Lift Like A Girl Part 2

Lift Like A Girl Part 2

DSC_0776In my previous article (Lift Like A Girl Part 1), I discussed how females respond differently to training compared to males. I stated that high resistance training is the most effective and efficient way to tone the female body. I feel the information I shared was clear and concise, but how do we pursue a high resistance training safely.  For many, simply jumping into a high resistance training program is not the wisest thing to do. Novice lifters risk injury when starting a program with heavy weights. With my practice, I start novice clients with 2-3 months of moderate and low resistance training.  We work on developing structural integrity and correcting any imbalances we find along the way.  We also work on developing optimal movement patterns, which will be required to lift the heavier weights later in the program.  Once my client and I feel confident they are able to lift heavier,  we begin to progressively add weights and increase the intensity.  Patience is key to prevent injury and to allow my clients to perform exercise correctly as the load is increased.  Here is where progressive overload comes into play, which helps to bring about muscular adaptation.

What does progressive overload look like?

After 2-3 months doing 10-20 repetitions, add 5%-10% more weight to each exercise.  Depending on ability, sometimes less.  Increase by 5 percent in weight means a decrease in repetitions by 2.   Usually the upper body does very well with 5% increases, while the lower body with 10% increases.  Also, try to maintain volume as you increase weight.  During the first week,  perform 3 sets of 10 squats, which is a total volume of 30 repetitions.  During the seconds week, perform 4 sets of 8 squats, which is a total volume of 32 repetitions. Notice you will need to increase the number sets to maintain volume because each set becomes smaller.  The table below describes the progressive overload for squatting.  Take note of the increase in rest time between sets. As you lift heavier, you will need more rest to fully recover.  Most of the time I have to teach my female clients to rest.  They are accustomed to completing sets closely together and do not understand the importance of rest when lifting heavy.  Regardless, they learn quickly when they realize they can not complete another full set without full recovery.  

1st Week 

65lbs 3×10 

Rest 1min between sets

2nd Week

70lbs, 4×8

Rest 1min between sets

3rd Week

75lbs, 5×6

Rest 2min between sets

4th Week

80lbs, 6×4

Rest 2-3 min between sets

There is so much more that can be said about training, however this is all I have to share with you right now.  I hope that you gain something from this and apply some of the things I have shared with you.  Thank for reading my article.  Come Back again for more insightful information.


Lift Like A Girl

Lift Like A Girl


As a personal trainer,  most of my clients are female.  With 10 years of experience training professionally, I’ve come to the conclusion that females have a much higher work capacity than men when it comes to training. Continuing education has also solidified my findings and given me a framework to efficiently train female clients. There are key differences the way men and women respond to various training stimuli.  Much of contrast are the results of anatomical and hormonal differences.   Regardless, men and women can still pursue the same exercise programs, but keep in mind the results will be different.  Below is a table demonstrating the different results obtained from various training stimuli.

Program Goals Males Females
Hypertrophy (Muscle Growth) Blend High volume/low resistance and low volume/high resistance Best with higher volume/moderate resistance
Strength High resistance/long rest High resistance/moderate rest
Toning High volume moderate/low resistance High resistance/lower volume
Speed Run Fast Run Fast


Not all women have the same goals. Believe it or not, some women want to pack on some muscle mass. Regardless of the statistical anomalies,  most of the time, my clients are more concerned with toning.  Contrary to popular belief, toning is best achieved with high resistance training.  You can tone with high repetitions, but that will be less efficient.  As highlighted in the table above, high resistance and moderate rest is the key to optimizing muscle tone.  Here is what toning sets look like: Perform back squats with 3 Sets of 5 repetitions.  Rest 1 minute between each set.  The total volume is 15 repetitions.  


Strength Training is usually left on the wayside by many, especially when the main goal is to tone.  I frequently encounter women that want to tone, inadvertently sacrificing function and strength.  Unfortunately, many do not understand what strength training entails.  For women, high resistance with moderate rest is usually key to building strength efficiently.  Here is what strength training sets looks like: Perform back squats with 5 sets of 5 repetitions with 1 ½ Minutes rest between each set.

