Should Women Do the Same Type of Workouts as Men?

November 16, 2009

Today I would like to post an exclusive guest post by Anna Dornier from Path to Fat Loss. Anna was recently certified as a Russian Kettlebell Instructor by Pavel Tsatsouline himself. This is like the Navy Seals of personal training, in my opinion. Not easy at all! This certainly peaked my interest. Kettlebell workouts are tough, but getting certified at Pavel’s school is a whole different deal. In this guest post, Anna is going to address whether a woman should train like a man. So many people have various opinions on this, that I predict some serious discussions in the comment section. Bring it on!

Should Women Workout Like Men?

[I think most women want to be fit while still looking feminine. The argument is on what type of training to achieve that look.]

Should Women Do the Same Type of Workouts as Men?
-by Anna Dornier RKC; NASM, CPT
http://www.pathtofatloss.com

Let me start out by defining how men typically train. Most men tend to train their chest and biceps (I call these the mirror-muscles) and then maybe perform a couple of deadlifts and a set of squats. In other words, a typical male workout is usually not well rounded in terms of exercise choices.

Most men who go to the gym come in pairs.

You can usually find them near the weight machines. They watch football games or sports news during their “rest periods” while their buddy is doing his set. They talk for a little bit and then they do a couple more sets. I see this to be a typical male workout because this is what I see in the gym. So, if this is what we’re talking about then, my answer is a big NO.

I’m not saying that this is true for all men.

Times are changing and there’s definitely improvement in how men train especially if you are an avid reader of Rusty’s blog. If there is one lesson that I would take from men’s training, it would be to lift heavy. More importantly, the point is to lift heavy with free weights. Yes ladies, you won’t get big and bulky when you do this. We’re going for the dancer-type look – long, lean, strong, and effortless with all the curves in the right places. Just tune in to any dancing program to have an idea of what I’m talking about here.

The question should be, “should women train like real men?”

In this definition, real men are big, strong, and flexible. They perform more well-rounded routines that target other muscle groups besides the mirror-muscles. Then, my answer would be yes.
Should you do a workout that was originally designed for a real man? 150% Yes! I like the saying, “Lift like a [real] man, feel like a goddess.”

So, how should women train then?

For beginners, I would suggest going for higher repetitions with lighter weights. By light, I mean to have a weight that you can lift for about 15 repetitions and still have a challenging workout or set. It may take a few sets to determine that weight especially if this is your first time training with free weights. Lifting 10 lb dumbbells would be a good start but I suggest that you increase the weight right away if you feel that the weight is too light and you’re not working hard enough.

As you get accustomed to working with free weights and building up your strength…

I would suggest going for lower repetitions with heavier weights. I like to stay in the 5-8 repetition range and perform 3-4 sets of each exercise. When you stay within this rep range, you will find that you will be able to lift heavier and increase your strength without sacrificing form. Moving forward, you will want to increase the weight in each exercise every week so that you are continuously challenging your body and stimulating your muscle fibers to grow.

The goal is to train for strength.

With strength comes muscle-building and with muscles comes a nice, sexy physique that you can be proud of. Think Jessica Biel.
Now we head over to which exercises to perform. Total body exercises will give you more bang for your buck (or in this case time). They are efficient because they recruit a lot of muscle groups in one exercise so you end up burning more calories in one workout in a shorter amount of time.

Most people will see a huge benefit by just doing the basic exercises…

…like squats, deadlifts, lunges, presses, and planks or any other core exercises. You would also benefit from back exercises such as rows and lateral pull downs because most women (or just people in general) tend to slouch. So, activating your back muscles will fix that. Last but not the least, get proficient at performing all challenging bodyweight exercises such as pulls ups, chin ups, and all varieties of pushups, etc. This will increase your strength relative to your bodyweight which in my book is the true test of strength.

Have fun and add some variety to your training.

OK, you may have noticed that most of the strength training workouts that I recommend are very regimented with reps and sets but, I also like to have fun and keep things fresh. I do this by playing around with my “cardio” routines.

Like most women, I have been guilty of doing steady state cardio for ridiculous amounts of time at some point in my training.

But, as soon as I learned that HIITs and Tabatas are the way to go, I immediately took advantage of all the choices that I have when I do them. For intervals, you can use all sorts of equipments or modalities such as kettlebells, medicine balls, jump ropes, salsa dancing, pole dancing (you read that right), and even your own bodyweight!

To give you an example here is a kettlebell interval workout that I love to do either at the end of my strength training or on my off days:

  • 5 Double Swings
  • 5 Double Squats
  • 5 Double Cleans
  • 5 Double Push Presses

This workout is done ladder style. For instance, after the first set, rest for 30 seconds. Then, perform 4 repetitions of each exercise for the second set, rest for 30 seconds. Perform 3 repetitions for the next set and so on. You can increase the intensity by using heavier kettlebells or reducing your rest time. You can also make this workout longer by starting with 10 repetitions and going down from there.

