Getting Girls to Train – 2

On August 15th I talked about how to program for a girl who is getting into a lifting program with no lifting history. There was a slight stink made about creating “special programs” for females and how they should just do the same program a guy would use. This was particularly amusing since the week before women were welcomed to voice their opinion on the transition from conventional fitness training to more of a “strength and conditioning program”; their opinions formulated the basis of this series on “Getting Girls to Train”.

One confusing concept to most girls will probably be that “cardio” isn’t necessary (see my friend Ellee’s post on this). “Cardio” implies that a machine is used for at least 20 minutes of self-hating Cinnabon dreaming. Low intensity cardio, (AKA long slow distance, or LSD) doesn’t have any kind of significant systemic stress for improved endurance (or ‘conditioning’) nor does it have any muscular stress whatsoever. Girls trying to develop toned, tight muscles, are merely sweating a little bit and not doing anything to affect their body fat or lean body mass (Remember: sweating is not an indicator of a good exercise stress).

Erin Stern does her intensity training outdoors

Lifting creates a significant systemic stress that increases metabolic activity in order to recover from. That just means that more energy is used in recovery compared to doing LSD since there isn’t anything to recover from in LSD training. And it’s not just higher energy levels; there is a unique hormonal response that helps reduce body fat. I’ve never had a female gain body fat when doing a linear progression strength program, and the girls that I did do a body fat test on lost body fat (a pinch test with a good caliper and experienced pincher is the only relevant body fat estimate without a Bod Pod, DEXA, or hydrostatic weighing). Cardio is as useless as a Dothraki at sea.

However, after years of elliptical slavery, it’s hard to say no to monotonous leg pumping and wiping sweat with a towel (it proves you were actually sweating). Lettuce be real tea, there’s no reason we have to chain a girl to the barbell rack. Mocking slavery and then becoming a slave driver is just hypocritical, so let’s have new female trainees do cardio proper-like.

FIT explains why endurance training done with intensity is more effective and plenty of examples of how to program it with strength training. Here is an incredibly simple program to use for a girl who is leaving the shadowy cardio cave and stepping into the light of effective training:

Day A
Back extension
Tabata stationary cycle

Day B
Assisted Pull-up machine
30/30 Running Interval

30/30 implies 30 seconds of running followed by 30 seconds of rest. The speed should be more challenging than a mere yog.

This set up could be alternated two to four times a week, although three would be optimal. Instead of just writing in “high intensity endurance training”, I actually filled in the conditioning portion with examples. There are two larger barbell movements in each day, then a useful assistance exercise, then an intensity-based endurance workout. The resistance for the bike and speed on the treadmill could be increased slowly over time to increase the stress and fitness. This little program would develop the legs, ass, and arms, but also provide a good foundation of strength to shift into a more serious strength program if the girl wants to. Most girls, especially the new ones, need to keep in mind that these “developments” or “changes” are going to be subtle, particularly the muscle-related changes. Girls don’t grow muscle very quickly, and they aren’t going to accidentally get mega jacked. The primary problem is the image they have in their head of what is healthy or sexy, so let’s continue using Erin Stern as the “this is what a healthy woman looks like” image.

The lifting and inclusion of higher intensity “cardio” will also help drop body fat…if she eats right. And eating for the beginning female trainee is the subject of next Monday’s post (it will actually be next week too).

For more information on how to transition into strength or endurance training, check out FIT, an unconventional guide to excellent fitness.

35 thoughts on “Getting Girls to Train – 2

  1. 1. Thanks for this post – it’s real good.
    2. I just bought FIT.
    3. I competed in my first oly meet on Saturday – thank you for encouraging us all to compete!
    d. High five for the Dothraki ref.

    Also – looking forward to next week’s post on eating. I got super lazy with my eating during linear progression and am now focusing on recovering from that. The other nutrition posts here have helped tons.

  2. I will be sharing this with my female fitness friends.

    Luckily my fiancee is not a cardio slave, but she does have another problem. Even before she had her ACL replaced, she said running makes her knees hurt. I have a strong suspicion that she doesn’t know how to run properly. I also think that her walking gait is fucked up from too many years of marching. Any ideas on how to correct this?

