin is owner of Innovative Fitness Solutions in Scottsdale, Arizona. Coach Henkin has presented nationally in the field of fitness and sports enhancement. He is also the author of High Octane Sandbag Training manual and DVD ( You can reach him at