A couple weeks ago, I came across an awesome article – 30 Rules to Lift Like a Man. It was a terrific list of training and nutrition “rules”, and I commented that women should follow the majority of them, too.
Because I strongly believe women should proudly Lift Like a Girl, I decided to create a list of my own, and by applying these “rules”, you’ll end up looking absolutely awesome.
Without further ado, I present to you – 30 Rules to Lift Like a Girl & Look Absolutely Awesome.
1. Lift Heavy Stuff. Ladies, if you want to look awesome, then you must lift heavy. What exactly do I mean by “heavy”? Ideally it’s a weight that is challenging for 3-10 reps (you can go higher with lower body exercises once you’ve attained a good level of strength). You should have to focus, and work hard, to complete your set on compound exercises like squats, push-ups, deadlifts, rows, presses, chin-ups, lunges, etc.
Also, this serves as a good rule of thumb.
Bottom line – pick up something heavy, put it back down, and repeat. Very good things will happen to physically, and mentally. This is the main reason some heavy lifting is included in the Train to Be Awesome Guide.
2. If You’re Gonna do Conditioning, do Real Conditioning. Bobbing up and down on an elliptical machine for half an hour is not what I consider real cardio/conditioning work. Instead, run some hill sprints, pull or push a sled, jump rope, or do kettebell swings.
This type of conditioning isn’t mandatory for fat loss or improved performance, so you may opt for walking or hiking instead, which is totally acceptable.
3. Stop Thinking about Fat Loss; Train for Performance. I’ve discussed in Letting Go of the Fat Loss Mindset why women can benefit from not focusing on fat loss, even if that’s the goal they want to achieve.
Forget about burning calories or working yourself into a useless puddle of sweat with each workout. Make it a goal to do a little better than the last time you performed that workout.
Do not train for fatigue and utter exhaustion – train for performance.
If your main goal is losing fat, be sure to check out The 10 Commandments for Simple Fat Loss.
4. Squat. I don’t care which squat variation you choose – front, back, safety bar, goblet – as long as you’re squatting in some form.
5. Deadlift. Just like with squats, I don’t care which deadlift variation you choose – RDL, single leg, conventional, trap bar, sumo, rack pull – you should be pulling some heavy weight off the floor.
6. Dominate your Bodyweight. Push-ups and inverted rows are a great place to start. If you can’t perform 10 perfect push-ups or a single bodyweight chin-up, set up your training so you can achieve those goals. You can also have the goal of performing other bodyweight exercises like pistols, handstand push-ups, and other awesome bodyweight-only exercises.
If it seems like you’re a long way from performing even a single traditional push-up, don’t be discouraged. We’ve all been a strength training beginner before. You’ve gotta start from the beginning.
7. Be the Best You Possible. Forget about trying to look like the latest model on the cover of a magazine, or even your favorite athlete. Stop comparing yourself to other people. Focus on becoming the best you possible and highlighting your unique features and abilities.
It may take a little time to discover your natural strengths, but it’s well worth it.
The goal should always be to become the strongest, most awesome version of yourself.
8. You’re Never Too Good for the Basics. Some people search constantly for “unique” workouts or exercises. They think there’s some magical new exercise that will help them achieve their goals and that the basics will no longer work for them.
This is a huge mistake. No matter your training experience level, you’re never too good, or too advanced, for the basics like squats, deadlifts, push-ups, chin-ups, and other compound exercises. Find more at Best Dang Exercises for the Upper Body and Abs and the Lower Body.
And don’t forget. The basics allow you to get more results in less time.
9. Work That Booty. Squats, deadlifts, and lunges have always been staples in my training and my clients’ programs. But sometimes, they’re not enough to produce the results women crave in the booty-department. This is when glute bridges, hip thrusts, and back extensions can play a huge role in helping you achieve booty-liciousness.
10. Get Off the Scale. Your self-worth and results from eating right and training hard are not accurately reflected by the number you see on the scale. Click that link for more information.
11. Don’t Whine or Complain. Everyone had to start from the beginning and learn how to properly perform basic exercises, and so do you. Get in the gym and take action.
I don’t care if you can “only squat 45 pounds.” That’s your starting point. Accept it. Own it. Improve upon it.
12. Don’t overdo the “Core” Work. Every woman wants a flat stomach; but, endless sets of leg raises, crunches, or any other ab exercise isn’t the way to get there. Sure, a few sets of direct abdominal work is fine, but don’t put too much emphasis on it. You’re better off working hard at big, compound exercises and improving your performance.
13. Enjoy the Journey. If you dread your training sessions, then something is wrong. Find a way to make the journey enjoyable.
This can be accomplished by setting training goals that get you excited. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
14. Don’t Rely on Curls and Extensions for Sexy Arms. So you want a nice pair of arms? Then make it a point to bust out perfect sets of push-ups or parallel bar dips and inverted rows and chin-ups. Those exercises will do the trick, and will make the rest of your upper body look absolutely awesome in the process.
15. Don’t be Afraid to get Strong. Most women think lifting anything heavier than their purse (see pic at the top) will make them big ‘n bulky, and even more so a loaded barbell. Ladies, don’t be afraid to get strong. Busting out sets of parallel bar dips, squatting your bodyweight for reps, and deadlifting twice your bodyweight will not make you big ‘n bulky.
It will, however, make you more confident in the gym and your everyday life. Plus, it’s the best way to build that lean, athletic look you so desire. If you’re interested in lifting heavy singles, doubles, and triples for the first time, click on that link for more information that will allow you to do so safely.
