Better Body Workouts for Women

Better Body Workouts for Women
Better Body
for Women
Dean hodgkin
Caroline Pearce
human kinetics
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Hodgkin, Dean.
Better body workouts for women / Dean Hodgkin and Caroline Pearce.
pages cm
1. Exercise for women. 2. Physical fitness for women. I. Pearce, Caroline. II. Title.
GV482.H58 2014
ISBN-10: 1-4504-3276-X (print)
ISBN-13: 978-1-4504-3276-4 (print)
Copyright © 2014 by Dean Hodgkin and Caroline Pearce
All rights reserved. Except for use in a review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in any form or by any
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rendering legal, medical, or other professional services by reason of their authorship or publication of this work.
If medical or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought.
Notice: Permission to reproduce the following material is granted to instructors and agencies who have purchased
Better Body Workouts for Women: p. 239. The reproduction of other parts of this book is expressly forbidden by
the above copyright notice. Persons or agencies who have not purchased Better Body Workouts for Women may
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The web addresses cited in this text were current as of July 2013, unless otherwise noted.
Developmental Editor: Laura Pulliam; Assistant Editor: Elizabeth Evans; Copyeditor: Joy Wotherspoon;
Permissions Manager: Martha Gullo; Graphic Designer: Fred Starbird; Cover Designer: Keith Blomberg; Cover
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Interior models: Caroline Pearce, Jenny Pacey, and Zoe Williams; Visual Production Assistant: Joyce Brumfield;
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We thank Premier Training International Ltd. (London Academy) in London, England, for assistance in providing
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I would like to thank and dedicate this work to my mother, who provides
a source of constant inspiration and also has enduring faith in me, and
my daughter, Imogen, who has helped me to realise that it’s important
to reciprocate a child’s efforts in life to make parents proud.
—Dean Hodgkin
This book is dedicated to my parents, Chris and Jon Pearce. I love you
so very much and thank you for your constant support and belief in me.
—Caroline Pearce
Foreword vii
Acknowledgments ix
Introduction xi
2 Fitness Assessments
4 Warming Up
and Cooling Down
5 All In Aerobics
6 Go Anaerobic
Going Strong
Power Up
Get Agile
Your Programme
Sample Workouts
and Programmes
Training Diary
Appendix: Choosing Your Workout Clothing and Style 241
About the Authors 247
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s the editor of Bodyfit, one of the UK’s leading women’s fitness magazines, I’m exposed to all the latest trends in fitness and nutrition. Being
bombarded with press releases about new products, foods, supplements and
fitness protocols often makes it hard to interpret the sometimes-conflicting
information presented. One day a certain diet or food is in vogue, and the
next it's to be avoided at all costs! So, when it comes to relaying the best
information to my readers, I like to keep things simple, which is why Better
Body Workouts for Women is great. It presents straightforward, step-by-step
exercises suitable for both gym and home workouts, along with scientific
know-how to back it all up.
In this addition to the Human Kinetics family, Dean Hodgkin (fitness
expert who appears at events internationally and a former world martial
arts champion) and Caroline Pearce (international athlete, sport scientist,
presenter and former TV Gladiator) bring you all the tools you need to get
into the best shape of your life. Dean has written extensively for Bodyfit
since it was launched in 2010. He’s covered training plans for all abilities
and how to have your fittest year yet. Caroline, also part of the Bodyfit team
of writers, currently showcases her top toning exercises on the Caroline's
Core Moves page each month. With such a wealth of combined knowledge
about sport, anatomy and fitness, the pair has created a guide to everything
you need to know, and do, to make the body of your dreams become a
reality. Beginners can get started with fat-burning and toning exercises,
and more advanced exercisers, or even those thinking about becoming
personal trainers, can find in-depth information about nutrition, anatomy
and various fitness tests.
Power of the Mind
It’s not only physical exercises you’ll find in this invaluable new guide. The
authors address one of the most important subjects regarding weight loss
and exercise, an area not often covered in health and fitness books but that
is now coming to the forefront of mainstream wisdom: the mind–body connection. Dean and Caroline understand how your mental and emotional
faculties affect your ability to achieve fitness goals. They offer guidance
on tackling negative self-talk as well as what to do when you fall off the
fitness wagon so you can get straight back on instead of beating yourself
up—which we women are usually pretty good at! Getting into the right
frame of mind, believing and feeling worthy of changing your shape, and
staying focused and motivated are some of the biggest factors influencing
your success. Lack of belief, feeling unworthy, or thoughts such as I don't
have time all act as silent saboteurs to your progress. Deal with your mind
first, then the physical side will have a better chance of transforming.
If you feel good about yourself, you're more likely to want to exercise.
Of course, working out also boosts your endorphins and makes you feel
better, putting you in a more positive frame of mind.
Your firSt SteP to fitneSS
So, there really is no reason not to leap into your exercise journey, with
Dean and Caroline helping you break down your goals into manageable
short-term projects so that you’re more likely to achieve those long-term
targets, such as dropping half a stone or toning up in time for your wedding. It's the combination of all those little steps that adds up to a huge
physical change further down the line. So, the most important thing now
is just to begin. Any journey starts with a single step, and you’ve taken that
first step to maximising your fitness by buying this book. May you be well,
happy and successful.
—Katy Louise Evans, editor, Bodyfit magazine
(, @bodyfitmag)
I am immensely grateful to Caroline Pearce, my co-author, for joining
me on this journey and bringing an incredible depth of knowledge, farreaching and admirable experience plus inspirational energy that, when
combined, demand respect from all who are lucky enough to work with
her. In addition, I wish to thank Karalynn Thomson for her efforts to get
this project off the ground. Naturally, I wouldn’t even be in this position
without having been incredibly fortunate to have encountered many gifted
and inspirational industry professionals along the course of my career, who
imparted the knowledge and skills that enabled me to input to this book.
Although too numerous to mention, I’m confident when reading this, they
will know who they are.
