The Truth About Feminine Fitness

A long, long time ago, women’s workouts meant aggressive arm circles, bouncy stretching, and hundreds of step-touches. We got crazy flexibility, ceaseless endurance, and if our diet lined up properly, a lithe, slender body (just like Jane Fonda).

Fast-forward to today’s savvy women and we’ve graduated to wanting a lean, strong body. “Fit” and “skinny” aren’t synonymous anymore – we want a healthy, bullet-proof physique (and gorgeous muscle definition wouldn’t hurt)….aka the NEW feminine fitness.

If you’re still caught in the cardio-only rut or listening to celebrity trainers who admonish us to “never lift heavy weights” lest it make us “bulky,” read on to see what women’s workouts should look like today.

jane fonda workout

The New Paradigm

The updated heavy hitter in fat loss, health, and fitness is, without a doubt, strength training. I’m not talking about bodybuilding here, and you don’t have to be an athlete to strength train. You most certainly don’t have to be a guy to strength train, either!

Experts and scientists now agree that while the right nutrition and cardio-respiratory training are important to health and fat loss, strength training is the third most critical component.

In case you’re wondering, you definitely won’t become the She-Hulk of your neighborhood if you lift weights heavier than three pounds (or 100!). Women have much less testosterone than men and we have to work hard to build even a small amount of muscle. Even then, we can never build muscles as big as guys unless we’re juiced up on steroids – not likely in your case, I’m betting.

This may surprise you, but strength training helps me express my femininity. Being strong and fit is an important way I define myself. And it’s not an exaggeration to say that strength training has increased my self-confidence in ways I can’t even begin to explain.

Take a look at how strength training is a smart strategy for your body and mind.

Burn Mega Calories

If you’ve ever done a strength-training circuit, you know it can get your heart pumping. Squats, lunges, chest presses, bent-over rows, and shoulder presses back to back without rest is a major calorie burner!

Not only that, but strength training burns calories when you’re not exercising, too. This “afterburn” effect results when your muscles are busy repairing themselves after a good, heavy lifting session.

Since muscle is metabolically active tissue that burns fat even when you’re at rest, strength training increases your metabolism. This means the more muscle, the more fat burning!

Rock Functional Strength

You don’t have to be a bench-pressing beast to benefit from increased strength. Even lifting moderate weights can make you feel stronger and fitter for everyday activities like carrying your kids, pushing the lawnmower, or changing a tire.

Stay Youthful

We can stay strong and active into old age by integrating resistance training into our routine. One study at McMaster University showed that strength training actually reversed the effects of aging by changing tissue at the cellular level in healthy senior citizens [1].

It’s important to understand that unless we counteract it, losing muscle mass is an inevitable part of aging. Feminine fitness weight training helps us stay strong and mobile instead of becoming injured and inactive (which almost always leads to weight gain, too).

Since women are especially susceptible to bone loss, resistance training is also a must for stimulating growth in our bone density as we age.

Look Hot

Of course, when you’ve been strength training awhile, along with eating nutritious foods and managing your caloric intake, you’ll see muscle definition pop on your arms, abs, and legs. Feeling good about your body might be your top motivator, and that’s perfectly fine, too.

I used to have the flattest behind around – affectionately (or not) known as a “mom butt.” But doing heavy squats, lunges, kettle bell swings, and hip thrusts completely transformed my backside into one I am truly proud of (shake it!).

The benefits of feminine fitness strength training don’t stop there – try increased energy, better sleep, improved posture, and yes – even greater flexibility.

Let’s Go!

Getting started with strength training is easier than you might think. If you’re a beginner, I recommend checking out the articles here at Health Habits, my beginner’s guide, and “The New Rules of Lifting for Women,” by Lou Schuler.

Simply keep three things in mind and you can’t go wrong:

  1. Your top priority will always be impeccable form.
  2. You will keep progressing as long as you continue to add weight.
  3. Allowing your muscles to recover is just as important as your workouts.

Enjoy the benefits of feminine fitness strength training, and I’ll see you in the weight room.

About the Author

Suzanne Digre is a NASM-certified personal trainer who coaches clients online and in-person. With over 15 years of lifting experience, Suzanne writes at workoutnirvana.com, where she shares her passion for strength training and clean eating.