16. Eat Food. Eat Real Food. For the majority of your meals (I’d say at least 90%) eat real food. You know, things that you could hunt, grow, and find in nature (wild caught fish, grass-fed beef, eggs, fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds, etc). Oftentimes this single tip helps people shed fat easily. Oh, and make sure you’re eating enough food.
17. Eat Your Protein. Protein helps you feel fuller longer, and aids in muscle tissue repair.
My awesome, delicious, high protein cheesecake bowl
18. Embrace the Power of Rows. Numerous women wear high heeled shoes frequently, suffer from poor posture (anterior pelvic tilt, forward head posture, kyphosis), and/or sit most of the day. This is a recipe for not only terrible posture, but aches and pains.
You can’t do too many rows, in my opinion. Make sure rowing variations — cable row, one arm dumbbell, inverted, and other variations — are a staple in your training programs. While it won’t fix the issue completely, it can help. (It would behoove you to be diligent about correcting your posture throughout the day as well).
19. Don’t be Afraid to Train Alone. I stole this one, word for word, from the 30 Rules to Lift Like a Man article mentioned at the top of this page. Women, in my opinion, can be the worst about training alone.
Oftentimes women won’t brave the gym, especially the weight room, if they’re solo. Ladies, if you’re intimidated to weight train alone, it’s time to woman-up. Forget about what other people think or how many men you’ll be surrounded by.
Chances are, if you follow all of the rules in this list, you’ll be out-lifting most of them in a few months. Get back there and proclaim your spot in the weight room and show everyone what it means to Lift Like a Girl.
20. Some Days You won’t Feel like Training. Suck It up, Sister. You’re gonna have days where you don’t want to go to the gym. Maybe you had a long day, or you just “don’t feel like” training.
Unless you’re sick or truly need a break from lifting (and this does happen), do yourself a favor and get in the gym. Go through your normal warm-up. More often than not, you’ll feel great and will end up having an awesome training session. Many times these training sessions can lead to PRs (personal records).
21. Adopt Eating Habits that Work for You. Maybe you want to try a method of intermittent fasting. Maybe you just want to listen to your body and eat when you’re hungry. From experience with myself and my clients, it doesn’t so much matter when and how you eat, as long as you’re making smart food choices. Plus, you’ll obtain much better results and have a lot less stress if you adopt eating habits that fit into your lifestyle.
22. Earn Your Isolation Exercises. So you want to really bring out your deltoids or improve your arms? Great. That’s fine. But, you need to earn those isolation exercises by working hard on the big, compound movements that provide more “bang for your training buck”. For example, if you want great shoulders, you should work really hard at overhead presses, first and foremost. Once you get strong on that exercise, then feel free to add in a few sets of lateral raises.
Don’t perform endless sets of isolation exercises at the expense of the compound movements that provide the majority of the results.
23. Don’t Overdo Cardio. This is a huge mistake a lot of women make. Usually, whenever a woman decides it’s time to lose some fat or improve her physical appearance, she starts a rigorous cardio regimen. Day in, and day out, she spends hours doing cardio. The vast majority of your success relies upon nutrition compliance and getting strong in the weight room on the basic exercises. Nutrition and progressive strength training are the most important factors for building an awesome body, not cardio.
If that wasn’t the truth, I wouldn’t be saying it. And, my clients wouldn’t keep hiring me.
24. Set Motivating, Performance Oriented Goals. Most women workout to lose fat, and that’s all they think about. Not you. You Lift Like a Girl. That means focusing on performance goals like performing push-ups, achieving your first bodyweight chin-up, or deadlifting 1.5 times your bodyweight.
Let the other women track the calories burned on the elliptical machine. You’ll be too busy in the weight room training your way toward goals like squatting your bodyweight for 10 reps.
25. If You Can’t get to the Gym, use Bodyweight Workouts. You don’t need a gym to train hard and build a body you’re proud of – strong, lean, healthy, and athletic. If you can’t get to the gym, or you’re traveling, you should be doing bodyweight workouts.
26. Challenge Yourself and see What You’re Capable of Doing. Don’t be afraid of taking on new challenges, like learning kettebell exercises, or the Olympic lifts. Perhaps you want to compete in a powerlifting meet.
Take a chance and see what you’re truly capable of doing. You just may surprise yourself and find a new hobby in the process.
27. Train around Your Injuries. This is another one I took directly from the 30 rules to Lift Like a Man article referenced at the beginning. Even if you have an injury, that’s no excuse to stop training entirely. Maybe you have a bum shoulder, or elbow. You can still find ways to train your lower body with intensity and enthusiasm.
Likewise, if you have a lower body injury, you can still train your upper body. The circumstances will not always be ideal, but you can’t make excuses. Train what you can with persistence and determination.
28. Realize that Success Leaves Clues. It baffles me when women compliment my physique, and when I tell them how I built it (heavy, compound exercises and very little cardio) they exclaim, “Oh, I can’t do that. I don’t want to get big and bulky!” Well, if you like how I look, and how other women look who engage in heavy weight lifting look, why do you think you’re an exception and will mysteriously end up “big ‘n bulky”?
If you want to look like a marathon runner, train like one. If you want to look like a strong woman who can lift heavy, dominate her bodyweight, and face any physical challenge presented to her, then train that way.
29. Have the Right Plan of Attack. Having concrete goals like being able to deadlift 1.5 times your bodyweight is awesome. However, if you don’t have a solid plan to get there, you’ll end up frustrated. If you don’t know how to set up your training properly, seek an expert or resources that will help you. Your training must match the goals you’re trying to achieve.
30. Don’t Stop. Don’t. Ever. Stop. Weight lifting should be a lifelong journey, not a short-term solution. Sure, you may start working out because you’re only concern is looking better, but find a way to make training a passion.
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