By Taylor Robbins, C.S.C.S
I don’t know why, but not enough women lift weights for losing fat, and building a tight and toned body.
Or, some do lift weights, but they do things like the machine where you sit down, put the pads on the outside of the thighs, and squeeze your legs together.
Huh? Sorry to break this to you, but that exercise is just awkward and a waste of time. By the way, 5 lb dumbbells for shoulder presses is not doing anything either.
Girls need to lift some heavy weights to lose fat and build lean muscle.
Now, you may be thinking, “I will get bulky if I do that. I lift light weights for lots of tight repetitions so I can look long and tight.”
Women have 20-40% of the muscle nuclei that men have, which means the potential for growth is much less. Additionally, women have 40% of the androgens (hormones that help build muscle) than men.
An untrained male can gain anywhere from 15 to 30 lbs of muscle in a year. That means a woman can gain about 7 to 12 lbs in a year. You cannot get bulky, just lean and strong.
Fat loss is mainly coming from energy output and hormonal response.
Let’s look at energy output first.
When you lift 5 lb dumbbells and squat and press overhead for 20 reps, you may get your heart rate up, and start to feel a little burn. This exercise and weight will burn about 75 calories.
Instead, if you do 10 sets of 10 back squats using a load you can only do 15 reps fresh with, you will burn about 300 calories.
Hormonally, the light weights are not intense enough on the skeletal muscle to promote growth, tone, and definition. Also, because the weights are lighter, you don’t create testosterone or growth hormone. These hormones are fat-burning hormones and muscle-building hormones.
Are you convinced yet?
Even for very overweight and obese women, you just need to lift heavy and condition properly to lose tons of weight. We have had clients work with us who wanted to lose 100 plus pounds and did it through 90% weight training and 10% of the SHIIT training. It works.
Now, how would you program a particular workout, and then program a week, and then program sequential weeks?
I’ll tell you!
The first rule is to do the exercise(s) that require the most skill and most load first. The reason is because your CNS (central nervous system) gets more and more taxed and burned out as your workout goes on. Therefore, you want less complicated and less heavy exercises last.
Additionally, you want to choose your first exercise based on what you want to adapt most. For example, if you want to build the booty, you need to make squats first. Furthermore, squats are the heaviest exercise a person can handle and the most taxing on the CNS.
The following exercises can be accessory to the main lift(s), but should either be in the same muscle group or an antagonist to the muscle group being trained. For example, legs should be all in the same workout. You can couple a quad focused exercise like a quad squat and a hamstring focused exercise like a prone leg curl. The hamstrings and quads are antagonsit muscles to each other. Doing “supersets” as they are called enables more recovery time for each muscle which allows more average load to be lifted throughout the workout. Remember, the more weight you can move, the more calories you can burn.
Rest intervals are very important as well. Without going too in depth, because I could but your eyes would gloss over, the rest between sets should be short, but still enough time for the muscles to recover to lift the given load for the same number of reps.
For example, if you are going to squat for 5 reps for 5 sets, you should use 80% of your 1 rep max. This means, you could squat 100 lbs for 1 rep and 1 rep only. For 5 sets of 5 reps, you would squat 80 lbs. Now, if you rested for :15 seconds after set 1, you would likely only get 2-3 reps in set two and not 5. This is why a 90 second to 120 second rest is better for an effective workout.
Lastly, tempo is key. The tempo of a lift is how fast you bring the weight down, pause, bring the weight up, and pause again before doing another rep. The tempo will actually change the hormonal response on your body. Without getting too into that, just know that controlled reps are important to help increase the time under tension during each set and mitigate risk of injury. The time it takes lowering the weight is the first number you write, the time you pause at the bottom of a rep is the second number, the time you take to move the weight is the third number, and the time you wait before doing another rep is the fourth number.
Here is a sample leg workout:
Complete this exercise by itself. Do one set, then rest, another set, then rest, etc.
Squats, 5 Repetitions at a tempo of 4112
Rest: 100 seconds
Complete 5 sets
A circuit is a series of exercises meant to be done sequentially (back to back) without rest in between the exercises. So you complete one set of the circuit, then you take your rest. Then you start your second set of the exercise.
Bulgarian Split Squat, 8 Repetitions each side at tempo of 5211
Calf raise, 15 Repetitions at a tempo of 4312
Rest: 60 seconds
Complete 4 sets
Every person is different, so your training done in a given week can change based on fitness level, goals, and lifestyle.
However, in general, women should train at least 3 days a week and at most 5 days a week. Women are very prone to overtraining, which is where you actually have diminishing returns from exercising too much.
An example is this:
You ate bad all weekend, so next week you’re going to run 4 miles a day, do 3 yoga classes, do Zumba every day, and try some spin classes on Tuesday and Thursday.
If you have done this, and are wondering why you exercise so much but can’t lose the muffin top, it’s because of overtraining.
Chronic cortisol (our stress hormone) causes fat cells to accumulate more fat to combat inflammation. Plus, you get more insulin resistant the more cortisol you have, which causes more fat gain during digestion.
A better way to program your workout week with weights is to split it up by muscle groups, and to keep frequency between 3-5 days a week, with at least 2 complete rest days.
An example is this:
- Sunday – Rest
- Monday – Resistance 1: Legs
- Tuesday – Resistance 2: Chest and Back (superset the exercises together)
- Wednesday – Resistance 3: SHIIT
- Thursday – Resistance 4: Arms
- Friday – Resistance 5: Shoulders and Back
- Saturday – Rest
Again, this split can be done a hundred different ways based on numerous factors. But, the above is a great split.
Sequential Weeks Programming
Now that you know how to put a daily workout together, and split up the week, we can talk about the progression of your workouts from week to week.
Some women we talk to say they change up their workouts all the time, to keep the body guessing and confused.
Sorry, but this is horse manure.
Randomization works for about 20-60 days, and then you’re screwed. What I mean is, if you have been a coach potato for 4 years, and you start working out, it doesn’t matter what you do, you will see progress.
However, it is a short-term solution, and losing 15-50+ pounds of fat is a long-term problem, not to mention you want to keep the weight off.
There needs to be systematic overload on the body for continued fat loss and muscle toning. You need to do more total work every week to keep seeing progress.
What do I mean by this?
In week 1, you are training 3 days and doing 3 exercises of 3 sets of 10 reps for each exercise. Let’s say you used 100 pounds for every rep. That means you moved 100 pounds x 10 reps x 3 sets x 3 exercises x 3 days = 27,000 pounds moved.
To continue to progress the body, you need to move more than 27,000 pounds in week 2. So, you either do the same workout but with 105 lbs, or you do 4 sets instead of 3 sets. One of these ways intensified the weight, the other way accumulated more reps.
This is how we program training for women to see continual fat loss in a systematic way every week. We intensify weight appropriately, or we accumulate weight appropriately.
In doing this, you also want to incorporate what’s called “deload” weeks. This is a week that occurs every 4-8 weeks where you back off the weight or the total reps to allow active recovery to the body so you can continue the weekly progression. Not doing this can result in getting sick, injured, aches and pains, and even fat gain. You cannot always overstress the body.
I hope this made sense.
Weight training can be a great way to build your dream body, and can be properly programmed for you to keep seeing rapid fat loss.
Look out for our final part to the Rapid Female Fat Loss Diet where we talk about macronutrient strategy. How much protein, carbs, and fats should you have?