“Don’t trust trainers who have pencil necks or ones who are quick to give you advice on how to get strong, but when you ask them what weights they can lift they tell you they’re training for a marathon!” – Ben Franks
I’ve started this article with the above quote, because I believe the reason there’s so much confusion out there in regards to training women lies at the feet of the coaches who have refused to better educate themselves. Over the years I’ve seen all manner of things come in and out of this industry; to my amazement there seems to be a constant need to misinform women on how to train. Hopefully after reading this it will become abundantly clear that the only difference between training men and women is that there should be no Lycra worn by men at any point… ever.
It’s a myth that if you lift heavy, you will get bulky. Ladies, you have to lift heavy weight 3-4 times per week. Why? Because it increases your strength, burns more calories, helps you jump higher, run faster, stay injury free; increases bone density, strengthens ligaments and tendons and you’ll sleep better as well. You will also lose weight faster and shape/change your body the way you’ve intended to. You will not get massive. This kicks sand in the face of every male that has spent years lifting! Unless you have a specific goal in regards to putting on size, (targeted training, supplements and very good genetics) then you could spend years lifting heavy and the only thing that will happen is that you’ll get stronger… not bigger. As a whole, women don’t have the hormones required to bulk up… granted some have more than others, but this is not the rule, but the exception.
Work on your weakness.
What I’m talking about here is accessory exercises to make your main lifts better. You need to target the areas that are holding your strength gains back. Hamstrings, glutes, calfs, biceps, triceps, lower back, abs, pecs, shoulders… all this should be part of your weekly training schedule regardless of your chosen sport or endeavour. No one ever complained of being too strong, injury free or of having a better work capacity.
Train your upper body.
You need to target areas that you are weak in and for most females it’s the upper body. You need to increase the training load/volume on the upper body if you’re not already doing this. Twice a week will do for a start, and that needs to be consistent. That means twice a week for every week in line with your training block. You won’t get bigger arms, your back won’t pop out of your shirt… again you’ll just get stronger, shape your body and increase the density of your bones whilst improving in your chosen sport or job.
Learn how to lift.
You’d think this would be the next logical step, but sadly most of the time it’s not. When I say learn how to lift, I mean find a coach who can show you the proper technique. This is a process and will take more than one session. Find a good coach – someone who can lift themselves; who practices what they preach and has a good track record. So many times people get put off lifting heavy weight, because they injure themselves due to incorrect technique, incorrect programming, lifting too heavy too quick and a poor coach who doesn’t monitor all of this for them.
While I was writing this I asked one of my athletes who trains with me regularly what benefits she has noticed since she started training with us just over a year ago. These are her words…
“My butt has significantly lifted. I have more defined legs, a toned mid section, defined shoulders. More energy & focus throughout the day. Better posture, improved running style and improved times! My swimming is stronger; paddling for waves is far easier. I have better balance on my board and improved my boxing style and strength. Plus I can carry all my groceries into the house in one go!” – Amanda K
Overall, the way you strength train a female client or a male client should not be different because of their sex. Skill, training age, past injuries and goals are how we focus our programming – not gender. No one has ever has been hampered by being stronger. Don’t buy into the lies or bullshit that surround this subject, focus on the facts not the emotion.
Train hard, train smart!