Training with weights is often the most neglected aspect of the female workout program. And although there are a variety of reasons why women tend not to lift weights, they usually center around two quintessential questions:
This varies with the individual and is largely dependent on experience and goals, but in general 3 - 5 exercises per body part are performed within a training session. This same information applies to the number of sets per exercise.
QUESTION #1… The primary reason given by women for not lifting weights is the fear of getting too “big” or "bulky". In reality, such a thing couldn’t be further from the truth. How or what one lifts (stimulus) is not directly correlated with how they look (size). Little guys and gals can be extremely strong and vice versa. Weight lifting makes you stronger and to some degree tighter, not bigger. If men, with testosterone-based (muscle building) systems can lift for years and never get truly big, to think that an estrogen-based (non-muscle building) female’s system would permit such growth is ludicrous. Remember what we learned earlier, “You are what you eat”, as dietary composition and overall caloric intake increase so does the body. Logically, the inverse would also have to be true, in that as calories are restricted/decreased the body becomes smaller and lighter...a valid and reliable process commonly known as ‘Dieting’!
When presented with this information, many will dismiss it based on personal experience stating something to the effect of, “Well when I began lifting, I immediately noticed that my arms and legs were getting bigger, and this was further evident in the tight way my clothes began fit.” Although this is seemingly irrefutable evidence, the reason is far more an issue of increased muscle volume, than actual growth. For example, bedridden hospital patients often experience a condition known as “Muscle Atrophy”, referring to the wasting or loss of muscle tissue resulting from a lack of use often due to disease or injury. This condition though far more pronounced in such patients, is somewhat analogous to what happens to a person who doesn’t workout. Of course their muscles don’t waste away, but due to a form of stimulus deprivation, the muscles experience significant shrinkage resulting in below normal tone and tautness. Essentially, the muscles are filled below capacity, which causes them to droop and sag. When weight training stimulus is reintroduced, the muscles of the body rapidly respond as if being supplied with long denied nourishment, sparking an inflation of sorts which causes an expansion to potential volume. Sadly, the reaching of this very normal (full muscular) state, after several years of neglect, is generally viewed as the onset of bulk or mass building. Should lifting continue the muscles would suddenly, and very stubbornly, plateau at their peak capacity. SO PLEASE DON’T BE AFRAID TO LIFT WOMEN…LIFT!
QUESTION #2… Welcome aboard. Now that you’ve joined the ranks of weightlifter, the next most popular issue is “Free Weights vs. Machine Weights”. Both camps contain a high number of constituents and can typically justify their respective positions at great length. The truth however, is a bit more complex…you see neither form compliantly fits into what we would call “Best”. Both of these facets prove invaluable to the lifter, as they emphasize different aspects and phases of muscle building. Generally speaking, the majority of the novice’s time should be spent in the free weight area because they: (1) require balancing when lifted, meaning the muscles work harder throughout the process as they labor to align and stabilize the workload and; (2) allow for a greater range of motion both at the start and end of the lift permitting more muscle flexion and contraction. Complimentarily, machine weights have defined start and stop points for greater safety, possessing weight alignment and stabilization factors. These elements make them ideal for: some finishing exercises that are better performed with cables; working around injuries that free weights would expose and necessarily restrict and; as aids for younger and older lifters who would greatly benefit from the safety factors mentioned above. Thus, for the otherwise healthy individual, the perfect training regimen would include a majority of free weight training in conjunction with supplementary machine weight work.
Weightlifting can improve your body, but lifting alone rarely produces the results sought by those who engage in it. As expressed earlier in “Eating To Build Muscle” and later throughout this work, the key to sculpting a better body (conditioning it to be stronger, harder and more attractive by lifting and tightening specific areas) is far more comprehensive. This section will explore the requirements for efficient muscle building, among which are well planned and timely meals, in conjunction with the essentials of muscle breakdown via stimulation, and repair through rest & recovery.
