About two months ago, I received an email from a strength coach I know who was doing a presentation at his gym in Boston (okay, his name is Tony Gentilcore and it’s Cressey Performance, okay?) He had a “quick” question.
Here was his question:
Quick question: My presentation at the CP seminar this weekend is on female training, and more specifically, the mental component, ie: women have been programmed to think that they can’t (and shouldn’t) lift heavy weights. From a woman’s perspective, and as someone who in fact trains a lot of women, can you give me a list of “goals” that many of them come to you with? One of my main points as far as differences between men and women is that men want to get jacked, and women, well, not so much. Any bullet points or insights or tidbits you feel I should hit on? Anything would be much appreciated…. There’s no doubt that I want to convey the message that lifting heavy things is good for women, but I also want to note that there are SOME subtle differences. For instance, with women, I tend to limit a lot of quad dominant work and focus more on hip dominant stuff. I’ll also place a slight emphasis on shoulders to give the “illusion” of a smaller waist. Anything you’d like to share that you do differently with your ladies? Okay, this time I mean it. I’m done…..;O)
I responded with this dissertation (cause I don’t understand quick either): 😉
I have soo many thoughts running through my head right now but I will pair it down….
Okay, here goes:
1. Confidence. I cannot tell you how many women come to me because they want to feel more confident and they want to be strong. They want a stronger upper body. They want to be able to do a push up. They want to be able to do more in their own lives outside the gym without help.
2. Shape. The women who come to me also have done their research and they know that lifting weights will help them change their body composition. They also understand the important role that nutrition plays in this too…and after just a month or so, they always start to tell me how differently their clothes are fitting them, how they need to shop for new clothes, that people are noticing a difference. Remember Michele, my “this is what bulky looks like” star? The one in the blue shirt? Yes, that Michele. I pull a picture out of my back pocket every time someone says I don’t want to look bulky.
Side note: NOT part of the original message. So what if someone wants to look “bulky?” Maybe they want to have some nice looking, meaty arms? I am totally down with that. But that is for another post.
3. Empowerment. You get what I mean.
4. To get STRONG.
Honestly Tony, the women who come to me really come with one goal in mind: To get STRONG. I really have not had one woman come to me and say “I want to look like the women in such and such magazine.” None of them want to look like anyone else. They want to be a stronger version of themselves. Then they start to notice differences in how they look, how their clothes fit, what people are saying to them and all of a sudden they realize that they have changed themselves physically, inside and out, by focusing on strength.
We just held the 2nd Annual Charm City Strongwoman Contest at my gym to benefit the Susan Cohan Colon Cancer Foundation. We raised $6000. I had 41 women compete. 41. Of all shapes, sizes and ages. This is why my women train. I had 6 of my ladies compete and in the Fun Class, they came in 4th, 6th, 7th, 10th, 11th and 12th out of 21 women in their group.
They deadlifted. They pressed. They pulled a truck. They threw medicine balls over a 10ft poll. They carried 70lb sandbags in a loading race. They are strong, confident, powerful women who make strength look really, really good.
All of the other women who came to compete came from various Crossfit gyms and were as NICE and supportive as they could be….and all shapes and sizes. And they all had one goal: To have fun. To lift weights. To be badass.
I train my women the same way I train my guys. They squat. They press. They bench. They deadlift.
They do glute bridges and hip thrusts, split squats and push ups, chin ups and single leg deadlifts.
Honestly, I really don’t think about the quad dominant work vs. hip dominant work or rather I should say, I don’t limit the amount of work I do for my men or my women.
EVERYONE needs more hip dominant work so pull throughs, deadlifts, glute bridges, swings, rdls, etc. are part of everyone’s program. I think I keep it pretty balanced. For those women who are more quad dominant, I definitely tend to do more work for their backsides.
But I really make sure that everyone is getting a lot of the same work because, hey, my guys tend to have weak glutes too. 😉
In regards to my ladies, we really do inspire each other. It’s not unheard of to overhear them say, “Did you see Lauren’s push ups? Wow! I can’t wait until I can do push ups like that!” or “Wow. If only I could deadlift the way Susan does. She is awesome.” I, too, work very hard on my own training and they recognize that and I believe that it inspires them to keep pushing themselves.
I will be honest. I have worked very hard to create the body I have today at 39, and I am proud of this. I have put a lot more muscle on my frame in the past 4 years, dropped body fat, built a ton of strength. My clients see a woman who not just looks strong but who is strong. I like that. I want that.
There is nothing small about me…..but I may look smaller than I am because of the muscle and strong, defined shoulders (that yes, make my waist look smaller!) I strongly believe in “looking” a specific way to help motivate women to want to lift weights. I have thighs. I have a butt. I have big shoulders and a strong back and I tell stories about busting out of my dresses, dresses I used to be able to wear, but that are now too small because of my stronger, bigger back. I am proud of this.
A woman should not be afraid of getting strong. We should always want to be stronger.
Wow. Okay, so I wrote a novel. I think you can tell how strongly I feel about this.
Thanks for asking Tony. Please let me know if there is anything else you need from me.