Saturday, March 17, 2012

Strength Training for Women?

Conventional Wisdom has somehow drilled into our heads the silly notion that men and women are completely different species, especially when it comes to working out. There are definite differences – anyone who’s been married will be able to tell you that! – but that doesn’t take away from the fact that we’re all homo sapiens with the same basic physiological makeup. And so an outfit like Weight Watchers will push the chronic cardio, the ankle weights, and the step classes because of some underlying, self-defeating assumption that women aren’t “meant” to lift heavy weights. It’s insane, it’s preposterous, and it’s downright insulting. Men and women have different work capacities and different natural inclinations, but their bodies still work the same way.

Annie Thorisdottir - CrossFit Games 2011 Champion

“But I don’t want to get big and bulky!”

That’s another common one, and I can’t really blame them. Have you ever seen a women’s bodybuilding competition, especially one where the drug testing bodies are asleep at the wheel? Those women are frightening and incredibly ripped (for my money, the dudes look just as freakish), but more importantly, they just don’t look right. In fact, this is one area in which the underlying gender-specific physiology is limiting (thank god!): women, being testicle-free, do not produce enough natural testosterone to get those bulging pecs (just where do the breasts go, anyway?) and engorged thighs without supplementing with steroids (synthetic testosterone, essentially). Men generally do produce enough natural testosterone (the ultimate muscle-building hormone) to get big, and most of us still have trouble building a significant amount of muscle. Just imagine how difficult it is to bulk up for a woman.

Check out gorgeous women competing in Olympic weightlifting!

Seriously, though: men and women should work out the same way. That is, provided they have the same goals of developing functional strength, promoting lean body mass over adipose tissue, and improving health, both men and women are best suited to lifting heavy, hard, and with great intensity. Hormonal differences and diet will alter how this lifting program affects you and how much hypertrophy occurs, but the end result is the same: an increased strength to body weight ratio, which is vital for true Primal health and fitness. You’ll increase musculature, but it’s not going to be superficial, bloated muscle. It’s going to be muscle that makes sense, fat-burning muscle that fits your body and fits your genes. After all, you’re just providing the right environment for your genes through proper diet, adequate sleep, normalized stress levels, and – now – the right kind of movements.

some of the previous content was from Mark Sisson – author of the Primal Blueprint (


(well actually for men too but you won't believe me...)

To get leaner and gain muscle in the right areas, you need to train like an athlete and eat correctly:

Nutrition – Diet is #1! You simply cannot out exercise poor nutrition choices (eating and drinking). Portion control (quantity) and quality (natural, unprocessed) food are necessary for overall health and results. The food pyramid or plate is a FARCE!

Useful diets to check out below:




Vegetarians Paleo (natural)

Exhibit A and Exhibit B

Any type of eating strategy that encourages natural foods should be implemented. Your food should have a shelf life of less than a week! That’s why we freeze it. Paleo or Primal may not be the "be all end all but it certainly makes a lot of sense to me. Give it a try before you refute it and call it dangerous. Stick to natural foods and avoid anything that is man-made (breads, cereals, pastas, soda, ect).

Cardio Training – long distance running and aerobics can and should be a part of training but should not make up any-where close to the MAJORITY (I recommend once a week at a maximum unless training for a longer distance race). It is too time consuming and can result in making you weaker if performed too often. And LESS ATTRACTIVE! If you don't believe me then check out some google images of "marathon women" and you see what I mean by unattractive. It will not deliver the benefits of high intensity sprints outdoors (ideally), on a treadmill, rower, bike, stairs (stair-stepper), jump rope, ect. You get the best bang for your buck by training intensely because by training your anaerobic system (short sprints), you are also increasing your aerobic system (ability to go longer). But by doing long distance running you will not become much faster in the shorter sprints. It does not work both ways, sistas!

Total Body Strength Training – Hitting major muscle groups through gymnastics and weightlifting will improve your overall health, abilities (obviously), and your attractiveness.

CrossFit rant:

“Practice and train major lifts: deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports.” ~Greg Glassman

Female CrossFit competitors

Core & Abdominal Training STOP in the name of wasting your time, before you break my HEART! No more endless crunches. Spot reduction is impossible. Body-Fat has to be burned to get a slimmer waist line and crunches are about as effective as the shake weight (which means that they are not very effective!) Implement plank holds for time and hanging leg lifts to improve core strength.

Yoga, Spinning, Pilates, Kickboxing – Definitely implement these other activities into your training. It will help to get your mind connected to your body and if done right and intensely enough can illicit great progress. It will help keep your workouts interesting and fun.

Measure & Track – You should not be getting on the scale every day to measure progress. You can gain water weight and muscle. Use the mirror to gauge body composition improvements. Try to improve your workouts by adding some volume, intensity, or weight (not always all at the same time). Have specific measures of fitness that you would like to improve. This makes it a hell of a lot easier to STAY MOTIVATED if you have specific athletic goals rather than wanting to weigh less. For example, your goal could be to run a 5K, back squat 20 pounds more, or to NOT EAT food that cannot exist in NATURE for a full 30 days.

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