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GRACEFULIFE Posts: 1,705
6/29/12 1:48 P

On the other hand my experience is that most follow the unwritten gym rules and ignore you regardless of gender. Also, women doing good strength training moves and obviously trying to push as much weight as they can get respect. Women who just want to use barbie weights will be just as out of place as a man pushing barbie weights.

Archimedes, do you teach any group exercise weight training that uses olympic bars and weights? Or have you ever seen one? Do the classes teach deadlifting?

ARCHIMEDESII SparkPoints: (196,000)
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6/18/12 9:11 A

Hey, Russ !

Looks like you're getting lots of opinions on what your wife could do for strength training. As another member has already noted, what she ultimately does for strength training really is going to depend on what her goals are. If I were to put your wife in a room with 15 trainers and she told them, her goal was to be a bit fitter, she'd get 15 different workouts. That's how varied the opinions on fitness are these days. Because the needs of a woman preparing for her first 26.2 marathon are different from the needs of a woman competing in a figure competition which are different from someone who just wants to be a bit fitter.

I'm going to give you my observation as a group exercise instructor who has worked with hundreds of different women. As a generality, most women do not want to workout in a weight room with men. Many feel intimidated trying to lift a weight next to a guy. As a generality, some guys are very territorial when it comes to the weight area. They think it's a man's domain. They think classes are for the "girls".

While this is not true every where, this still is true in some places. I know in my gym, which is pretty mainstream, very few women use the weights area. They may use the machines, but I've only seen a handful venture over to the free weights area.

I've found that many women don't like working out alone in the weights area. They DO feel more comfortable using weights surrounded by other women in a class environment. This is yet another reason I encourage women to take group exercise weight training classes to learn the basics. Women feel safe in a group. They don't feel isolated and wondering if people (men) are staring at them as they lift. This is another reason many mainstream gyms have women's only sections.

BREWMASTERBILL SparkPoints: (31,088)
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6/18/12 7:46 A

I second chalk, big time. Make sure you get the female chalk.


GRACEFULIFE Posts: 1,705
6/18/12 7:34 A

Also, more strength training than cardio will get you leaner in the long run than any high-cardio approach--with less suffering along the way.

I'll third/fourth/fifth what everyone else said about strength being relative and use good form regardless, and use progression to get strong--with proper eating. If she's skinny-lean or skinny-fat she will probably have to eat heartily to gain strength well--if she's heavy she won't probably have to.

After doing the first phase of NROL4W, my GF was doing the following on her lifts (granted, she was ~240lbs at the time...a bit of an advantage LOL).
Bench Press: was not doing them, but she can't do a pushup at that weight
Squat: ~135 lbs
Deadlift: ~145 lbs
Dumbbell curls: don't do them, do pulldowns progressing to pullups/chins instead
Shoulder Press: ~65 lbs
Leg Extensions: don't do them, properly performed squats and deads are better training


and use

Also, chalk. Her deadlift number up there wasn't chalk-assisted and was heavily grip-limited (using only double overhand). Chalk her up, possibly use alternating grip on the heaviest set, and her DL would have probably increased 15-20% instantly.

Edited by: GRACEFULIFE at: 6/18/2012 (07:40)
BREWMASTERBILL SparkPoints: (31,088)
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6/18/12 7:12 A

Well, bottom line, if you want inferior results, do some cardio with your strength training. If you want strength, follow what SERGEANTMAJOR says.

6/17/12 9:47 P


Incomplete squats, stopping at 90 degrees, places the maximum shear stress on the knee joint which in fact leads to knee injuries. Have someone review you squat form, are your feet facing slightly outward and not straight ahead, is your head up with your neck arched, are you initiating the squat by pushing your buttocks back as if sitting down and is your back flat? Not doing any of these things are form errors when doing squats. You feet have to be turned out to allow your knees to flare out and allow your buttocks to settle between your thighs and maintain your centre of mass over your feet. The exceptions are Hindu squats which is a continuous motion and Bulgarian or single legged squats in which the one leg restricts the depth of the squat. Both of these forms reduce the shear stress on the knees.

6/17/12 9:36 P

I will weigh in here with my opinion based on my experience as a formers women's athletic coach and current certified trainer who has a primarily female clientele. My first comment is that the first determinant in selecting any training programme is to decide the goal of the training programme. For fat loss the trifecta in ranked order of importance is nutrition (diet), strength training then cardio.Even if an endurance activity is the eventual goal strength training will prepare the muscles and joints of the cardio demands of endurance training.