Hypertrophy (Muscle Growth)

Muscle growth is another response to training that many women try to avoid.  However, muscle growth increase metabolism, improves aesthetics, and improves body composition. Muscle growth is best achieved  with higher volume with moderate resistance.  Here is what hypertrophy sets look like:  Perform back squats with 4 sets of 10-15 repetitions with 30-60 seconds rest in between each set.

Appropriate Load And Intensity

The information above does not complete the entire picture. Certain loads are not appropriate for all lifting exercises.  High resistance is usually best with compound exercises, but not appropriate with isolating exercises.  Examples of compound exercises are: squats, deadlifts, pullups, dips, clean and jerk, snatch, and bench press.  Example of isolating exercises not appropriate for high resistance are:  leg extensions, leg curls, bicep curls, tricep extensions, shoulder raises, and leg lifts. Contrary to high resistance, high volume and low to moderate resistance are appropriate for most compound exercises and isolating exercises. However, there are exceptions. High volume is not appropriate for olympic weightlifting, such as the clean and jerk and snatch.  These two exercise are specific for improving power.  Typically, 4 sets of 5-6 repetitions are best for olympic weightlifting. Also, the lifter should rest until they are fully recovered, maximizing performance with each set.


Let’s discuss how hormones play a key role in optimizing training.  Unlike men, women’s hormones changes frequently through the month. Hormone changes can give women a blueprint on how to train more effectively. Female hormones that have a profound effect on training are estrogen,estradiol, and progesterone.  Endurance can be improved mostly when estrogen/progesterone/estradiol ratio is highest, which is after ovulation during the mid-luteal phase. Estrogen and estradiol helps to metabolize carbs, protein, and fats. However, progesterone prevents efficient utilization and has a catabolic effect. Consequently, shortly after ovulation when progesterone is high compared to estradiol and estrogen,  muscle breakdown can occur. Considering these hormone changes, it is very important to consume sufficient protein to prevent muscle loss. As mentioned earlier, endurance is best improved during the mid-luteal phase, but with the risk of breaking down muscle because high progesterone.  Make sure that protein intake is sufficient during this phase. Regardless, I believe it is better to maintain good protein intake regardless where you are during your menstrual cycle.


Considering all of the information above, you should have a better idea of how to plan your training and what you will get out of it.  The take home highlights the most efficient load and rep ranges for toning and building. Along with understanding how the female body responds to various training stimuli, hormones play a key role.  Plan nutrition accordingly.

Self Love

The latest paintings I have been featuring on my site and social media are products of the collaboration between myself and my wife, Dana Brennnen.   She is excellent at helping my models find the right pose that suits their body type and flatters their strengths.  Much of the challenge is to find the right moment that captures confidence and inner beauty on camera.  Dana and I understand that we all struggle with our own insecurities about our bodies. However, we see beauty in all shapes and sizes.  We also realized that people are less inhibited when they opt to have their picture painted artistically.  They feel less inhibited and more willing to explore what makes them truly beautiful.  Using our talents, Dana and I are campaigning “Self Love.”  We want people to realize they are amazingly beautiful in their own unique way.  Never-mind trying to fit into the cookie cutter image of the fitness industry standard.  Be who you are meant to be and capitalize on it.

Kortney Olson

Kortney Olson has given me the honor to feature her in my art gallery.  I’ve been following Kortney on social media for a while and I took note of her unique characteristics.  She is known for her incredible strong legs and thighs, which she uses to crush water melons and pumpkins.    Her feats of strength are exceptional, earning her a spotlight on Stan Lee’s TV series, “Superhumans”.   More important than her athletic prowess, Kortney uses her platform (Kamp Konfidence) to teach girls the importance of self love.   This is why I chose to feature her in my art.  We believe that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.  As a personal trainer,  teaching self love is one of my goals.  We are all unique and powerful in our own way.