Ever since I started training I’ve been fortunate to work with hundreds of women – at the gym, through the internet via coaching programs – and you know what I’ve learned?
Most women who are seeking training advice only want to look better and feel better, and not call the gym home.
So why is this so hard to accomplish? Why can’t they get the results they want when they work so hard? (Most women I’ve ever worked with out work the men!)
It’s elementary my dear reader. Most of them are making one or more of these five mistakes.
Mistake #1: Choosing the wrong training style.
When left on their own, women often gravitate towards cardio-heavy activities like running or kickboxing, and away from pure strength training. While there is nothing wrong with doing cardio, especially if you enjoy it, there are numerous benefits to strength training for ladies.
Not only will strength training help you improve your posture and increase your bone density, but you’ll add muscle mass, which is metabolically expensive (read: burns more calories), making it easier for you to lose body fat. Not to mention, getting stronger is incredible for boosting self-confidence.
Mistake #2: Not following a well-designed program.
As I mentioned above, strength training is critical for women. That alone however is not enough. A properly designed training program has balance.
A program cannot only contain stretching, cardio or weights only. So what does a training program consist of?
• Soft Tissue Work – I usually use a foam roller and lacrosse ball for soft tissue work, but you can use a ball, rolling stick, PVC pipe, Theracane, or whatever combination of those you’d like. Make sure that you spend a few minutes before each session and this will help increase blood flow to the area and get you mentally ready to go all “beast mode” on your session.
• Cardio – The amount and type of cardio that should be included in a program is dependent on goals, and amount of time available to train. I like using a mix of both high-intensity interval training and moderate to low intensity cardio.
• Breathing – Beginning the warm up time with a hard exhale and pushing out all your air and get your ribs down will help activate the core. I also like to include silent, nasal breathing at the end of workouts to help clients calm down and switch to a more parasympathetic state to help jump start recovery.
• Dynamic Warm-Up – This includes some basic hip and thoracic mobility drills, some glute activation drills, and some core stability exercises. All these drills need to be done after soft tissue work and goes a long ways in improving movement capacity and overall well being.
• Strength Training – The routine varies based on the training experience and level of the trainee. It will include variations of the following movement patterns: squat, hinge, push, and pull, along with resisting rotation, extension, and lateral flexion with your core. It will also include single-leg and split-stance work. The exercise selection will greatly be dependent on movement capacity. If your program is missing any one of these vital components, you’re going to be missing out on reaching your full potential.
Mistake #3: Not lifting heavy enough.
When I first started lifting weights back in 2002, I’d go to the gym to the free weights and grab 5-10 lb. dumbbells and go to town, 15 if I felt really good.
I would do a few dumbbell chest presses and then some biceps curls and then finish it off with more biceps, some 21s or 7-7-7 curls.
Yes I actually thought that would stretch my shirt sleeves.
And, it’s safe to say that I got nowhere. My body didn’t change much and I didn’t notice any increases in my strength levels whatsoever. I was lifting weights consistently so why wasn’t I making #gainz?!
Because I wasn’t lifting heavy enough.
Keep in mind that “heavy enough” is relative. If you’re a beginner to lifting weights, using your own body weight will be plenty “heavy” at the beginning. Then as you get stronger you can load external weight to your training program. It’s known as progressive overload, you need to always try and increase loads to force the body to adapt. That is how you truly make progress in body composition.
Mistake #4. Not doing a thorough warm-up.
This is one of the biggest mistakes that I see not just women, but everyone, make in the gym. Most people walk in, go right to a machine to “warm up” for 10 minutes or worse to the free weights that they plan on using, immediately pick up their working weight, and get after it. That’s a recipe for disaster!
I broke down some of the movements you would perform during a warm up but let me explain why it’s so important for you. Not only does it increase blood flow to your muscles, increase core temperature and get your body prepared for your workout – but it’s fantastic for improving body awareness. This can help reinforce how to perform certain movement patterns using the correct muscle groups and allow for more effective and safe workout.
Mistake #5: Not resting long enough in between exercises.
I recently had a client and he just finished a superset of deadlifts and push ups. While I was unloading the bar, I told him to “grab some water while we set up the next set of exercises.” Thus allowing him to stay hydrated and get some rest.
Client: “I don’t need water”
(He proceeded to then start pushing the prowler instead)
Me: It’s always important to stay hydrated while working out. Take a breather.
Client: I don’t need water or a break. Lets just go!
I proceeded to do a mental face palm.
Taking time to rest appropriately between exercises allows your muscles to recover almost fully, so that you can perform quality reps of each exercise with the heaviest load your body can handle for the given set and rep recommendation.
For bigger compound movements that are placed at the beginning of your workout, you want more rest (generally 2 – 4 minutes). In contrast, you can typically get away with 30–90 seconds between sets of accessory movements, especially if they are paired with other exercises.
Putting it All Together
By follow the steps outlined above you’ll be well on your way to attaining the progress that you deserve. What’s worse feeling than putting in the work only to feel like you’re only spinning your wheels. Avoid these problem and you'll be on the right path.
If you’re still unsure, I would seek out a qualified coach to learn how to properly set up a training and nutrition program.
Of course if you happen to be in the Los Angeles area I would be happy to help or direct you to a great trainer if you're located elsewhere.