Joy Hayes isn't an especially religious woman, but to motivate her female athletes in the University of Kansas weight room, the strength coach often paraphrases a Biblical passage from Proverbs 31: "She builds up her arms with strength."
"I think it's pretty cool that even the Bible says women should have strong arms. And it really inspires them," says Hayes, UK's assistant director of strength/conditioning. She's always looking for ways to prompt women to lift weights. Some of her top tennis players and track athletes shy away from it, because they're unfamiliar with the equipment or afraid of bulking up.
"They don't know that many women bodybuilders train six hours a day and take supplements," she says. These and other misconceptions lead many women to use inefficient strength routines. So we asked Hayes to design one that's sure to give you the firm, sexy results you're looking for. And this is it.
This routine gives equal time to the upper and lower body. "Many women avoid training their upper body," Hayes says, "but if you have scrawny shoulders and normal, woman-sized hips, your hips will look big. A wider chest, back and shoulders will make your lower body appear leaner."
The routine also emphasizes multijoint exercises like squats and lunges, which many women avoid in favor of those that target individual muscle groups. These moves require more coordination than leg-curl or leg-extension machines but also save time by working several muscle groups at once. They're more like movements we do in everyday activities.
When doing this routine, don't use dinky little dumbbells -- another common mistake among women afraid of getting too big. Doing three sets of 10 repetitions won't transform you into Arnold Schwarzenegger. On the eighth, ninth and 10th reps, you should reach a point of slight discomfort that's still safe and feel like, "Oh my gosh, I don't know if I can finish this!" Only by challenging your muscles will you get results -- a firm, toned body and strength of Biblical proportions.
Choose your level
You're a novice if you've weight trained for less than 3 months; intermediate if you've been lifting twice a week for 3 months or more; and experienced if you've been lifting 2-3 times a week for more than 6 months.
Novice and intermediate lifters, do this workout 3 times a week, resting at least a day between workouts. Experienced lifters can do the same, or a 4-day split routine: 2 days of upper body/abs; 2 days lower body.
Begin every workout with 5-10 minutes of low-intensity cardio work such as treadmill running, brisk walking or jumping rope with a boxer's shuffle. Then do one set of each ab exercise. If you feel stiff, stretch lightly. Hold each stretch for 10 seconds; release. Repeat twice, increasing range of motion each time. End each workout by stretching, holding each stretch for 20-30 seconds without bouncing.
For 4-6 weeks, do moves 1-8 in the order listed. Rest 1-2 minutes between sets. Within the first month of the program, increase your weight at least twice. Always make sure weight is heavy enough so you're fatigued when you reach rep 10. For each repetition, exhale on the hardest part of the exercise.
Do one set of 10 reps for each exercise. Focus on technique; you're better off doing fewer reps correctly than doing 10 with sloppy form. When you can do a set of 10, add a second set. Once you can do 2 sets of 10 comfortably, advance to intermediate.
Do 3-4 sets of 10 reps for each exercise.
Do 5-6 sets of 10 reps for each exercise.
At each workout (or twice a week if doing a split routine), do 2-3 15-rep sets of ab moves. Try crunches, reverse curls, or the Half Jackknife: Lie face up, legs straight in the air in line with hips; contract abs and reach for your feet; release and repeat. Work up to 25 reps.
After 4-6 weeks, if you've increased your weight at least twice in the first month, switch to the alternative moves listed. You may have to reduce your weight, but when you return to the primary exercises 4-6 weeks later, you'll be able to lift more. (Keep a log.)
In addition to this program, do at least four to five 30-minute cardio workouts a week, varying intensity and activities.
Work in: To alternate sets with someone on a piece of equipment. If someone is using a machine, you may ask to "work in." It's most efficient on machines with weight stacks because you can change poundage simply by moving the pin to another hole. If you have to load plates on and off, it's better to wait until the user is finished.
Super setting: Doing two or three different exercises without resting between sets.
Circuit training: Doing an entire "circuit" of exercises with little or no rest between sets, then repeating the circuit. Circuits are great because they save time and let muscles recover as you work different muscles. However, you probably won't progress to lifting more weight unless you do multiple sets of an exercise.
Split routine: A strength program in which you work some muscle groups on one day and others another day.
Isolate: To single out a particular muscle group.
Hypertrophy: Simply, an increase in muscle size.
Recruitment: The portion of a muscle that's stimulated during a particular exercise.
Rules for the weight room
Although health clubs have a code of conduct. "Every gym has written and unwritten rules," says strength coach Joy Hayes, M.S., C.S.C.S. "It's important to learn these rules so that you and the other gym members can have a plesant workout."
1. Share equipment. While you're resting between sets, don't camp out on a machine. Let someone else do a set in between. If you're on your last set and ready to complete it, go ahead. If someone's standing near a machine, ask if she is using it before you hop on.
2. Don't crowd. Leave space for the person next to you to lift his or her arms in all directions.
3. Don't block the mirror. Try not to obstruct the view of others.
4. Always carry a towel. Wipe your sweat off benches you've used.
5. Don't hog the drinking fountain. Before you fill your bottle, let everyone in line get a drink.
6. Secure dumbbells. Cross them or stand them upright between sets so they don't roll onto someone's toes.
7. Don't drop YOUR weights. Instead, place them on the floor when you're finished with a set.
8. Put weights back where they belong. Clear all weight plates off barbells and machines, and return dumbbells to their designated spot on the rack. Don't stick the 10-pounders where the 40-pounders go.
9. Don't tote a gym bag around.