Take Away

To review, I give you these 5 rules:

  • Stick to perfecting the basic exercises
  • Lift heavy free weights and lift heavier each week
  • Make your cardio intervals fun and challenging
  • Focus on training for strength and everything else will fall into place
  • Train hard but always, always have fun!

That’s it! If you follow these simple rules, I guarantee that you will become a lean, mean, and strong goddess in no time. Forget about the late night ab equipment informercials and supposedly slimming diet pills. These 5 rules are way superior to any of those products combined and will get you closer to your goal faster than you’ve ever imagined.

<-----end of article----->

RKC LogoNote: You can visit Anna’s blog by going to www.PathtoFatLoss.com.

If you have a bit of spare time make sure and read her post about becoming a certified kettlebell instructor (RKC) with Pavel Tstasouline and his instructors.

It sounds absolutely brutal (torn up hands, coughing up a lung, etc.) My RKC Experience

----> (New) Facebook Comments..."Cause all the cool kids are doin' it!"

{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

Grok November 17, 2009 at 12:35 am

Get off the stupid treadminll and go heavy ladies! it takes testosterone to get bulky and you don’t have much. YOU’RE NOT GOING TO GET BULKY – PERIOD

Grok November 17, 2009 at 4:58 am

Perhaps I need a bit more sleep and a look-up/slowdown on the keyboard. 😉

FitJerks Fitness Blog November 17, 2009 at 6:32 am

OF COURSE they should. As long as the “male” workout comes form a handsome fella *points to self* who knows what the hell he’s doing.

I remember training a woman and she was hesitant to perform deadlifts because she said it was “one of those exercises that only MEN did” To keep it PG, i basically said that unless her vag or breasts are getting in the way, then there is no reason she SHOULDN’T be doing it.

Biomechnically were are the damn same… so the basic exercise fundamentals should never be limited to the sex. That’s crazy talk. This is why those authors that come out with workout routines “just for women” piss me off.

Whatever routine a man, can do, so can a woman… just with less weight. Point Blank Period.

Sandeep November 17, 2009 at 6:40 am

Hey Rusty.
First off, I love your blog. No offence to anyone but I don’t have access to supplements so I got sick of reading articles over at http://www.bodybuilding.com. I’m trying a lot of your stuff and feel great.

(This is irrelevent to this post but it’s relevant to this one – http://fitnessblackbook.com/muscle-building/a-sensible-way-to-build-muscle-mass/#more-169)

My question is, I’m 6′ 1″ and about 170 lbs, so I’m trying to put on some mass to look.. normal. However, I’ve got my problem fatty areas. How can I include a cardio workout with the workout described in this post?
Thanks so much,
Sandeep.

Rafi Bar-Lev November 17, 2009 at 9:17 am

Great article, it’s nice to hear a woman give advice that there’s nothing to fear from lifting a little bit of weight.

-Rafi

Manda November 17, 2009 at 9:58 am

Great site, was logging on to look up female training and was greeted with this new post. Toof funny.

OK, I am SOOOOOO frustrated with being told that I won’t bulk up because I am female. I think there is a lot more to it than testosterone, or the lack thereof.

Let me first say that I am not one of those dainty chicks who wants to be rail thin. I like lifting, I like working hard, I like being strong…but I don’t want to become huge.

I am one of those girls that packs muscle easily, especially on my upper arms and upper legs/butt…the places I don’t want to pack on muscle. It really makes no difference what type of workouts I use. I have tried just about everything: high reps/low weight; low reps/high weight; HIIT; all kinds of cardio like running, jumping rope, elliptical, cycling, walking, etc. The list goes on and on. Yes, I have built large thighs even when the only activity I was doing was a walking program! The only exercise that does not pack on the muscles is Pilates, but only if that’s all I do, and it’s not satisfying enough for me to rely on that as my sole source of exercise.

I was an exercise physiology major in college, so I was guinea pig to all kinds of testing, and I learned that I have around 70-75% fast-twitch muscle fibers, suited to power rather than endurance. I am built like a sprinter rather than a distance runner. I have yet to come up with a program where I can feel strong without adding size, and I hate adding bulk. I have monitored my body fat with calipers/hydrostatic weighing to make certain my size increases have not been extra fat.

Any thoughts on how I can avoid the size while increasing strength?