The key components to muscle stimulation are volume, intensity and consistency. Sufficient doses of these three work to create tiny fissures known as micro-tears within the individual muscle fibers. If given the proper raw materials (proteins) the body can repair these fissures in a way similar to that of a damaged brick wall. The protein acts as a mortar of sorts filling in the tears which in conjunction with enough time to solidify, fortifies the rebuilt muscle with even greater capacity so as to handle the former workload in the future. This increased muscular capacity, explains the increases in your training weights. Perpetuation of the breakdown and repair cycle continues until full genetic potential is achieved, at which point no more muscle can be made without exogenous hormonal/steroidal assistance.
A frequently quoted excuse for not lifting weights is, “I really have no idea what to do with weights.” Unfortunately the way most people, women and men alike, approach weight training is to join a gym and mimic what they see. Needless to say this is not a good idea, and such a haphazard approach won’t effectively change your body.
Competitors and serious training enthusiasts use well structured workouts, and as a result of their desire to increase muscularity, the vast majority of them lift heavy most of the time. There are as many weight training programs as there are self-proclaimed fitness gurus. These methods emphasize specific goals such as muscle development, tightening and toning, timesaving maintenance, strength building, etc. The most popular of these splits are the ones that effectively work the whole body in one cycle, while simultaneously providing the necessary rest for previously worked muscle groups. Remember that development, regardless of your individual goal, comes by virtue of proper nutrition, appropriate muscle stimulus and adequate rest. Training regimens should be selected based on your goal orientation and available time. Here is collection of some the most efficient programs and their respective applications.
One of the most effective and most popular routines is the “Two Body Parts a Day Program”.
This routine does a superb job of providing both stimulus and rest. Although it may look too strenuous, it should be noted that while two groups are working one day, the others are resting. Additionally, this workout provides enough rest that some elect not to schedule an off day, and instead upon completing day three, immediately begin with day one (providing a full 72hrs of rest per body part). These people choose to let off days fall where they may, secure in the fact that they train regularly enough to be largely unaffected by missed workouts. Another emphasis of this plan is its allowance for the working of multiple muscle heads which are very specific working areas of each muscle group. For instance, the deltoids or shoulders contain three muscle heads known as the anterior (front), medial (middle), and posterior (rear). Very few exercises are able to hit each head within a muscle group, it is therefore important to deliver specialized attention to the various heads in order to promote complete development, providing both functional and aesthetic value. ‘How To’ illustrations as well as numerous exercise variations (angles, range of motion, hand or foot positioning, supination, etc.) can be found within any basic weightlifting book, or muscle magazine. The various exercises have very common names and can be Googled for greater description, as well as pictures and animations of each. Here is a very basic example of how this program typically looks, along with a diversity of exercises for the various muscle groups, and an in parentheses notation of the targeted area. Be sure to customize it based on your individual level of development, needs and goals.
(front - middle shoulder)
(bent knee for beginners; straight leg for intermediate; weighted for advanced)
The level of intensity is a major question when it comes to serious training, and a topic on which everyone has a theory. Some go with the "30 or 45-Second" rules, others wait a full minute or more, while still others simply train instinctively. But just how much time should elapse between sets, and should you permit more time for heavier lifts? The great Franco Columbo summed up both questions in the simplest of answers, when asked how long to rest between sets he replied, "As long as it takes to catch your breath."
There are however, numerous far less intuitive techniques that are routinely adhered to by premiere athletes. These specific guidelines encompass a variety of uniformed methods, are most often referred to as the 'Weider Principles'. They are so named for Joe Weider who helped launch the fitness era, and is considered the grandfather of modern bodybuilding. This section will explain eleven of the most popular Weider principles of bodybuilding, and since they are not meant for use at every stage of training, each is followed in parentheses by a letter “B”, “I”, or “A” and stand for beginner, intermediate, and advanced training levels respectively.
Muscle Priority Training (I & A) - Training your most underdeveloped muscles first, so as to subject them to the maximum possible effort. If you have a weak body-part you want to improve, train it first in your workout, before you begin to fatigue.
