Man up: should women be lifting heavy weights?
Hot and heavy
That's got your attention, hasn't it? But before you lose your organic bananas, I'm not talking about any of the usual clichés associated with where a woman belongs. I'm talking about strength training. I'm talking about putting down those pretty pink dumbbells and replacing them with weights and techniques that will actually challenge you enough to finally achieve the body you've always wanted.
But first, an apology - because I'm sure it's mostly us men who are to blame. You've seen us in the gym with our overly optimistic view of how strong we are, lifting with horrible form, sweating, grunting, moaning, groaning, dramatically dropping weights and swapping high fives and ass slaps with our mates. And then there's the flexing. Oh dear god - I am so sorry for the flexing!
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These men are poor examples to follow. I promise you, you won't get big and bulky by lifting weights. What you will get is stronger, leaner, fitter, healthier and happier. Being a cardio queen ain't the key to getting results. Yes, cardio has its place, but that place is in the backseat of your program, not the driving force.
I'll let you in on a little secret. You should train like a man. No, I don't mean like Captain Grunty and his mates. Here are three key tips you can implement into your program straightaway to get you that bangin' body transformation.
1. Stop thinking it's a race
An easy way to reach your goals faster is to vary the way you lift weights. Varying the amount of time your muscles spend under tension can have a positive and significant effect on your strength, energy expenditure and post-workout metabolism. So, if you were squatting and you lowered (eccentric movement) into the squat for 1 second, then came up (concentric movement) for 1 second and did that 10 times, your set would only take 20 seconds. But if you lowered for 4 seconds and came up for 1 second and did that 10 times, your set would take 50 seconds. Which do you think would burn more calories? If you're still unsure, give both a go. I promise you the workout will get harder, you'll sweat more and get strong and leaner!
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2. Start selecting weights that truly challenge you
I'm not talking about moving from the 2kg dumbbells to the 3kg dumbbells. Instead, you should begin to properly follow repetition ranges. One term you should become familiar with is 'positive failure':
Positive: Maintaining good form throughout the full range of motion with little to no variance in correct posture (you should first learn any exercise correctly, with a low or even no weight).
Failure: The point at which you could literally not complete another rep without losing good form. So if you were using a range of between 12 to 15 reps, you should select a weight that allows you to lift it (with good form) for anywhere between 12 to 15 reps. If you could lift it 16 times, it's too light. Only 11 times, it's too heavy.
Correct weight selection takes practice and I would initially err on the side of caution. But if you've mastered key exercises such as the squat, deadlift, lunge and a range of pressing and pulling exercises, and you have no injuries or health concerns that would limit an increase in load, then I can't imagine a reason why you shouldn't begin to challenge yourself. As the saying goes, 'if it doesn't challenge you, it won't change you.'
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3. Try full body circuits with short rest periods for great results
In my years as a personal trainer, weight loss has easily been the most common goal for women. Full body circuit-style workouts using multi-joint exercises such as squats, deadlifts, bent over rows, pull ups and pushups are a great way to achieve a lean body. And because women tend to recover faster from their training than men, they can easily combine a few total body sessions into their week and get some truly amazing results. Not only do you get a great strength workout, but you will get a serious cardio workout too.
Here's a great full body session to try:
1. Sumo deadlift
2. Push up
3. Dumbbell front squat
4. Bent over row
1. Select a weight you can lift around 12 times.
2. Complete each exercise for 40 seconds using a tempo of 3 seconds down, 1 second up (if you follow this tempo you should get 10 reps for each exercise. Eight is fine, 12 is ok, 20... Did you even read the first tip?).
3. After each exercise take a 20 second rest before moving onto the next one.
4. Once you have completed all the exercises rest for 1-2 minutes, then repeat for 3-5 rounds.
If you're just starting out, you may want to try 30 seconds for each exercise with a 30 second rest instead. Good luck!
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