After last week’s round of comments on my post about weight lifting, I had to write a follow-up post (or two or three!) on the topic of weight training for women.
It’s sad to me that there is such a big fear factor over weight training amongst women – because truly, it is so, so, so good for you on many levels (more on this later). And mentally – I have to say, it instills a sense of power and confidence that I can’t replicate with other workouts.
So, here are my tips for how to make weight training both approachable but also sustainable. I heard from you that it is scary or an “unknown” for you, or that you just can’t seem to commit to a regular weight training routine at all. You need a goal to work towards (like a race) to stick with something, but with weights, there isn’t necessarily such a tangible end goal or “end” at all.
*Remember – I’m no pro, this is just my advice from personal experiences only
- If you’re intimidated by the gym…consider starting out with weight training at home. All you really need to get started are a few dumbells in various increments (5 lbs; 8 lbs; 10 lbs; 15lbs is a good starting point for a beginner) and either a handy-dandy workout “borrowed” from your favorite blogger (hint hint!) or a workout DVD that takes you through the steps (like my friend Cathe Friedrich who taught me so much about proper form – all in a DVD no less!)
- Take a weight lifting class at your gym. This one is huge for those of you who LOVE the vibe of a group fitness class but typically gravitate towards cardio-based group classes only. This is equally huge for those of you looking for form pointers and are afraid of injury. You should get solid direction from your instructor, and in some cases, they’ll walk around the room and correct your form if needed.
- If you’re comfortable, even just a little bit with going to the weight room at your gym (I know some of you are) – consider starting out slowly with your own weight routine. Start with one body part a day after you get your cardio fix on. For biceps – start with bicep curls with a set of dumbells, then shift to a set of bicep curls done with a barbell (it works the muscle differently), and finish with a set of incline curls on a weight bench. It could be as simple as that. You can start going crazy with “drop-sets” and “trisets” and “supersets” later, but get comfortable with the weights first, and the exercises (note why is that word so hard to spell?!). Get them down first before going into the more advanced weight work (and I will do a post on all of these fun types of weight workouts next, I promise).
- For those of you who are comfortable with weights but just can’t figure out how to stick to it? Consider a one-month rotation. Create your own 3x/week weight workout that incorporates two days of upper body and one day of lower body work (I’ll create a sample schedule for you in a follow-on post) and map it out for the month, gradually increasing your weight little by little. And by the end of the month, check out those “guns” in the mirror – I can guarantee you they’ll be more toned and defined. Feel free to measure before/after if that’s your thing. Or take before/after pics if you need that for tangible motivation. For me – my motivation is more mental, I love how weight lifting makes me feel so strong and confident. And wearing a tank top with killer arms in the summer isn’t a bad mental image either, not gonna lie. 😉
- Above all else, figure out what works for you. For some of you – lighter weights with tons of reps may feel “good” for you. For others, going heavier but with less reps might be more your speed. You might hate working out in your gym but love it at home, or you might only want to take a group fitness class (like Group Power or Body Pump) because you like the group fitness atmosphere. Or you might find that you love Cathe as much as I still do, today! And maybe, just maybe you’ll realize that with consistent effort, you’ll find that sense of empowerment I mentioned above about weight lifting. At the end of the day though, this is about you and what makes you feel strong and fit and healthy and powerful. Am I right?
So yeah, this is turning into a series of posts from me. I’ve hinted at the topics I plan to cover here, but feel free to ask for others and I’ll add them in! This will be fun! 🙂
And if you’re wondering…last night I ended up with a mix of my “revised” workout plan of Core Fusion but added in a weight workout. Of the leg (oww) and shoulders variety.
Shoulders – supersets, endurance-style (my favorite – high reps, low weights)
Shoulders superset #1: shoulder presses (barbell-style)@27.5 lbs; followed by upright rows (barbell-style) @27.5lbs – 3 sets @15 reps each
Shoulders superset #2: Front raises @7.5 lbs followed by lateral raises @7.5 lbs – 3 sets @15 reps each
Legs – trisets, baby!
Triset #1: Squats w/barbell @40lbs, deadlifts @40 lbs, lungs (bodyweight only)
Triset #2: slide-back lunges with paper plates (bodyweight only); plie squats @30 lbs; calf raises @20 lbs
Followed that all up with some lengthening leg work (10 min segment) and core work (another 10 min segment) from Core Fusion Lean & Toned, one of my favorites. Niiiice and toasty when all was said and done. Just the way I like it. 🙂
You are so knowledgeable! I definitely look forward to reading more. I am one of those people who feels really uncomfortable with the weights. I used to have no problem with strength training because I took the group ex classes at my gym twice a week and felt good about that. Once I started running higher mileage, those classes simply didn’t jive with my needs as a runner. I need to develop a plan that works for me and I know your tips will help!
Y’know? I guess I didn’t realize how much I’ve picked up over the years – until you said that you find what me so “knowledgeable,” which is such a huge compliment, btw! Thank you! I hope you can find a plan that works for you – or maybe the one I’m planning to write up as a sample, might work for you too. From one runner to another?
