In my almost 10 years of personal training, I have come to develop specific styles of training for clients of all different genders, ages, and fitness levels. I often see new trainers train all of their clients the same way, because they just don't have enough experience to personalize their programs enough for their respective client(s).
Don't get me wrong, I had this problem myself when I first began training, and had to overcome it with education and a LOT of practice. Becoming a good trainer doesn't happen overnight. You have to work at it, and constantly keep adding to your knowledge and training methodologies in order to be competitive in this ever-growing field.
The biggest mistake I have repeatedly seen trainers make, is when a female client comes to lose weight & body fat, and winds up training with a trainer who prescribes bodybuilding-type workouts for her, causing her to get big and bulky, rather than small and slender.
Oftentimes, a new male trainer has gotten into working out, and lifts "hard and heavy," in order to gain muscle mass and strength, which is fine for his particular goals, but HORRIBLE for a female client looking to shed pounds and look small. In addition, (and this advice is for the ladies), training with a trainer who sports a year-round smooth, big and bulky look, might prove to be the wrong choice, specifically because the trainer himself may not even know how to make the specific change on his OWN body, let alone on yours!
Above everything else, nutrition plays the most important role when trying to achieve fitness-related goals. At the end of the day, your body's progress will be determined by that dietary equation that holds true for all of us:
Energy In, Minus Energy Out!
A trainer who doesn't understand nutrition enough (or simply doesn't care enough) will manifest this in his or her own physique, and will probably not have the know-how to prescribe a program befitting a female client who wishes to drop weight.
During my years of training, and through much trial and error, I have come to develop a plan that has worked for every single female client I have trained who needed to drop some pounds. It is absolutely fantastic, and I will list the program for you in this article, so that you too can have more success training female clients.
Once you complete the program with one female client, you will change her life, and your confidence as a trainer will go through the ROOF, because you will know how to repeat the process every time, and it will eventually come as second nature. And you will get a LOT of business!! Trust me!
All of my workouts for women looking to drop body fat follow a two-phase procedure:
- Phase 1: Drop The Weight
- Phase 2: Tighten The Skin / Fix The Posture
Phase 1: Drop The Weight
During phase one, the major goal is to get rid of those excess pounds, and increase muscle flexibility and joint mobility. I begin my sessions with a light cardiovascular warm-up, followed by some stretching. This allows me to see what is tight, and what the range of motion is for specific joints such as the shoulder and hip.
For example, when performing a supine lumbar spine stretch on heavier clients, I usually notice the knees abducting as I raise the legs while holding the ankles, indicating tight abductor muscles.
So I will keep this in mind during phase one, and work on stretching that area. But I'm not as concerned with fixing postural deviations in phase 1 (that will come later, but I DO want to be aware of any postural deviations, and tight muscle groups, so that I can focus on stretching them out. It will just make things a lot easier when phase 2 comes).
I focus more on lowering my client's body fat percentage. In particular, if a client has 50 or more lbs to lose, you will notice that her form will not be "perfect" for most exercises, so you just want to make sure that it is as close to perfect as possible, where the client will not hurt herself.
Maintain neutral spine alignment, no rounding of the back, watch that the knees don't extend in front of the toes during a squat or lunge, etc. I tend to employ a total-body resistance circuit training workout, with intermittent middle to high intensity cardiovascular exercise placed in between.
If you follow this scheme, you will constantly keep your client's heart rate up during the course of the entire workout, and the total body circuit training will be with low weight (say 12-15 or more reps where she is STRUGGLING around reps 12 to 15), and won't allow the woman to get big and bulky, but will still stimulate her muscles to action.
You want your client to feel a burn with most exercises, so if you notice that she isn't, you might want to throw a superset in to make sure you are burning that muscle tissue! Remember, the key is to get that heart rate up! I often use a heart rate monitor during my workouts to make sure I am in the right targeted zone, but an even easier way is to just talk to your client.
If she has to take a few breaths in between trying to finish a sentence, then you're probably doing a great job! If my client can finish a sentence without taking a breath, it's time to up that heart rate!
This is a VERY important technique to understand when training a female. It is essential to employ cardiovascular exercise in their training regimen in order to lose body fat. Women store and metabolize fat much differently than do males, and I have found that keeping their entire training session more along the lines of a cardiovascular workout yields the best net loss of fat in the long run.
