The Weight Room…Not Just for Guys


One of the most common concerns I hear from my new female clients is “…but Laura, I’m scared of the weight room. There’s big muscly guys in there…I’m afraid they’ll laugh at me.” I have to admit, when I first began using weights, I felt the exact same way. The weight room can be very intimidating…if you let it. I tell my clients -and I’m telling you too- You have just as much right to be in that weight room as  they do.  

I have outlined a few things that, I feel, are important for you to know before you workout with weights. First of all, what is a rep? A rep is a  complete movement through the exercise one time. For example, one bicep curl. Secondly, what is a set? A set is a certain number of reps, performed  as a group. That magic number is determined by your unique goals. Decide what your goals are and then reference the  information below to determine where your sets and reps should be.

  • Muscle Endurance/Weight Loss
    • Light weight
    • 14-20 reps
    • 3 sets
  • Muscle Hypertrophy/Strength
    • Medium weights
    • 8-12 reps
    • 3-5 sets
  • Muscle Power
    • Heavy weights
    • 3-6 reps
    • 4-6 sets

Okay, feel free to take notes or print this page off as a reference. Whatever it takes…just get yourself  in that weight room and get lifting! -And don’t mind the meat heads, they are in front of the mirror for a reason- to look at themselves, not you.  😉

  • Machines: When you  start working with weights, you should begin on the weight machines. Core stability is a BIGGIE when using cables and free weights. Most beginners have a hard time with engaging their core. The machines are designed to automatically engage your core while keeping you in proper form, which is perfect for beginners. Make sure that you are paying attention to the  movement itself. Mentally note where your shoulders are, what muscles do you feel working (the ones that get tired, of course!), and most of all- LISTEN to your body. If you feel pain (I’m talking real pain here, not just tiredness, burning or muscle fatigue), quit the exercise and find an exercise specialist that can check your form, seat height, grip, etc. Paying attention to and noting the details will help you with  proper form as you progress to cables and free weights.
  • Well Rounded Workouts: Make sure that  you are hitting all the muscle groups in your body (not necessarily on the same day). This includes  chest, back, shoulders, triceps, biceps, abs, glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves. If you work one side of your body,  you need to work the opposite side so that everything  stays balanced. Let me tell you a story about a client of mine. He had boxed in high school, and was good at it.   He enjoyed frequent work outs of hitting a heavy bag. As a result, he  developed very strong lats.   Being in high school sports, he worked his other muscle groups as well, but not as extensively. Because of the strength imbalance, his shoulder was pulled out of whack by his lats…Ouch! During one of his first few sessions with me, I explained why I was having him do opposing exercises. His face lit up as  the light went on. “That makes a lot of sense to me”, he said. He went on to say that the doctor had told him  it was a strength imbalance that had caused his shoulder injury. The moral of this story? Work both sides of your body. If you do a chest exercise, do a back exercise- and make sure that one side is not noticeably stronger than the other.
  • Start Light: Better safe than sorry, I always say. If you start with 5 lb. dumbbells for your bicep curls and find that you are not challenged, you can always put them back and grab 8 lb. dumbbells. No biggie. On the flip side, if you grab 15 lb. dumbbells and take a whack at it, you could hurt yourself. Not good. This one is really a no brain-er.
  • Challenge Yourself: While it is important to make sure that you are starting safe, by starting with light weights, it is equally important to make sure that you feel challenged. At the end of each set, you should reach a state of muscle failure. In order to achieve the changes that you desire, you must reach muscle failure. What is muscle failure?   This is how I explain it to my clients, “Muscle failure is when you are pushing/pulling with everything you have and the weight isn’t moving.” At that point, pat yourself on the back, you’re there!
  • Change is a GOOD Thing: The human body adapts in 7-10 days. So what does that mean to your workout?   Switch It Up! This confuses a lot of people. How do you switch it up when the machines at the gym stay the same? There are literally millions of exercises and  multiple ways to work each muscle group. For example, let’s look at the chest. You could do a bench press, chest press, dumbbell press, push up, incline push up, chest flye, cable flye, cable cross or scoop exercise and hit your pecs. And that’s just a few!   You can also combine exercise to add a variable. Don’t forget to mix it up between machines and body weight exercises for beginners, intermediates can throw in the cable exercises  and those who are advanced can add free weights. There are lots of options to mix it up…just think outside the box! Have fun with it! 🙂

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