—Dean Hodgkin
I would like to thank my partner David Godfrey, a trainer and NLP practitioner, for his advice and feedback throughout this project. Special thanks
also to my former athletics coaches Ron Stern, Bruce Longden and Martin
Green for providing such a solid foundation of training and education during
my competitive years. I’d also like to thank Performance Health Systems
and Power Plate International for providing so many opportunities for me
to grow and gain experience around the world in the fitness and well-being
industry as a master trainer, presenter and spokesperson. Thanks also to
Karalynn Thompson for her early help with this book and to the Human
Kinetics team, Laura Pulliam and Jason Muzinic, for their guidance and
direction throughout. Lastly, it has been an absolute pleasure to work with
and share this journey with my co-author Dean Hodgkin, whose experience,
accolades and success in the industry are truly admirable and of great value
to this book.
—Caroline Pearce
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arning! This book contains advice for women who are serious about
fitness. If you are not looking to dramatically change the shape of
your body and your outlook, put this book back on the shelf and walk away!
Okay, so that’s a bold statement to make, but it’s only fair you know
that this is not just another tome to sit alongside other titles in the fitness
genre. Rather, this book is for the woman who is exercising regularly but
who feels somewhat in a routine rut, or the one who has found that the
law of diminishing returns has begun to apply, whereby she stops seeing
results despite sticking rigorously to her routine. If this is you, then read
on, as the solutions to all your problems are here.
Through a wide spectrum of scientifically proven techniques, this workout
bible will take your training into a new dimension, providing the inspiration, education and motivation to lift you off your current plateau and
accelerate your results. It presents information in a modular format so you
can cherry-pick whatever you need, whenever you need it, and thus can
easily adopt the various guidelines and assimilate them into your current
lifestyle. Don’t wait weeks for the next month’s issue of your favourite
workout magazine to hit the newsagent shelves in order to satiate your
thirst for new direction. This is truly your one-stop shop for all that is fresh
in fitness. Consult the book during workouts to ensure you religiously put
into action the invaluable advice you’ll gather here. Specifically designed
with usability in mind, this book is conveniently sized to fit into your gym
bag and is easy to clean in order to withstand the rigours of being dragged
around the gym or exposed to the currency of hard work—sweat!
Research has shown one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to exercise
programmes. No two bodies are the same, so what works for one of your
friends may not work for you. This is why the personal training industry
sprang up and why good personal trainers often come with a considerable
price tag attached. What you will find here, however, is an insight into the
tricks of the trade. Think of this book as your own personal trainer toolkit,
allowing you to design the ideal workout for you and you alone. Let’s call
it your perfect fit! As you work your way through the book, you will begin
to learn more about yourself, particularly how your body works and, more
importantly, how it responds to varying training demands. Clearly, understanding how improvements in your sports performance and silhouette are
achieved will help you not only reach your goals sooner, but also maintain
your higher ground.
In addition to introducing you to advanced training protocols to improve
strength, muscular endurance and cardiorespiratory fitness (in the home,
outdoor and gym environments), this book emphasises flexibility as an
important component in both physical performance and general well-being.
It also focuses on correct nutrition, recognising its importance for both
deriving optimum benefit from your workouts and achieving the aesthetic
goal of reduced body-fat levels that most of us aspire to. It even includes
sample menu plans to help you to fuel like an athlete from day 1. Since a
link clearly exists between exercise and reduced risk of a plethora of lifestyle
diseases, this book also explores the pathology of such and the mechanics
behind how regular exercise produces a positive influence.
Skill-related fitness components, such as agility and power, are often
left in the pigeonhole of the elite sports performer. This book singles out
these areas for special attention, as they help you vary your training programmes, thus maintaining your interest. Beyond purely putting the fun
back into fitness, these sections will give you a greater understanding of
holistic workouts and all-round fitness.
Summoning the motivation to make changes in your exercise and diet
habits is central to attaining a meaningful degree of success. Here, you will
explore this area, particularly the concept of setting goals. Learning how
best to develop a framework for improvement carries substantial weight
when you consider the old adage ‘To fail to plan is to plan to fail!’ A lot of
people who stop exercising simply lack the right attitude. This section will
help you to avoid becoming one of those drop-out statistics by teaching
you the mental skills required to incorporate new workout concepts and
lifestyle patterns. Once your head is in the appropriate place, you will be
able to make best use of the text’s fitness building blocks, so ensuring they
will work for you in the longer term.
The authors bring a wealth of experience in many aspects of health and
fitness, and both embody the principles they espouse. Dean Hodgkin has
trained thousands of fitness instructors, managed health clubs and spas,
worked as a consultant to leading sportswear brands, including Reebok and
Nike, and appeared as a key presenter at fitness events in 36 countries. He
received the International Fitness Showcase Lifetime Achievement award,
was voted best international fitness presenter at the One Body One World
awards in New York and won three world, plus two European golds in
karate. Caroline Pearce is a former international heptathlete. She graduated from the renowned Loughborough University with a Master’s degree
in exercise physiology and nutrition and a first-class honours degree in
P.E. and sports science. She was one of Sky TV’s UK Gladiators and works
as a television sports and fitness presenter, sports model and international
master trainer for Performance Health Systems. In her master trainer role,
she has guided everyone from celebrities to sports stars, trainers and government healthcare officials around the world. In addition, both authors
are established writers, contributing to a wide range of publications from
national newspapers to monthly magazines and trade journals.
Rest assured, then, that you’ll find no padding here, no latest fads
or dubious celebrity-endorsed practices. Every chapter contains factual
information, workable plans, easy-to-understand tables and empowering
statistics that you can immediately put into use. All this is backed up with
tips so you can easily identify and then remember the most salient points.
Never again will you struggle to differentiate between fact and fallacy, hit
and myth. From here on, your workouts will put not only sweat on your
brow, but also a smile on your face.
The journey to a new, fitter, slimmer you begins when you turn this page.
So, what are you waiting for?
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training essentials
e have assumed that those of you purchasing this valuable resource
already possess a certain level of fitness knowledge, but we also
recognise that you may have decided you wish to ramp up your efforts in
order to achieve better results. Set aside a moment to take stock now. This
chapter equips you with the basic understanding and skills for making a
successful journey to a fitter you. It covers a myriad of related and unrelated
components that can affect your workout routine. Although some of this
may not be new, the content further develops understanding and provides
motivation and a fresh approach to training.
the Mind–BodY link
Let’s begin by ensuring your mind is in the right place, as you’ll no doubt
be aware of the importance top athletes place on having a positive mental
attitude. Self-talk, breathing exercises, meditation, guided imagery and
visual rehearsal are all widely used tactics. One size doesn’t fit all in this
domain, however. You need to discover what will work for you to reach the
next level of training, and you then have to commit to your set of cerebral
ground rules.