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Energy System Training Makes Your Heart Healthier and Stronger

Circuit Training vs Traditional Strength Training

Researchers have found that high-resistance circuit weight training is equally as effective as traditional strength training for improving:

  1. Maximum Strength
  2. Maximum Power
  3. Shuttle-Run Performance (speed & agility)
  4. Lean Muscle Mass

And when it comes to fat loss, circuit training is the best.

Conclusion

If you want to be leaner, stronger, faster and more agile, get doing some circuit training workouts

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Reference

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Occlusion / Kaatsu Training: The easiest and fastest way to build muscle mass OR health club kink?

You gotta love the Japanese.

They start with a little of this:

arnold bicep curl arm blaster

Add in a little of this:

image credit: Roger Hargreaves
image credit: Roger Hargreaves

And end up with this:

kaatsu biceps

Occlusion or Kaatsu training.

What is Occlusion or Kaatsu Training?

In a nutshell, Occlusion Training involves applying a tourniquet of some sort (Researchers use a pneumatic tourniquets similar to a blood pressure cuff) to the proximal portion of one of your limbs to restrict blood flow (partially or fully) while you perform low intensity exercise.

And why would you do that?

According to this recent study:

Low intensity occlusion (50-100 mm Hg) training provides a unique beneficial training mode for promoting muscle hypertrophy.

Training at intensities as low as 20% of 1 rep maximum with moderate vascular occlusion results in muscle hypertrophy in as little as 3 weeks.

A typical exercise prescription calls for 3 to 5 sets to volitional fatigue with short rest periods.

The metabolic buildup causes positive phsiologic reactions, specifically a rise in growth hormone that is higher than levels found with higher intensities.

Occlusion training is applicable for those who are unable to sustain high loads due to joint pain, postoperative patients, cardiac rehabilitation, athletes who are unloading, and astronauts.

In fact, during the study, test subjects saw some pretty startling results:

  • Lactate increased
  • Growth Hormone increased
  • Norepinephrine increased
  • IGF-1 increased
  • Noradrenaline increased
  • Myostatin decreased
  • One rep maximum strength increased
  • Isometric strength & torque increased
  • Isokinetic strength & torque increased
  • Muscular endurance increased
  • Cross-sectional area of the muscle increased
  • Slow twitch fibers changed into Fast twitch fibers

And all you need to turn yourself into a muscle-building Kaatsu warrior is some bondage gear and the ability to ignore the stares and giggles of your fellow health club members.

occlusion training - leg extension

So, what do you think of that?

I may come back and expand this post with more data in the next few days. I just received a full copy of this latest study and I am poring over the details. But, I couldn’t wait to share this with you.

Looking forward to the comments.

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If you like what you see here, click here for updates

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Related Posts


Reference

arnold-chest fitness exercise healthhabits bodybuilding

1,000,000,001 Different Ways to Train your Chest

A couple of months ago, I posted an article on 1,000,000,001 Different Ways to Squat.

Today, we move on to the chest. And just like last time, I am pretty sure that I will omit something, so feel free to let me know what I missed and I will add it to the post.

1,000,000,001 Different Ways to Train your Chest

In an attempt to organize the million and one ways that you can train your chest, I decided to organize all of these different lifts into different categories.

Categories

  1. Movement
  2. Unilateral / Bilateral
  3. Stance / Body Orientation / Position of Load
  4. Equipment
  5. Range of Motion
  6. Tempo or Speed
  7. Weight of Load as a % of 1 Rep Max Lift
  8. Lifting Surface
  9. Training Volume
  10. Rest Periods

Movement

  • Press

bench_press

  • Fly

dumbbell fly

Unilateral / Bilateral

  • 1 Arm Push-Up / 2 Arm Push-Up
  • 1 Arm Press / 2 Arm Press
  • 1 Arm Fly / 2 Arm Fly

babypushup

Stance / Body Orientation / Position of Load

  • Vertical Body Posititon – Standing / Kneeling / Sitting upright
  • Horizontal Body Position – Supine – Flat Bench
  • Horizontal Body Position -Supine – Incline Bench
  • Horizontal Body Position -Supine – Decline Bench
  • Arm Angle – Close Grip v.s Wide Grip, Elbows tucked tight to the torso or flared out to the side
  • Position of Weight relative to Pectoralex. Presses to the Neck v.s a press where the bar contacts the body at or even below the nipples

