Women shouldn’t lift heavy.
Or at least that’s what you’d believe if you listened to Tracy Anderson, Cleo, Cosmo, David Kirsch (the Victoria Secret’s trainer), and those other marketing guru’s that seemingly create a new fitness ‘craze’ every other week.
My wife used to be one of these women; the type that would erroneously head straight for the cardio theatre to commit the cardinal sin of 30 minutes of low intensity aerobic work before playing around in the weights room for a moment before doing a series of ‘toning’ exercises.
Recently she deadlifted her bodyweight for 6 reps, even though she had already completed her last set moments before.
Manly female training? Not anymore.
Gone are the days of women believing that lifting heavy weights will turn them into Arnold Schwarzenegger.
This is partly thanks to Facebook and the litany of fit female athletes who post pictures of just what heavy weights can do the female physique and groups such as Girls Gone Strong, who advocate heavy lifting for all.
For those of you who don’t know the cliff notes are as follows:
Women don’t have enough testosterone therefore they can’t bulk up like men.
That’s about it; that one little misconstrued fact led women away from the weights room and into aerobic classes for decades.
There’s a wealth of magnificent literature written about why women could and should train the same as men, so I won’t bother repeating that.
At the same time, there one area where female and male training differ…
… And it doesn’t require ‘metamorphosis’, P90X’s or 2kg dumbbells.
Tree trunks aren’t for everyone.
My wife is nearly squatting bodyweight for reps and I’ve already mentioned her impressive deadlift.
She squats twice a week, one day we perform low reps-high weight and the other day is low weight-high reps.
Needless to say, this has led to some quadriceps hypertrophy, which has led me her chewing off my ear about her legs growing.
For you manly men out there, not being able to squeeze your thighs into a pair of jeans because of your bulging quads is seen as a badge of accomplishment. Try telling a woman that though.
In order to address this problem, I’ve slightly altered my better half’s program.
She now works with in the 3-8 rep range for 4-6 sets aiming to build strength. This will ensure she still gets the multitude of health benefits from strength training: increased bone density, insulin sensitivity, body shape changes etc.… but she’ll still be able to fit into her favourite pair of jeans.
Similarly, women concerned about having that muscular bulge above the knee should perform reverse lunges instead of forward ones.
Moving from strength to strength
Women are naturally scared of the weights room.
For years they were told the big dumbbells and squat racks were reserved for meatheads and weekend warriors.
This rationalisation is slowly being stripped from the female psyche but as a society it is still our duty to respect the fact that, even though women can’t get as big as Phil Heath without the use of artificial substances, they might not be shooting for the same hypertrophy gains as we are.
Every woman should strength train. That is, perform exercises for between 3-6 reps for 4-8 sets with anywhere from 60-120 seconds rest between sets.
My wife may have thrown some of the hypertrophy leg work out the window but I’ve got no doubt that with the added focus on building strength over size will see her out squat many guys in the gym whilst also looking good in a pair of skinny jeans.
So yeah, Tracey Anderson is pretty much wrong it everything that she does. (Sorry, couldn’t resist).