You are the one who must take responsibility for the success of your routine, specifically for avoiding excuses and circumnavigating obstacles in the
forms of work pressures or family commitments. This also extends to your
group exercise instructor and personal trainer if you have one, as you will
be the one actually performing the exercises. You can gather all the support
in the world around you, but the brutal truth is that only you can buy your
success—and the currency is sweat.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Henry Ford is quoted as saying, ‘Whether you think you can or think you
can’t, you’re right.’ Start to tell yourself ‘I can’ or ‘I will’ every time the
alarm goes off early, the last mile seems too hard, there are no repetitions
left in your arms and you feel as though your tank is running on empty.
You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve by keeping this simple thought
in your head. It might even pay dividends to write your own mission statement at the front of your diary so that you regularly remind yourself what
you’re doing, why you’re doing it and where it will take you.
Success is achieved by harbouring a constant desire for improvement. Whilst
you will achieve your best results by varying your workouts to avoid the
dreaded plateau effect, you will have to stick rigidly to your plan and to
recognise that when external pressures throw you off course, you must
strive to get back to your routine as soon as possible.
Work ethic
You’ll be familiar with the ubiquitous suggestion that anything worth having
is worth working for. This saying applies 100 percent to improving your
fitness. You will need to summon equal measures of willpower, persistence
and discipline. Even then, you will have to accept delayed gratification.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, so they say. Rest assured, however, work hard
and you will achieve incredible results.
Powerful Imagery
Take a moment to compile a picture montage of what fitness means to you, what
you love about working out and how you think you’ll feel when you achieve
your goals. You don’t need to be particularly artistic. Simply gather a variety
of lifestyle magazines and cut and paste, in the old-fashioned way, to make a
feature to be displayed in a prominent position in your home so you
htig lo
Saying ‘I don’t eat junk food’
see it each day (finally, a use for
rather than ‘I can’t eat junk
those fridge magnets!). You could
food’ is reported to make you eight times
even split it into two halves, with
more likely to resist it. Saying ‘I don’t’
positive, inspirational images on
gives you ownership of the idea, whereas
one side and negative pictures on
‘I can’t’ suggests that something beyond
the other to remind you of both
your control is responsible for your actions.
what you’re moving away from as
well as moving towards.
Training Essentials
PerSonAlitY tYPeS
The preceding information is all fairly sound, and we suspect you won’t
disagree with any of it. However, we all have different personalities, which
will clearly affect the likelihood of maintaining the previous commitments.
So let’s take this head-on and tackle a few of the more common forms of
the disease we like to refer to as ‘excusitis’.
Pursuit of Perfection
This is the desire for everything to be just right before you embark on your
new routine, from getting new kit and shoes to rearranging your diary in
order to provide regular workout windows. You know things will never be
perfect, so this is a way of dumping your accountability. After all, how can
you be to blame if the weather was too bad for your run? The way around
this barrier is to avoid an all-or-nothing approach; always have alternative
plans. For example, if you really can’t make it to the gym for your 30-minute
workout one evening, try to slip in a 15-minute session before work and
another one in your lunch break.
Fantasy Fitness
Dreaming about being in great shape is a common pastime for many
women, but it is of little use without action to accompany it. It’s vital to
set short- and long-term goals using specific dates and concrete numbers,
so the next section looks at this in detail. In addition, you need to have
a clear plan of precisely what you’re going to do every time you visit the
gym, set off on a run or dive into the pool. A detailed plan allows you to
measure yourself against your intended objectives for the session. This is
crucial when reviewing your training diary (see chapter 12) in order to
improve your efforts.
Don’t Worry, Be happy
Worrying about whether you can handle the step-up or really put in the
time and effort, plus whether you honestly feel your goals are achievable
are all negative thoughts that can lead to procrastination. The fact is that
you are today where your thoughts and actions have led you, so you will
be tomorrow where they lead you also. If you stumble upon a ‘what if’,
think it through to its conclusion. For example, if you think you might not
have it in you to complete a particular workout, think back to the last time
you felt that way but still made it through. Also remember that even if you
don’t manage to accommodate the full routine, as long as you try your best,
you’ll be taking another step forwards on your journey.
Better Body Workouts for Women
The list of commitments introduced earlier makes it clear that you’ll need
to put a lot of effort into your new exercise routine if you want to attain
the results you seek. This brings the issue of motivation into sharp focus.
To stay motivated to succeed, adopt and adapt these top tips to keep your
thoughts and actions true to the cause.
goAl Setting
Your next step is to identify your fitness and body-shape goal or goals. It’s
no use simply saying ‘I want to be fitter or slimmer’; you need to be more
specific. Likewise you have to be realistic. Unfortunately you won’t lose 10
kilograms in the week before your wedding! The SMART model identifies
the key components of setting a good goal:
• Specific—This is the what, why, how, where and when of your goal.
For example your goal may be to shave 5 minutes from your 10-kilometer time (what) and to improve your national ranking and a place
in the team (why) by following a training programme involving two
endurance runs and two interval timed sessions per week (how) at
your local track and park (where) every Monday, Wednesday, Friday
and Sunday (when).
• Measurable—Choose a goal with measurable progress so you can see
the changes occur. Take measures to check that you are on track and
to know when you have achieved your goal. Measurable goals include
achieving a racing time, lifting a particular weight, losing a set amount
of weight, making the team or adhering to a specific training protocol
or nutrition plan. Use the assessments in the next chapter to measure
your progress across different variables related to your goal.
• Attainable—Be realistic when you set yourself a goal. Perhaps even
involve a personal trainer, family member or friend to help you to
do this. If you set a goal too far beyond your reach, you will start to
feel overwhelmed and will lose belief that you can achieve it. This in
itself can stop you from even giving it a try. However, your goal needs
to stretch you slightly so you feel there is something to aspire to and
to move you to make a real commitment. It is the feeling of success
and accomplishment of the goal that will help you remain motivated.
Remember, if you reach your goal sooner than you thought, you can
set another, pushing the boundaries a little farther each time.
