If you’ve ever been looking for a fitness plan for women that builds a toned, lean and sexy body then your search ends right here…

You want a lean but not skinny body, you want a flat and defined stomach, you want to be strong but don’t want bulging muscles, you want shapely legs and yes most definitely you want a perfect bikini butt.

You can have all of these without having to worry about genetics, without sacrificing on your favorite foods, without having zillion hours of training or any cosmetics indulgence. Seriously!!!

All you need to do is take a completely different approach towards training..

  • forget the old methods, forget what the fitness magazines say.
  • You don’t have to starve yourself to get that enviable body
  • Stop spending your precious time on the cardio equipment especially the treadmill

Take a more informed approach, a healthier, more enjoyable and most importantly a sustainable one that compliments your goals.

Calories, diet and nutrition

I had been planning to write this one for a long long time and there is no better time to publish this as we are celebrating international women’s month…

Men and women are different …obviously by gender, by looks, the way they think and do things but by and large we fall under the same category, we are humans and our anatomies have more similarities than differences. If our anatomies are a lot similar then why do men and women need to train and diet differently. Why do we always see women in the gym performing hours of cardio and sometimes lifting the lightest of Dumbbells for endless reps?

This is due to all the misleading information floating around in various books, sponsored magazines, adds, etc. We are led to believe that women need different training program and diets than men..off course there are subtle differences and there will be always some differences between two individual’s programs because no two individuals are same right…some have bigger upper body but thinner lower body and some vice versa, some do good on 2-3 times of cardio and some hate cardio and do good in controlling calories, etc,. but we are talking about the foundation of training..the principles of training remain the same.

Bottom line women do not need to train much differently than men. And I will get to the training part in a second.

I ask any health conscious fitness minded lady what they have for breakfast and believe me 8 out 10 times I hear oats, muesli, fruits or idlis …now there is nothing wrong in having these in your breakfast but where is the protein? Most common mistake a lot of women underestimate their protein requirements. Now if you are trying to gain lean muscle, lose fat you got to seriously look for protein rich foods all the time because they are a little difficult to find in our kitchen:-) It is time you take things in your hands, become aware and get results. It is time you take charge of your nutrition!!!

I will go over some diet and training information in this article that will help you achieve your goals this year and for years to come.

Calorie- it is defined as the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of 1 g of water by 1 deg. Celsius.

Ok will try again in English:-)

When you see a food label has 100 calories it is a way of describing how much energy your body could get by eating or drinking it.

The most important thing to consider while making a diet plan is calories “IN” versus calories “OUT”.  I always said there is no good food or bad food but there are however good and bad diets and that’s what matters at the end of the day. You can lose weight by eating crap, junk foods that sell on the streets and are kept just about few inches away from the store aisles. On the other hand you can gain weight by eating the most cleanest, organic foods, freshly home cooked stuff also. The thing is if you constantly feed your body less energy than it needs doesn’t matter from where the energy comes from you will lose weight and if you feed your body more energy than it needs it will gain weight.

HOWEVER, what most people mean by losing weight is losing fat and not lean muscle and when they say they want to gain weight they mean they want to gain muscle and not fat. And when that is the goal calorie manipulation is not the only factor you need to manipulate the Macronutrients (carbs, proteins and fats) as well. You need to ensure you are consuming at least 1.5 to 2 grams of protein/kg of your lean body mass (LBM).

LBM is your body weight without fat. If you know your body fat % you can easily calculate LBM.  I wouldn’t be surprised to know that most common diets contain around 80% carbs 10% proteins and 10% fats even for people who are on the track of losing weight. A diet that contains the above macro balance will produce different results than a diet that gets calories from 40% carbs, 40% proteins and 20% fats. Track your Total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) you will be at your best shape if you maintain calorie intake ~ TDEE, a temporary shift of +- 300 calories is ok for some occasions.

Water – As a thumb rule we should target to drink at least 8 glasses of after every day (water consumption in the gym not counted). Sometimes people will mistake thirst for hunger.

Foods – Avoid eating outside food and pre-packaged food it comes with unwanted fats (trans fats), excess sodium, sugar like corn syrup, fructose, artificial sweeteners. Avoid high sugar food, they give you empty calories create an insulin spike in the system which results in excess fat storage. The only time your body can do good with an insulin spike is when you have finished a 10 kms run or had a bout of super heavy lifting in the gym. All other times you need to have a stable blood sugar level.

Take adequate protein from good high PER (protein efficiency ratio) foods such as eggs, egg whites, fish, poultry, milk protein such as milk, whey protein, cheese, etc.

Clean and complex carbs, green veggies, brown rice, beans, fruits.

Training

The first thing that strike me when enter into my gym is there is a big section of ladies are on the cardio equipments either on the treadmills, on the AMT, on the spinning bikes or in the Zumba class:-) now again there is nothing wrong in doing Zumba or cardio but it is not the right thing to do when the goal is to lose fat, gain muscle, get toned and strong.

Long strenuous cardio, zero to little lifting plus a low calorie diet not only takes toll on your body but also gives you misery. You feel tired all the time and hungry all the time. To top it all prolonged long distance runs will rob you off your LBM (lean body mass), reduce your metabolism and several studies show that it increases cortisol levels which promotes fat storage in the body. The only thing cardio is the ability to run for a really long time. Those who continue to run, swim or cycle long and more frequently are losing muscle and as muscle continues to decline they are losing strength and storing fat (skinny fat) thereby reducing their resting metabolic rate.