For fat loss and general fitness a strength training programme based on full body and compound movement exercises is the most effective since each exercise will involve the most muscle activity. Isolation exercises are for pretty not strength and fitness and some such as leg extensions, leg curls, leg adduction and leg abduction and triceps kickbacks are on the do not do exercise lists due to their potential to cause injury. You can have a complete full body programme using only four exercises, squats or lunges, bench or standing presses and a pull up and a pull down exercise. These can be done with resistance bands, dumbbells or barbells. Machine exercises restrict the range of motion and do not recruit the accessory muscles.

Combination workouts such as boot camp sequences or other workouts which combine both strength and cardio alternately are recorded by Spark as cardio not strength. If you search for circuit training on Spark you will find the classical definition which is a series of strength exercise done without a break with a recovery then a repeat of the series of strength exercises. This form of circuit training has a built in cardio benefit without any cardio sequences added.The maintaining of a elevated heart rate for the duration of the workout is a bit of an anomaly in that the training effect of a workout occurs during the recovery and not the work phase, this is the rationale for interval training.The research on combining strength and cardio alternately in the same workout degrades both forms.

For fat loss and fitness my clients train strength three times a week on alternate days doing full body and compound movement exercises for 3 sets of no more than 8 repetitions per exercise at 70% of their single repetition maximum (SRM or 1RM). If they opt for classic circuit training they do 4 to 5 circuits using 50% SRM. Cardio is interval cardio on the non strength training days. There are numerous formulas to determine SRM here is one method

Determine goals , determine SRM then determine a workout which matches those goals.

Edited by: SERGEANTMAJOR at: 6/18/2012 (10:49)
SKNYMOMWANNABE SparkPoints: (15,306)
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6/17/12 6:29 P

The circuit training remark is simply my observation for most women, if your wife is trying to do a bodybuilding show and currently is sitting at 10% or less bodyfat then by all means do a traditional split and go heavy.

I'm guessing that your wife is hesitant about lifting? Some women incorrectly state that they will get "big and or bulky." My experience, as someone who did bodybuilding many moons ago, is that women only get HUGE with the help of steroids or HGH assistance. Without shedding the bodyfat on top of the muscle they may in fact see an increase in size before a reduction, ergo circuit training is great. It is also known as BOOTCAMP, BODYPUMP or CROSSFIT. All of these group classes stress form, all have a cardio component, they all keep your heart rate up WHILE you strength train. It's a very effective use of your time.

Jackie Warner and a host of ripped celebrity trainers go this route.

Traditional bodybuilding for me and the men in my life was often a clean bulk while going heavy. Very little cardio, tons of protein. Traditional heavy splits 6 days a week followed by a lean out of 10 weeks which included cardio, supplementation and finally a show.

At 46 I really don't need to rock guns and a 26 inch waist, nor do I have the time(hours) to train for a show with5 kids. I do like muscles, but I really like what they afford me to do. Snowboard, waterski and bike with my kids. Finish a tri and of course knock out a 10K fun run before breakfast. So I will stand by my comment that most women benefit from a combination of strength training and cardio, if your wife is busy she might get the most bang for her time with a group bootcamp style class as the other poster noted.

ARCHIMEDESII SparkPoints: (196,000)
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6/17/12 3:42 P


As others have already noted, it's tough for members to recommend how heavy a weight she should lift because we don't know what she can and can't do.

Now, what your wife might consider doing for strength training is using a set of resistance bands. Resistance bands are a great way to strength train. I would recommend joining SERGEANTMAJORs resistance band Spark team. He's got a bunch of beginner to advanced workouts posted that she could try.

Does your wife have a gym membership ? If she's a member of a gym, another thing she could do for strength training is try a group exercise weight training class. A popular class is called Body Pump. However, depending on the gym, it might be called something else like Powerflex, group flex, sculpt, power sculpt, etc... She could even try a boot camp class.

Being in a class will show her the basics of lifting using barbells and handweights. Being in a class will also give her access to an instructor who will show her good form. Good form is vital when lifting a heavy weight. If someone tries to lift a heavy weight with poor form, they're at risk for an injury. And I've seen lots of men and women lift with poor form just because no one is there to correct them.

I know there are people who don't believe that group exercises classes are good for strength training, but I respectfully disagree. I've been teaching a strength class for several years now. a class can be very challenging. The class will also give her a chance to experiment with different weights.

The problem for many women when they begin to strength train is that they only select one or two weights to do the exercises. What they don't know is that some muscle groups are stronger than others. So, they may select 5-8 pound weights to start. That may be a challenging weight for shoulder exercises, but it won't be a challenging exercise for chest or back.

One thing you can do to determine how much weight she can lift with one hand is to get her to weigh her shoulder bag. If she can do a bicep curl with her bag and her bag weighs 10 pounds, that's the weight she starts with. Most women carry really heavy bags and yet they select lighter weights when doing strength exercises. That's just a general observation.

My advice would be to have her try different exercises with different weights. See what is and isn't challenging. Personally, when I started strength training several years ago, the best I could do for a chest press was 20 pound hand weights. I can do that same press with 50 pound hand weights today.

