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5/8/13 7:59 A

Check out Zuzka's website, lots of free workouts using minimal equipment.

And like the others are saying don't fear the heavy weights they will only help you to lean out!

JENNILACEY SparkPoints: (81,972)
Fitness Minutes: (86,286)
Posts: 2,489
5/8/13 7:18 A

I did the same thing as you when I first started strength training and for 6 months had neither gains in strength or overall tone. Then I was pointed in the direction of lifting heavy and moving up in weight once I could perform more than 10 reps. Within 6 weeks I had significant results, more than I had in my previous 6 months.

I haven't "bulked up" because I'm on a calorie deficit. You have to eat at a calorie surplus to bulk up. If anything I've finally lost an inch in my upper arms. I have gained muscle while decreasing body fat percentage which has changed my body composition. More lean muscle, less fat = more firm and toned-looking. You can check out my pics on my Spark page if you want.

Don't worry about being able to complete the video. I've done Jillian Micheal's 30 Day Shred and am now doing Ripped in 30. I use 8 lbs weights (and I'm very small, 5'2 108 lbs) and when I first start a week, I can't complete a lot of the sets either (that's the point) but that's how you build strength, by challenging the muscle. It isn't about being able to finish a predetermined amount of reps per set, it's about working the muscle to exhaustation. This is where strength is built. After a week or so, you will be able to complete that set and then it's time to move up in weight/resistance.

I also don't just rely on videos because it's difficult to reach muscle exhaustation and to do it in proper form while following a fast pace circuit training video. I do regular strength training after a video with heavier barbells (between 20-80 lbs depending on the muscle group). I consider my JM videos to be a warm up, some extra cardio and bonus strength training. Plus, they're fun and I enjoy the challenge of mastering and completing a level.

Edited by: JENNILACEY at: 5/8/2013 (07:22)
5/7/13 7:07 P

I had this same interest a few years back. My recommendation is to look at Starting Strength
or Stronglifts 5x5
. These are both based around barbell programs, but literally all of the moves can be done with dumbbells. Just Google something like "dumbbell squat" and you'll get lots of videos demonstrating. e.g. or dumbbell deadlift .

Dumbbells are a bit of a stop-gap if you really want to get into lifting heavier, though. They are what I started with (mostly because I was extremely weak, underweight). I bought a cheap, $20 set of Gold's Gym interchangeable plate dumbbells at Wallyworld and they were fine until I could outlift them.

Also, in regards to reps. You can always adjust them to your liking. I sometimes found doing something like 8 sets of 3 reps more satisfying than a standard 5x5, for instance, or doing a heavier weight 5x3. Experiment! And don't forget to rest between sets! Heavy Weight/Low Reps = Longer Rest (3-5+ minutes). Light Weight/High Reps = Shorter Rest (0.5-3 minutes).

FWIW, I am a 5'7" woman, I'm currently at about 125-127 pounds. Don't worry about getting bulky, or "looking like a bodybuilder." That won't happen unless you're dedicating hours a day to the gym, and "accidentally" take some injectable "supplements" along the way. ;) Also, in my experience anything that tries to pander to women and tells them they need to do fewer reps with very light weights is kinda BS and shows little actual results. Happy lifting!

KELLY_R Posts: 3,049
5/7/13 2:16 P

If you do want to go by a video reference there are videos out there that utilize heavy weights and thus do them at pace that can be followed (they're not getting slung around). And they're not the "barbie" ones that SM has seen.

I would recommend Cathe Friedrich's workouts if you're interested. Specifically her STS set.
I've also heard good things about P90X.

It's a significant investment, however, and again, you'll really want to invest in heavier weights than 10 pounds. If space is an issue, I'd recommend SelectTech weights - I have a set that goes from 5 to 52.5 pounds and they only take up about two square-feet of space in my tiny studio. Again, they're not cheap, however. I've had mine almost 10 years now, though, and they've definitely paid for themselves.

Good luck. There's tons of options out there for sure.

I used to do most of my strength training at home using Cathe workouts, but I've since opened up a gym membership and I'm really enjoying doing my workouts during my lunch breaks so I fit in all my strength training there. After doing years and years of Cathe workouts, I know how to use the free weights when I'm at the gym. I can go heavy and I pace myself with the heavier weights.

NANLEYKW SparkPoints: (76,244)
Fitness Minutes: (31,253)
Posts: 867
5/7/13 1:29 P

Bookworm, there's a pretty nifty workout generator right here that can give you a good starting point. You can put in what level you're at, what part of the body you want to work, how long you want to spend, and what equipment you have, and it will give you a workout. (Plus--benefit for the lazy (like me! :) ).... You can just click to add the workout to your tracker!)

5/7/13 1:26 P

If you find yhour hands are breaking out using resistance bands get a set with handles, you may be reacting to the material of the bands themselves. I am not sure why your friend found "New Rules" confusing, I see it as a straight forward discussion of weight training and nutrition. "Body for Life" is another excellent source book, you can often find older editions in thrift stores. Another often overlooked book for beginners is "Fitness for Dummies" which I have found in thrift stores also.