Pyramiding (B, I & A) - When using multiple sets for a given exercise, doing your first set with less weight for more reps, gradually increasing the weight and decreasing the reps over the remainder of your sets. This allows you to gradually warm up a muscle group, preparing it for the resistance to come in the next set.
Muscle Confusion Principle (I & A) - Muscles acclimate to a specific type of stress causing them to "habituate" or "plateau" when the same stress is continually applied over time. You should constantly vary exercises, sets, reps and weight to avoid acclimation, and to sustain growth and change.
Pre-Exhaustion Training (A) - Pre-fatiguing a larger muscle with an isolated, single-joint movement so it can be even more exhausted by the compound movements to follow. When you do an exercise like the bench press which works not only the chest, but also smaller subordinate muscles which might fatigue before your chest is fully exhausted. By doing a chest isolation exercise beforehand, you can fatigue your chest prior to bench pressing to chest failure.
Supersets (I & A) - Working opposing muscle groups in back-to-back fashion, taking as little rest as possible in between sets. Alternating sets between opposing muscle groups such as biceps & triceps, and chest & back greatly increases intensity. When you train one muscle group, the other is recovering (sometimes even being stretched) as you complete the set. With two muscles or muscle groups being worked, more nourishing oxygenated blood is pumped into the area.
Tri-Sets (A) - Doing three sets in a row for the same body-part with as little rest as possible in between sets. Three exercises in a row more thoroughly exhausts the muscle. This training technique is so demanding that it should only be done on occasion, and is more often used by bodybuilders in their pre-contest training. It is not optimal for muscle building.
Set System Training (B, I & A) - Simply doing more than one set for each exercise. This is the opposite of high-intensity training which involves performing one set per exercise. Often, the first couple of sets aren't enough to fatigue your muscle.
Giant Sets (A) - Doing 4-6 exercises for the same body-part with little rest between sets. Giant sets are used to create overwhelming stimulation to a body part and totally exhausts the muscles involved. This technique should only be used occasionally as your body needs time to recover from this level of effort. This type of training is used more for muscular endurance and calorie burning than for putting on mass.
Instinctive Training (A) - This involves experimenting with your workouts and paying attention to how your body reacts to certain types of training. The fundamentals of bodybuilding training are the same for everyone, but individual uniqueness still exists. Thus, fine tuning becomes more important, the further along one gets in training. Whatever you are accustomed to is going to feel best, but you have to figure out what actually produces the best results and adjust accordingly.
Compound Sets (I & A) - Alternating two exercises for the same muscle group, taking as little rest as possible between each set. Each same body part exercise fatigues the muscle involved in slightly different ways (often working separate muscle heads), so doing two exercises in a row with little rest in between achieves a deeper level of stimulation and muscle pump.
Staggered Sets (I & A) - Training smaller, slower developing body parts like calves or forearms in between sets for major body parts. Arnold Schwarzenegger relied on this principle early in his career to develop his calves. He would do a set for chest, back or shoulders, followed by a set of calf raises while his major muscle group was recovering for the next set. He'd then alternate sets for the working body part and calves. His calves got plenty of time to recover between sets and by the end of his workout; he would have subjected them to as many as 15-20 total sets of various calf raises.
The glutes, hips and thighs are notoriously stubborn areas on the female anatomy. These body parts can seem unshapely or less than flattering even after they’ve been significantly strengthened and cardio trained. The cold hard fact of the matter is that they’ll likely require extra attention, and this what “Finishing Exercises (FIs) are all about. An argument can be made that anything other than a basic exercise can be considered an FI. For example, if the biceps require a greater peak, then Preacher Curls become FIs. Similarly, if the calf muscle lacks the diamond shaped head, the proper FI would be Donkey Calf Raises. There are also some exercises which are inherently FIs because they should only be performed after muscular development occurs, but still lacks that polished presentation look, bringing us back to the glutes, hips and thighs.
