Monday 2 May 2016

My Number 1 Training Tip for Women

Ladies, its time you get the results you deserve! I’m sick and tired of women being on the receiving end of bad training advice. Too many ladies have unmet goals. Too many women consistently invest their valuable time and energy at the gym and yet fail to get the results they want. Whether you are an athlete who wants to compete in elite level sport, or you just want to develop a hard, toned athletic body, there is one thing that you must do. Every woman who has been truly successful with training does this. It is the number one most important thing I can tell you about how to train to get the results you want. 

My Number 1 Training Tip for Women:

Train in a way that makes your body change! 

Always remember that your body does not want to change. It wants to stay where it is. It doesn’t care about your fitness goals. If you just go through the motions, your body says, “Thank you very much – I can handle this workout without changing.”

However, your body is designed for survival. If you threaten your body’s survival you force it to change. If your training tells your body it can’t currently handle the stress of your workout, your body will be forced to adapt.

The problem
The problem for too many women is that they simply go through the motions. They see pictures of skinny women in magazines and online who lifting ridiculously light weight and naturally assume that women should lift light weights.

These weights won't sculpt and tone your arms

Recently, I was discussing this with my colleague and fellow Spartan Strength Coach Adrienne Friesen. We both expressed our frustration with some of our female athletes who constantly have to be nagged to increase their weights. I asked Adrienne if she would be willing demonstrate how many she sees many ladies train until learn to truly push themselves. Here is what she did:

Even an amazing exercise such as the deadlift will be rendered unless if done in this unfocused, non-aggressive manner. Now, contrast that video above to this video below of Adrienne actually training. 

Ladies, nothing happens until you embrace hard, focused, intense training!

Common Concerns

But I don’t want to bulk, I just want to tone
For decades now, the fitness industry has preached, “Heavy weights to bulk, light weights to tone and define!” 

Pictures like this send the wrong message to ladies!

Light weight training only works if one of the following applies to you:
  • You are a complete beginner and still trying to learn proper technique (note: if this is you, use light weight until you learn the movement, then progressively add weight)
  • You are 18
  • You picked the right parents (i.e. you naturally have a long, lean, slender build)
  • You are basically starving yourself (not good, safe or healthy – please don’t go there!)
  • You know a great plastic surgeon 
  • You know a great photo shop artist

If you are a naturally-skinny teenager, you can get
away with this - for a while.
Everyone else will have to move beyond the Barbie weights.

As a strength coach I help some athletes get bigger and stronger. However most of the time I’m trying to get athletes stronger, leaner, faster and more explosive without getting bigger. Also, because I work with the top university athletes in the country, many of them have amazing genetics. That means that many of them have a body type that can easily gain muscle and they can get too big for optimal performance if I’m not careful. However, in this case, I don’t follow mainstream fitness fiction and do light weight for high reps, I simply adjust the training variables.

The truth is that heavy training does not automatically lead to bulk. While big weights are important, they are only part of the equation. You need to understand the whole formula:

Bigger & Stronger = Heavy weights + sufficient volume for size gains (i.e. more total reps) + calorie surplus

Hard, Lean Athletic Body = Heavy weights (at an insufficient volume for size gains) + interval training (e.g. sprints) + caloric deficit

For more info on training without bulking up, check out these posts: 

Heavy, intense training is not feminine???
As a guy, I have no right to tell any women what is and isn’t feminine. However, as a trainer, I have a responsibility to let people know if there is a gap between their action and their goals. If you think playing high-level competitive sport is feminine, then so is the intense training needed to play elite sport safely and effectively. If you think having a hard, toned body is feminine, then so is the intense training to sculpt this body. 

If you are serious about your training and you want results, stop caring about what other people might think. Don’t worry about going red or having an ugly training face. Don’t worry about getting all sweaty and messy. Just do what you have to do to get the results you want.

I don’t want to get hurt
If you get hurt, you can’t train. As a coach, safety is my number one goal for my clients and athletes. However, with proper training, there still is a risk. Josh Bryant said it well:

“Anything that is completely safe is completely useless.”

You can minimize your risk by not going so heavy that you can’t maintain proper form and stopping a set when you know the next rep will get ugly. Beyond that, your goals will determine how far you want to go. The farther you want to take your body, the greater the risk. You decide.

The weight I’m lifting still feels hard
Many people make the HUGE mistake of waiting until the weight “feels” easy before they increase it. Please don’t be one of them. Real training never feels easy. Remember, your body can handle easy training without changing. Unless you are having a bad day or purposely taking an easy week for recovery purposes, strive to add weight or reps (while maintaining form) to your lifts most training sessions.

I don’t want too get tired or sore for my sport
Smart, successful athletes prioritize their sport over training. However, while sport is the most important thing, effective training is essential for optimal sport performance and injury prevention. While high-rep exhaustive work will hinder your performance, low rep non-exhaustive work will actually improve your performance without making you tired or sore. 

(note: if you’re an athlete, part 2 explains how to not get sore) 

Smart but hard, intense, aggressive training is essential for your success. Once you get this down – that’s when the magic starts to happen!

How about you? If you train hard now, how did you make the switch? As always, I welcome your comments or questions below or on my Facebook Page.

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