Michael November 17, 2009 at 10:19 am

I’m trying to talk my wife into putting down the “girly” weights and doing this type of workout. She was a pretty good athlete in HS and college and I think she could reclaim her athletic body and — most importantly — confidence if she worked like this instead of hitting the elliptical for 40 minutes.

Unfortunately, she has a surgically repaired shoulder from dislocating it twice in sports. Any advice for good workouts she could do that wouldn’t kill her shoulder?

Mike November 17, 2009 at 11:29 am

Zuzana Light over at http://www.bodyrock.tv/ has some pretty sick workout advice for the ladies, She is among the most functionally strong women I have seen browsing the net and I like the look of her physique very much. Most of the exercises she advocates in her daily video routines are body weight exercises as well, which is another plus in my book.

Including a link to her doing pull-ups, she manages 8 with full lockout and proper form etc, most women I know can not even do one 😉

http://www.bodyrock.tv/2009/06/02/pull-ups-exercise-challenge/

Helder November 17, 2009 at 1:01 pm

Congratulations Anna, being certified by Pavel himself is not for everyone i’m sure.

I agree with your philosophy, women should not be afraid to lift heavy, and i would say, if you’re an experienced lifter don’t be afraid to lift with triples, doubles or even singles, just make sure your form is perfect.

For years a lot of stupid advice was given to women, things like, do your 50 reps per set with your pink cotton dumbels, and run 3 hours in the treadmill while reading your favorite magazine, and be sure not to lift any heavy weight or you’ll look like a gorila man.

Thank God those days are starting to become an ugly joke from the past, and a lot of women are getting proper advice from people like Rusty, you Anna and some others.

flowerd November 17, 2009 at 3:39 pm

Great post again! I find sometimes i get intimidated at the gym to lift heavy with free weights because all the guys are at the free weight part of the gym so I stick to machines but make the resistance heavy. Is that still ok?

Kat November 17, 2009 at 3:48 pm

I recently purchased a men’s fitness magazine and have had fun using their workouts lately. I get frustrated with some of the female fitness mags with the same routine over and over. My kids were surprised by the new addition on the coffee table but I assured them I wasn’t gonna look like the muscle man on the cover! Just wanna copy the exercises and “look like a goddess” with the curves and definition muscles give me. Nice job Anna!

Anna @ Pathtofatloss November 17, 2009 at 8:15 pm

Hi guys, I’m just gonna go ahead and jump in on some of the questions.

Michael, investigate on using Kettlebell workouts/exercises for your wife. I think that she can definitely benefit from something like swings that are low impact especially on the shoulders.

Flowerd, I say get the courage of finally lifting some of those free weights. Don’t get intimidated by all those men. You’ll be missing out on a lot of benefits if you don’t use them. Have fun!

Kat, great job on buying the men’s fitness magazine. I like Men’s Health a lot. I started reading them about 3 years ago and I was hooked 🙂

Thanks to everyone who’s chimed in so far!

Anna

Michael - Fat Loss Tips November 17, 2009 at 8:43 pm

Good to hear a female’s perspective on this one… Anna, you’re pretty much spot on with regards to a typical male’s workout program. I see them all the time at my gym, the C&A guys (chest and arms).

As for the program, I think it’s great. If women could just get over the myth about weights bulking you up, then we’d have less time wasting cardio on our hands and maybe some more intramural strength training sessions going on;)

Mike

Tomasz - Headbutt The Fat November 17, 2009 at 10:28 pm

Male workout, ha ha. What I see on the gym is ladies talking, eventually do some running and then finish it. Still, it really depends on personality, not gender. I’ve seen in my life hard working men and women.

Baz November 18, 2009 at 1:39 am

Rusty this doesn’t have anything to do with this post but I just read an email you sent out about Jeff Anderson home made supplements. I wanted to ask you whether I can still purchase the same ingredients to make my own supplements for the same price as I live in Australia. The book might show where to buy the I ingredients in America but what about those of us overseas?

Thanks rusty

Chris - Zen to Fitness November 18, 2009 at 2:48 am

Excellent post, something applicable for us all. Too many women dodge the weights all together and stick to the cross-trainer or stepper, the women who do the weights are usually the one’s with the sexy bodies….

A simple gym with some Kettlebells, Rings (for pullups and dips) and some basic free wights is the way to go and can train a wide variety of people who all have different goals. Including women who want to lose weight and trim down….

Charlotte November 18, 2009 at 7:32 am

I’m totally confused. Years ago a trainer put me on heavy weights – a guys routine and I bulked up within two weeks, to which my trainer said I’d be perfect for bodybuilding! Not exactly my idea of being fit and feminine…
I have since been told that cardio is much better for my body type to slim down and become leaner.
You can see in the video her legs are solid and strong – perhaps it’s personal opinion but I wouldn’t consider that lean. She looks great though.