• Relevant—To maintain commitment to achieving your goal, the goal
must be relevant to you. Adopting the same goal as a friend may not
work for you, as your motivations and needs will likely differ. A relevant goal is one that has meaning to you and will enhance your life,
belief and feeling of well-being. For one person, this may be to lose 5
kilograms of weight to look better and improve self-esteem, whereas
Training Essentials
for someone else, that same loss of 5 kilograms will aim to improve
her strength-to-weight ratio and, thus, sporting performance.
• Timely—Your goal should be grounded within a time frame to gain
a sense of urgency. This time frame needs to be specific. It’s no use
saying you would like to run a marathon someday. Instead, set a date
and book your place in the race so that your unconscious mind moves
into motion to guide your conscious mind to start planning and setting
targeted steps towards your goal.
We’d like to also suggest an additional requirement to your goal setting:
It should be revisable. We don’t expect you to be spot-on accurate with the
goal you set, especially if this process is new to you. You must be able to
revise and adapt your goal in response to your measured progress towards it.
Unforeseen circumstances such as illness or injury can alter the time frame
of achieving your goal, whilst a realisation of its actual difficulty when set
in motion, causing you to feel disheartened, may prompt you to reduce the
difficulty level of your goal in the short term to make it more achievable.
Life is ever evolving, and so should you be!
three reaSonS to Set FitneSS
and training goalS
Despite the raft of research out there confirming that goal setting is vital
if you wish to set yourself up for success, it is all too often overlooked.
Just in case you’re sitting on the fence, here are the key reasons why
you should commit to this endeavour from the outset.
1. Motivation—When you’re clear about what you’re trying to
achieve and you attain the mini targets set en route to your
goal, then you are more likely to be motivated to continue.
2. Focus—Goals make you accountable to yourself and to others.
Write your goal down and tell others about it to help you stay
focused every step of the way. Without a goal, it is easy to stray
off track and lose focus.
3. Achievement—Without a goal, how will you know if you have
achieved anything? You may be able to make some general
sweeping statements about improvement, but they will not
be measurable or tangible. Reaching your goal is a clear sign
of an achievement, a reward for your efforts. It leads to high
self-efficacy, which enables you to believe in yourself and to
keep improving.
Better Body Workouts for Women
long-term and short-term Goals
When you’ve set your ultimate goal, or your long-term goal, it’s important
to break it down into smaller targets known as short-term goals. These may
be daily, weekly or even monthly targets that provide the stepping stones
to your ultimate goal that will provide you with valuable feedback and
motivation. Apply the SMART principles to both your short- and long-term
goals. Here are two examples:
Example 1
• Long-term goal: to reduce your body fat by 10 percent and fit into a
smaller dress in 6 months.
• Short-term goals: (a) to consume 1,600 calories per day for 6 days per
week, with 1 day for allocated treats with a maximum intake of 2,000
calories, (b) to complete two cardiorespiratory workouts and two
strength workouts, 1 hour in duration, every week and (c) to cycle to
work every day and climb the stairs to the office rather than take the lift.
Example 2
• Long-term goal: to run a track 800-metre time of 2 minutes, 15 seconds
at the club championships in September.
• Short-term goals: (a) to complete two over-distance time trial runs of
1,000 metres twice per month, (b) to race a 400-metre distance prior
to the championships in under 60 seconds for test of speed endurance
and (c) to improve running efficiency through completion of gait
analysis testing once per month.
These short-term goals are specific and directly linked to the long-term
goal. You may also set mid-term goals, which, as the name suggests, are set
for the halfway mark en route to your main long-term goal.
Goal-setting template
The SMART model provides information on how to set goals and on the
factors to take into account. To make sure you don’t miss a step in the process, figure 1.1 shows a goal-setting template to complete or adapt to meet
your needs. If we take the first of the previous examples, the table will look
like the one shown in figure 1.1.
Training Essentials
figure 1.1
Goal-setting template
Reduce body
Drop 10%
on bodycomposition
6 months
goal 1
fewer calories
Target 1,600
goal 2
2 strength
and 2 cardio
goal 3
activity levels
Cycle to work
(list dates
and tick off)
BArrierS to fitneSS
Despite having the best planning and assessment techniques, sometimes life
just gets in the way, and you allow it to prevent you from reaching your
goals. We say ‘you allow it’ because you are always in control of your actions
and accountable for what you do. Everyone faces barriers to fitness to some
degree or another, but the key is to identify these barriers and overcome
them. This process separates those who succeed from those who don’t! But
first you have to want to make a change or improvement—only then will
you take our lead and follow our advice (but we’re hoping as you’re reading this book, you have already taken that first step and made the decision
to reach the next level).
Here is a list of common barriers to training and to good nutrition, with
our pick of the best ways to overcome them. Excuses will now be a thing
of the past!
lack of time
With a full-time job, travel, work functions or overtime, family commitments, meetings and household chores to squeeze in, lack of time is the
most commonly reported barrier to exercise. Solutions to your perceived
lack of time might be as follows:
• Get up earlier—Simply reset your body clock to get up 30 minutes
earlier three or four times a week to exercise. You will quickly adjust
Better Body Workouts for Women
and find that the endorphin boost from early-morning exercise gives
you more energy for the rest of the day.
• Accumulate exercise—If your goal is weight loss and improved health,
simply adding more general activity to your day will help you achieve
it even if you don’t do a structured exercise plan. Walk the stairs and
ditch the escalators and lift, leave your car behind or at least park it
farther away from your destination and take a power walk during
your lunch break.
• Incorporate fitness on the weekend—Why not use the weekend to catch
up on your fitness and have fun at the same time? Swap your coffee
mornings with friends for a power walk or cycle together. Rather than
watch the kids swimming, get in the pool and join them. Try new
activities with friends and family, such as climbing or kayaking.
