Home Blog The 5 Biggest Mistakes Women Make With Their Training Programs

The 5 Biggest Mistakes Women Make With Their Training Programs

Written on April 30, 2014 at 1:49 pm, by Eric Cressey

Today's guest post comes from Molly Galbraith, co-founder of Girls Gone Strong and creator of the The Modern Woman's Guide to Strength Training. -EC

Molly headshot

Over the last several years I’ve interacted with thousands of women – at the gym I co-founded, through the internet, and through my online coaching programs – and you know what I’ve found? Most women who are seeking training advice just want to look better and feel better, and not have to live in the gym.

So why is this so hard for them to accomplish? Why can’t they get the results they want when they are willing to work so hard?

Simple. Most of them are making one or more of these five mistakes.

Mistake #1: Choosing the wrong training modality.

If left to their own devices, women often gravitate towards cardio-heavy activities like running or kickboxing, and shy away from pure strength training. While there is nothing wrong with doing cardio, (especially if you enjoy it), there are numerous benefits to strength training for women.

Not only will strength training help you improve your posture and increase your bone density, but you’ll add muscle mass, which is metabolically expensive (read: burns more calories), making it easier for you to lose body fat. Not to mention, getting stronger is incredible for boosting your self-confidence.

Molly-22(1)

Mistake #2: Not following a well-designed program.

As I mentioned above, strength training is critical for women. But you know what?

It’s not enough. A proper training program has balance.

I say it all the time: you can’t just run, you can’t just stretch, you can’t just lift – you have to have a combination of several things for a well-rounded training program. So what does a solid training program consist of?

  • Breathing – I like to incorporate breathing with a hard exhale at the beginning of the workout to help get the “core firing” and teach clients to blow out all of their air and get their ribs down. I also like to include silent, nasal breathing at the end of the workout to help clients calm down and switch to a more parasympathetic rest-and-digest state to help jump-start recovery.
  • Soft Tissue Work – I usually use a foam roller for soft tissue work, but you can use a lacrosse ball, tennis ball, stick, PVC pipe, tiger tail, Theracane, or whatever you’d like. Spending a few minutes before each training session doing soft tissue work can increase blood flow to the area, send a signal to the brain to relax that muscle a bit, and give you a few minutes to mentally prepare yourself to get into “training mode.
  • Dynamic Warm-Up – This is generally a series of 6-12 exercises designed to prepare you for your workout. For most people, it includes some basic hip and thoracic mobility drills, some glute activation drills, and some core stability exercises. These exercise can go a long way in improving your overall movement quality.
  • Strength Training – The training routine will vary based on the training age and ability level of the trainee, but it will include variations of the following movement patterns: squat, hinge, push, and pull, along with resisting rotation, extension, and lateral flexion with your core. It will also include single-leg and split-stance work.
  • Energy Systems Training (aka “cardio”) – The amount and type of energy systems training that should be included in a program is very dependent on goals, and amount of time available to train. I like using a mix of both high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and moderate intensity cardio.

While many fitness professional demonize moderate intensity cardio, I actually like including a couple of sessions a week to build and maintain a solid aerobic base which will help clients recover quicker between exercises within a workout, and between workouts so they can approach each session fresh and ready to train. That being said, if a client has limited time to train, I usually limit these sessions to an hour a week or less.

If your program is missing any one of these critical components, you’re going to be missing out on maximum results as well.

Mistake #3: Not lifting heavy enough.

Back in 2002 or 2003 – before I knew anything about strength training – I’d go to the gym and spend 60 minutes on the treadmill, and then walk over to the free weights and grab 5-10 lb. dumbbells and go to town.

I would do a little of this (lateral raises) and then a little of that (biceps curls) and then I’d try to slyly copy what someone was doing that looked really cool: Arnold Presses! Yes! I needed Arnold Presses in my life!

And, it’s safe to say that I got just about nowhere. My body didn’t change, and I didn’t notice any increases in my strength levels whatsoever. But…but…but…I was lifting weights! And I was consistent! Why didn’t I see results?

Because I wasn’t lifting heavy enough.

Keep in mind that “heavy enough” is all relative. If you are a beginner to strength training, using just your own body weight will be plenty “heavy” in the beginning, and as you get stronger you can work on adding external load to your training program.

Trap Bar Deadlift - Midpoint (Front View)

You simply need to make sure that you’re always challenging yourself so that your body has to consistently adapt to keep up with the increasing demands you are placing on it. This is how you make progress in strength, performance, and body composition.

Mistake #4: Not resting long enough in between exercises.

Almost every time a new client receives their first training program from me, I get the same question:

Client: “What do I do during my rest periods?”

Me: “You rest.”

While there is undoubtedly a time and a place to do consecutive strength training movements back-to-back with minimal rest in between sets, during your pure strength program is generally not it – at least not with the bigger movements, anyway.

Taking time to rest appropriately between exercises allows your muscles to recover almost fully, so that you can perform quality reps of each exercise with the heaviest load your body can handle for the given set and rep recommendation.

For bigger compound movements that are placed at the beginning of your workout, you want more rest (generally 2 – 4 minutes). In contrast, you can typically get away with 30–90 seconds between sets of accessory movements, especially if they are paired with other exercises.