RUSSTHESKIGUY SparkPoints: (3,762)
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6/17/12 3:00 P


I appreciate you and everyone else taking the time to comment on this thread. I was just curious how much some of the women were lifting who post on these forums that they like to lift heavy. I wasn't really looking for starting weight or a program for my wife because as you correctly stated it is an individual thing and you all couldn't really provide an answer without more information about my wife. I've been lifting for awhile and feel comfortable setting up an appropriate workout routine for her, although it will definitely be different from mine as a previous poster mentioned for a variety of reasons.
I wish you all success with your fitness and health pursuits.

REDSHOES2011 SparkPoints: (0)
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Posts: 7,159
6/17/12 1:57 P

I have been lifting a few years. We can't recommend the correct weight for your wife- as the amounts for many women vary and take time to work up to especially if starting from scratch..
Also what works for me, may be overkill for your wife.. Don't need to go butt heavy- the ego trip ain't so hot if people hurt themselfs.. It is all about good form and dedication- advancing when it sees to easy..

Also don't confuse weight loss with building muscle two very different processes.. I don't do alot of cardio anymore and eat more to allow my body to build muscle don't want to burn off my muscle mass with mindless long haul cardio..

Edited by: REDSHOES2011 at: 6/17/2012 (14:11)
BREWMASTERBILL SparkPoints: (31,088)
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6/17/12 12:17 P

"your wife will see bigger gains if you do some form of circuit training that has a cardio component"


SKNYMOMWANNABE SparkPoints: (15,306)
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6/17/12 11:58 A

so it's always FORM over WEIGHT...critical with isolation moves like curls, squats etc...your wife will see bigger gains if you do some form of circuit training that has a cardio component because like MOST women she probably has a layer of fat of her muscles...

For me-20 minutes of cardio(treadmill run, elliptical,etc) heart rate at about 165 for the duration (I'm 46)

Then I superset, yesterday it was with 20's for 1 set of chest presses, 1 set of hammer curls, 1 set of kickbacks, moved into 15's for 1 set of shoulder presses. 30 fast squats with 20's in each hand, repeat the superset. 30 more fast squats repeat. 3 to 4 supersets and then onto weighted works for me and is more efficient then when I lifted heavy(previous bodybuilder) for the body I want, need now. I'm competing in races, tris so I like dynamic muscle workouts simply because I'm building muscle to use it. Think plyometrics or compound excercises... chances are you and your wife will have different programs...enjoy the comarderie but don't expect her to have the SAME workout. emoticon

BREWMASTERBILL SparkPoints: (31,088)
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6/17/12 8:59 A

There is no magic formula for "average". It's simply whatever she can do. The best way for her to go about it is to start light, maybe barbell only and practice form. There is plenty of time for progression. The key to progression though is setting forth parameters for progress.

To get a ball park, you may have her try to do those lifts to failure, or 1 rep short of failure (to minimize risk of injury). Once you determine how many reps she completed, use something like this (link below) to calculate target reps. For example, let's say the wife is doing 5x5. She is always targeting 5 reps. Let's say she did 50 pound deadlifts for 8 reps.

According to this calculator, her 5RM would be 55 pounds. Now if she's just starting off, it might be better to start with 90% of that, or 50 pounds. If she completes all 5 reps for all worksets successfully and with good form, try 55 pounds next session.

BECCADION Posts: 410
6/15/12 1:18 P

I am coming back slowly after a few months off with injuries so will give a pre-injury and post injury range :)

Bench Press - with barbell, current 35, max 65; with dumbell, current 20, max 25; on machine, current 60, max 80
Squat - max ever done 120 - but I prefer one-legged or split squats, or squats on BOSU, and usually do higher reps with light or no weight as I put on muscle easily in my legs
Deadlift - max ever 65 - still working on perfecting move so cautious with weight amounts
Dumbbell curls - don't usually do
Shoulder Press - dumbbell: current 15, max 25; barbell: current 35, max 45
Leg Extensions - don't usually do but the rare time I feel like it, approx 75-80; same for leg curl

RUSSTHESKIGUY SparkPoints: (3,762)
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6/15/12 12:55 P


Thanks for taking a couple minutes out of your day to answer this question. Good luck on your goals.


HEYBUTT Posts: 769
6/14/12 12:00 P

I'm working toward lifting even heavier but right now my equipment is limited (adjustable weights to make up to about 50 lb dumbell, this thread made me realize I could get a bar to make some moves simpler!).