• Explore home workout solutions—
htig lo
More home fitness solutions now
Research shows that sleep
exist than ever before, and they can
loss can lead to increased
be just as effective as a visit to the
hunger levels the following day. If
gym. These include workout DVDs,
you’re setting the alarm for an early
body-weight circuit sessions utilisworkout, you will also need to hit the
ing the furniture (stairs for stepsack a little earlier to achieve a good
ups, sofa for triceps dips) and an
number of total hours in bed.
all-in-one gym machine that can be
stored away easily when not in use.
lack of Confidence
A surprising number of women avoid exercise because they are embarrassed
about how they look and scared that others will judge them. If you’re one of
those women, rest assured that others are more concerned with themselves
and their own workouts to be judging you—they probably have their own
hang-ups, too. Solutions to lack of confidence might be as follows:
• Avoid the crowds—If you have the flexibility to choose your gym time,
you will find fewer crowds mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
• Begin at home—If you want to make some progress before you hit the
gym or park for your workout, begin with the home workout solutions mentioned previously. We’ve provided some great body-weight
exercises you can try in later chapters.
• Invest in some great workout clothing—Buy a kit that fits right, breathes,
removes sweat from the surface of your skin and covers the body parts
you are most conscious about in order to feel the part and be more
self-confident when working out.
Training Essentials
• Focus on the future—Banish feelings of self-consciousness by reminding
yourself of the cardiorespiratory and strength benefits you are achieving with every session. The more you exercise, the more confident
you will feel.
Sadly, others—friends, colleagues or even loved ones—act to sabotage your
fitness or dietary efforts. Sometimes this is because of their own insecurities
that you may leave them behind and start to look and feel better than they
do. It can also be their own lack of understanding of your goals. Don’t let
others jeopardise your efforts. Solutions to these saboteurs might include
the following:
• Shout out your goals—Tell everyone around you about your fitness and
dietary goals and how important they are to you. Tell them how much
their support means to you and even encourage them to join you on
your journey.
• Bring in back-up—If colleagues or loved ones are stocking the cupboards
to tempt you with sweet offerings, the last thing you want is to give
in due to hunger! Make sure you have your own healthy snacks in
hand and that you eat every 2 to 3 hours. We have some great snack
solutions in chapter 3.
• Surround yourself with positivity—If others are bringing you down despite
your attempts to inform them of your goals, then quite simply extract
yourself from their company and surround yourself with those who
do support and share in your desire to be fit and healthy.
Injury or Illness
Injury and illness are the most acceptable barriers not deemed an excuse.
While frustrating, they don’t signal an end to your good efforts or provide
a reason to go off track completely.
Solutions to an injury might include the following:
• Work around the problem—Even when injured, you can usually do some
form of exercise. For example, if you have an impact injury (stress
fracture), you can hit the pool for some light swimming or aqua jogging (running with a floatation belt).
• Get rehabilitated—You will likely be prescribed a number of rehab exercises to do once your injury is diagnosed by a physiotherapist or doctor.
These are time consuming, but they are essential to a fast and efficient
recovery. Completing them daily will keep you focused and in a routine.
Better Body Workouts for Women
• Focus on diet—If your injury has significantly reduced your energy
expenditure, closely check your diet to minimise weight gain from
inactivity that can make it harder to get back into shape and good
form. Making subtle adjustments of calorie restriction and reducing
simple carbohydrate intake (sugars) will provide a feeling of control
and damage limitation.
Solutions to an illness might include the following:
• Eat well—When battling an illness, you may feel deprived of energy
and dehydrated. Eat small amounts often to prevent losing the valuable
muscle you have built up during training and drink plenty of fluids
to counter any ill effects of dehydration, such as cramps or something
more serious.
• Observe the above-the-neck rule—If your symptoms are above the neck
(blocked nose, cough, headache), it is generally accepted that you can
continue with light exercise. If, however, your symptoms are below
the neck, it is advised that you rest completely.
lack of Motivation
This can be due to a number of factors—boredom, laziness, losing sight of
your goals and lack of structure to your training or dietary programme. It
can even occur for some people when they reach a goal and essentially
think their work is done. Solutions to a lack of motivation might be to do
the following:
• Choose activities you enjoy—If exercise is a chore rather than a pleasure,
you will quite likely start to lose motivation. Find a class, sport or
activity that you enjoy to keep your motivation high.
• Find a training buddy—Exercising with friends, family or colleagues is
often more fun than training by yourself. Having made a commitment
to meet them to exercise together, you’re less likely to make excuses
not to go.
• Include variation—If you do the same workout week in and week out,
you most certainly will get bored and lose motivation. Rotate among
several activities, classes and workout plans, selecting those relevant
to your sport or end goal. This not only develops all-round fitness,
but ensures you continue to challenge yourself and enjoy your exercise. Without variation, you will soon reach a plateau, whereby your
results stagnate (fitness and weight). Break a plateau with a planned,
progressive and varied routine.
Of course, other barriers to exercise exist—money, lack of knowledge,
travel and more. Whatever your barrier is, be honest with yourself. Stop
Training Essentials
making excuses and start finding solutions. You may wish to use self-talk
techniques, visualisation or simple brainstorming methods to help you to
do this. Whatever method you choose, we hope the content of this book
provides motivation and information to assist you on your journey towards
your fitness goals.
Finally, let’s consider a crucial point that is wholly pertinent as you are
poised on the cusp of stepping into the unknown by ramping up your exercise routine. Since breaks in routine are almost inevitable, it makes sense to
plan for them so they don’t grow from a simple relapse into a major collapse.
Common sense dictates that illness, work deadlines, family commitments
and holidays may both expectedly and sometimes unexpectedly throw your
programme off track. Accept that they happen. Rather than beating yourself
up about it, reflect on the positive notion that you’ve already made changes
and started some way down the road to a new you, and then move on. You
can’t stop the festive season, but a little forethought and the motivation to
get straight back to your programme after a minor lapse will limit damage.
You should now feel armed with the requisite knowledge and self-belief
to move off first base and take your training to the next level. As they say,
there’s no time like the present. So, what are you waiting for?
At A glAnCe
• From the start, make sure your mindset is tuned up and ready for
the journey ahead. You have the power to succeed. Write a mission
statement and keep a few short positive thoughts in mind for when
the going gets tough.
• Be prepared to work hard, harder than you ever have before, and
understand that you need to do this consistently.
• Commit yourself mentally as well as physically to bringing about
change. Use the SMART method to set goals that will help you guide
your workout efforts and monitor your progress.
• Be honest with yourself regarding barriers and recognise that, with
some careful forethought, you can overcome them fairly easily.