Here is a blend of both types mentioned above which work as specific toning exercises to downsize thighs, raise the gluteus maximus, and tighten hip muscles. Again these common exercise names can be located on the internet along with greater description, pictures and animations.
Stand straight up, arms at your sides, with a dumbbell in each hand.
Lunge forward with first leg. Land on heal then forefoot. Lower body by flexing knee and hip of front leg until knee of rear leg is almost in contact with floor. Return to original standing position by forcibly extending the hip and knee of the forward leg. Repeat by alternating lunge with opposite leg.
Keep torso upright during lunge. Lead knee should point in the same direction as foot throughout lunge. A long lunge emphasizes the glutes; a short lunge emphasizes quadriceps. Variations include the Rear, Side, and Walking Lunges. Additionally they can be performed weightless, or with the barbell.
With feet flat beneath bar, squat down and grasp bar with a shoulder width or slightly wider over hand or mixed grip.
Lift bar by extending hips and knees to full extension. Pull shoulders back at top of lift if rounded. Return and repeat.
Pretend your arms don't work anymore . Throughout lift keep hips low, shoulders high, arms and back straight. Knees should point same direction as feet throughout movement. Keep bar close to body to improve mechanical leverage.
Sit in machine with heels on bars. Pull in on lever to position legs together. Release lever into position and grasp bars to sides.
Move legs away from one another by abduction of the hip. Return and repeat.
Adjust platform so lever fulcrum is same height as hip. Adjust roller in low position. Face machine and grasp side bars. Place outside of thigh against roller pad and shift body weight to opposite leg.
Raise leg against roller pad to side by abduction of the hip. Return and repeat. Reposition roller pad lever and continue with opposite leg.
Sit in the machine with heels on bars. Pull in on lever to position legs apart. Release lever into position and grasp bars to sides.
Move legs toward one another by adduction of the hip. Return smoothly and repeat.
Variations include the Standing, and Cable Hip Adductions.
The inverse of working hard, properly and consistently in the gym is getting adequate rest, recuperation and recovery. The “ Muscle Building ” section explained how muscle is broken down and rebuilt with protein and rest. This section will explore what happens when said rest is inadequate, and how to restore normalcy, as well as some preventive measures such as early identification and correction.
“Overtraining” is best defined as the state experienced by a training individual who has been repeatedly stressed by training to the point where the standard amount of rest is no longer adequate for full recovery. The "Overtraining Syndrome" is the name given to the collection of emotional, behavioral and physical symptoms due to overtraining which has persisted for weeks to months. Athletes and coaches also know it as "burnout" or "staleness." This is different from the day to day variation in performance and post exercise fatigue which is common in conditioned athletes. Thus, overtraining is marked by cumulative exhaustion which persists even after recovery periods.
Physiologic improvement in sports only occurs during the rest period following hard training. This adaptation is in response to the maximal loading of the cardiovascular and muscular systems, and is accomplished by: improving the efficiency of the heart; increasing capillaries in the muscles and; increasing glycogen stores and mitochondrial enzyme systems within the muscle cells. During recovery periods these systems build to greater levels to compensate for the stress that was applied, resulting in a higher level of performance.
If sufficient rest is not included in a training program then regeneration cannot occur and performance will plateau. Should this imbalance between excessive training and inadequate rest persist, performance will ultimately decline. The most common symptom is fatigue; it may limit workouts and can even be present during rest. It may also cause you to: become moody; easily irritated; have altered sleep patterns; become depressed or; lose the competitive desire and enthusiasm for the sport. Some even report decreased appetite and weight loss. Physical symptoms include persistent muscular soreness, increased frequency of viral illnesses, and increased incidence of injuries.
