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Program for women just starting out

Program for women just starting out


Some gyms are changing, and have seen the proportion of women among their clientele exceed 50%. In practice, more and more women are swapping cardio for free weights, machines or the "Crossfit" corner. Gone are the fitness programs that mix cardio and a little "toning" with light weights. Make way for heavy weights and strength exercises. Because, yes, women are no longer intimidated by the equipment and exercises formerly reserved for men.

And for what results? Nothing but good! Women who go to the gym proudly sport a toned, more athletic figure, and - like men - reap the enormous benefits of these strength and resistance exercises.

Fine, but where do you start? What program should you follow when you're new to bodybuilding and you're a woman? Read this beginner's guide and you'll know everything you need to know to get off to the best possible start.

Why work out when you're a woman?

It's no secret that exercise is good for the mind and body. Whatever your age or sporting background, there are many benefits to starting an exercise routine in the gym. And getting down to weights - and not just long cardio - is often the workout women need to start seeing results.

What will bodybuilding do for you?

- Develop your strength and musculature. Bodybuilding will make you stronger and give you a toned, muscular figure with well-defined muscles. But without becoming a hypertrophied bodybuilder. Your physical performance will also improve, and you'll be full of energy.

- Burn more fat. By building muscle mass, you'll increase your basal metabolic rate and burn more calories every day - even at rest. You'll burn as much, if not more, fat with strength training as with cardio.

- Improve your posture. Do you have a hunched back, lower back pain or neck pain? Strength training will correct all this and help you adopt a better posture. What's more, as we age, strength training has the ability to prevent muscle and bone density loss, reducing the risk of injury.

- Gain confidence and free yourself from stress. Weight training will help you reduce stress and anxiety levels. Because exercise releases feel-good endorphins that improve your mood (1). But you'll also feel more confident, contributing to improved self-esteem and overall mental well-being. As soon as you see the first results, your motivation will only increase, and this will have a positive effect on your self-confidence.

- Better sleep. Strength training improves sleep quality and makes it easier to fall asleep. It also lowers blood pressure and improves your overall health. All in all, a positive experience.

Will I become too muscular?

Women shy away from bodybuilding because of false beliefs about strength training and a lack of support. No, this sport won't turn you into a "trucker" and harm your femininity. Because women have lower testosterone levels than men, which means they naturally have less muscle mass.

In fact, muscle gain is largely linked to the hormonal profile, which is very different between men and women. To gain a lot of muscle, you need a specific diet, training program and a lot of dedication. You have to really want it. So forget the photos of "bodybuilt" girls who probably use chemical substances to achieve this result. It won't happen!

Instead, you'll shed fat, sculpt and firm your body and slim your waistline. You'll lose weight - especially fat - and keep or even gain muscle. But don't limit yourself to abs and glutes! By working the whole body, you'll add curves to your overall silhouette and accentuate your natural curves. And forget the scales! Gaining muscle can actually minimize your weight loss, because muscle weighs more than fat. But the truth is, you're going to slim down, and you'll feel it in the clothes you wear.

So there's everything to gain from taking up bodybuilding. So put aside your preconceptions and take the plunge!

What program should a woman new to bodybuilding follow?

Doing random workouts you see on TikTok or Instagram isn't the most effective way. As a beginner, a comprehensive program will help you achieve your goals. So here's a workout plan for women new to bodybuilding, including cardio and strength training, as well as answers to your most common questions.


Weight training: 40 minutes + cardio: 30 minutes, 3 times a week.

To get started, you'll train 3 days a week following this workout plan. Start with 5 minutes of warm-up exercises, then 40 minutes lifting weights, and finish with 20 to 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio (treadmill, stepper, stationary bike etc).

- Day 1: Full-body strength training + cardio

- Day 2: rest

- Day 3: Full-body strength training + cardio

- Day 4: rest

- Day 5: Full-body strength training + cardio

- Day 6: rest

- Day 7: Cardio or active recovery (optional)

1 - Full-body program (40 minutes)

- Warm-up: 5 minutes

- Squat or thigh press: 4 sets x 10 repetitions (RIS: 1 minute)

- Pectoral machine: 3 x 10

- Back machine: 3 x 10

- Dumbbell shoulder press: 3 x 10

- Abdominal crunches on the floor: 5 minutes

2 - Cardio: 30 minutes.

This simple but effective program can be kept for 2 months. After that, it will probably have to be modified or expanded to suit your objectives. For example, by adding deadlifts and/or hip-thrusts to accentuate gluteal work. Use other exercises to vary the lower-body workout, such as the goblet squat, dumbbell lunges or single-leg squats. The same goes for the upper body, with more strenuous exercises such as pull-ups or dips.

How do you get started with bodybuilding if you're a woman?

Here are a few muscle-building tips for women that will help you on your journey.

In the gym or at home? You can train at home or in a gym, with or without equipment. As a beginner, it's best to join a gym to learn how to do the exercises properly and benefit from all the necessary equipment. Taking part in classes at your gym or booking a few sessions with a coach is highly recommended to learn the basics.

Morning or evening? Choose the time of day that suits you best. Some people like to train in the morning, others in the evening.

Start slowly!You must first learn to use the machines and free weights (barbells and dumbbells) before loading. Don't compare your loads or progress with others. Concentrate solely on yourself! The most effective exercises are often the simplest. Focus on exercises that involve several joints, such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses and back pulls. And set yourself reasonable goals.

Warm-up and cool-down. Always include a warm-up in your training routine. This helps prevent injury and speeds up recovery times. Otherwise, you may have to wait several days before you can train again! Strength training can be addictive. But you also need recovery time. Honor rest days and take it easy during menstruation. And rest between sets, respecting the rest periods (RIS).

What weight to use ? It's very simple. Start with a light weight, then increase the weight in the next session. Make sure the last two reps of your set are really hard. For example, if you do 10 reps on the thigh press, reps 9 and 10 should be really hard, but not so hard as to cheat. If these reps are really easy, chances are the load is too light, and if these reps are poorly executed, the load is probably too heavy.

How can I make progress ? When you validate the number of sets and repetitions with a load on an exercise - for example, 4 x 10 - increase the weight slightly at the next session. And try to validate this new number of repetitions.

Don't go it alone! Safety is essential when it comes to lifting weights. Ask someone to help you when you're unfamiliar with the operation of a machine, or when you're unsure about how to perform an exercise. If the weight is heavy, use the safeties or ask someone to belay you so you don't get stuck under the bar.

For nutrition. If your aim is to lose fat through strength training, you'll need to eat at a calorie deficit to get good results. If you want to gain more muscle, you'll need to increase your maintenance calorie intake by at least 200 kcal. In all cases, eat at least 3 meals a day, with enough protein (1.5g/kg body weight), fat (1 to 1.5g/kg) and carbohydrates to meet your calorie quota. And choose the right foods: quality protein sources (meat, fish, eggs), good fats (olive oil, avocado, salmon) and low-GI carbohydrates (legumes, brown rice, oatmeal, etc.). And indulge yourself from time to time.

Drink up! Make sure you're well hydrated before, during and after training.

The last word

Now you've got all the basics to get started in the gym. Follow this women's bodybuilding program carefully and you'll be sure to get results.

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AuthorAlexandre CARPENTIER

Bodybuilding Champion N.A.C 2012

Alexandre shares his bodybuilding experience with MegaGear blog readers

Posted in: Strength programmes