A Woman’s Guide To Working Out

Many times, I see women following their husbands or boyfriends around the gym doing the same exercises, rep range, and rest periods together. I cringe every time I see this because most women do not share common goals with their man and our bodies work differently. Men and women build muscle and lose body fat at different rates therefore our exercise routines should differ.

Most women yearn for a tone physique, but should you immediately jump into a toning program? Well, you have to consider where you are starting from. For example, if you have a higher BMI, then your first goal should be fat loss. Once you drop some body fat, then move onto the next goal of toning up.

But, how do you know which category you fall into? Next to each goal I have provided a description of the body type that should begin each program category. Keep in mind that these are just basic guides to follow. A professional trainer can be of great benefit because he or she will create a program tailored specifically to your fitness level and goals.

Below I have provided a breakdown of sets, rep ranges, and cardio that can be performed to target three different goals.

Ideal starting point: BMI range ≥25. Main goal is to lose 20lbs or more.
If you are in this range, you most likely want to shed excess weight before you can focus on really building lean muscle. Your workouts should involve mostly circuits. Choose 10-12 exercises and perform as one giant circuit or you may split this into two mini-circuits of 5-6 exercises each. Complete 3-4 rounds with a rep range of 18-25. Key is to keep your body moving and heart rate elevated the entire duration of your circuit. Rest 2-4 minutes between circuits. These are not easy, so if you need additional breaks, take them as needed.

Cardio: Steady-state cardio, 30-45 minutes, 5-6 days a week. Pick a low-impact activity you enjoy most (avoid putting additional pressure on your joints). This exercise should be done at a moderate level of intensity.

Ideal starting point: BMI 20-24. Main goal is to shed minimal weight and tone up.
Don’t be afraid to lift heavy. Choose a weight that will challenge you, aim for a 12-15 rep range. You should aim for around 3 super-sets and/or triple-sets and a 60-90 second rest period between each completed super (or triple) set.

Cardio: Plyometric/ high intensity interval training (HIIT), 20-25 minutes, 4-5 days a week. Aim to keep your heart rate elevated majority of your session. A good range would be between 80-85 percent.

Ideal starting point: BMI ≤20. Main goal is to build more muscle mass.
Lifting heavy is key here. If you are in this stage, you most likely are an experienced lifter. Choose a weight that will tax your muscles. Aim for a 6-10 rep range. You should strive to hit 4-5 single sets with a 1- 2 minute rest period (depending on the exercise).

Cardio: HIIT, 15 minutes, 3-4 days a week. Key here is to push yourself to the max. Anywhere between 85-95 percent all-out for 20-60 secs, rest approx. 30-60 secs and repeat.

By Claudia Virgil, Personal Trainer and Team Max Athlete