Another mistake I have seen is in the nutritional plans that trainers sometimes prescribe women. I have found them to have an excess of protein in a lot of cases, which is more tailored to a male or female BODYBUILDER, rather than just your average female who wants to look small and slender.
There is a big fad today with the whole "hold onto ALL your muscle mass / You worked hard for it and it would be a shame to see ANY of it disappear!" theory. With females, I say that there's nothing WRONG with dropping a little muscle in some cases.
If a woman's goal is to look SMALLER, then I think it's perfectly fine to burn a little muscle mass here and there. This will make sure that when she DOES drop all the weight, her arms and legs aren't too big from all the "preserving of muscle tissue" and from carrying all that extra weight.
Feel free to cut down on your client's protein portion sizes, and focus more on complex carbohydrates, foods rich in fiber, and an overall lower CALORIE diet. Also, whereas a male trying to get ripped might eliminate fruit sugars from his diet, I have found that 1 or 2 pieces of certain fruits eaten earlier in the day work very well in a female diet, because even though they have simple sugars in them, plenty of fruits are both low calorie and low glycemic, and rich in fiber as well.
Remember, if your body doesn't have a surplus of protein, it can always get it from your muscle tissue. So if your client has an excess of muscle from carrying around all that extra bodyweight, feel free to add in more carbohydrate calories and lower the protein a little bit.
It can get a little tricky, but you have to take your client's body type into account, and use your dietary expertise to tailor a fine tuned plan which will provide all necessary fuel to make it through those workouts you will be administering. If you both work together, you will establish a common ground, and will find a nutritional plan that will satisfy her appetite, as well as drop body fat.
Remember, if your client is very overweight, you might not be able to see the exact amount of muscle mass she is carrying underneath that fat, so focus more on getting smaller "overall," rather than pushing those pounds and preserving so much muscle. You'll see why when we get to phase 2.
Phase 2: Tighten The Skin/Fix The Posture
By the time you get to PHASE TWO, you will have dropped a lot of body fat from PHASE 1, so now you should be more concerned with "sculpting" the body, fixing postural abnormalities, and tightening up the skin / reducing excess water weight (if the client wants to take it this far).
You will be able to see your client's muscular structure a lot more, and you will keep the workouts cardio-intensive, but now instead of doing total body resistance training workouts all the time, you can FINE TUNE the workouts to the problem areas that might need development, or those joints that might need to be re-aligned.
For example, if your client hunches over, you might not want to do too much resistance training with her chest. You will want to focus more on stretching her chest muscles out, and bringing those shoulders back into neutral position by doing scapular retraction exercises (seated or standing rows, posterior deltoid + rhomboid work, etc).
Another thing that might be of concern in phase two is getting over a plateau of fat loss. With very overweight clients, in the beginning, you will notice that they will drop body fat often without much change to the diet at all. After a lot of that weight comes off though, it will be necessary to make dietary changes in order to get to the next level.
This will entail sitting with your client and finding what foods she likes and doesn't like, so that you design something that she is likely to stick with, and not fall off the wagon the first week because the diet is too boring or strict! Remember, we're dealing with females here.
Don't forget to add in a little fruit earlier in the day (or maybe even some dairy). One small yogurt in the morning or a little skim milk during the day will probably be better than eliminating all of the foods that will give her some sort of satisfaction.
With males looking to get lean, I usually tell them to cut out ALL dairy, but I have noticed that a small amount of dairy and/or fruits earlier in the day is ok.
Remember, whereas guys want their skin tight, and want to look dry and ripped, it is more feminine for a woman to be slender and "soft". So the nonfat dairy products in moderation will be low calorie enough to accomplish this, while still giving her the dairy fix.
Overall, if you follow this plan, you should notice great results with your female clients. Everyone's body is different, and you will have to just go through trial and error with your clients, but I have found this method to work with 90% of the ladies I have worked with.
Once you change a client's life, they will love you for it, and you will feel so much more confident and enriched because of it. I look forward to hearing from all of you fellow fitness enthusiasts, clients and trainers both.
Herve J. Duchemin - Herveduchemin@hotmail.com