Beginner Weight Training for Women: Never Wander Aimlessly through the Gym Again

Beginner Weight Training for Women

So you’ve worked up the courage to go to the gym. Way to be!

But then you walk in, overwhelmed by the massive amount of equipment and beautiful, shapely people dominating that equipment.

And you, my friend, are not alone.

We’ve all been there. To help you embrace the gym as a safe space {maybe even a rare kind of homecoming}, let’s talk about where to start.

1 – Minimalism: Learn to Lift with Less Lifts

According to Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, ” Minimalism says that what’s unnecessary is a luxury, and a waste. Why be wasteful when the unnecessary isn’t needed…by eliminating the unnecessary, we make room for the essential.”

I’m 84% sure anything Leo says is obviously true, but what the darn does minimalism have to do with lifting?

Removing unnecessary lifts from your work out allows you to focus on the lifts that give you the most bang for your buck, i.e. help you get stronger with minimal time investment.

For example, if you’re looking to strengthen your back because you’re constantly fighting chronic back pain and your husband incessantly pulls your shoulders back because you slouch like a teenager (not that I would know anything about that….), learning to do pull ups will strengthen your back far more efficiently than doing a gazillion dumbbell rows or cable pull downs.

Or if you haven’t got your squats in, step away from the thigh adductor (a.k.a. the machine that involves a starting position similar to the one you’re told to get in at your OB’s office). It will try to lure you in but it will not, I repeat, WILL NOT, give you Jessica Biel’s thighs.

So now that we know calf raises are not the best starting point, what core lifts should you focus on?

2 – The 4 Best Leg Exercises to Build Attractive Legs

There are a few leg exercises that you should consider “a must” when starting out your weight lifting journey. Let’s talk about them shall we? And by talk, I mean check out the table below, print it out on card stock, take it with you to the gym and complete all 4 must’s. Rinse, wash, repeat.

The 4 Best Leg Exercises to Build Attractive Legs

And if you’re a visual kind of gal, check out these videos for clips on how to perform all of the above:

  1. Bulgarian Split Squats
  2. Squats
  3. Step Ups
  4. Romanian Deadlifts

3 – The 4 Best Movements to Sculpt Your Upper Body

Next up, zee arms. Without a doubt, my very favorite areas to focus on are shoulders and lats. Why? Because when I put on a little extra fluff, it tends to lodge itself quite stubbornly on my belly (should I admit now I’m kind of jealous of you pear-shaped ladies??? should I also admit I have a “the-grass-is-always-greener” problem??? moving on), but the more I focus on developing my shoulders and lats and the bigger they grow, the smaller my waist appears even if it hasn’t actually shrunk. It’s all about proportions, illusions, and maybe a forgiving workout top!

Alright, here we go:

The Best Arm Exercises @thegoodlatch #beginnerweighttraining #momswholift #weightraining

And the videos to go with:

  1. Pull ups
  2. Incline Barbell Bench Press
  3. Seated DB Shoulder Press
  4. Barbell Curls aka The Gun Show

4 – How to Find Your Optimal Set and Repetition Range

So now that you know what to do and – best of all? – you want to do it! There’s just one problem. How many sets and reps do you do?

Your time is limited and precious so let’s be strategic.

High Reps (15 or more)

You could shoot for a high number of reps. But the major problem with high reps is that the weight you can handle in this range isn’t heavy enough to recruit those fast-twitch type 2 muscle fibers, and those fibers are where the party’s at, at least the party that’s growing muscle. If you’re running a marathon, high-rep training will help you cross the finish line, but if you’re lifting because you want to put on a gun show, high reps will not get you to your goal.

Low Reps (5 or less)

Powerlifters focus on lifting heavy with low reps and long rest periods for maximum performance. The end result is no doubt greater strength.

But! Because muscle growth correlates to time under tension, this method is not as effective at growing those baby muscles as….

Moderate Reps (8 – 12)

2 – 3 sets per exercise in the moderate rep range with full rest periods will build strength and increase the size of the muscle fibers. This will lead to denser and more powerful muscles. And if you’re a beginner, moderate reps are definitely the way to go.

5 – Why Weight Training 3 Days a Week is Genius

I workout every day.Whether you’re a little obsessed with the gym or equate it to getting a root canal, let’s assume you want to be strategic about how much time you spend lifting weights.

One study has found that while men take 48 hours to recover from heavy lifting, women recover within 4 hours!

Why am I not surprised…

So taking recovery out of the equation, if your goal is to build muscle, the more frequently you train, while also creating strength gains, the quicker you’ll build muscle. The more you coach your muscles to contract, the stronger you’ll get.

So how do you know if you’re making strength gains?

If you’re adding weight to your lifts or adding reps, you’re making strength gains.

For most women, three full body workouts per week will get the job done. Yeehaw!

6 – Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

I can’t tell you how many times I have forgone doing anything to my hair and thrown if up in a ball on my head because lifting my arms after a killer shoulder workout was just too darn painful.

There’s that “burn” you might feel towards the end of a set while you’re lifting but then there’s what’s called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS, which may pay you a visit a day or two after a workout. And the two are not related at all.

What Causes Muscle Soreness

Stretching the muscle while it’s under tension is known to cause damage to the muscle tissue. The pain you feel is to inform you of that damage.

Does More Soreness = Better Workout?

The good news is, while muscles can be damaged (the good kind of damage) while lifting, they don’t have to be in order to grow.

In this super thorough review of DOMS, New Zealand personal trainer, Matt Perryman says so many assumptions commonly made about soreness are wrong.

“There’s no link between muscle soreness and long-term growth.”

“Muscle soreness happens when you create enough total damage to aggravate the connective tissues…This will sometimes correlate with a muscle-stimulating, growth-inducing workout. But just as often, it has nothing to do with muscle stimulation.”

All that to say, if you aren’t sore that doesn’t mean you didn’t work out hard enough.

Should I Work Out While Sore?

You would think weight training while sore would only make matters worse, but according to this study, lifting under the influence of soreness does not create more damage or slow the recovery process.

5 Tips to Cure Muscle Soreness

I know this may come as a shocker. I couldn’t decide if I should come clean, but after much mental agony, I’ve decided you should know, I strongly dislike being sore. 
So that’s a lie.
I hate being sore. And I do not use the word hate lightly.
If you’re like me, try the following:
  1. Foam rolling: This study shows foam rolling leads to decreased soreness. Warning: Foam rolling does not equal fun. If you’ve got extra cash lying around, a sports massage may help as well. Or a muscle roller stick can also work miracles.
  2. Supplement with glutamine and BCAAs.
  3. Drink up. H two the O that is. Pinot Grigio does not count…unfortunately.
  4. Walk. It flushes blood into the muscle.
  5. Eat! Your calorie deficit might be a bit too ambitious. These are awesome in a pinch.

You would think the following would help with DOMS but in fact they do not:

  1. Ice has been shown to reduce perceived soreness but doesn’t actually help with muscle recovery.
  2. Pain killers may help in the short run but they’re not a good long-term solution. But desperate times do call for desperate measures….No judgment here..
  3. You would think fish oil with it’s anti-inflammatory properties would help but in fact fish oil does not reduce muscle soreness.

And there you have it friends, a couple of beginner weight training tips for women. Carry on now.

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Happy lifting!

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