There have been several clinical studies on athletes with overtraining syndrome, including exercise physiological, psychological, and biochemical laboratory testing. Findings in these studies showed decreased performance in exercise testing, decreased mood state, and in some cases an increase in cortisol levels -- the body's "stress" hormone. A decrease in testosterone, altered immune status, and an increase in muscular breakdown were also been identified. Medically, the overtraining syndrome is classified as a neuro-endocrine disorder. The normal fine balance in the interaction between the autonomic nervous system and the hormonal system becomes disturbed. This results in a kind of athletic "jet lag", during which the body has a decreased ability to repair itself while resting. Heaping more workouts onto this unbalanced system in addition to the normal stressors of life (work, personal, and family) exacerbates the situation.
The treatment for overtraining is rest. The longer the overtraining has occurred, the greater the rest required, making early detection very important. If the overtraining has only occurred for a short period of time (e.g., 3 - 4 weeks) then interrupting training for 4 - 5 days is usually sufficient rest. You must consider rest from a systemic viewpoint because that’s what needs to occur, namely a resting of the body’s various systems. Overtraining affects both peripheral and central mechanisms within the body. For instance, resting from overtraining on the bicycle by swimming more will help a pair of fatigued quadriceps, but continues to stress the heart, pituitary and adrenals.
Although proper diet and training are the primary determinants of fat loss, supplemental herbs and research chemicals can aid this endeavor. It should however, be clearly noted that supplementation has virtually no effect when diet and training are not intact. Once again, and this cannot be overstated, diet should be the focal point when seeking to achieve your fitness goals. Sadly, people don’t realize that the body actually prefers to burn fat, rather than store it. This lack of knowledge often causes women to resort to cutting calories, a behavior which counterproductively promotes fat storage. The human body is actually designed to eat several small meals throughout the day, every 2.5 - 3 hours including carbs ladies! Consider if you will the still uncorrupted eating preferences of babies, in relation to this regimen which provides sustained nutrition, energy, and ideal elimination. It is out of convenience and the accommodation of stressed lifestyles that three meals a day (i.e. before, during and after work) became the staple. The key to unlocking the metabolism’s fat burning machine lies in returning to a 5 - 6 small meals a day routine.
The human body is comprised of many different systems all of that have a preferred level of functioning or set-point. The maintenance of these systems via the constant monitoring and readjusting of changes is known as ‘Homeostasis’. Fat burners, also called thermogenics, work by means of increasing the body's core (not thermometer) temperature. This heat increase initiates a homeostatic response to cool the body back to normalcy, a process that requires calories. As you'll recall from "The Basics of Nutrition", a calorie is a measurement of heat energy that if applied to a sound diet and training program, can be specifically targeted towards fat…hence the term, "Fat Burner".
The non-steroidal products below can greatly compliment any training program or steroid cycle:
Ephedra (Mahuang) – This natural Chinese herb has been used for over three centuries in slimming and medicinal teas. It is a beta-antagonist, a bronchodilator (often found in asthma medications in various different forms), but is also a central nervous system stimulant. Although a mildly effective fat burner, when combined with caffeine and aspirin in an ECA Stack, it is far more adept at providing quick and sustained energy capable of propelling you through longer, stronger, and thus more productive workouts. A single serving is considered to be between 25 - 30 mgs, however, due to the variance (mild to severe) of side effects it is recommended that you begin with 1/2 or 1/3 of a serving and increase as tolerated. This can easily be achieved when a single serving equals two or three capsules, but when using single serving capsules the purchase of empty caps allows you to manually divide this herb into halves or thirds as desired. The maximum 24-hour amount is 100mgs. Side effects typically includejitteriness, hot flashes, warming sensations, and insomnia. Tolerance, or receptor downgrading, is often developed and can be countered by taking the anti-histamine Benadryl for seven consecutive nights at 25 - 50 mgs. Benadryl works by upregulating the beta receptors, where Ephedra is absorbed, and literally clears them for continued optimal functioning. Ephedra should be taken early enough to negate insomnia, thus most users do not administer it after 3pm if they’re anticipated average bedtimes.
Note: For a more detailed explanation of how Benadryl and similar products impact usage, please see the ‘Steroid Profiles’ section for the drug Clenbuterol, here at Steroid.Com.
