Weight Lifting For Women To Get Toned & Feminine – Not Ripped Or Buff
Some women who go to the gym to workout want to get ripped or buff — just like the guys. This is not the type of advice you’ll find here.
Usually, but certainly not always, the goal for women who start to lift weights is to get a nice “womanly” figure while slimming down and firming up. This is the look I’ll talk about here.
For women to get this look instead of a more masculine look, it takes a different approach to lifting weights. In fact, chances are that even most personal trainers are not teaching the proper techniques for women to get this look because they just don’t know how.
In my opinion, women should look like women and men should look like … men. Many women go to the gym and pay an instructor to train them to get “in shape.” My guess is that the majority of these professional trainers are giving the wrong advice to many women on weight lifting.
Weight Lifting For Women
When approaching a workout, men and women have much different goals in mind. Many times, a man is going to workout to get buff, ripped or strong — generally speaking.
Women, on the other hand, usually workout to get slim, firm and fit … not manly — the Bond Girl look.
Because of these differences in goals there are some key items that you should keep in mind:
- Do not do any “forced” reps
- Do not lift to “feel the burn”
- Do take longer rests
These three items all produce an effect that weight lifting should not produce for women who want to tone up — fatigue in the muscle and muscle growth.
Bad Advice For Women Lifting Weights
The #1 piece of bad advice for women has to do with the amount of sets, reps and weight.
I would be surprised if you have not been told to lift light weights and to do a lot of reps. And forget lifting a little heavier weight with less reps because that builds muscle mass. Right? Wrong.
- High reps create the pump in the muscle
- High reps increase the sarcoplasm in the muscle (fast muscle growth)
- High reps increase the size and numbers of the capillaries in the muscle
By focusing on the volume (pushing to get in those 10 reps) you are actually increasing the “pump” in the muscle. This is known as sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.
The pump feels good. You feel like you are getting toned. But you aren’t. You are forcing fluid into the muscle … growing the size of the muscle.
The best way way to build muscle mass (for women or men) is to lift a high volume of sets and reps. So if you do 3-4 sets at 10-15 reps that’s great. Great for building muscle. Not great for toning up.
When doing sets of 10-15 reps you may have to really push yourself (or your personal trainer may be pushing you) to get in those last 2-3 reps. This is the opposite of what you should do.
Stop doing 3 sets of 10-15 reps.
Getting the Feminine Look
Now that you know what not to do, here’s how women should be weight lifting.
Do fewer reps and focus on strength training workouts. I know, it sounds odd because women don’t necessarily want to get stronger. It seems that your muscles need to grow in size to get stronger but they don’t. Not really.
Now that you know you should not do high reps, here’s why you should do low reps.
- Lower reps create less of a “pump”
- Lower reps are less likely to fatigue and increase muscle size
- Lower reps increase tension in a muscle which further increases tone.
When I am training to get toned I will increase the weight and lift fewer reps — strength training.
Doing this makes your muscles more dense. It does not make them any larger — which I think is a good thing for a woman.
The reason you don’t get much size from lifting heavier weights for less reps (if you stop short of failure) is because this is known as myobibrillar hypertophy. This basically means that you are increasing the thickness of the actual muscle fibers. You are not increasing the amount of fluid that is in them.
An Example Strength Training Workout For Women
The overall amount of reps that you will do is going to be a bit less than you’re probably used to. The common (bad) set and rep scheme given to women lifting weights is 3 sets of 10 reps to tone up. Okay, you know that now. Sorry.
Usually this is done fairly quickly too — all bad.
Instead of doing a total of 30 reps per exercise, you’ll be doing a total of 20 reps. Also, you’ll be spacing out the reps so that your muscle can recover from one exercise to the next. This prevents muscle fatigue and therefore growth in the muscle size.
- Day 1 – Chest & Back
- Day 2 – Shoulders & Arms
- Day 3 – Abs & Legs (optional)
- Day 4 – Chest & Back
- Day 5 – Shoulders & Arms
- Day 6 – Abs
- Day 7 – Rest
You should pick two exercises that you like for each muscle group and you should do 4 sets of 5 reps for each exercise and rest a full 1-2 minutes between each set.
It’s important to stop a few reps short of failure. If you do 3 reps and then barely get the 4th one up stop there. Lighten the weight a bit for your next set. You should be able to do 1 or 2 more than 5 reps … but you aren’t going to.
Another great addition to the program is cardio. If you want to slim down then I strongly suggest adding in cardio after each workout on days 1, 2, 4 and 5. I put day 3 in as an optional day to work abs and legs. If you do decide to work your legs then you should not do cardio after that workout.
In my opinion, if you do HIIT followed by steady state cardio after each workout then you probably don’t need to work your legs at all. The will get more slim if you don’t.
Really, I am just scratching the surface here.
Rusty Moore, another fitness expert, goes into great detail on how weight lifting for women. Here is a Visual Impact for Women review that outlines all of his different methods for achieving the “slim, fit & feminine” look as he describes it or you can simply visit Rusty’s site directly by clicking here.