    Still, she doesn’t actually need much additional high intensity endurance work since she plays roller derby. I’m more interested in getting her leg strength up to a bw+ squat so she can avoid further injury and be stronger than before, but multiple setbacks in her recovery have left her virtually petrified of pushing herself.

    I wouldn’t use running as the primary dose, then. I’d also have her low bar since it strengthens the posterior chain pretty well and has a nice balance around the knee. More specifically, the net anterior:posterior force is zero in a good low bar squat, whereas there will be more anterior force in a high bar squat.

    As for running form, she could find a coach that can teach the POSE method (I’d lean towards attending an actual seminar) if running was something she wanted and liked to do. But there are plenty of other ways to condition than running.

    If you think the posterior chain is a weak point (related to the ACL injury or not), have her do RDLs too.


  3. I dig this Monday series Justin, thanks for real tea check. Every woman I know is super afraid of becoming ‘too big’ or similar lame excuse.
    One day I will convince my wife to join me in the garage for some barbell work, and it will be just the best day ever. Well, hopefully it won’t be just one day though…

  4. This is America. Most women aren’t rail thin cardio bunnies, they’re fat cardio bunnies, wondering why it’s taking forever for them to lose weight – their fear of “becoming too bulky” is reasonable – they are already bulky and heavy, and they want to fit into cute clothes made for slim people.

    The fear isn’t “becoming too bulky”, it’s “staying too bulky, even if it works I’ll still be big (even this site is called 70s BIG), and everything else I’ve tried has failed”. Fat people are marketed to like there’s no tomorrow, most of the remedies are pretty shitty, and fat people get jaded.

    For the overweight cardio bunny spending hours surveying the gym from her stairmaster, lifting seems like yet another dubious method popular with loud fat men, scrawny students, and people obviously on some sort of “hormonal support”.

    Even the ones who give it a shot, get a trainer and everything – usually they start with “the machines”, where progress is naturally pretty slow.

  5. The ineffective-cardiomadness-trend allways begs the timeless question: Who is the greater fool–the fool, or the fool who follows him?

    This is my favorite topic covered on this site becuase no one else writes about this.

    I wonder what Dany Targaryen does for her exercise program? Also I thought for supposidly being the badest badass around the guy who played Drogo wasn’t anywhere close to 70s Big. I’m not saying he was 90s Small, but he wasn’t exactly huge either. I think maybe this was covered in a post on here. The man just really needs to get in line at the steak buffet and incorporate some heavy pulls into his program.

  6. Keep the solid posts coming Justin. And the Game of thrones references. Fit arrived at home today, but sadly I couldn’t make it to the appartment office before they closed to retrieve it. Is it worth breaking in to get it twelve hours sooner? I’m torn…

  7. Alright, I’ve googled my face off. I even considered using Bing but stopped myself. Lettuce be real tea here, I would have to be an idiot not to get the meaning of the phrase from context. What I am curious about is the origin. Is it from anything specific or is it just random internet slang of unknown origin?

    You ask questions, but I don’t know if you want to know the answers.


  8. Thanks, Justin. I need to get her leg pressing her body weight before squatting, and I’ve been tossing around leg pressing with just the recovering leg alone as well (she says she’ll just favor the bad leg otherwise). I was also thinking RDLs as well. Would you recommend them in conjunction with or as a replacement for the standard deadlift? I recall you recommending that for beginning female trainees in “Getting Girls To Train: Part 1.”

    Also I’d like to take a POSE seminar myself at some point. I don’t think I heel strike, but my form could always be better.

    A couple of years ago I didn’t think I was heel striking, and slow motion showed me I was. Type of shoe will effect that too.

    I think RDL is fine to use in place of the deadlift, especially for a girl who is on the fence about training.

    Oh, and leg pressing is going to have an anterior stress, so that may not feel great depending on what kind of shape her knee is in.


  9. Meat opinion needed: After watching Justin’s pulled pork video and going back and watching Matt Truss’ pulled pork video, does anyone think that would work with a deer leg?

    I don’t see why not.