Lastly, there has been and I guess always will be some division among Ephedra and Clen users as to what form of administration is best. However, statistically speaking they are best taken continuously for OPTIMAL results. This information is also well documented in the Clenbuterol profile.
Central Nervous System Stimulants (CNS Stims) - Since the Ephedra ban, many supplement companies have turned to mimicking alternatives that provide a lesser, but similar effect. The most noted among these are Synepherine, Aspidosperma Quebracho-blanco (a form of Yohimbe), and L-Tyrosine. The bottles of these products have varying dosages and detailed instructions so please read them carefully.
Clenbuterol (Clen) is a vailable in both tablet and liquid forms, and like Ephedra is also a beta-agonist/antagonist (although selective), a bronchodilator, and a central nervous system stimulant. It is a very effective fat burner in both bodybuilder and athletic circles. It increases the ratio of Fat Free Mass to Fat Mass, by decreasing overall body fat. Clen works by increasing the core body temperature several percentage points (not degrees on the thermometer) stimulating a homeostatic response, that causes the body to burn calories as it works to restore normalcy. Administration is often began with 20 mcg doses and increased daily (by the same amount) to the desired plateau dosage which varies with the individual and is mostly contingent upon the tolerance of side effects. However, regardless of tolerance 200mcgs is considered grossly excessive for both female and males. Similar to Ephedra, side effects typically includejitteriness, hot flashes and/or warming sensations, and insomnia. Additionally, Clen affects the respiratory & cardiovascular systems of individuals differently. For example, some people experience a negative affect resulting in a lessened or weakened aerobic output, others incur an increased cardio output similar to that of Ephedra, while still others are not affected. Another difference between the two is that the Clen has a smoother elevation and dissent, whereas Ephedra can cause both system jolts and crashes. The most pronounced problem on Clen is the severe muscle cramping. This occurs throughout the body and can range from inconvenient to greatly debilitating. Athletes and bodybuilders typically take the amino acid L-Taurine in 500 – 3000 mgs (as needed) doses daily to eliminate cramping. Tolerance, or receptor downgrading, is often developed and can be countered by taking the anti-histamine Benadryl for seven consecutive nights at 25 - 50 mgs. Benadryl works by upregulating the beta receptors, where Clen is absorbed, and literally clears them for continued optimal functioning. Clen should be taken early enough to negate insomnia, thus most users do not administer it after 3pm .
Note: For a more detailed explanation of how Benadryl and similar products affect usage, please see the Steroid Profiles section for the drug Clenbuterol, here at Steroid.Com.
Lastly, there has been and I guess always will be some division among Ephedra and Clen users as to that form of administration is best. However, statistically speaking they are best taken continuously for OPTIMAL results. This information is also well documented in the Clen profile (see above excerpt).
Cytomel (Liothyronine Sodium, Thyroid Hormone 3) - Available in tablet and liquid forms, Cytomel is the synthetic version of the naturally produced Thyroid Hormone 3, also known as T3. The thyroid gland and its various hormones are responsible for regulating the body’s metabolism of food and stored energy producing substrates (fat, muscle and glycogen). It is taken to optimize one’s metabolic rate, and can therefore be used as a super fat burner.The thyroid gland maintains a delicate hormonal balance, so problems in this area often require medical care and hormonal treatment. Supplemental usage should be tapered slowly 20/25mcgs every 2-4 days until desired amount is reached, it is then plateaued for the cycle duration, and finally tapered back down in a similar manner. Cytomel is run to differing plateau dosages depending on the individual's needs, but it really shouldn't be run higher than 100mcgs. This very powerful synthetic hormone indiscriminately consumes any available energy resource. Although it may be employed to burn the energy from food and stored fat, it can also draw from lean muscle tissue (another source of energy). Since muscle is obviously desirable and a natural fat burner itself, the net value of taking Cytomel is a loss, that is unless it is used in conjunction with muscle preserving anabolic steroids which negate Cytomel’s muscle burning tendencies while embracing its fat burning properties.