Friday, April 22, 2011

Guest Post: Weight Training for Women

With the 30 Day Shred Challenge in full swing---we start Level 3 on Sunday!---what better time than now to invite a professional into our midst to dispel some myths about strength training?  Lauren and I met on Birthright and I think she's the bee's knees!  Not only is she an amazing personal trainer (based in New York), but she's also one of the kindest, most caring people you'll ever meet.  She keeps her own blog over here.

Lauren was excited to write about how women should approach strength training.  I was surprised to learn that, even using 10-15 pound weights, I don't have to worry about becoming too "bulky" or thick.  Phew!  Now to just get strong enough to do *anything* with a 15 pound weight...

Lauren has been gracious enough to stick around the blog to answer your questions, so if you'd like to clear something up with a certified personal trainer, feel free to post in the comments section!  

Incidentally, if you live in the NY area, be sure to click here to pick up a fantastic coupon for a free personal training session with Lauren and 10% off any training packages.


Many women believe that if they work out with heavy weights and don’t stick with the cute pink and purple 5lb weights, that they will “bulk” up and look like the body builders and fitness competitors that they see in magazines.   This is not possible! Those men and women work very hard to look like that. It does not happen by accident.  They eat, sleep and breathe weight training.  Not to mention, they are often using illegal drugs and steroids to achieve that look.

Sometimes women may feel more “thick” in the beginning of weight training because you may be gaining muscle faster than you are losing fat.  Another reason why this can occur is you may begin to take in more calories than you realize.  When you are weight training and doing cardio, you are burning calories.   Your body naturally wants to replenish those calories that you have lost and therefore you may find yourself very hungry after the gym.  This is when self control comes into play.  You need to be very mindful of how much you are eating as to not take in extra calories that you just worked so hard to get rid of.   Another possible reason for feeling thick in the beginning of weight training is when you weight train, your muscles swell up.  Your body retains water and gases.  This can obviously give the appearance of “thickness.”  If you stick with a routine, trust the process and be consistent, you will see results.

Women have to challenge themselves when they work out just like men do.  You should choose a weight that you can do 3 sets of 12-15 reps with.  The last several reps should be challenging for you to complete.  This is how you see change and get the results you want.  If you are not challenging your muscles, they can’t change shape.   Those nice toned arms and legs that we all crave, that is from real weight lifting, cardio and eating clean.

If you are new getting into weight training, find a full body weight training routine to throw yourself into.  Again, make sure the weight you choose is challenging.   Don’t rest in between sets, keep moving.   This keeps your heart rate up and in the calorie burning range the whole time.  Don’t be afraid to sweat!!   It can be hard to not socialize at the gym, as many people do, but this is your time.  You want to see changes, you have to put in the time and trust the process.  Results don’t happen overnight.  Below is a starter full body workout for a female.

For a full body workout, you're going to be hitting every major muscle group.  If you do one set of a back exercise, you are then going to do a leg exercise.   This allows those previous muscles to rest.  I'm NOT a believer in doing 3 sets on one exercise then going to the next one.  Go from an upper body exercise to a lower body exercise.  Switching it up and constantly moving, no long rests in between sets.  Do not speed through the exercise.  There are several tricep and shoulder exercises listed below, but choose only one per workout.  However, do at least 2 back exercises per workout.  Strengthening your back not only helps in posture, but stops osteoporosis and other ailments from occurring once you’re older.  The same goes for ab exercises.  Do at least 3 different ab exercises per workout.  Strengthening your core is so important and is key in performing other exercises as well.   Feel free to change up your exercise routine as you become more comfortable.  Along with weight training, cardio and eating right is a MUST.  Speed walking, jogging, running, elliptical machines or doing the stairs for 45 minutes 4-5 times a week at least.  And when you do your cardio, SWEAT. It drives me crazy when I see people reading magazines and walking slower on a treadmill than when they walked into the gym.  If you are going to put time aside to go to the gym, make it worth it!

Upper Body:
Back: Lat Pull Downs-weight at 40-60lbs, 3 sets of 15 (don't speed through the set and don't go too slow)
Back: Row on a cable-weight 40-50lbs, 3 sets of 15
Chest: Chest Press with dumbbells- 8-10lb dumbbells 3 sets of 15
Shoulders: Shoulder Press with dumbbells- 8lb dumbbells 3 sets of 15
Shoulders: Lateral Raises with dumbbells- 5lbs 3 sets of 15
Biceps: Curls with dumbbells- 6-10lbs 3 sets of 15
Triceps: Triceps pull down with rope- 35lbs (this is done on a cable machine at a gym) 3 sets of 15
Triceps: One armed triceps extension- 5-8lbs 3 sets of 15

Lower Body:
Forward Lunges: 3 sets of 15...make sure you are pushing through your heals, not your toes. Make sure your front knee does not bend over your toe. Bend your knees, don’t lean forward. Your back knee should hover right above the ground, not touch it.
Backward Lunges: 3 sets of 15...again, make sure you are sitting up straight, don't lean forward and throw your leg all the way back.
---When the lunges become too easy, add weight. Hold dumbbells in your hands or a barbell across your back. This will make the exercise more challenging---
Squats: 3 sets of 15 and a 20lb bar across your back...feet hip width apart, arch your back, chest out, butt out and pretend like you are going to sit in a seat and lean back and bend all the way down so your legs are at a right angle. Don't allow your knees to go over your toes.
Leg Curls: This is done on a machine. There is either a lay down leg curl machine or a sitting one. If it is a lay down machine, feet together, knees together, pull your toes towards you and curl the bar up to your butt. Set it at 30-40lbs. If the leg curl machine is a sit down, again, legs and knees together, pull your toes towards you and squeeze the bar all the way back. Same weight both 3 sets of 15
Glute Blaster: If there is a glute machine, 3 sets of 15, you can set it around 20 lbs.
Abductor and Adductor Machine: These machines get your inner thighs and outer hip area. 3 sets of 15 set around 30-45lbs. Play around with the weight with these machines. The weight should be challenging but not impossible.

Crunches: 3 sets of 30...when your back is to the floor arch your back. When you do the crunch you should push your lower back into the floor. This is a correct crunch. Hands behind your head, chin always to the ceiling.
Reverse Crunch: Lay down flat on the floor, cross your feet and throw your legs up in the air, pop your butt at the top and slowly bring your legs down, do not allow your feet to touch the floor and repeat. 3 sets of 20. This exercise can also be done on a captain’s chair. Either bring your knees up to your chest and tilt your pelvis up OR straight legs, knees slightly bent and bring them up and slowly down. DO NOT SWING YOUR LEGS
Plank: On your elbows and toes, back straight as a board, hold this position for 30 seconds, 3 times.
---Any ab machines they have at your gym you can play around with too---

Lauren Eskenazi
A.C.E Certified Personal Trainer


Don't forget to leave your questions for Lauren in the comments section.  She's looking forward to chatting with you!

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