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How To Conduct A Female Weight Training Program
For Fitness Trainers and Female Athletes
By Ivan Nikolov
copyright © 2008 Ivan Nikolov
Different weight training programs are constantly being
published in every fitness magazine these days. They are all created to
emphasize certain goals, certain body parts, innovative ideas, etc.
However, most of them miss to address one important issue. Precisely they don't
teach you how to conduct a female training program. They don't explain also the
specifics of the physiology of female athletes.
My goal in this article is to try to help the many fitness trainers, who work
with female clients, as well as the female athletes themselves in defining the
specifics of weight training for women.
Below I am going to explain:
∑ The specifics in the physiology of female athletes
∑ Why strength training is appropriate for women
∑ What are the specific training methods for female athletes
∑ How a weight training program for female athletes should look like.
Specifics in the physiology of female athletes
1. Increased body fat accumulation
Women are genetically disadvantaged compared to men as it
comes to body fat accumulation. The main reason for that is the female sex
Both genders produce estrogen but in men this hormone is
much less than in women. Due to the fat accumulating properties of estrogen
women are prone to store more fat. Also due to the specific fat receptor
distribution women tend to store fat mainly in the lower body.
2. Low testosterone production
Another physiological difference of great importance is
the fact that women produce very little of the male sex hormone - testosterone.
Testosterone is an anabolic hormone, which means it
promotes muscle mass gain. Why is this important? Itís important because muscle
mass is the primary tissue that uses fat for fuel.
Remember this: The level of muscle mass development is
very closely related to the metabolic rate - more muscle mass means more
calories burned during the day.
Also as opposed to estrogen testosterone is known to
suppress body fat accumulation.
3. Physiological changes caused by the menstrual
Another factor personal trainers and female athletes
should be aware of is the fact that women experience hormonal fluctuations due
to their menstrual cycle.
The effects can be fatigue, abdominal cramps, nausea,
bloating, irritability, and depression. All of these can negatively affect a
female athleteís workout by not allowing for weight training with the necessary
4. Body-altering effects of pregnancy
During pregnancy women experience major biological
alterations, which lead to significant metabolic changes. During this period
the body produces large amounts of the hormone progesterone. One of the main
properties of this hormone is increased appetite, which is the main reason for
the increased weight gain.
Another characteristic of that period is the impaired
thyroid function, which means slowed metabolism.
These two effects of pregnancy usually continue to exhibit
their properties even postpartum, which makes it difficult for some women to
get back in shape.
Why strength training is appropriate for women
One least reason why women should train with weights is
weight training increases lean muscle mass. I already explained above why this
is essential - lean muscle mass elevates the metabolic rate.
Every pound of lean muscle mass gained means up to 30 more
calories a day burned. This number might not look significant but over the
course of a year it translates into more that 3 pounds of fat burned.
Why women should NOT avoid strength training
Women athletes should not be intimidated by strength
training. The belief is that strength training will make them look less
feminine. This is a common misconception.
Let me explain why this is not true. Reason: women don't
produce the quantities of anabolic hormones, necessary for excessive muscle
growth. As a matter of fact even most men don't.
In order for a female athlete to develop noticeable muscle
mass, she would have to resort to pharmaceuticals that will dramatically
increase her anabolic hormone levels. Without them a female athlete, using
weights, would mostly tone up her body by eventually gaining some muscle mass
and losing body fat.
Another important reason that affects postmenstrual women:
the bone density in that period starts to decrease rapidly. The effect is frail
bones, which subsequently leads to bone fractures. Numerous studies have shown
that moderate weight training counteracts the loss of bone mass. It can even reverse
the process. That alone is of great importance.
Specific training methods for female athletes
Before getting into the training methods, there are a few
things a fitness trainer should determine for his female client or the very
female athlete herself should be clear about:
What is the goal? Is it to lose body fat, to gain lean
muscle mass or just to maintain.
In my personal opinion a lady, involved in weight lifting
should aim at changing the composition of her body. Fact is women have higher
fat tissue levels and lower lean muscle mass levels. The main objective should
be decrease in fat tissue and increase in lean muscle mass.
Another interesting fact is fat takes more space then
muscle for the same quantity and weight. That means for equal fat loss and
muscle gain a female athlete will inevitably look slimmer although maintaining
the same body weight.
If the female athlete is overweight the training routine
should be geared toward significant fat loss, moderate muscle gain and decrease
in the total body weight.
If the athlete has normal body weight then the main
objective would be loss of fat tissue and gain of lean muscle mass, while
maintaining the same body weight.
How a weight training program for female athletes should look like
According to the goal, a personal trainer should advice a
female client to train with weights between two and four times a week. For
women I personally suggest full body workouts also known as circuit workouts.
The number of sets should be two to three for each muscle group. The weights
and reps will all depend on the goal.
If the main goal is more muscle mass, then my personal
recommendation is 3 sets x 8 - 15 reps.
If the goal is only slight muscle development, then I
recommend 1-2 sets x 5-6 reps with heavier weights.
Female athletes should focus more on basic movements when
building their training routine. Good choices include: step-ups, lunges,
stiff-leg dead lifts, standing biceps curls, overhead presses, various
Here is an example of a circuit weight training routine
for female athletes:
Crunches 3 x 15 - 25
Step-ups 2 x 10 - 15
Incline dumbbell presses 2 x 5 - 6
Pull-ups (Cable pull-down) 2 x 5 - 6
Standing overhead dumbbell presses 2 x 5 - 6
Standing alternate dumbbell curls 2 x 5 - 6
Triceps cable press down 2 x 5 - 6
A quick note: the levels of fat loss and subsequently the
changes in body composition will mainly depend on the proper diet and cardio
exercise routine. Proper training goes hand in hand with proper diet and cardio
exercise. I am not going to focus on these two important factors as this is out
of the scope of this article.
If you are a fitness trainer or a female athlete, consider
the following before you start building a training regimen:
1. Take in consideration all the important physiological
factors that might affect the way you build the training routine.
2. Be clear about what the main goal is
3. How many times a week a female athlete should workout, based on her goal,
availability and experience with weight training
4. What type of exercises should be included in her routine, based on her
current physical condition as well as on her previous experience with lifting
5. What is the most appropriate rep range, according to the goal and desired
ABOUT THE AUTOR
Ivan Nikolov, an accomplished natural bodybuilder shares a
wealth of information on Natural
Bodybuilding and Sports
Nutrition on his website www.IvanNikolov.com.
Start using his comprehensive Free Nutrition
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