Unfortunately in the fitness industry, more often than not, women are pressured or shamed into feeling like they should work out or diet to change how they look, and should strive to become a smaller, frailer, and more submissive version of their current self. This extremely harmful and limiting message is preventing an abundance of women from feeling good, confident, empowered, and achieving the fitness, body composition, and lifestyle related goals that they deserve. When it comes to all genders, the focus should be on teaching people how to get stronger/fitter, feel good, increase confidence, and feel empowered. Here are some tips that will help women look, feel, and perform their very best:
1) Lift heavy weights- This is especially true when it comes to females, as many shy away from lifting weights that are challenging in fear of becoming ''bulky.'' This unfortunate myth is preventing an abundance of women from achieving their goals (including fat loss and improving muscle tone), and feeling empowered.
2) Perform compound exercises- While performing isolation exercises is fine, make sure that the bulk of your workout consists of compound exercises, and with heavy weights. Some of my favourite compound exercises include: front squats, deadlifts, barbell hip thrusts/glute bridges, pistol squats, deficit split squats, pull-ups/chin-ups, push-ups, overhead presses, etc. Most of these exercises can be modified to meet all fitness levels. There are also other great exercises that can be done with little to no equipment.
If you are new to the gym or are currently deconditioned, it does not mean that your philosophy has to be any different. Start with more basic exercises that employ the same philosophies, and increase the difficulty of the exercises as your form, strength, and mobility improve.
3) Consistency, not ''shocking the muscles'' by switching up your workouts non-stop will lead to the most optimal results - While this might be blunt, anybody who tells you that in order to achieve the best results, you need to keep switching up your programs in order to ''shock your muscles,'' well, they are pretty much full of crap. Chances are, they want you to keep paying for their products or services! This ineffective tactic will lead you to poor results and mediocrity.
In order to achieve the best results, you want to continue to improve at what you are doing. At first this might mean improving your form until it is proficient. Then you can continue to make progress by adding weight, or reps, or both. You have your staple exercises, and then you can add in another supplementary exercises that follow your philosophies, and you can continue to make progress by improving at these exercises.
4) Perform high intensity interval training (HIIT) or conditioning via strength circuits- Both of these methods are incredible for improving your overall fitness level which is important, and both will also allow you to maintain your muscle, and shed body fat. Both HIIT and strength circuits take much less time than your traditional steady state cardio, give you significantly better results, and require significantly less time to do.
If you are a beginner or are deconditioned, you can still do both methods. However, choose exercises that follow the same principles but are suitable for your current fitness level. With HIIT, you can still do intervals of work and rest, but you might need to keep the work intervals at a lower intensity/shorter, and your rest levels at a longer duration. As your fitness level improves, the intensity and duration of your work intervals can increase, and the duration of your rest intervals can decrease.
5) Do not overdo cardio and underdo strength training- Many people, especially females, make the mistake of doing too much cardio and not enough strength training. I am not an advocate of no cardio, I absolutely believe that it matters. However, it should not be overdone, and at the expense of strength training.
6) Do not diet, make it a lifestyle- A solid nutrition plan should make you feel energized and satiated, be flexible, enjoyable, and sustainable. If it's lacking any of the above components, go back to the drawing board. Make good choices the majority of the time, and treat yourself in moderation. Avoid fad diets and extremes as they will lead you to fail time and time again, and will drive you (and everyone around you) crazy in the process.
7) Steer clear of most women's fitness magazines/social media ''guru's'' as they do NOT promote health and fitness. Have you ever noticed that when you glance at the cover on most women's fitness magazine or websites, you will likely see the words: diet, shrink, tone, fat loss, calories, detox, etc. There is rarely content about getting stronger and fitter, adding muscle, feeling empowered etc. It is ALL about fixating on changing the way you look and making yourself smaller. No thank you!! There are MANY incredibly empowering, knowledgable, strong, reasonable, AND relatable women and men on social media who are spreading a wealth of helpful information.
To every woman out there, believe in yourself, and know how strong and physically capable you truly are. Push yourself and establish a lifestyle that is enjoyable and sustainable. This will help you achieve your ideal body and fitness level, but most importantly, it will make you feel SO empowered.