Lose the videos since they are not designed to be strength workouts contrary to any claims they make, they are cardio workouts notwithstanding the barbie weights they include.

If you have questions or comments please contact me, I am the administrator for the Spark team F.I.T.Females in Training.

ERICADURR Posts: 243
5/7/13 1:08 P

I'm actually using a bodybuilder plan, but haven't bulked up significantly. Instead, I've made AWESOME gains in strength and have picked up a bit more muscle which makes me look and feel SO MUCH BETTER. :) Don't worry about bulking up or going too heavy--if your weights are feeling too light, then your body is telling you it needs heavier weights.

I'm almost through my 12-week plan, and since I've started, I've went from 35 lbs incline bench to pressing 55-65 lbs! And yet, I don't look like a man. Women who are body builders have very strict regimens and I can assure you that unless you're consuming 150+ grams of protein a day, lifting VERY specifically and VERY VERY HEAVY, eating only specific foods, and taking special supplements, you're probably never going to look like a body builder. has some excellent workouts that utilize body weight, and I also recommend watching some Olympic lifting videos and possibly speaking to a trainer at your gym about what you're seeking to gain in way of strength training. They may be able to offer you some advice as to a plan of action, and also show you proper form so you don't end up hurting yourself. GOOD LUCK! :)

KCLARK89 SparkPoints: (44,612)
Fitness Minutes: (18,761)
Posts: 1,243
5/7/13 12:36 P

I started my strength training routine by using ChaLEAN Extreme by Beachbody. I hadn't done ST before, and this program I really love because you aren't constantly repeating the same movement/exercise, but it really gets you to the point of fatigue/failure quickly. And as a female also, I am lifting 15-30 pounds depending on the exercise, and I have yet to get to bodybuilder status :)

BOOKWORM67 SparkPoints: (44,995)
Fitness Minutes: (51,395)
Posts: 52
5/7/13 11:22 A

Thanks, Archimedesll. I have weights thru 10lbs and intend to get more. I've tried resistance bands and have had troubles with my hands breaking out and getting red and scaly if I try to work super hard at them. Is this common? I used gloves over the winter but that will be harder to do now. Have looked at New Rules book, someone told me it was too confusing. Will look at the other one, thanks for the help!

BOOKWORM67 SparkPoints: (44,995)
Fitness Minutes: (51,395)
Posts: 52
5/7/13 11:14 A

Thanks, LEC. I'd LOVE to do my own workouts, but I don't know where to start or what to do. I think I need a starting point. I can find lots of plans but most seem to be for more of what I've BEEN doing, or stuff intended for scary looking bodybuilder types.

ARCHIMEDESII SparkPoints: (198,530)
Fitness Minutes: (296,613)
Posts: 27,194
5/7/13 11:04 A


There is an old notion that women who lift heavy weights get bulky. This is a total misconception. Women lack the necessary testosterone to get bulky. So, don't worry about increasing the weight. If you're currently using 5 or 8 pound hand weights. it's time to increase to 10, 12 or even 15 pounds.

Also, what many people don't realize is that some muscles are stronger than others. You might find that 8 pounds will fatigue your shoulders for certain exercises. However, try using those 8 pound weights for a chest press and you'll find it too easy. When a person starts weight training, they should have a variety of weights to perform a variety of different exercises.

If you find it expensive to buy heavy weights and the price of weights does go up proportionally, then consider buying a set of resistance bands. Resistance bands are a great way to learn how to strength training. And an easy way to increase resistance is to double up the bands. You might consider joining SERGEANTMAJORs resistance band team. He's got a bunch of beginner to advanced resistance band workouts posted.

One thing you might do is look for these two books. they are both very good beginner strength training books that will teach you the basics.

Body for Life - Bill Phillips
New Rules of Lifting for Women - Cosgrove

Don't be afraid to challenge your muscles. You will not get bulky.

LEC358 SparkPoints: (11,135)
Fitness Minutes: (6,555)
Posts: 2,744
5/7/13 11:02 A

First of all, bodyweight is a great way to strength train with minimal equipment (see 'You are your own gym' or 'Body by You' by Mark Lauren). Second, what about doing your own workouts sans videos? That way you can use the weights you want and do the reps you want. SP generates good workouts depending on which muscle groups you want to work on a specific day.

BOOKWORM67 SparkPoints: (44,995)
Fitness Minutes: (51,395)
Posts: 52
5/7/13 10:43 A

I've been reading about the benefits of doing fewer reps, heavier weights for strength training. I do a strength routine twice a week but have ceased seeing benefits of it, despite trying to increase the weights I use (handweights at home) I can't increase much more because I can't keep up with the videos if I do. I don't want to be a bodybuilder but I just can't find plans/routines/videos to help me move forward here. Everything I can find seems to do three sets of fifteen reps with relatively light weights, or to just use bodyweight or bands or something. Does anyone have anything to share? or can you point me in the direction of something to help me figure out what exercises to DO?

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