YES – I think the key is to get comfortable first. And I highly recommend the DVD route as well. You can watch someone execute the moves correctly (well, as long as they’re a good instructor like Cathe, ’cause some are just BAD). Then you can start to get a sense of how to work with reps, rep patterns, sets, the different types of lifting (like drop-sets, supersets, etc).
And the health benefits for women are just too numerous to count and it is nuts that it isn’t recommended more frequently by doctors. I’ll step far from the soap box now…
Absolutely! If you aren’t comfortable with a particular type of weight work (in the gym, in a class, at home, wherever), you’re not going to stick with it. And if you don’t LOVE the type of workout you’ve chosen, there’s no reason to stick with it, why not try something else? not only does it keep the body guessing but it’ll keep YOU motivated along the way too (something I think a lot of women struggle with related to weight training – sticking with it).
LOVE the soap box, friend – keep it coming!!
Agree 100% sis! I love this. Isn’t it crazy the knowledge we gain from working out with weights? Form? Different types of workouts, different methods etc? I think we can totally chalk so much of this up to Cathe and her form, technique and excellent programs, for starters, but now that we’ve done them so long, it is fun to break out a bit on your own. I also think weights are empowering and I feel so good when I’ve done a good weight workout (like hi-reps today! whoa nelly!). great post sis!
Seriously, I literally wrote this post in like 20 minutes, just typed away and before I knew it I was like wow, I guess I DO have a lot to say on the topic, who knew?! You’re right – Cathe has taught us SO MUCH about weight training, proper form, types of routines, etc. It’s awesome. She is the best. Maybe I’ll do a post just on good at-home weight workouts to try for those of you who are into the at-home idea. 🙂
I am going to try your advice and come up with my own little rotation. Actually, after reading your post last week on lifting, I forced myself out of bed and put in a solid hour of strength training (weights + body weight) right in my own living room. I was so glad that I did! It really does balance out all the running.
Well – if you wait a day, I’ll be posting some sample workouts you could use to create your own rotation. I LOVE that you’re going to start trying to create your own routines – because you’re right, it’s great balance with the running, and no doubt will improve your overall strength and endurance related to running (and lots of other sports too).
If it’s any comfort, weight training in a gym is also scary to men. It’s like if you walked into your favorite drinking establishment and there’s a bunch of regulars with a ruler up on the bar and their flys all unzipped.
It’s hard to get out of that mindset, that you’re being judged, that you’re not up for this, or that you’re exposed and unmasculine.
Thank you for chiming in with a male perspective – I guess I didn’t really consider the other side of the story but you’re right, I am SURE it can be daunting to step into a weight room as a guy (maybe even more so than for women) if you aren’t fully sure of how to construct your weight workout, how to find/keep proper form, etc. I wrongly assumed that it was mostly a female issue – so thank you for pointing that out, I really appreciate that!
And honestly, at the end of the day, for the most part, when we’re all at the gym working out, we really aren’t paying all that much attention to those around us. It just FEELS like a zillion eyes are watching you sometimes, especially when you’re unsure of yourself. Very hard to shake that feeling off, though.
Wow really like these fitness posts, you have a talent for all things fitness, would you consider working in the field or doing online fitness training? Would love to hear your thoughts on food and healthy eating. I like too that you have such a balance approach, practical and sensible approach to fitness, it’s really good. Well done! Looking forward to reading more.
Thank you Susan! I had a lot more fun than I expected to writing it, actually! I just love all things fitness which is why it probably comes so easily for me to write about it, you know? I would love to find a way to marry my love of fitness with my love of PR/social media. one day, perhaps?
As for food and healthy eating and a post on that? I think I can accomodate you. 🙂
This is such a great post. You know, I guess I never realized there were weight training DVDs! Lightbulb! I’m definitely into trying this at home since I don’t have a gym membership anymore. Looking forward to the rest of the posts on this topic!
HAHA! Well, I could go on forEVER about how much weight training at home taught me about form, styles of weight training, etc. In fact maybe I’ll share my favorite workout DVDs with you guys in a fun Friday post. Hmm. 🙂
Yes! That would be awesome.
Great minds think alike! I am working on a post about the very same topic 🙂 I think it also have a lot to do with education. Invest some time with a trainer to teach you the ropes and learn more about how your muscles do and do not work.
Ha! LOVE it. Can’t wait to check out your post – especially since you’re a pro and all. Very cool!
Really good advice in this post! You have a lot of knowledge and I love that you shared it here. I’m still getting into weight training. CrossFit is helping me get over my fear of so many types of exercise that I wasn’t familiar with.
I am so glad you are approaching your fear of weight training in a group setting via Crossfit. I’ve heard great things about that class but have yet to try it. Sometimes it’s a lot easier to get over your fear of a certain type of workout if you do it with others (vs all by your lonesome in a sweaty weight room).
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Hey Jess — just dipping a tentative toe into the blogging world, and this was one of the posts I really wanted to read 🙂 I think the idea of a series is a great ides — like I said, I don’t think it’s so much fear that stops women (not women who read fitness blogs, anyway!), but just feeling overwhelmed with all the different options and planning and figuring out how to start. So this is a great opener!
So glad you are starting to feel better (I hope!). I still would love a guest post from you one of these days, you weight training fool, you!
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