Posted by on Mar 11, 2013

BeginnersStrength Training

You won’t get big and bulky and you won’t turn into a she-hulk. But you will gain confidence, self-esteem and a bangin’ body.

How do I know? Six years ago I was a pudgy stay at home mom. I’d always been active, but for me that really meant running, yoga and the occasional “play with light dumbbells” session at the gym. I could never understand why I didn’t have the lean, athletic, feminine body I yearned for. I spent hours at the gym and I was always consistent.

The answer came to me in the form of iron, and since then, the iron and I have been the best of friends. I have a more desirable physique at 30 than I did at 20, and I feel better about myself in every conceivable way.

While I am blessed to coach and inspire many women around the world who appreciate and engage in regular strength training, I’m not ignorant to the fact there are still a lot myths and misunderstandings surrounding women and heavy weight training. But before I talk about why those ideas are myths rather than truths, let’s talk about the myriad of benefits that lifting weights provides.

Lindsay Cappotelli

Strength breeds confidence and independence

Why is it so important to be strong?

Metabolism and muscles: Firstly, and perhaps most cogent, is the effect that lifting weights has on fat loss. The more muscle a woman has, the more calories she will burn at rest. So basically, muscles speed up your metabolism, resulting in more effective fat loss.

Bone health: Many studies have shown that lifting weights regularly can increase bone density. Those of us in our 20s and 30s don’t think about this often, but someday you will. And won’t you be so proud of yourself that you lifted weights and cared for your bone density before you even knew you needed to?

Independence: I always say that strong makes everything easier. You know that furniture you need moved? Well, now you can do it yourself. How about those 15 bags of groceries? One trip from car to home–all you, girl.

I remember the moment I realized how important my strength was to my independence. I had just bought a twin bed for my son when he grew out of his toddler bed, and I didn’t have anyone to help me carry it into my apartment. I lugged it out of the back of my SUV and proceeded to carry it along the sidewalk, up the stairs, down the stairs and finally into his bedroom. It was exhausting, but I did it all by myself. To me, that kind of strength is priceless.

Confidence: Strong girls exude a confidence that is intoxicating. I happen to believe that this comes from the knowledge that you can accomplish pretty impressive feats at the gym. When you realize your outer strength, you can tap into your inner strength, and that begins to radiate. Confidence is a very attractive quality and that gym confidence starts to leak into every other aspect of life.

I always say, if you can crush it in the gym, you can crush it at life.

Jen Sinkler

Jen Sinkler is a great example of how even super strong women won’t get “bulky”

Why you won’t get bulky:

Hormones: Most women simply do not possess the level of testosterone necessary to support a bulky physique. Furthermore, any woman that does have a massively muscular physique is probably supplementing with hormones. While we all have different genetics, and some of us are prone to having more muscle density than others, as a general rule you have to train for bulk to get bulk.

Ask any bodybuilder and they will tell you – gaining muscle isn’t easy. You won’t turn into a she-hulk just because you perform squats with your bodyweight, but you will end up with a righteous backside.

Training model: Along those same lines as genetics, the way you train will play a significant role in determining how your body develops. Hypertrophy is not as easy as you might think, and most people work incredibly hard to make sure their training program supports muscle maximum muscle growth in as short a time span as possible.

I train a lot of women and not a single one has come to me with the complaint that they are too bulky. As a general rule, most women I train are put on a 3-5x/week training program consisting of full body free weight training (squats, lunges, deadlifts, pullups, pushups, rows, presses), kettlebell training (swings, snatches) and interval training. The key is to utilize as many compound, combination and full body movements as possible, so that we aren’t isolating muscle groups to increase their size, rather increasing lean mass and decreasing fat simultaneously.

Of course, much of this is dependent upon your diet, and a bulking diet looks far different than a solid nutritional protocol for a woman on a fat loss program. The bottom line is that the way you eat and train will determine how your body develops. A full body training program and a diet rich in protein, veggies and healthy fats is an effective path towards fat loss and strength for most women.

So now what?

Maybe I’ve convinced you. Perhaps now, you’re thinking you’re going to toss your 3 pound weights, hop off the elliptical and give this whole strength thing a shot. Where should you begin? The following 3x/week basic program is a great place for beginners to realize their strength potential and start their body transformation:

(I recommend beginning each training session with dynamic mobility, glute bridges, planks and Turkish get ups)

Alli McKee

Alli McKee getting ready to perform a barbell squat

Day 1

Squats: 6-8 reps

Bent over row: 8-10 reps

Push press: 8-10 reps

Perform these in order, then complete 3-5 rounds.

After that, pick your favorite cardio exercise. Go hard for 30 seconds, then rest (or go easy) for 60 seconds. Repeat this 5-8 times.

Day 2

Deadlifts: 6-8 reps

Pushups: 8-10 reps

Kettlebell swings: 15-20 reps

Perform these in order, then complete 3-5 rounds.

After that, pick your favorite cardio exercise. Go hard for 30 seconds, then rest (or go easy) for 45 seconds. Repeat this 5-8 times.

Day 3

Reverse lunges: 8-10 reps (each side)

Assisted Chin-ups: 5-8 reps

Jump squats: 5-8 reps

Perform these in order, then complete 3-5 rounds.

After that, pick your favorite cardio exercise. Go hard for 30 seconds, then rest (or go easy) for 30 seconds. Repeat this 5-8 times.

This article was created by Fitocracy Blogger, Neghar Fonooni. A Los Angeles native who spends most of her time split between New York City and Baltimore, Neghar is the owner of Eat, Lift and be happy-an online presence that encourages readers to find complete happiness though a fit lifestyle.

Join Fitocracy to follow Neghar or view her website, Facebook, Twitter, Fitocracy or Google.

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