Press to the Neck

  • Grip – Pronated, Supinated or Neutral Grip

Equipment

  • Barbell
  • Dumbbell(s)
  • Kettlebell(s)
  • Bodyweight only
  • Weighted Vest
  • Band(s)
  • Medicine ball, sandbag, log, tire, rock, person or any other extreme implement
  • Machines – Smith machine, Pec Dec, Chest Press machines, etc….
  • Cable weight machines
  • Benches / Boxes / Stability Ball
  • Stability balls
  • TRX / Blast Straps / Rings & Chains

Range of Motion

  • Full range of motion
  • Extreme range of motion – ex. cambered bar chest press
  • Partial range of motion – board presses, partial presses in the power rack or those partial range presses some guys do to make themselves feel strong


  • 1 and 1/2 reps – lower the weight all the way down, come up half way, lower again and then lift all the way back up
  • Focusing on a specific range – i.e focusing on the lockout of a bench press puts the emphasis on the triceps instead of the chest

Tempo or Speed

  • There are a number of different systems for classifying lifting speed. For simplicity sake, I will stick with the basics: fast, moderate, slow & pause
  • Different speeds of motion can be used for the different portions of the lift: descent, bottom, ascent, top
  • You can mix and match the different speeds with the different portions of the lift depending on your training goals
  • Most benchers lower the bar fast, neglect to pause at the chest, and then lift the weight as fast as possible.
  • Powerlifters (in competition) have to pause at the bottom of their bench presses.
  • Personally, I prefer to lower my weights slowly, pause at the bottom to minimize the stretch shortening cycle, and then lift as fast as possible.

Weight of Load as a % of 1 Rep Max Lift

  • Your 1 Rep Max Lift is the maximum amount of weight you can successfully lift with good form.
  • If you are lifting for strength, you will likely choose a load that is close to your 1 Rep max. A lower percentage load is used when you are performing high reps for muscular endurance or for low reps and high speed in an attempt to develop muscular speed.

Lifting Surface

This category is primarily employed by the Bosu or “functional training” crowd. Most lifters choose to keep their foot on solid ground as it allows them to generate maximum force. However, challenging you balance with various tools/techniques can have some carryover effect to the stabilizer muscles and overall athletic coordination. So, if you’re interested, here are some options:

  • Balance disks – standing cable or band work gets even harder
  • a Bosu – pushups on the bosu
  • a foam roller – I know a guy who performs chest presses while lying on a foam roller to open up his rib cage & thoracic spine. Not sure if I am buying it, but he swears by it.
  • a stability ball – in place of a standard bench

Training Volume

  • Depending on your training goals (power, strength, hypertrophy, endurance, speed), you can choose a variety of reps per set, sets per exercise and total sets/reps per workout

Rest Periods

  • This category refers to the length of the rest periods taken between sets.
  • Short rest periods are used as a tool to develop the trainees anaerobic energy system.
  • Long rest periods are used to allow more complete muscular and/or nervous system recovery.
  • And as with tempo and load percentage, there is an almost infinite number of positions in between.

Putting it all together…

If you mix and match all of the options that I have listed above, you can probably come up with more than a million and one different ways to train your chest.

Just don’t try doing all of them in one workout.

And like I said, I have probably missed a buch of different techniques, so feel free to comment and I will update the post.

Have fun.

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1,000,000,001 Different Ways to Squat

This post is for that guy at the gym who avoids squatting because:

  • They hurt his back
  • They hurt his knees
  • They hurt his shoulders, wrists, neck, ego…
  • Squat only focus on his quads
  • He’s trying to focus on his vastus medialis
  • Squats are overrated
  • He’s not a powerlifter
  • He’s not a bodybuilder
  • He’s not a football player or sprinter or skater or…

Well, you get the idea.

Just for that guy, I am going to outline all of the different ways that you or him can squat.

Note: I am pretty sure that I will miss something, so feel free to let me know what I missed and I will add it to the post.

1,000,000,001 Different Ways to Squat

In an attempt to organize this master list of squatting options, I decided to organize all of these different lifts into different categories.