Mistake #5. Not doing a thorough warm-up.

This is one of the biggest mistakes that I see not just women, but everyone, make in the gym. Most people walk in, go right to the machine or free weights that they plan on using, pick up their working weight, and get after it. If they’re really “in-the-know,” they might walk on the treadmill for five minutes to warm-up. Yikes.

I already gave you a little information of what a good dynamic warm-up consists of above, but let me give you some of the benefits. Not only does it increase blood flow to muscles, increase your core temperature and get your body prepared for your workout – but it’s fantastic for improving body awareness and increase your mind-muscle connection. This can help re-teach your body how to perform certain movement patterns using the correct muscle groups and allow for more effective and safe workouts.

Rockback Diaphragmatic Breathing

There you have it. The five biggest mistakes women make when it comes to their training programs – and how they can be fixed.

You know what’s even better than being told how to fix them, though? A program available that addresses them all for you!

Introducing The Modern Woman’s Guide To Strength Training – a comprehensive guide that helps women from beginner all the way to high-level intermediate reach their goals of getting leaner, stronger, and more confident, while spending minimal time in the gym. We’ve worked with thousands of women and we know exactly what it takes to get the best results with the least amount of time and effort, and we are so excited to share it with you. Click here to learn more.

TMWGTST manual cover-1

About the Author

Molly Galbraith is co-founder of Girls Gone Strong, a movement dedicated to helping women improve their physical strength, mental strength, and strength of character through strength training. She is also co-founder J&M Strength and Conditioning, a private studio gym in Lexington, Kentucky. No stranger to the gym herself, Molly has competed in figure and dabbled in powerlifting; her best lifts include a 275-lb. squat, a 165-lb. bench press, and a 341-lb. deadlift.

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  • Stephen Vajda

    Good article. I wish my wife thought like you.

  • Michael

    Unrelated to the article, but is she single? She’s gorgeous.

  • Jen

    She’s taken!!

  • Casey Sasek

    I have 15 years of strength training under my belt and played college football. But I am not ashamed to say that my girlfriend Molly Galbraith is my full time coach! My results have NEVER been so great!

    I am SO mad that I didn’t have her help while I was still playing ball!

  • Andre Coman

    Great article Molly!

  • JC

    Bummed I missed the sale!

  • k m john

    i use weight lifting but i need lose my weight. 70k my weight please give some tips how can i reduce.

    …………….

    Lose weight

  • k m john

    health food get more energy.when we use gym should be check first our diet plan.which food has to use duration exercise.

    …………………

    Health Food

  • k m john

    hii friends

    thanks to this blog.in this blog have good information healthy exercise and get generate energy and reduces weight.

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    Health Recipes

  • k m john

    many symptoms generate by gym.like back pain,shoulder pain so please before using equipment take advice to expert.

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    Symptoms

  • Guest

    Unfortunately, due to the
    sport of women’s bodybuilding awarding juiced up examples of women who lift
    weights… many women fear lifting a challenging amount of weight. Off to a
    great start in the early 80s with motivating examples like Rachel McLish, it
    was soon ruined then by the NPC and continued with the IFBB. They govern the
    acceptable amount of muscularity in awarding female bodybuilders. Once they
    realized they couldn’t give tickets away to the 1999 women’s Olympia event,
    they put out a memo to all concerned that all female competitors should reduce
    20% in muscularity! That didn’t happen. As long as the judges keep awarding the way they do, we can
    blame them for scaring the female population from lifting adequate weight.

  • Debra Stefan

    Unfortunately, due to the sport of women’s bodybuilding awarding juiced up examples of women who lift weights… many women fear lifting a challenging amount of weight. Off to a great start in the early 80s with motivating examples like Rachel McLish, it was soon ruined then by the NPC and continued with the IFBB. They govern the acceptable amount of muscularity in awarding female bodybuilders. Once they realized they couldn’t give tickets away to the 1999 women’s Olympia event, they put out a memo to all concerned that all female competitors should reduce 20% in muscularity! As long as the judges keep awarding the way they do, we can blame them for scaring the female population from lifting adequate weight.

  • Leslie

    EC your blog continues to lose cred when you post articles written by people who can’t even practice what they preach. Why anyone would ever want to listen to a non-athlete obese girl with no muscle tone tone in sight is part of the problem in the woman’s fitness industry. And by trying to establish her as having any type of credibility is only reflecting poorly on yourself.

  • Leslie

    You know what’s more important than anything listed in the entire article? Your diet. One look at her photo and you know why lol.

  • Courtney Brejnak

    Leslie, the fact that you would take the time to go out of your way and make a comment that is so misinformed & rude only reflects upon your lack of credibility & seemingly great desire to put other women down who are educating women & men alike on the benefits of strength training while not falling victim to the mental distress and body image issues it can cause. Sounds like you should read some of her work and learn about your distorted body image issues. Calling a women like this “obese” is ridiculous and damaging to the image of all women. YOUR posts reflect incredibly poorly on YOURSELF.

  • Great article, thanks!

  • Courtney,

    Thanks for calling Leslie out. I only saw her posts now. Absolutely shameful; they’ve been deleted. I appreciate your contribution in my absence.


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