• Finally, accept that things will occasionally go wrong due to circumstances beyond your control. Steel yourself for these times and promise
yourself that you will get straight back on the horse as soon as possible—and then ride it hard to your best-ever workout!
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Fitness Assessments
f you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail! I’m sure you’ve heard that saying
many times before, but do you apply it to your fitness and health? Of
course you will notice some general and vague changes to your body and
fitness if you keep moving in some way or another, but without assessment, a plan and structure to your workout, you will not see measurable,
long-lasting results. So, the first step is to assess your current fitness level
and body shape and then to take action by planning and executing the
methods necessary for making improvements. Before we look at the actual
assessments, let’s get started by identifying body type.
BodY-tYPe identifiCAtion
The way your body responds to exercise is very much influenced by your
genetics. In any given gym environment, you will see people of all shapes
and sizes. Even those deemed very fit will have different body shapes and
response patterns to exercise in the way that they develop muscle, burn fat
and improve their cardiorespiratory fitness. Simply doing the same training as somebody whose body you admire and want for yourself may not
work for you. Attaining your goal may require you to train specifically for
your body type.
Of course, genetics determine that some people are naturally leaner
and more responsive to exercise than others. Unfair, we know. There’s not
much you can do about that. With this in mind, you need to be realistic
with your body-image goal and training targets. Can you really have the
aerobic capacity of Paula Radcliffe or the physique of Elle Macpherson? The
good news is that with the correct training for you and your body type,
you can really push the boundaries of your genetic predisposition and be
the best you can be (see chapter 1 and information about SMART to drive
home the point that your goals must be realistic).
Better Body Workouts for Women
Body shapes have typically been classified as falling into one of three
categories: mesomorph, ectomorph and endomorph (see figure 2.1). In reality,
most people share characteristics from all three categories, but it is likely
that you will identify with one category more than another. Each category
has its own advantages and disadvantages in terms of health and fitness.
Understanding these is the key to your success.
Read the following body-type descriptions and decide which best describes
your body shape. Then reference the training responses and recommendations as well as disadvantages associated with your body type to help guide
your exercise choice and training programme.
The athletic physique for the mesomorph body type includes broad shoulders, narrow waist and hips, good muscular definition, low body fat and
a reasonably fast metabolism. Mesomorph body types respond well to
most types of training, especially resistance and body-shaping exercises,
and sustain low body-fat levels. The disadvantages are that they can often
become overtrained, so if you have the mesomorph body type, be mindful of
incorporating rest days and lighter training sessions into your programme.
Also, stagnation can easily occur if you are not challenged with a varying
exercise routine. In this type, you can put on weight quickly when you
stop training.
If you have a mesomorph body type it is recommended you do the
• Ensure all training methods are suitable and will elicit response and
• Combine both major muscle and minor muscle group exercises into
your routine.
• Utilise superset training to maximise effort during your workout time.
• Progress training regularly and vary it with regard to exercise modality, type and intensity.
• Favour steady-state and interval training over maximal sprints and
lifts if your goal is to minimise muscle mass and use yoga, Pilates and
lightweight, high-repetition circuit training to develop longer, leaner
• Allow adequate recovery between exercises and sets and between
weight-training sessions if your goal is to maximise muscle mass. (This
allows energy system regeneration in the first instance and muscle
adaptation in the latter.)
Fitness Assessments
The athletic physique for the ectomorph body type includes narrow shoulders and hips, long, thin legs and arms, small bone structure and very little
body fat. People with this type often look fragile. They find it easy to lose
weight and keep it off. They are ideally suited to cardiovascular training
due to their light frame and low body weight. The disadvantages are that
they find it difficult to put on muscle and create a shapely physique, and
they risk unhealthily low body-fat levels. They can also be prone to injury
due to their fragile frame.
If you have an ectomorph body type it is recommended you do the
• Utilise split training whereby you train only one or two body parts
with resistance exercises per session and aim to work each body part
once per week.
• Take adequate rest between strength workouts to allow for muscle
recovery and for optimal repair and adaptation (48-72 hours).
• Use heavy, basic power movements that target the deep muscle tissues.
• Use repetitions of 5 to 10 and perform 3 or 4 sets of each exercise.
• Keep cardiorespiratory activity to a minimum (maximum of three
times per week) if your goal is to shape up and develop more muscle.
• Ensure good intake of protein and carbohydrate and increase calorie
intake to maintain bodyweight and develop lean muscle.
• Enjoy a mix of running, cycling or rowing to minimise impact-based
modalities if your goal is to maximise your genetic gift for aerobic
• Include adequate dietary calcium to further protect your bones, since
some activities, such as running, can cause stress injuries for people
with fragile frames.
The athletic physique for the endomorph body type includes wide hips
and narrow shoulders that create a pear shape. People with this type have
less muscle definition, uneven fat distribution (mostly accumulating in
upper arms, bottom and thighs) with wide bone structure and a slower
metabolism than those from other body types. Weight gain is easy and fat
loss difficult for those in this category. Muscle definition tends to be hidden
by fat. Endomorph body types respond well to power and strength training due to their natural strength. If they train and develop their muscles,
then they can effectively increase their metabolic and fat-burning rates.
Better Body Workouts for Women
The disadvantages are that too much weight training in relation to aerobic
activity can make them look bulky. They can also suffer joint problems if
they carry too much body weight, as this puts stress on the joints. They also
can find it more difficult to burn fat.
If you have an endomorph body type it is recommended you do the
• Include moderate-intensity, nonimpact cardiorespiratory exercise such
as cycling and power walking on most, if not all, days of the week to
achieve a leaner, lighter body shape.
• Ensure that cross training, which combines weights and cardiorespiratory training, is the basis of your training plan.
• Keep weights light, the repetition range between 10 and 25 and the
recovery time short.
htig lo
Try training and eating according to your body type for
best results and body satisfaction. Trying
to change your body shape will only lead
to frustration and limited adaptation.
Figure 2.1
• Take extra care with your diet to
eat regularly and reduce starchy
and sugar-based carbohydrate
opting instead for fibrous varieties and lean proteins (see
chapter 3 for detailed dietary
guidance and weight loss tips).
Body types: (a) mesomorph, (b) ectomorph and (c) endomorph.
