When it comes to the battle of the sexes, there is a lot of conflicting information out there as to whether women should train differently to men. Gender aside, it depends on your objective. Both training and nutrition are a very individual process and everyone responds differently according to their genetics, hormones, training experience and lifestyles. Training and eating to put on mass (in the case of getting those bachelor “beachies” ready) is completely different to training and eating for #euroshred.
Strength training has a multitude of benefits including; stronger bones and a healthier heart (learn about some of the other surprising benefits right here) so should not be overlooked by women.
There is still a huge stigma for women around lifting weights, in that, they believe they will get “big”. I have this conversation with new clients a lot, and whilst it would be easy for me to say that this is one hundred percent true, that is also not the case. Most women don’t have the genetic or hormonal profile to put on a large amount of muscle mass, especially not in a short time frame, however if you don’t understand how to engage the right muscles in your training, then you do risk developing in unwanted areas.
I tend to focus on lengthening the front of the body and strengthening the back of the body (for regular people, this helps alleviate the issues caused by sitting hunched over a desk all day). Correct exercise choice will mean improved posture, decreased risk of injury, and enhanced performance during training and everyday life. In addition to that, I’m all about training for an objective – if you’re just going to the gym for the sake of ticking that box off every day, then you’re not really “training” – you’re merely exercising.
In my experience, there are 3 main areas women do not want to overly develop. There are some key points to focus on when training these areas to get the result that you want:
The neck and traps:
If you don’t want to build a thick neck, you need to learn how to switch off the “upper trapezius” and activate the “lower trapezius”. Focus on opening up the chest and strengthening the muscles between the shoulder blades to keep the stress out of the neck and upper portion of the shoulders.
Start actively thinking about drawing the shoulders away from the ears, reaching the collar bones wide and drawing the shoulder blades down and together.
Avoid doing too many sit ups. A six-pack is fantastic if you’re a guy, but I don’t have one female client that wants the enhanced musculature of an Adonis on their mid section. For the most part, we want a beautifully flat and lean stomach. If you train your abdominals to “push out” during training which is generally what happens when you perform sit ups, then that’s what they will do.
If you want a flat stomach, you need to train it that way. The majority of my specific “core” training is Pilates based, and focuses on training the body to maintain neutral spine whilst the arms and legs are moving. The key is to focus on drawing the pelvic floor up, and the bellybutton into the spine increasing intra-abdominal pressure and creating a vacuum like effect.
Not only does this encourage the “flat” tummy look, but it is more functional in terms of improving your movement in everyday life.
Most of the population are quad dominant and we don’t know how to engage the posterior chain (the hamstrings, glutes, back).
Take the time to learn how to open the hips and engage the glutes pre-workout, and then be intelligent with your exercise selection. If I’m telling you, you should be “feeling” your hamstrings, and you’re not, then you need to think about why and start trying to modify your position to hit the right spot instead of just continuing with the exercise for the sake of getting it done.
It’s not practice that makes perfect. It’s perfect practice that makes perfect.
Stay tuned for more workouts from Alexa!
What goals are you training for?
Alexa Towersey is a sports model, celebrity trainer and nutrition and lifestyle coach. Her high achievements don’t stop there! Alexa has worked with New Zealand’s champion All Blacks team and was named one of the ‘5 Toughest Trainers in Asia’. Her passion lies in empowering women. Learn more about Alexa here.
You can learn more in Alexa’s Creating Curves E-Book.