There’s no end to the amount of ridiculousness we hear regarding what the best workout program really is: From “you must perform two hours of cardio six days per week” and “don’t eat any more than 1,200 calories each day” to “you should totally wear sweat bands on your belly and spend an hour shadowboxing in the sauna.” Yes, “qualified” trainers have given all of this advice to women I know.
It’s laughable, but also pretty scary. And did I mention it’s complete B.S.?
The fact is, evidence-based fitness professionals know (as well as we can ever know anything) exactly what women need to do for their training to get the results they desire. Women who want to look good, feel good, and be healthy and strong need to engage in:
Although, I’d be remiss not to mention that, apart from performing the right workouts, they also need to eat a diet consisting primarily of whole, nutrient-dense foods; manage their stress effectively; get moderate amounts of sunshine regularly; sleep seven to nine hours (preferably in a cold, dark room) every night.
This training program structure work so well because it covers everything a woman needs to look and feel her absolute best, while allowing for adequate recovery, and preventing burnout.
Obviously, you want to know how to put all of this together, right? Of course. No worries. I have plenty of examples for you.
The following workouts are broken down into individual categories.
So what do relatively heavy lifting workouts look like? Obviously it will depend on a lot of things: specific goals, ability level, equipment availability, personal preferences.
For women, I prefer full-body, upper/lower splits, or a push/pull/lower body split (with a deadlift variation on your pull day to incorporate lower body twice throughout the week). And let me note, I say relatively heavy strength training because it just needs to be heavy for you. If you’re a beginner, maybe manipulating your body weight is enough. If you’re intermediate or advanced, you’re likely tossing around a fair amount of iron.
I generally like to pair two to three exercises in a circuit that work different muscle groups to maximize work in minimal time, and keep your heart rate elevated, while still allowing your muscle adequate recovery time between sets.
However, if I am starting with a very heavy movement (generally a weight lifted for fewer than five reps) then I’ll perform that exercise alone with two to three minutes of full rest in between to allow good form to be maintained and close to maximal weight lifted.
Obviously this isn’t all-encompassing, as it’s part of a larger program, but it gives you an idea of how I like to structure my strength training workouts.
High-intensity interval training can be performed a number of ways using a number of work-to-rest ratios (written as “work:rest” throughout the rest of this article). You can organize your workout by predetermined work:rest ratios, variable work:rest ratios (the ratio changes over time), positive rest (rest more than you work), negative rest (rest less than you work), or any combination thereof.
In general, the longer you have been training, and the more “fit” you are, the more work you can do with less rest. Try a few combinations and see what works for you:
Set Work : Rest Ratios
Variable Work:Rest Ratios
HIIT Example: Plate Pushes and Farmer’s Carries
Equipment needed: Weight Plate and Dumbbells/Kettlebells
When people think of moderate intensity cardio, they always seem to think of slaving away on the treadmill or elliptical, but there are tons of options for this type of workout. Keep your heart rate between 120 and 140 beats per minute (bpm), and you’re good to go.
Tip: If you don’t have a heart rate monitor, there’s an easy, low-tech way to check your heart rate. Place the pad of your index and middle finger either on the side of your neck just below the jawline, or on your wrist just below your thumb. When you feel your pulse, look at a clock that counts seconds and count how many heart beats you feel in 15 seconds. Multiply that number by four to get your beats per minute. If your heart beats between 30 and 35 times in 15 seconds you’re in the 120-140 range.
Example: Rope Slams and Walk-Outs
Equipment needed: Battling Ropes
So you’re probably wondering how you would structure these workouts over a week’s time. No worries—I won’t leave you hanging.
Day 1: 50 minutes strength training + 10-15 min HIIT
Day 2: 30 minutes moderate-intensity cardio
Day 3: 50 minutes strength training
Day 4: OFF
Day 5: 50 minutes strength training + 10-15 min HIIT
Day 6: 30 minutes moderate-intensity cardio
Day 7: OFF
As you can see, a well-laid out and effective program allows you to spend less time in the gym, and more time outside of the gym enjoying your life.
With Girls Gone Strong Coaching, you’ll get the support, accountability, and expert coaching to eat and exercise in a sustainable way — without restrictive diets or spending your life in the gym.
Whether your health and fitness goals are to…
... or anything else, we’ll help you achieve them. You can experience life-changing results while eating and exercising in a way that actually fits into your life — instead of controlling it.
Throughout our 12-month program, you’ll get a simple, step-by-step plan for developing nutrition, fitness, and mindset habits that will lead the way in reaching your goal.
Your coach is available 5 days a week to answer questions and help you navigate situations — like eating while you’re on vacation, exercise substitutions so you don’t aggravate your knee pain, or planning a workout with limited equipment options — so you always have support when you need it. And together, you'll find the best path toward long-term results in a way that works for you.
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