The Gym 101: Part 1: Exercise Selection
Let's talk about exercise selection. Most women do ridiculous, complex movements that include a lunge twist, press and toe tap ("thats ONE") with 4 pound weights. They are told that this will target you bum and slim your waist and tone shoulders, when this move in fact does NONE of that. Most likely, this kind of advice will give you shoulder impingements and be tiring without changing one thing on your body. Listen Ladies, I love you and respect you so here it is: For the most part everything you think or have been told about exercise, fitness, nutrition and losing fat is stupid, dangerous, frustrating and wrong.
Most women are never talked to about lifting weights. We are told that it will make you bulky or manly - when in fact it make you the opposite and ensure that you have an attractive, womanly physique for the rest of your life.
Let’s get into the nitty gritty of weightlifting. This is the kind of stuff that is taught to men during sports practice and all over the fitness magazines. Although very few of us want to look like men, the basic principles of exercise and fitness are true for both sexes. Even in a woman followed the same program as a man, she would not look "bulky" because our bodies have different hormone response to muscle growth - namely, women do not grow bulky muscles.
That's a job for steroids.
The only thing that really changes in training men vs training women is the focus of the exercise selection - more upper body vs more lower body - and using different set and rep ranges during different part of your menstrual cycle.
If you are new to weightlifting, we have to start with the basics. Everyone starts here and those who don’t tend to go backwards in their training and start the basics again at some point.
There are FIVE basic lifts, also called THE BIG LIFTS: Row, Bench press, Overhead press, Squat and Deadlift - the foundations of which the sport of weightlifting is built. If weightlifting was a modern religion, learning these movements would be like reading the Torah to understand Christianity.
I believe there are actually SIX basic lifts to learn because I include the Lunge. This is an especially important move for women because our hips are shaped differently (the Q angle) and change - dramatically more than men - as we age and have kids.
The lunge also promotes lower back strength and balance in a way that most of the other lifts do not. But you cannot easily “max out” on a lunge movement because you have to do BOTH sides and there is almost no way to ditch the lift if something goes wrong under heavy load
(MAX OUT: Also known as 1RM, or One Rep Max. The most amount of weight you can move doing this lift. How you test your strength progression/improvement). These are the six lifts that I first teach to every client. All six of there are functional and natural movements.
You can easily give a program of only these six movements to any beginner, write a program that last for 52 week and the person will see overall improvements in strength, shape, body composition and movement ability in daily life.
If you do anything for yourself in the gym, LEARN THESE SIX MOVEMENTS CORRECTLY. We, weightlifters, will refer to them as THE BIG LIFTS (keep in mind that others may or may NOT include the lunge).
These movements are what we call multi-joint movements. These burn the most calories, build the most muscle and produce the most strength. They are named as such because they use MULTIPLE joinTs to produce the movement, as opposed to single joint movements. Single joint movements are used primarily to build shape, rehabilitate injuries, warm up muscle groups or fix imbalances. Think overhead press (multi: shoulder and elbow) vs. bicep curl (single: elbow). This concept becomes important when putting together a program or workout. Most workouts are centered around one or two multi joint movements wist three or four single joint movement around the big lifts.
As you branch out and get better at weightlifting, you will also greatly benefit from other movements…
Yes, I realize that most people start lifting in order to look good naked. Understand that you doing something more than you are doing right now will lead to your hot bod, no matter what you do. With that I’m mind, we might as well make our gym sessions interesting and functional.
The other simple to moderate movements you should see frequently in your programming are the pull up (also Lat pull-down), carries (farmer carry, front rack carry, waiter walk), handstand, step up, box jump, plank (front, side and reverse), push up, the sit up, wood-chopper and the burpee.
All of these are very functional, will assist you with your aesthetic goals and make the activities of daily living easier. Think about playing with your kids, moving furniture, doing yard work, picking up babies or walking up stairs with a pack or bags.
A proper hip hinge & deadlift helps you bend over and pick up heavy object as well as safely weed your garden. A proper weighted carry is essential for healthy shoulder strength and mobility. Even the burpee is helpful. The burpee is you ability to get yourself up off the floor as quickly as possible.
When I teach my Wisdom + Weightlifting class for 55 and older adults, this is one of the first things we learn. Trust me, it is very sad to see a person who cannot get up from the floor using their own strength. So do burpees and do them often.
So, just to recap, FIRST learn how to properly:
Bench Press Overhead Press Bent Over Row Squat Deadlift Lunge
Pull up (also Lat pull down), Weighted Carries (farmer carry, front rack carry, waiter walk) Handstand Step up Box jump Plank (front, side and reverse) Push up Sit up Burpee
Wood-chopper (cable or kettlebell)
You may know how to do a burpee or sit up but there still movement standards and proper technique (or *form*) to doing all these movements. Doing them is better than NOT doing them.
Mostly, stay very simple in your own weightlifting programming for the first 6 to 12 months. All beginners see a very fast growth and change in their bodies when they first start.
Even if your goal is to have a bigger butt, sticking with the 6 lifts and the 10 accessory movements, adding a lower body emphasis, will give you a well built physique, adding size to your musculature - including your glutes.
This way you have a good idea of where to start when you want to do specific shaping.
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