Scott November 18, 2009 at 9:47 am

Just be careful because women can add muscle. Some women don’t want that.

Marion November 18, 2009 at 11:23 am

I honestly think that body types play a role in lifting heavy or exercising in general. I’m a female who doesn’t build muscle easily. I lift pretty heavy, but if you looked at me, you wouldn’t think that I lift heavy. The guys in my gym are amazed at the weights that I lift. I have pretty good definition, but no matter how hard I try – I can not get my legs to be bigger. I do squats with 90-110lbs – and my legs will not grow. I’m petite at 5’1″ and 105lbs – so I know that I’m pushing some heavy weight. Other females seem like their legs grow even if they lift light weights. I think that this all comes down to that there is not a one size fits all workout. You have to find what works for you. I stick with heavy weights because this is what gives me pretty good definition, but I haven’t figured out how to make my skinny legs grow – no matter what I try.

Abril November 18, 2009 at 3:24 pm

What Charlotte said above….

I had a pt put me on heavy weights as well and my legs bulked up quickly. Maybe heavy weights work for some women but for me to stay lean running suits me. No one had to tell me that…my body just responds great to running. For weight work I just do pullups/chinups/pushups and planks and some pilates ab work and I am set. Might not work for everyone but it works for me. I just bulk up too quick to go heavy. I know..I know…alot of women use that excuse to stay away from the weights. But I’ve done the weights and it just doesn’t work for me. Bodyweight is just fine…again….for my own feminine physique.

Maybe for women that are stick skinny to begin with this type of workout of heavy weights would work great. My roomate has a typical long and lean ballerina body and her strength is negligible.

Primalfit November 18, 2009 at 5:34 pm

Rusty, I see in a few emails that you are talking about vegetarianism a lot and considering it, maybe for ethical reasons, I’m not sure. I want you to consider these points..

First off, what do you think happens when we clear land to grow crops? We cut down trees, kill off the animals that are competing for the crops, and spray the fields down with pesticides that do absolutely crucial damage to insects and the environment. You don’t have to deforest an area to raise food animals…not even cattle. Do a Google search for the term “silvopasture.” Pesticides used to grow vegetarian crops actually seeps into the water systems and are destroying coral, causing extinctions and bending genders. Is that what vegetarians call being good to the planet?

Vegetarians will say, well we should stop that and go completely organic. OK but we can be more humane and earth friendly with animals as well, by going grassfed.

And how about that soil erosion and co2 released when a field is plowed?

The only vegetarian grown crops that seem ecologically friendly are fruit trees, ones aren’t sprayed. They are also perennial. And fruit is far, far better than grains.

Vegetarianism sounds nice at first until you really, really look into it. It is actually worse for the planet. What do you think caused the enormous and unsustainable population we have now as well as the masses of starving and malnourished people? It wasn’t meat. It was agriculture and grains, the vegetarian staple. Vegetarianism, in a sense, is destroying our planet.

It’s easy to get suckered into these schemes by people who feel we should reject our past and our ancestry because it seems dirty and nasty and we want to feel like we are making some difference in something. Also note that many vegetarians have eating disorders. All of the vegetarians I have known in my life have either been anorexics or bulimics at some point.

I’m of northern European ancestry. My ancestors primarily ate meat. When I tried vegetarianism, I was sick and weak. I eat mainly meat now and I’ve gained in everything. I’m telling you, it’s easy to fall for these schemes especially in California where there are a lot of these folks and they look down on you when you eat meat. Be careful…

admin November 18, 2009 at 7:15 pm

FitJerk,

I think your comment was PG-13, but that is okay. Entertaining as always.

Sandeep,

You certainly can always include a bit of cardio…I am not against cardio at all. If you are more focused on building then just limit the time spent doing HIIT on the treadmill to maybe 2 times per week. If you want to focus hard on ever little last ounce of fat, feel free to do more.

Manda,

I do think that women vary wildly on how they gain muscle. I like Anna’s post because it provides one view point…but there are some women who do add mass easily. I am eventually going to come up with a program that addresses your demographic. Women who put on muscle too easily and want to be lean and slim. I wrote this down on my To-Do list…not sure if I will do a full-blown paid course, free ebook, or just a post…but I think it would help a lot of women. Note: I learned a lot of this stuff from listening to my older sister, who is a bigger fitness nut than me…easily gains muscle…yet has worked out in a special way over the past 23 years to stay lean and slim.

Michael,

I wish I had good advice for your wife…I am not an expert when it comes to shoulder injuries…hopefully someone will comment and give you some good guidance. Anyone?

Mike,

Yeah…I have seen Zuzana’s site before. That lady is pretty darn fit and strong.

