Weight training guidance
June 7, 2017 7:24 AM   Subscribe

I am a 46 year old woman who has gotten into weight training. I'm training for strength and endurance, not power. I've worked with a trainer, but after a 4 week start-up where I met with her every week, I can't really afford to see her more than once every 6-8 weeks. What books, blogs or youtubers can you suggest that would help me plan my workouts?

My trainer is great, and has taught me a lot, but sometimes I feel a bit at sea -- do I do this overhead press exercise or that one? How often should I do ab specific exercises vs. functional exercises that include abs? I specifically asked my trainer for variety so that I wouldn't get bored, and she has given me guidance on this, but sometimes I get a bit confused, and it would be nice to have examples of other people (either amateurs or professionals) that I could follow to see how they are mixing things up. I'm interested in finding "real people" examples -- not body builders and not high performance athletes.

About me in case it helps to answer: I am somewhat interested in losing weight, but mostly I am interested in and motivated by being able to do more -- more hiking, more backpacking, more outdoor stuff generally. I am also interested in maintaining my strength and health as I'm approaching 50. I prefer functional training to other types of training. I'm comfortable using weight machines, but like other equipment like medicine balls, weighted bars, ViPR and TRX better. I am not comfortable with free weights.
posted by OrangeDisk to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
Stumptuous.com might be useful for you.
posted by bunderful at 7:42 AM on June 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

I don't know if you will like this program very much, and I kind of hated it at first, but now I love it -- Jim Stoppani has a great website and app. If you take a look at it, look on the app for Jim's Workouts --> 12-Week Beginner to Advanced Program Phase 1.

I like this for a lot of reasons - 1, it's pretty consistent so you can feel like you know what you are doing day to day and I like being able to feel confident about what I'm doing; 2) will build your base muscle groups; 3) will help build confidence with free weights; 4) It by-dog works. I mean, I was so skeptical but my girlfriend kept at me and I kept doing what she was doing and I am making gains. I am stronger now than I was 4 weeks ago, full stop.

The exercises in there are as follows (this is consistent for a while and then he mixes it up):
  • Bench Press
  • Barbell Bent-Over Row - you can use a curl bar for this which is smaller than the olympic bar you'd use for Bench Press
  • Squat - You can do this on the Smith (I mean, you can, I hate that though) or you can sub in leg press here
  • Barbell Shoulder Press - I NEVER do this with a bar, I use a shoulder press machine, it's fine
  • Triceps Pressdown/li>
  • Standing Calf Raise
  • Crunches (or do whatever abs you like)
  • Standing Barbell Curl

    posted by Medieval Maven at 8:22 AM on June 7, 2017

    Have you tried kettlebells? I'm more of a free weight person, but I've really enjoyed the kettle bell exercises I've done. Lots of full body exercises keeps it interesting for me.
    posted by chemicalsyntheticist at 8:27 AM on June 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

    As a person who tends to be very shall we say particular, I've never found a more useful exercise website than EXRX. It emphasizes helping you build your own weight routine, rather than just telling you what to do without explaining why or making allowances for varying it up.

    There's a lot of info here, but the core of the site is a wiki of every conceivable strength exercise with a gif of how the exercise is performed, with each exercise categorized by the muscle groups it exercises. For each muscle group there is a TON to choose from, at all levels of difficulty/complexity and using all kinds of tools (barbells, kettlebells, machines, cables, body weight, etc). This page called Workout Creation Instructions walks you through the process of picking a weight program 'template' that fits your needs and then slotting in exercises.

    For my most recent foray into all this, since I'm a (chronic) beginner (having left and come back to exercise many times over the years), I picked a beginner-level full-body workout so that I wouldn't need to remember different days, and I omitted the optional muscle groups in italics to make it even easier - but obviously a different approach might be better for others.

    Then, here's the part that's most directly relevant to what you asked: how to mix it up. After picking a template, you click on the link for each muscle group on the template page and can browse like 100+ exercises per group. Selecting one exercise from each link in the template equals one complete workout, so you can use this tool to develop a basically infinite combination of routines which will work out the same muscle groups, and can vary it up however you like.

    So for example, I really hate push-ups. Hate them. Always have. Have never been able to do one with good form, and would always despair when told to do one as part of a workout routine. But this site doesn't tell you to you push-ups, it tells you to do 'a chest exercise.' After browsing around, I decided that based on what I know about my workout preferences and my current low strength level, I should start with the assisted chest dip to build up my strength and then move to one or more of the other exercises later on. Obviously it's not a one-to-one substitution for push-ups but it's good enough for me, and it makes me feel like I'm 'allowed' to not do push-ups and still get a good workout.