E5742/Hodgkin/fig 2.1c/467885/pulled/r2-kh
E5742/Hodgkin/fig 2.1b/467884/pulled/r2-kh
E5742/Hodgkin/fig 2.1a/467883/pulled/r2-kh
Fitness Assessments
What iS your FitneSS leVel?
Your fitness level is an indication of how well your body copes with a
physical workload and recovers in a timely manner. Which of the following fitness levels currently applies to you?
• Beginner—You have little or virtually no gym or sporting experience or have just returned to training after a long break of 18
months or more.
• Intermediate—You have been training consistently for at least
9 months, undertaking 3 or 4 sessions per week with a combination of cardiorespiratory and resistance training exercises.
• Advanced—You have been training consistently for a long
time (at least 18 months) with 4-plus sessions per week with a
combination of cardiorespiratory and resistance exercises or
sports-specific training.
We expect that most of you reading this book will fall between the
intermediate and advanced levels of fitness described previously. This
book takes your training to the next level with more progressive and
advanced techniques and ideologies. Having identified your general
fitness level, you can undertake specific assessments of the many
different fitness components that come together to determine your
overall fitness. This allows you to identify weaknesses and to select the
exercises and training programmes that will help you improve.
fitneSS ASSeSSMentS
Now it’s time to look more specifically at your fitness level by assessing your
cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular strength, flexibility and body composition. A few reasons why fitness tests are necessary include the following:
• To assess your current fitness level
• To identify your fitness goals, interests and motivation for exercising
• To identify any areas of weakness that could be affecting your training progress and sports performance or even making you susceptible
to injury
• To identify appropriate training options
• To establish methods to your track progress and evaluate programme
• To adapt and progress your training programme at the correct rate
Better Body Workouts for Women
We know that some people dislike tests due to fear of the findings and the
thought of being judged in some way. But fitness tests are a valuable tool
in allowing you to assess your progress and plan effectively. Avoid comparing your results to those of others if you are sensitive and self-conscious;
only compare them to your own previous markers. Remember, the tests
are designed to help you! Select the tests most compatible with your fitness
goals along with those considered baseline for general health and fitness
assessment, which include the resting heart rate and maximal heart rate
cardiorespiratory tests and the sit-and-reach flexibility test.
Cardiorespiratory tests
Numerous tests for this category of fitness exist, with options to test your
maximal and submaximal cardiorespiratory fitness. Some tests require
sophisticated equipment and techniques (such as V̇O2max tests or lactate
threshold tests), but we have selected simple tests that you can perform
by yourself.
resting heart rate test
Monitoring resting heart rate (RHR) is a great way to measure improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness as, during a period of training, small
changes in resting heart rate can reflect adaptation processes. As you get
fitter, your resting heart rate should decrease because the heart becomes
more efficient at pumping blood around the body. When you’re at rest,
more blood can be pumped around with each beat; therefore, fewer beats
per minute (bpm) are needed. Heart rate can also be affected by ensuing
illness, fatigue and overtraining, so regular monitoring can guide your rest
and recovery requirements. This test is suitable for anyone of any fitness
Heart rate monitor (optional)
How To
The measurement is ideally taken after 5 minutes of waking and whilst still
lying in bed. To measure at any other time, first lie down for at least 10
minutes before taking a measurement. To take your heart rate manually
using the palpation method, press two fingers (not your thumb) to either
the carotid artery in your neck (see figure 2.2a) or the radial artery in your
wrist (see figure 2.2b). Taking care not to press too hard, count the number
of beats for a minute. If you have a heart rate monitor, attach it as per its
instructions and take your reading. This will likely be the most accurate
Fitness Assessments
Figure 2.2 Taking your heart rate at the (a) carotid and
(b) radial arteries.
Note your resting heart rate and measure it regularly to monitor your fitness and physiological condition. An average resting heart rate for a woman is 75 bpm. RHR can fall to around 55 bpm in an elite female athlete.
Take Action!
A proven way to reduce your RHR is to become more aerobically fit so that
you heart does less work to pump blood and oxygen around your body.
See chapter 5: All In Aerobics, for a better understanding of this process
and for workout examples that increase aerobic fitness and lower RHR.
Maximum Heart Rate Test
Your maximum heart rate (HRmax) is the highest number of heartbeats
per minute when exercising maximally. It is best measured during a test
in which the body is pushed to its limit. You can then use the percentage
of your maximum heart rate as an indicator of exercise intensity and work
to an exercise programme that uses percentage heart rates to set training
loads. You can also calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your
age from 220. This figure is only an estimate, but it’s usually accurate to
within 10 beats of your true maximum heart rate.
We’ve selected a treadmill test protocol for measuring your maximum heart
rate. This test is suitable for intermediate and advanced exercisers, but not
for those new to exercise or those with injuries or cardiorespiratory problems.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Heart rate monitor with a chest strap (although you can take your pulse
rate manually) or an exercise machine with a built-in heart rate monitor,
such as a treadmill, elliptical machine or stationary bike.
How To
Warm up with 10 to 15 minutes of easy running on a treadmill. Then run for
3 minutes at a time, starting at 10 to 12 kilometres per hour and increasing your effort by 0.5 to 1.0 kilometres per hour until you can no longer
continue. The test will likely last anywhere between 9 and 15 minutes,
depending on the increments you choose and your fitness level. You may
also wish to increase the gradient of the treadmill by 1 percent with each
3-minute interval. As soon as you stop, record your heart rate by either
counting your pulse rate or noting the measurement on your monitor.
The heart rate you record immediately after completing the test is your
HRmax. Note that results may vary when tests are performed on different
cardio machines and with different protocols, but progressive effort tests
such as this one are more favourable than sprint tests, where the build-up of
fatigue and lactic acid in the muscles may stop your effort before your heart
rate reaches its maximum. Note that your maximum heart rate cannot increase through training. In fact, it actually decreases with age. However, with
training, you can work selected percentages of your HRmax more efficiently.
Take Action!
Chapter 5: All In Aerobics will help you to improve the previously mentioned exercise efficiency. In particular, the fartlek and interval training
methods encourage work at varying percentages of your HRmax.
Single-effort cardiorespiratory
power test
This test looks at your cardiorespiratory output and performance over a
single set distance or time period. It is suitable for intermediate and advanced exercisers who have a good understanding of pace and are familiar with the exercise machine and modality being used.