  10. I enjoy this series a lot. I think it’s the pictures. Back in high school, there was a girl with a solid 200 pound power clean. She had wonderful legs and a delicious backside.

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  12. long (45-60 minutes+) duration, low-intensity aerobic exercise is just as good, if not better, than interval training for burning body fat and losing weight

    No, it isn’t. Maybe if you’re doing it fasted first thing in the morning but

    A) The EPOC is much, much higher with high intensity stuff
    B) The LSD training is, to summarize, muscle wasting while the high intensity stuff will maintain or improve musculature
    C) High intensity stuff is more efficient time-wise.

    LSD is dependent on so many other factors to lose weight, much less fat. An easy observation to make is to look at the majority of CrossFitters, male or female. They lose plenty of body fat even when not changing their diets.

    I’ve done plenty of case studies with lots of high intensity conditioning and seen results that wouldn’t be possible with just 45 to 60 minutes of LSD a day (equal frequency of exposure), not to mention the LSD research says that some of the improvements made in said case studies are not possible (increases in RBC count, hemoglobin increase, body fat loss, blood profile improvement, VO2max improvement).

    I’ll keep recommending the high intensity stuff, thank you.


  13. With all due respect, Ms. Erin Stern is a poor example of a 70s big woman. She is a skinny twig who put on muscle mass. The majority of us will not look at thin. I think it’s also important to point out the genetic factors of women that won’t go away with any type of exercise or diet… like cellulite and bone structure. Those are predetermined before birth. Also, as a weightlifter I’ve had to buy jeans a size up to fit my legs and ass. The waist it loose but the rest is tight. It’s just a fact… embrace the victory gals! It’s tough tho when Erin Stern is being plastered as our body mentor. Not fair. She’s a twig.

    I love Cori and Ellee’s articles and hope to see more of them. Strong ass women in the real world.

    Erin weighs 140 when not competing and regularly does sprints and the Olympic lifts despite being a figure competitor. I’d hardly call her a twig. I can’t find what her best lifts are, but despite having an emphasis on a) fitness and b) figure competition, she is very strong. I’ve seen her front squat 155 easily for reps and push jerk 135 for an easy double. Here’s this weird video of her lifting and walking around with this strong man implement that weighs 240.

    Just because she has low body fat and doesn’t weigh 165 doesn’t make her a twig. Any person can look at her and see that she is in good shape as a result of lifting, sprinting, and explosive exercise. Since this series is focused on girls who are new to lifting (many of whom have said Erin looks fantastic), I’ll keep using her as the model. She looks like a track athlete instead of a weightlifter, and I’m fine with that, especially since girls who are new to training fear the bulk monster, and thicker weightlifting girls will look bulky to them.

    Also, pointing out any genetic factor is irrelevant — she doesn’t look like that because of genetics. She looks like that because she’s trained every week for at least 15 years. People used to say this about me, especially when I was in college (I’ve been accused of using steroids a lot). I’ve squatted at least 95% of every week since I was 14 and haven’t really had more than a week’s break from working out or training in that time. The point is when you bust your ass for ten years, you are going to have results, and it’s bullshit that people point and say, “Well, that person just has better genetics than me.”


  14. @beckanstee – gtfo. saying erin stern is not 70s big because of her genetics is like saying doug young isnt 70s big because of his gargantuan body structure (genetric again). Stop using that as an excuse to have goals based in mediocrity.

    Be nice, Stroup.


  15. Erin Stern looks much better in that vid than any of her pics. The stern warrior-gaze may be fashionable on a dude, but on a woman, even a hot one, it just looks pissed.

    And she is definitely not twiggy.

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  18. Super Informative thanks for the post! Now I’ve definitely read it, BUT my query is “still” this… Would you still suggest the same info for everyone… oooorrr would you say prescribe a different fitness plan for some one that has much visceral fat to loose, particulary in the belly? I’ve been lifting for 2 months and I love it, I’m starting to see the results in my legs and arms, but am concerned about my stomach area. I’ve also noticed a surge in appettie increase. As far as nutrition I’d definitely say its on point. I’ve changed my nutrition drastically and have reaped major benefits from doing so.

    I’d be most appreciative of any suggestions or advice.

    Kindest Regards,

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