Bench (I don't use a bench, just chest press on floor): 20 lb dumbell (each arm--total weight 40 lbs)
Squat: 25 lb
Deadlift: 25 lb
Curl: 10 lb
Shoulder press: 15 lb dumbell per arm
Leg extension: N/A But I do use 12 lb dumbells when doing lunges

When I started exercising I was using 3 lb weighs (and sometimes none at all!). I do 8-12 reps, 3 sets.

SARAHD33 SparkPoints: (44,419)
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6/14/12 9:55 A

As one of my favorite trainers always says, the language of muscles is tension! The weight required to have enough tension to build strength is different for everyone.

For a beginner, I would start out with perfecting the form of each exercise with slightly lighter weights for several workouts, and keep adding weight until the tension feels hard enough.

I started lifting heavy again about 6 weeks ago, and here is what my weights looked like then and now:
squats: started with 20 lb DB, goblet squats. I am now up to 65 lb BB, back squat
Deadlift: started with 45 lb BB, now up to 75 lbs
shoulder press: started with 10 lb DB, now up to 20 lb DB
lunges: started with 1 10 lb DB in each hand, now up to 55 lb BB
Chest press: started with 15 lb db in each hand, now up to 25 lb DB in each hand (for some reason the BB bench press really bothers my shoulders, and using DB feels more comfortable)

If she starts too heavy too fast without good form, she will get discouraged!

JENMC14 Posts: 2,786
6/14/12 7:28 A

I lift as heavy as I can in my program. Right now, I'm working a program that (when I start eating at a surplus) will (hopefully) lead to a gain. It's not quite hypertrophy specific, but most of the sets are 8-12 reps.

I have squatted 175 for 2*, I have deadlifted 135 for one. Those are my maxes (from a few months ago. I don'thave access to the equpiment to try my maxes on a regular basis.) I believe that same day I benched 75 on a machine of some sort. (With my husband cheering me on, which actually does help!)

I can bench 50 for 8ish reps. I tried 55 today, and got a few reps, but felt very fatigued, so I onlydid one set and went down to 50. (I bench at home with no other adults around, so I am very concious about not pushing too hard so that the bar gets back on the rack and not on my neck.) I deadlifted yesterday at 80 for 2 sets of 10, I believe. I think there was a 3rd workset @ 80, too. I was squatting 110 for 8-12 reps, but my knees are having issues with the weight, so I have taken a break from heavy squatting (Gonna give it another go tomorrow, I'm very nervous and excited.) Overhead press, I can only get my bar (30) with regularity for 10-12. I haven't gone up in weight there, yet. I curl 30 with the bar for 10-12, I could probably curl 50 for one or two.

I would love to be able to bench my bodyweight and squat (if I can get over my knee issues) and deadlift 1.5 times my bodyweight.

*I will fully admit to not going down very far on squats. Butt to bench is all my knees really can handle.

Edited by: JENMC14 at: 6/14/2012 (13:27)
RUSSTHESKIGUY SparkPoints: (3,762)
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6/14/12 6:15 A


Thanks for the responses so far. We will definitely work up the weight incrementally with a fairly low intensity for the first several weeks to avoid the extreme soreness that can come from trying to lift too hard when you are just getting started. I understand the principle of lifting to fatigue but I guess I dont exactly equate that to lifting heavy depending on the amount of weight involved. Everyone is different for sure and you have to customize, I was just curious about how much weight some normal women are managing after lifting for awhile, trying to exclude the outliers like competition bodybuilders or newbies.


ZORBS13 SparkPoints: (192,101)
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6/14/12 5:54 A

when I started, I used 1 or 2 lb dumbbells, not knowing any better.

check out and

BUBBLEJ1 Posts: 2,981
6/14/12 5:30 A

Heavy lifting is whatever your wife can do that fatigues her after 8 or so reps. It is different for everyone. When I first did a chest press, 2 8 pound weights were heavy enough. A few months later and I use 2 20 pound ones. For some that is laughable and way too light. Really she just needs to experiment and find out what is right for her.

I hope your wife ends up loving heavy lifting!

ZORBS13 SparkPoints: (192,101)
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6/14/12 5:20 A

Bench Press - 70-80 lbs
Squat - 100 lbs
Deadlift - 135 lbs
Dumbbell curls - n/a don't do isolation stuff
Shoulder Press - 25-30 lbs each arm.
Leg Extensions - n/a

Edited by: ZORBS13 at: 6/14/2012 (08:10)
RUSSTHESKIGUY SparkPoints: (3,762)
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Posts: 119
6/14/12 5:07 A

I hear a lot of women talking about lifting heavy on these posts. I'm hoping to get my wife a little more interested in lifting in the future so I was curious what you all consider heavy weights. Obviously I have a good idea for guys but not so much for girls. So for all you motivated female sparkers, how much weight do you consider lifting heavy for the following exercises in a 5-6 rep set:
Bench Press
Dumbbell curls
Shoulder Press
Leg Extensions


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