When a woman discovers that I coach and train people professionally, there is generally one question that comes up, in one form or another – what is the best, or fastest way, for a woman, to get “in shape”. At this point in time (November 2016), most women know, or at least have heard, that the best way, or fastest way, for a woman to get in shape, is to lift weights. She recognizes that some “strength training” is NECESSARY. So, it is unusual if the answer, “lift weights”, is any sort of revelation for her. However, I like to take the answer a step further.
I am genuinely motivated to help people. I truly WANT to see people around me SUCCEED. In addition to that, I get a thrill out of being the only guy in the room with the RIGHT answer to a question, or having the BEST answer.
So, a lot of things are going on when I get this question from a woman, whom, at the time, I may not even know that well. I am motivated to give her the right, or best answer. I KNOW what the CORRECT answer is. Indeed, if I could just transplant my brain into her body and workout like I know she should, I (she) would be a supermodel in less than 6 months. Unfortunately, that is not an option. I need to give her the best answer FOR HER. I need to carefully consider, based on pretty limited information at this point, WHO is this woman standing before me AND what answer will inspire her to get on the right path for her success. In a moment, I must imagine what preconceptions she may have about eating and exercise, what her background is, what she WANTS to hear, how she EXPECTS me to answer, … you get the picture. I must answer CAREFULLY. On top of all that, I must remember that SHE has many preconceptions about me, that are likely completely false – he’s arrogant, he’s judging me, he’s a misogynist, he’s a “macho” man… If I was truly SMART, I might just give a vague, uninformative answer and quietly slip away. Unfortunately, like I said, I have a genuine desire to HELP other people succeed. So, here I go…
The answer that I have distilled over the past 30+ years and seems to have the most success is:
“Imagine you are a weak, skinny, 14 year old BOY who wants more than anything to be big and strong… put yourself in this young man’s body… what are you going to do when you go to the gym?”
This gets the woman standing before me thinking. Nine times out of ten, I get the answer, “lift weights…?”.
“YES”, I exclaim, “Lift weights! Lift weights like you are a 14-year-old, weak, skinny boy and you will look the way you want as a woman”.
Then I get, “Really?”.
“Lift weights aggressively and often?”
“Yes! Lots of sets with free weight exercises!”
“RIGHT! Replace all your cardio with free weights.”
“What about reps?… Lower reps?”
“Yes, exactly, lower reps, try to stick to 10 reps or less per set, challenge your strength levels- remember, you are a weak, skinny 14 year old boy!”
Sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? The strategy I am advising has been built on DECADES of trial and error. If this woman starts working out like SHE imagines a 14 year old weak, skinny boy would work out, SHE WILL get the results she is looking for. And, just in case you ladies out there think for a second, “well, he probably thinks I am trying to look like a female bodybuilder and I don’t want that”… just hold on a second here. As a woman you are most likely to tell me as your trainer that, “I would like to “tone” and tighten up my butt, hips, thighs, and lower stomach, weigh less overall and have my clothes fit again. Oh, and can we do something about the back of my arms (triceps), they jiggle and I don’t like the way my arms look in pictures. And, of course, I want to look better at the beach.” Am I pretty much summing up your fitness needs? I believe so.
NO, you will not get “too big”, I promise. Do you have any idea how HARD it is to gain enough muscle to look “big”? You are actually insulting people when you say things like, “but, I get BIG really easy- the last time I lifted weights I started getting bulky”. No, you don’t. No, you don’t get “big” real easy. Forcing the body to grow more muscle tissue is not easy. The reason you think you are getting “big” real easy is because you finally started stimulating your emaciated muscles, the muscle tissue swelled with energy storage in preparation for your next workout, and it pushed your layer of body fat outward. THIS makes you look bigger. And the muscle swelling like that is a very temporary thing. Trust me, even if you were the one female out there who did somehow get “big” easy, losing 1 pound of muscle is 1000 times easier than losing 1 pound of fat. So, please, for the 1 millionth time, don’t worry about getting too big and looking like a guy. It just doesn’t happen. And, if you think it is happening to you, then you are misunderstanding your body’s message to you.
Take a minute and examine the featured photo on this post. This girl is DeadLifting about 300 pounds. Does she look big and bulky? Or does she look lean and athletic?
I’ve often said that being someone’s coach is often just teaching that person how to get out of their own way. And although I have studied human psychology for nearly as long as I have studied weight training, there are a couple people here and there who I may not be able to reach. It’s scary to let go of the things you think you know- believe me, I understand. But courage is needed for change. Courage is needed for success. Every time you practice courage, you will be rewarded with confidence. You must find that courage within yourself, I cannot do that part for you. In the coach/athlete, teacher/student, trainer/client relationships, TRUST is an absolute necessity. YOU need to trust ME on the council I am providing you. Entirely. Without you supplying courage and me fostering an environment of trust, we will not get very far. “Compliancy” is what I call it. The more compliant you are to my eating and training methods, the faster you will achieve success and the greater will be the enormity of your success. Get out of your own way. There is only one thing standing between you and your goals… YOU.
Well, if training like a weak, skinny 14 year old boy will put a woman on the right road to achieve her health and fitness goals, what does a weak, skinny 14 year old boy need to do? Well, first, NOT train like everyone believes a weak, skinny 14 year old boy should train. That is all I will say about that for now because that answer is much more extensive than we have room for in this post. Wait for an upcoming post, or the book that’s taking me a long time to write!
So, again, if you are a woman who wants to look “awesome in a swimsuit”, fit back into your “skinny” jeans, or just look younger and be healthier… lift weights like you are a 14 year old weak, skinny boy AND strongly consider becoming a client of my one-on-one personal training, strength and conditioning services. At least consider joining a gym that has the best possible equipment for effective strength training.
Thank you for reading.
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