How to Train Like a Man

How to Train Like a Man Without Looking Like a Dude

One of the biggest push backs I see from women who are just starting their fitness journey is that they do not want to lift weights because they’re worried they’re going to look like a guy.  Today I want to dispel some common myths and share some weightlifting insight from my husband Jason who competes in the NPC in bodybuilding, has been lifting for over 15 years, and is also a strength/conditioning specialist & baseball coach.

When I first began weightlifting 5 years ago, he was instrumental to my journey by offering me real lifting routines that helped me gain confidence in the weight room!

Here’s what a typical woman does in the gym:

Most females, when first beginning their journey into fitness, will head straight to the cardio equipment and put in a good thirty minutes to an hour per day doing whatever mode is their choice.

Not that cardio isn't a good idea - keeping your heart in good cardiovascular shape is always important, but, in terms of aesthetics and improved fat burning and body shaping capability, cardio really is not going to be your best option.

Couple that with the fact that these same women will either avoid lifting weights altogether or only lift very light dumbbells for a high number of reps (thinking they will "tone" their muscles), and you are definitely in for a lack of results in most cases.

  • Takes a long time to build muscle

  • Takes consistent nutrition with the intent to gain size by eating your bodyweight + ½ in protein

  • It’s important to remember that nutrition is a bigger contributor to gaining muscle than weights alone with a general diet

Instead, here’s a more effective way to train for fat loss:

Right from the get go, it's best if you can wrap your mind around the idea that if you really want to change your body, weight training is going to be the way to do it, coupled with a good diet plan.

Diet and lifting trump hours on the cardio equipment any day of the week as far as fat loss is concerned. Sure, some cardio will help speed the process, but you really do need to be careful here because more does not equal better when it comes to this side of the fitness equation.

  1. Start implementing a lifting routine:  Start researching the various workout programs that are out there.  You can start by following specific muscle group splits like 3-4 days per week of weightlifting and break it down into 1 day upper/1 day lower/1 day full body.  Make sure you’re giving your body adequate rest between those weight training days.  Then as you progress/get stronger within 6-8 weeks, you can begin implementing more specific splits like back, shoulders, etc.  

  2. Start making changes to your diet:  Far too many women also get set in the mind-set that they can make up for a less than proper diet by doing more cardio. While again, cardio will burn off calories so theoretically you can eat more food when doing more cardio, this is not the most productive way to go about doing things.  With high volumes of cardio women's bodies can react in funny ways and actually start to hold on to body fat more, so you will be short-circuiting your results by adopting this practice.  In all reality, the diet should be doing most of the weight loss for you (assuming this is your goal, likewise for those wishing to gain muscle mass), and then cardio is just thrown in to add heart health benefits and to help with nutrient partitioning (direct more of the calories towards muscle cells and fewer towards fat cells).

In a general sense, no, you will not look like a guy if you start lifting weights. Both men and women need to apply the same general principles: heavy lifting, a proper diet, enough rest to ensure overtraining doesn't set in, and cardio to supplement their program.

Where women do differ - once you get down to much lower body fat levels and you are then trying to get rid of those last few pounds. At this point, due to estrogen levels and a mix of other factors it may be necessary to do some things slightly different.

Another area where females and males differ slightly as well is in total volume of the workout. Most often, females will have to scale back slightly on the volume of the workout (total sets of lifting performed), just because they frequently will have slightly reduced recovery capacities in comparison to most males.  This is an easy factor to get around though so long as you are paying attention to your workout program design and taking steps to ensure overtraining doesn't set in.

We hope this info was helpful and encourages you to get off the elliptical and onto the weight room side of the gym!