Helder,

Yeah…pretty cool that Pavel was there in person while Anna was getting certified. I am a big fan of the guy. Power to the People http://tinyurl.com/PTP-by-Pavel is probably my favorite workout book of all time.

flowerd,

It is fine to stick to machines, but maybe throw in some body weight stuff as well. Many of the free weight areas can be intimidating at first, and although there are probably a few cheesy muscle head guys…for the most part guys respect anyone trying to get ahead lifting free weights.

Kat,

That is funny. Some of the bodybuilder focused magazines have all sorts of freaky looking men and women, inside…I bet your kids find the magazine amusing. My nieces were looking at a magazine rack and saw a guy on the cover of “Flex” magazine. They opened it up and said “Ewww Gross” about a dozen times as they were flipping through pages. Funny stuff.

Michael,

Yeah women should take up weights and then just adjust the volume sets and reps depending upon their ability to gain muscle.

Tomasz,

I like the clean design of your blog (I can’t help it but to check out the links in the comment section). Anyway, great point. It all depends upon the person…not necessarily the gender. Anna did a good job on describing those types of guys however.

Baz,

Jeff has a book that is included in the package called “The Home Supplement Creator’s Little Black Book” In it, he has a special arrangement for people in the UK and AUS who bought his Homemade Supplement Secrets ebook. He has a connection with a supplier that provides cheap supps and shipping overseas.

Chris,

I agree…just like men, it is all about how much volume and breakdown that the workout provides. The workout can be tailored to fit any type of desired physique.

Charlotte, Scott, Marion, and Abril

Yeah…I am going to create a program for women who want to lift weights without getting bulky. It won’t apply to all women, but it will help in the case of women who do put on size quickly. There seems to be enough demand for this type of product.

Primalfit,

Yeah…when I wrote that e-mail I think I felt bad that I was eating meat (just for the animals). Most of the time I am fine with it, but every now and then I wonder what it would be like to be a vegetarian. That being said, I still eat meat but I limit the amount and I am slowly introducing more fruits and vegetables. I think it is more about balance. I agree with Mark Sisson, that the body feels better with at least a little meat.

Rusty

Sandeep November 19, 2009 at 4:00 am

Hey Rusty,

Thanks for the advice. I’ll give it a shot and let you know what happens. 🙂

Cheers!
Sandeep.

Ryan November 19, 2009 at 1:48 pm

good blog. keep it goin. question. you say if you keep your reps and sets low youll work towards muscle def without putting on size. so why dont you squat low rep?

FitJerks Fitness Blog November 20, 2009 at 3:37 pm

@Manda

You consist of 75% fast twitch fibers? Damn, most dudes would KILL for that composition since they could grow very, very quickly. But then again, supermodels wished the had my metabolic rate so you know.

As for your “problem”… you need to stick to super high rep training sweetheart. And remember, if you don’t feed it as much, it won’t grow. The best seeds in the world won’t grow if they aren’t given water so caloric restriction along with high rep training 20-30 should go a long way for you if you pack on size THAT easily.

Studio Element Personal Training November 21, 2009 at 6:35 pm

It depends less on gender and more on goal desired. If someone is looking for weight loss, their program will focus on high repetition, lower weight, circuit, fast moving workout regardless of gender. Likewise for other goals. The only difference is that women generally have less upper body potential per their size.

Maria November 22, 2009 at 7:44 am

Great post.
I find your blog and there are some good posts.
I spend hours here readng everything and I loved.

and the michael’s music in the video was great too!
hahahah

Kitty November 22, 2009 at 10:36 pm

I’m in the same boat as Manda, I put on muscle, particularly on the legs, so all lower-body-weights are absolutely out of the question.
As for FitJerks suggestion of calorie restriction, I still managed to gain leg muscle doing exercise on a diet of 750calories/day
FirJerks should also note that Manda’s original post said she put on muscle from walking – this is a VERY high rep exercise!!!

Nice to see a post for women, Rusty
Thanks

Reka November 23, 2009 at 6:12 pm

As woman, I can only say: Perfect. Finally!!! Great article, thank you.

Reka November 23, 2009 at 6:26 pm

oh, sorry for the double post, I just have to add that I left two gyms because the “trainer” people there told me not to use heavy weights because I would put on mass. They told me to use small weights for endless reps, so I switched to another gym, then, for the same reason, to the next one.
By lifting heavy big weights and doing mostly HIIT (and some steady sate as well) I have lost 27 kg’s so far (and am very close to my final goal) while getting stronger and feeling better than ever before. So much for those know-it-all guys, I was quite fat back then so they probably thought I was new to training but I already knew much more than falling for their advice.