    In determining how many reps and sets to do of each exercise, there are a bunch of options which are discussed in the links above and other places on the site, but I settled on two sets of 8-12 reps at heavy weights - again, to make it simpler/less time consuming, just since that's my personal preference.
    posted by showbiz_liz at 9:20 AM on June 7, 2017 [5 favorites]

    The lifters at my gym use StrongLifts 5x5
    On Reddit

    I use it as well and have had good results.
    posted by pdoege at 9:27 AM on June 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

    To echo pdoege, I also really love Stronglifts 5x5 and have been using it for several years. Simple routine with good advice for warmups and increasing weight (or decreasing weight if you take some time off). It's set up for free weights (squat, shoulder press, deadlift, bench press, barbell rows), but you could probably use the overall framework with weight machines.
    posted by chemicalsyntheticist at 11:55 AM on June 7, 2017

    Your trainer should supply you with a basic workout designed for your body and your fitness goals. It should have a list of exercises, recommended starting weights/reps/sets, and criteria for changing the workout. Ex:
    MWF: lift
    Warmup: 10 minutes on erg or stationary bike
    Squat: 185/5x3
    Bench press: 95/5x3
    Deadlift: 225/5x1

    Include 3-5 warmup sets as appropriate. Recover as needed between sets. Add 5 lb to the bar for each subsequent session (linear progression). If stalling occurs, remove 10 lb for that one exercise for the next session, then continue linear progression.

    TuTh: 30 min easy walk

    SaSu: off

    Translating that to English: Start on Monday. Row or bike for 10 minutes. Do one set of squats with the empty bar, one set at 95 lb, one set at 135 lb, etc. until the bar is at 185 lb, then do 3 sets of 5 reps each. Take a minute or three between sets. After squats are done, move on to bench press, then deadlifts. On Tuesday, take a walk. Wednesday, repeat the workout, except increase the work set weight to 190 lb for squats, 100 lb for bench press, and 230 lb for deadlifts. If you get to (e.g.) 130 lb bench on Wednesday and you can't push the bar up, on Friday reduce bench to 120 lb and try again.

    Note how that program is written; it's not a complete description of the workout, it doesn't get at all into proper form for the lifts, it requires more than a little training to use. But it eliminates guesswork: it doesn't say anything ambiguous like "do 10 minutes of core exercises" without giving you specific exercises, it tells you what weights to start at, when to change the weight and by how much, and what to do if you can't handle the new weight.

    You've just spent 4 weeks working with a professional; she should know your body, your capabilities, your goals, and be able to design a workout that you can complete 3-4x/week on your own. I get that you don't want to get bored, and that's where a session with your trainer every 8 weeks is fantastic. Bring your logbook (oh, you're logging your workouts, yes??), talk about how you've felt, what worked for you, what didn't work for you, and then ask your trainer to make small changes to your workout.

    I'm a big believer in following the same program for months or years. Squatting 135 lb is a different workout than squatting 225 (or 315), so if all you do is linear progression, you're still changing up the workout. But I also get that that can be mind-numbing, and you might benefit far more from having moderate periodic changes to your program, if only because revised workout == increased enthusiasm. So take this question to your trainer and see what she can provide.
    posted by disconnect at 12:06 PM on June 7, 2017

    I'm an older (56 y/o) woman who does compete in powerlifting.

    I've found r/xxfitness to be a pretty welcoming and supportive subreddit. There's also a r/bodyweightfitness community if you want to try that. xxfitness has a Facebook group and a set of links on the right hand side that is helpful also.

    You may want to incorporate as much non-machine work since it allows for three dimensional movement which helps build your overall strength and balance. I avoid Smith machines and leg extensions due to the bad press I've heard about them.
    posted by elmay at 12:13 PM on June 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

    I worked with a coach who also works as a personal trainer. She wrote a monthly training cycle for us, "us" being a group who trained together. There were usually twelve workouts per month, three per week. We only met in person once per month, and kept in touch by Facebook or email in between monthly training sessions. This worked well in part because everyone was motivated - the people being coached did not need the coach to stand over us each session. We all had our technique down by the time we were coached in this way. We were being coached to competition in powerlifting but I see no reason why this sort of set up could not work for other goals.

    Is this sort of set up something that you could discuss with your trainer? They might be able to put together a training package that works for both you and them in terms of finances and what is provided to you. This will not work so well if you are less motivated as there is no one to stop you from skipping reps, sets, or even entire workouts if you choose to, and no one to tell you to cut a session short if it looks as if you are overdoing it. I used to video myself and email it to my coach to ask whether my technique was alright, for example, if I had concerns.
    posted by Erinaceus europaeus at 6:37 PM on June 7, 2017

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