A quick look at the two pictures a group of sprinters and a group of long distance marathoners which one is more appealing?

I guess that wasn’t a difficult question to answer. Most women will say the sprinters group!!


If I wear my finance hat I may be able to explain this in a better way …let me try.

Lean muscle is like the money in your bank account and fat is like the credit balance on your credit card or any debt like car loan, house loan, etc. We can say that a sound financial health would be when there is a decent bank balance and bare minimum debt. The better your bank balance the more secure is your future i.e., post retirement lifestyle. A sound financial health will help you fight inflation. Now In the context of this article replace bank balance with lean muscle, debt with fat and inflation with age related declines. You need to retain your muscle mass, make every effort to increase muscle mass, reduce fat, keep it under control to fight age related declines.

Coming back to training, women need to lift heavy, challenging weights just like men in order to tone up and get the curves and trims. Skip the 30-45 mins everyday cardio on the treadmill and head towards the squat rack.

One more picture comparison, same person left side 30 mins everyday cardio, no to light lifting, low calorie diet body. Right side proper strength training (heavy compound lifting) with nutritious balanced diet body..which one is more attractive?

So now you say “enough of gyan, I get it now and you got me convinced. But what are the best workouts for women?

As I said men and women do not need to train differently especially at the beginner to intermediate level. The basic foundation of training should be based on gaining strength and muscle hypertrophy. Women have very low levels of testosterone. Testosterone hormone is primarily linked to the muscle mass development, hair growth and deeper voice in men. Normal testosterone levels in men is in the range of  300 – 1200 ng/dl and in women it is in the range of 35 to 75 ng/dl. Men’s levels are much higher than that of women’s, the lower levels in men are more than double that of the higher levels of women. Therefore if there is a little bit of doubt left in you that by doing heavy weights you will start to look like those bulky bodybuilder please get over it. You are not going to get huge and bulky.

But what about the women bodybuilder how do they get big and bulky and look like men. Let me tell you, men or women bodybuilder they get unnaturally big by talking testosterone injections and are on anabolic steroids everyone of them. Natural bodybuilder is a rare species don’t exist in today’s world:-)

This does not mean that you will not gain any muscle you will but you will not gain muscle like a man. Instead you will become toned and shapely. The gained muscle will help you increase your body’s resting metabolic rate and help you strip the layers of fat from the most difficult areas.

That said you need follow a good workout program to reap the benefits of your training. I have put down for you a science based 24 weeks workout program that  accomplish just what I described at the very beginning of  his article. The weights need to be challenging enough to be able to make you complete the target reps. If you can not complete the reps it means the weight is too heavy decrease the load and if you can complete the reps without much difficulty it means the weight is light, increase the load.

I purposefully did not include any machine based workout they are just not good and I rather stay away from explaining why machines are a waste of time because that will make write a thesis:-) just try and avoid machines in the gym they are no good. Free weights and barbell based training are your best bet.

I will give you a full six months complete training program. This is a very simple and easy to follow strength focused program. But don’t get me wrong when I say simple, this program is light years ahead of any mainstream training programs that you see on regular fitness magazines. The program is a fantastic blend of strength, hypertrophy (muscle gain) and endurance capacity. The workouts are a good combination of core compound lifts and assistance workouts.

Follow this routine with a balanced diet that compliments workouts. You may likely feel a little tired initially in the program if you are on a low calorie diet, adjust your calorie intake accordingly. If you are someone who’s weight is on the right side of the scale (over weight) you may need all the cardio sessions I wrote down in the program but if you are someone who’s weight is on the left side of the scale (under weight) and are trying to gain muscle mass then you will be better off skipping the cardio session and take complete rest on the rest days, also you need to include extra protein and carbs to supplement your diet.

Keep your form right on all these lifts, the weight on the bar is secondaryt, your posture, the workout tempo matters. Here are some videos that will help you correct your form on the core lifts.

Learn Perfect Squatting

How to Deadlift

Strict Shoulder overhead press

How to Bench press

Single arm Landmine press


Once you finish this plan, you can start to add a lot more variations in this routing like, for lower body you can add barbell hip raises, reverse lunges, reverse side lunges, weighted step ups, sumo deadlifts, leg presses (many people can’t do proper squats in the beginning the leg press is a good alternative but should be replaced with squats asap), for upper body Arnold presses, cable lat pull downs, dips (I don’t suggest for people you have a nagging shoulder injury), etc. These are all good assistance workouts, the point is there are a number of good assistance workouts but you don’t need everything, if you just make sure that you continue to progress in the CORE LIFTS (Squats, Deadlifts, Overhead shoulder press and bench press) you are doing good at any cost never miss out on the core lifts.

Oh, yes I almost forgot, what about yoga, I love yoga and I wish I could devote more of time learning and doing yoga moves. You can include yoga in place of the rest days but do make sure you get enough rest in between your workout days. Don’t stress yourself out because that defeats the purpose. We should all enjoy what we do!!

Alright then, I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Happy lifting.