Now the trainer and owner of the gym I’m visiting is wise and up to date, he even encourages me to raise the weights, do more compound exercises with weights as big as possible – which I was already doing, with results.

I was so fed up getting those strange looks in my previous gyms, and here the owner one day just told me I should try to do chinups (being able to do them was one of my big dreams), and finally I did my first one (and many others since then).

So, anyway, the stuff written in this article works and is worth solid gold!

Shaun November 24, 2009 at 3:24 am

@ The First comment

It is true that most women cant get bulky (and its not a look that I am a great fan of) However it can be done and women can do the same workouts as men. It’s just that they will never reach those super weights that men do. But heres a good example of a lady that can build a body well with a mans workout. Fighterdiet.com

Islandgyrl November 25, 2009 at 2:56 pm

I’m looking forward to learning to lift without bulking!! I love lifting but as several women commented earlier, some of us do bulk easier than others. For me, I bulk in the arms and legs, which is not a good look for a 5′ 3″ woman. lol

Maybe early 2010 for the new material?? Give us enough time to lean out and look great for summer and beyond. This was an excellent post.

Helen November 27, 2009 at 6:12 pm

I’m new to strength training, but want to lose weight and gain strength since I spend my summers running round in 4 stone of armour, fighting with weaponry as a re-enactor, mainly against men, who often weight twice what I do. (I’m a 33-year old woman, approx 75kg/ 11 1/4 stone)
My wants for fitness are mainly to do with not feeling like I’m about to fall over at the end of a hour in battle, rather than from looks.
The weight is carried across the body, but mainly on the shoulders, either spread over the back, or armoured legs that hang off a harness, like braces…
Now… I’ve recently started working out approx 3 times a week, doing a combination of cardio and strength.
I’m happy with how thats working out on my shoulders, neck and arms, since I’m noticeably bulking and toning, ditto stomache and back and I’m ramping up the dumbell kilos…
However, I’m having problems with my thighs and bottom, where I am bulking under muscle really quickly, (using resistance machines) but the fat layer is just staying there, as an obvious moveable layer of an inch or so depth… they’re getting like tree trunks and I’m putting on weight rather than losing… though I’ll admit my circulation is improving and the cellulite’s going..and its starting to hurt my hips, and my bottoms becoming quite a strange shape..

Dont get me wrong, I’m happy to bulk here, but the fat layer feels like I’m doing something worng/ out of balance.

I’m now a UK size 10 top half, 8-10 waist, and I’m finding size 16 trousers tight round the leg (not to say loose at the waist!)
I’m cutting calories to perhaps 1000 per day, avoiding carbs and upping the ‘coloured’ veg content.

I’ll happily push myself as far as I need to, and actively enjoy it but my 2 biggest problems are
1) A minefield of info on exercising so where to start safely, and sensibly means I’m relying on intuiton, and thats probably not the best..
2) something that works for me with the leg issue, and hyper-mobilitiy meaning that many of the extension exercises are a bit dangerous for me since i get lots of side-to-side wobble (joint instability), and over-extension can cause problems, so for instance, whenever I do leg or arm extensions I have to lock out before my natural limits.

Any assistance from more experienced people welcome!

Apologies if this is basic stuff to ask, or its not the appropriate place.. but this is the first website I’ve come across that seems to carefully consider stuff and appears to have a good dollop of common sense, as well as considering that not everyone who wants to get fit is a guy, and not everyone has the same goals or body types!.. thanks Rusty and Anna!

Sara December 2, 2009 at 5:36 am

I think women arent supposed to work out like men do, its not natural! When i asked my personal trainer from Carlsbad, he agreed with me and said I should stick to the basic exercises, and thats what I have been doing.

Denzel - Genf20 December 9, 2009 at 10:13 am

Women are best sticking with calisthenics; lifting weights is for men. The idea of muscle bound women is not quite acceptable with us humans and I don’t think it ever will. That does not mean women can’t be body builders but somehow we are not hardwired that way.

PowderBlue December 10, 2009 at 5:42 am

FitJerks Fitness Blog

your comment is rude. Sorry.

Isis December 18, 2009 at 3:15 pm

what would you recommend for a women that wants to trim and cut up her upper body and gain in her lower body. I need at least two inches more in my glutes.

Ty December 19, 2009 at 3:52 pm

That’s rubbish to generalize and say that most men train chest and biceps only. Every gym I’ve been in has had everyone training their whole body in a balanced way. That’s due to good education, people understand how to train properly.

