The Gym 101: Part 2: Set and Rep Schemes
The second question you will have when starting weight lift is How Many?
In Part 1 we went over exercise selection and what are the moves that will fit your overall life and bring you closer to your fitness goals. Here, we will talk about how to do those exercises.
Not all bodies and brains are the same, therefore not all goals are the same. That being said, most women do have the same goal: lose fat mass (aka “lose weight”) and gain muscle mass (aka “tone up”). For those of you with a different goal like get bigger, gain weight or gain curves, I will go over your programming within this article as well.
Building long and lean muscles is easier than you think and so is changing your body.
It just takes longer than you want it to and very few female oriented publications talk about what is the best way to make serious changes in your body. Many of them just recommended cardio exercises and crunches. Not only is that super boring but ineffective!
Lastly, I’ll go over how to change your program for your energy levels. Men and women are very different when it comes to motivation and hormonal response to exercise.
You monthly cycles are not you imagination - they are a REAL obstacles to work with during your training and should not be ignored.
There are just times to run five miles and there are times to squat heavy for five reps. I HAVE ANSWERS FOR YOU, DEAR CHILD. No more suffering through a workout your really don’t feel like doing.
If you are new to weightlifting, I have the best news for you. You have the easiest program. You body will respond pretty much anything you do for it. For this article, we are going to talk about traditional weight training and not Metcons that you see in CrossFit gyms. Everyone should start out with a base of traditional strength training before going on to more complicated things.
For six months, go to the gym 2-4 times a week and follow that same program outline. You will to stick to a mid rep range strength training regimine.
That is to say: The Strength Zone
3-4 sets of 10 to 15 reps
Your best bet is 3 sets of 12 reps for all exercises
Our primary goal here is to build strength and plow the neuromuscular field with good movement patterns.
Traditionally, there are power, strength, hypertrophy (muscle growth) and endurance rep ranges. These numbers vary. Really ALL rep ranges lead to hypertrophy. But we really wanna stick with the high bang for buck rep ranges and this is in the "strength zone" as listed above.
Finding the perfect weight for you to lift depends on your current strength. you will never know unless you go in the gym and start pushing some weight around.
Since you don't want to waste your time there, it behooves you to challenge yourself. DO NOT be the woman that shys away from anything in the double digits! Most filled grocery bag and backpacks weigh more than 10 pounds. If you want to keep being able to lift that with ease, you need to lift more than that.
Cardinal Weight Choosing Rule (CWCR) :Choose a weight that is heavy enough to be difficult to lift on the last one or two reps of your second or third set. ALWAYS.
So what about building a booty? Mass programs are a bit different but will involve even more work what the what I described above. If you are a beginner or have been in the gym consistently for less than 6 months, just stick to the program I've outlined here.
Many women want those long and lean muscles. That really depends on two things: Genetics and consistency. Long and lean is an easier look to achieve for any woman over the height of 5'7 or 150cm.
For shorter women, your muscle belly may be too short to look like a pilates model BUT you can still achieve and graceful look through weightlifting. You may just need to change your program to a different set and rep scheme after a year or two.
Remember, steroids make you bulky. It is so hard for women to put on a lot of muscle mass because of this trick thing we have called estrogen. If you exercise most days of the week and follow a decent diet, your long and lean look will definitely happen. It ALWAYS happens.
If you suffer from moderate to severe PMS or you are just one of those women that cannot do the same workout because of energy levels, then try a mixing up you weight and rep schemes.
For example, if it's a long day and you don't feel like 3x15, the increase the weight and do 3x5. It will still be a challenge but doing 5 heavy reps is sometimes a lot easier than doing sets of 15.
many times I'll write a program that reads:
Gym at 3x a week
Exercise at 3x5, 10 or 15
This means my client goes three times a week but she get to choose her reps based on how she feels. High energy is 15 reps, low energy is 5. But she has to complete each one of these workouts. This is a super useful trick around your period.
So here is a beginner template:
10-15 min warm up
6 exercises (either all lower/upper body or a mix of 3 upp and 3 lower)
at 3x12 reps at CWCR weight
2 ab exercises at 3x20
Do this 2-4 times a week for 6 months.
I will go more into detail about training with your period in another article. Just keep it in mind that you can change out the reps and it might be more motivating to go if you know there is a bit of an easy day.
Learn all the basics and insider knowledge
Check out The Gym 101 Series
Part 1: Exercise Selection
Part 2: Set and Rep Schemes
Part 3: Training Splits and Organizing Your Week
Part 4: Creating Fun Workouts
Part 5: Training Around Injuries and Imbalances
Part 6: Menstruation and Muscle
Part 7: Finding New Gyms
Part 8: Navigating the Gym
Part 9: Gym Rules
Part 10: Fitness and Pregnancy
Part 11: Postpartum Exercise, Birth to 4 weeks
Part 12: Postpartum Exercise, 4-16 Weeks
Part 13: Recovery