Categories

  1. Unilateral / Bilateral
  2. Stance / Body Orientation
  3. Equipment
  4. Position of Load
  5. Range of Motion
  6. Tempo or Speed
  7. Weight of Load as a % of 1 Rep Max Lift
  8. Lifting Surface
  9. Training Volume
  10. Rest Periods
Crossfit builds fit females
Crossfit builds fit females

Unilateral / Bilateral

  • 1 Leg Squat – free leg held in front of body – knee bent
  • 1 Leg Pistol Squat – free leg held in front of body – leg straight
  • 1 Leg Box Squat – free leg hangs down
  • 1 Leg Squat – free leg placed behind body
  • 1 Leg Bulgarian Squat
  • 2 Leg Squat

Stance / Body Orientation

  • Hips turned out – Toes turned out
  • Hips straight – Toes straight – legs shoulder width apart
  • Hips & toes straight – narrow stance – legs close together
  • Torso held high, chest up, very little forward lean at the hips – bodybuilder style
  • Rear end pushed back, large forward lean at the hips – powerlifter style
  • More knee flexion than hip flexion during lift – Knees move past the toes during lift
  • Equal knee and hip flexion – Knees don’t pass the toes
  • More hip flexion than knee flexion – Knees stay well back of the toes – box squat style

Equipment

  • Barbell
  • Dumbbell(s)
  • Kettlebell(s)
  • Bodyweight only
  • Weighted Vest
  • Band(s)
  • Chains
  • Medicine ball, sandbag, log, tire, rock, person or any other extreme implement
  • Machines – Smith machine, Squat machine, Hack Squat machine, etc….
  • Cable weight machines
  • Benches / Boxes
  • Stability balls

Position of Load

  • Back Squat – load held on shoulders behind the neck
  • Front Squat – load held in front of the neck
  • Overhead Squat
  • DBs, KBs, etc held in hands at waist height
  • Zercher Squats – load held in the “crook” of your elbows at chest/belly height
  • Hack Squat – barbell held behind your legs

Range of Motion

  • Full squat
  • Barely bending your knees Partial Squat
  • Everything in between
  • 1 and 1/2 squats – squat all the way down, come up half way, go back down and then squat all the way up
  • Focusing on a specific range – i.e working only in the bottom 1/4 of the full range focuses the effort strongly on your glutes, while focusing on the top 1/4 focuses mainly on the quads while also making the exercise much, much easier

Tempo or Speed

  • There are a number of different systems for classifying lifting speed. For simplicity sake, I will stick with the basics: fast, moderate, slow & pause
  • Different speeds of motion can be used for the different portions of the lift: descent, bottom, ascent, top
  • You can mix and match the different speeds with the different portions of the lift depending on your training goals
  • The typical squatter descends fast, doesn’t pause at the bottom, ascends back up fast and pauses at the top if he needs to rest – not very scientific
  • However, another lifter may descend slowly, pause at the bottom to eliminate the bounce he might receive from his stretch shortening cycle, ascend as fast as possible and immediately descend into another squat

Weight of Load as a % of 1 Rep Max Lift

  • Your 1 Rep Max Lift is the maximum amount of weight you can successfully lift with good form.
  • If you are lifting for strength, you will likely choose a load that is close to your 1 Rep max. A lower percentage load is used when you are performing high reps for muscular endurance or for low reps and high speed in an attempt to develop muscular speed.

Lifting Surface

  • This category is primarily employed by the Bosu or “functional training” crowd
  • Most lifters stand on a solid floor, but if it floats your boat, feel free to squat while standing on:
  • Balance disks
  • a Bosu
  • a 1/2 foam roller
  • a balance beam
  • on top of someone’s shoulders

muscle-beach-pyramid

Training Volume

  • Depending on your training goals (power, strength, hypertrophy, endurance, speed), you can choose a variety of reps per set, sets per exercise and total sets/reps per workout

Rest Periods

  • This category refers to the length of the rest periods taken between sets.
  • Short rest periods are used as a tool to develop the trainees anaerobic energy system.
  • Long rest periods are used to allow more complete muscular and/or nervous system recovery.
  • And as with tempo and load percentage, there is an almost infinite number of positions in between.

Putting it all together…

To be honest, I have no idea how many different types of squats we could make with all of these options.

1,000,000,001 looked impressive, so I went with it…sue me.

But, I do know that my little list ‘o squats should definitely spark your imagination and help you create a new and better squat workout.

Have fun.