Basically women can train the same way as men, but women have different priorities to men. It’s just understanding what women want and customizing a workout programs to suit their needs.

carla December 26, 2009 at 11:30 am

@ Manda: You check out your food intake. I am also a girl who lifts heavy and for a long time I was just getting quite bulky for my taste. And before anyone suggest that my body fat may have been high, no I was at a respectable 11%. Anyway, I took a hard look at my food and decided to make my portions smaller. 6 times a day of course but smaller portions. If you dont “overfeed” your muscles they won’t get too bulky. Worked for me. No, I did not and do not starve and I also did not lose my muscle mass.

Anyway, these were my two cents.

carla December 26, 2009 at 11:35 am

Not natural? seriously, please tell me you are not training with pink weights doing 50 reps or whatever other silly training programme. Heavy training is relative, it depends on the person, how fit he or she is, and perhaps even more, how disciplined and how capable the person is of “hurting” him/herself while training.

Get off the treadmill people. If you are on it, hit it hard, do interval trainings. Get on to the weight training area and make sure you sweat. Sitting on a machine (I am not a big fan of machines anyway) for 2 minutes, looking around, making sure people can see you. it is working hard, intensity and at times not necessarily volume.

Personal trainers who claim that women shouldn’t train like men, should revise their own training ideas. They are still in the days of horrid aerobics.

Jan January 25, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Great article, makes sense. But I have a question though. I used to be a javelin thrower and now am stuck with huge shoulders and arms. Yes, women do get bulky, maybe not bulky to guys, but to us, HUGE.

Anyway, when training as a thrower, I used to lift really heavy weights, and I was thinking my bigger upper body is the result of that. Any advice on how shave off a little muscle mass in that area??

Anna February 11, 2010 at 9:17 pm

I don’t know. I really go back and forth on this one. Sometimes I’ll get really hyped and hit the free weights for a month listening to everyone saying ladies won’t bulk up if we lift weights. Then I end up looking like a comic book superhero (I’m 5’10” and pretty lean), not the ones from the movies but the ones from the actual cartoon!

I’m trying to find a balance that works for me. Right now I’m doing HIIT, followed by steady state cardio with some planks and other core routines in it.

What is for sure is I’d rather be muscular over flabby soo that being said I’ll definitely do more resistance training if things start to look out of shape.

James Reno April 1, 2010 at 11:19 am

We should all do a variety of exercises, and mix them up. Cardio, weights, stretching and high intensity like tabata etc. Keep the body guessing and adaptable. Within those guidelines adapt to your specific sport.

James Reno
Raw-Food-Repair.com

Margie April 13, 2010 at 7:42 am

Hi Rusty!

I’d like to say that I’m a BIG fan of your blog and I spend hours here everyday lol.

Anyway, I have never used kettlebells, but it’s something I’d like to try out. I prefer working out at home and would like to ask for your opinion on how much should the kettlebells I will buy should weigh.

Oh and my current workout plan is planks, HIIT (jump rope/treadmill), steady state cardio, and I soon plan on incorporating kettlebells. Can I ask your opinion about this? And in what order might you suggest I do these?

I hope to hear back from you! Thanks!

Robin H May 21, 2010 at 9:33 am

I have to sympathize with Manda. So many people say women can’t bulk up much because of lack of testosterone. They’re only speaking out of theory and not experience (it’s often men who say it). I’ve seen guys work for weeks to gain a half inch in their calves. I could probably do that in 2 days, though the LAST thing I want is bigger calves! I guess I’d be an ideal candidate for a sex change.

The fact is, certain women DO have a bulking up issue. Looking relatively lean is not hard for me, but looking thin and graceful is. Sometimes I feel like the only times I’ve looked feminine in all my clothes were when I was not really exercising and eating anorexically, partying, etc., resulting in somewhat thin legs and arms (“thin” is actually kind of pushing it here. Proportionately normal, I guess would be more accurate).

Rusty, I have a feeling this demographic is much larger than many people think. I’ve known many women with a similar issue, and just looking at their bodies, I know they’re not making it up. It’s even more of an issue in today’s world where models, actresses and, yes, probably Bond girls tend to have a BMI of around 18 with very delicate musculature and long, willowy limbs (I would be hospitalized if my weight fell that low).

While I’m certainly grateful that I can look healthy and fairly fit without trying too hard, I would sure love to look feminine in a sundress without resorting to unhealthy strategies 🙁

By the way, Manda, I agree that Pilates is a GREAT toning program for women like us. It does help a lot when I have the money for it (it really requires a good trainer, one-on-one or VERY small training groups, and proper equipment, etc. = $$$CASH$!!). Even then, it’s not the best for fat-burning and overall health benefits (at least in my experience).

Robin H May 21, 2010 at 9:50 am

PS: I’ve seen Asian cosmetic clinic websites advertising a procedure using botox on calves (for women) to make the muscle smaller. I guess I’m really naive, but I always thought walking required functioning muscles… :s

Anyway, I just thought that was kind of disturbing 😀

ncarreon May 23, 2010 at 7:10 am

Women who are on intense workout just like men tend to look more like a man in her the body shape. I know lots of female athlete who is looks like a male in her body appearance.

Robin H June 16, 2010 at 6:31 pm

For anyone still following this topic, I have been doing intervals for the past month along with the warrior diet. i started with HIIT sprinting for two weeks, then i’ve been doing Craig Ballantyne’s crazy eight body weight circuit (sometimes adding ten minutes of jump rope afterward). i have definitely burned some fat and look and feel better overall, but there’s no doubt that my thighs are looking thicker than if i were just doing steady-state cardio. this is the part where i typically back off and gain weight again because i’m not happy with what’s happening to my legs.

wedding aisle runners June 25, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Men and Women have different bodies and should do whatever it feels right for their bodies.

Daniel July 20, 2010 at 9:02 pm

You cannot say how women should or should not train without making a judgement on how you think they should look. The same holds true for men.

It really depends on what the person wants. Most men would want to add on muscle mass. Almost everyone wants to lose bodyfat. But not everyone has the same physique goals. I have met women who are so skinny that they would like to gain some FAT to look more feminine.

Do you know how many cookies the girls in the 50 cent videoclips have to eat to get a nice booty?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRcnnId15BA

You really cannot make such generalisations like in this article. I have seen videos and pictures of competitive female Olympic weightlifters who are not bulky at all, but also of female competitors who look like the incredible hulk. It’s not just drugs, some people are just genetically more prone to gaining muscle size with little effort.

Silent August 11, 2010 at 9:36 am

Hi!
Great site. It’s very unconventional. Dying to try new things. I would like to know your opinion about this:
I am 5’3, around 104 pounds 16,5% BF (ehem), light frame-pear shape 36 years old.
I see some definition in my arms and the “four pack” 😉 but my hips and glutes show no improvement. In this case, do you think 3 reps of knife lifting and slicing will do?
Seriously, I don’t know what to do anymore. I know how to deal with the upper part, but what about the lower?

Thank you for your time

Seane September 7, 2010 at 9:57 pm

Exercise must a planned and measured undertaking that is tailored for the individual. It is fantastic gaining guidence such as here, but ultimately one must consider their own health, abilities and objectives.

Meeshmeesh September 26, 2010 at 1:16 am

I am a 46 year old woman, who has trained hard for the past 27 years. I have a very muscular build, low body fat. I build muscle very easily. I have to say, the only way to train is to train hard. I lift heavy, I mix it up, and I do exercises that get the most bang for my buck, like dead lifts, walking lunges, squats, push-ups, etc. etc. This is how I have always trained. I will never look like a man. To the contrary, my body is very feminine, very curvy, and very defined. I tell everyone that strength training is the fountain of youth. It helps with my bike riding, with my running, and with my swimming. It has kept me looking like a woman in my 30’s, even after having three children. So, my advice to all the women out there is: if you are going to work, than give it 100%. Push your body to beyond what you think you are capable of, and then push it some more. Don’t be afraid of getting bulky. Instead, embrace the feeling that comes from feeling strong and sexy at the same time. I feel blessed that I happened upon this secret when I was at the tender age of 19. I will do this for as long as I am physically able.

Nu Era Fitness March 28, 2011 at 6:25 pm

I agree wholeheartedly with Meeshmeesh. Bottom line, the only way to train…TRAIN HARD. The key is to focus on core strength and conditioning. When you do this, man or woman, you are improving and developing your overall physical fitness. You’re getting stronger. You’re getting faster. You’re getting leaner. You’re getting tighter. To actually “bulk up” takes a little additional work. Men especially like to focus on bigger muscles and a bigger physique, however, this means they’re also changing their diet, taking in more calories and protein, and focusing mainly on heavy lifting. Kettlebell Workouts are a great solution for both men and women, and they target complete total body fitness. But remember, however you train…TRAIN HARD!

Cam2Cam June 23, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Train Hard and Train Heavey. This applies to man and woman alike. Unfortunatly most woman a still afraid of muscle growth, fearing they will end up like Arnold.

Mika @ muscle warfare August 10, 2011 at 10:40 am

Nowadays women can do nearly all what men can do. As in fitness, I think women should do the same as men.

Men are always more flexible and stronger than women but women has the power and will to have that desirable and beautiful body.

Terry Crews Diet June 20, 2012 at 7:41 pm

But for me, woman have limitations when it comes in workouts, they can workout but slight because it’s not really good if a woman have a muscles. They can workout for fitness and to loss weight.

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