Cardio exercise machine you are familiar with and confident using (e.g.,
rower, treadmill or stationary bike)
How To
On your chosen piece of equipment, work at maximum effort for a set
period of time or distance (for example, 3-minute run or 5,000-metre row).
Fitness Assessments
Record your time or distance and note the protocol and settings you selected so you can compare them the next time you test. When you retest,
use the same protocol, but aim to complete the distance faster or cover
more distance in the set time.
Take Action!
Incorporate power training into your workout schedule to improve your
single-effort cardiorespiratory power and, thus, performance in relevant
sports such as those involving sprinting, jumping and throwing for a sustained period of time. Chapter 8: Power Up is packed with instructions
for numerous power exercises, from plyometrics to Olympic lifts and sled
multiple-effort cardiorespiratory
power test
This test measures your cardiorespiratory power over a succession of intervals and indicates how well you can sustain your performance and effort.
It is suitable for intermediate and advanced exercisers who have a good
understanding of pace and are familiar with the cardio kit being used. It is
especially suited to those who take part in interval-based sports, such as
tennis, football and hockey.
Cardio equipment you are familiar with (rower, treadmill or stationary bike)
How To
On your chosen piece of kit, work at maximum effort for a set period of
time or distance and for a chosen number of repetitions (2 or more).
Record your time or distance and note the protocol and settings you used
so you can compare your results in the future. The next time you test, use
the same protocol and aim to sustain your effort for a greater number of
repetitions, cover more distance or record a faster time for the same number of repetitions.
Take Action!
Incorporate interval training into your workout routine to quickly make improvements in your multiple-effort cardio power and to simultaneously cut
your workout time without compromising on results. Chapter 6: Go Anaerobic explains the science behind anaerobic training benefits (exercise
in the absence of oxygen) and provides some great sample workouts.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Submaximal cardiorespiratory
Fitness test
This test is a good guide to your general cardiorespiratory fitness. More
specifically, it measures your performance, as distance covered, whilst
working at a submaximal level of fitness. It is suitable for women at any
fitness level who want a general assessment of their cardiorespiratory
Cardio equipment you are familiar with (rower, treadmill or stationary bike)
and a heart rate monitor (optional but ideal)
How To
Exercise continuously at a designated heart rate for a set time. For example, cycle for 20 minutes at a heart rate of 140 bpm or at RPE of 6/7 (see
RPE scale on page 54 of chapter 4).
Note the distance you covered and protocol you followed (i.e., heart rate
and exercise time) so you can compare them the next time you test. Covering a greater exercise distance in the same time and at the same submaximal heart rate on subsequent attempts indicates an improvement in
your submaximal cardiorespiratory fitness or general fitness.
Take Action!
Visit chapter 5: All In Aerobics and follow the continuous training and crosstraining methods for improvements in your submaximal cardiorespiratory
three-minute Step test
This is a classic submaximal test that measures how efficiently your heartbeat returns to a resting rate after exercise. It is suitable for women at
any fitness level who want a general assessment of their cardiorespiratory
A step approximately 20 inches or 50 centimetres high, a stopwatch and a
cadence tape or metronome set at 120 bpm (optional)
How To
Step up and down on the platform at a rate of 30 steps per minute (1 step
every 2 seconds) for 3 minutes. Sit down immediately on completion of
the test. After 10 seconds of rest, record your heartbeat over 1 minute by
taking your pulse.
Fitness Assessments
Note your pulse rate as the beats per minute. For those interested in comparing their results with industry-standard results, table 2.1 shows the female norms.
table 2.1 three-Minute step test
norms for Women
Beats per minute
© John Shepherd, 2004, Ultra fit: Your own personal trainer, A&C
Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.
Take Action!
You can improve your general cardiorespiratory fitness with a wide range
of training methods, from steady-state cardio to interval training to fartlek
training and more. See chapters 5 and 6 on aerobic and anaerobic training
for additional information.
Muscular strength tests
Muscular strength tests fall into two categories—those that test for maximal strength (how much you can lift in one attempt) and those that test for
strength endurance (your ability to perform a strength-orientated movement
repeatedly until fatigue). The importance of each test to you will depend
on your sport or exercise routine, but both can be useful measures of how
you are progressing.
one-repetition max (1rm) test
The 1RM test assesses maximum strength and indicates how much weight
you can lift in a single effort. Following a warm-up, use an exercise or lift
that is appropriate to your training or sport. Common strength test exercises include squat, bench press, chest press and dead lift. The test provided
here predicts your 1RM based on lighter-weight repetition numbers. It is
suitable for those with basic and intermediate strength-training experience.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Dumbbells, barbell, machine weights—basically, the equipment suitable
for the lift or strength exercise you have chosen to test
How To
Select the exercise to use for the test and warm up with a light weight for 3
sets of 5 to 10 repetitions. Begin performing a 1-repetition individual lift at
a weight below what you perceive to be your maximum. Rest for 5 minutes
and repeat with a heavier weight. Continue to attempt single lifts with a
5-minute recovery until you fail your attempt. The last successful lift before
failure is your actual 1RM. Ideally, you will reach your maximum weight on
your third single attempt. Knowledge and experience of your lifting ability
are important to getting an accurate result. If you attempt it too soon, you
may not have activated your muscles effectively. If you repeat too many
submaximal singles beforehand, you will be fatigued.
Keep a record of your performance and the protocol used. Ideally, after a
period of strength training, you will be able to lift a heavier weight when
you retest. Your 1RM result is a useful measure for constructing your weight
training programme. It will guide you on the percentage of this maximum
to work at for your repetition exercises and, of course, will enable you to
monitor your strength improvements over time.
Take Action!
To improve your maximal strength, check out both chapter 7: Going Strong
and chapter 8: Power Up for information on the relevant training, as well as
chapter 11 for sample workouts.
push-up test
The push-up test assesses strength endurance and is one of the most common tests for measuring it. However, the protocol doesn’t have to be limited
to the push-up. You may wish to replicate the test using other exercises that
will test the strength endurance of other muscles in your body, such as a situp, squat or triceps dip. This test is suitable for women at any fitness level.
How To
Assume a military-style push-up position, touching the floor with only your
hands and feet. If you have less upper body strength, bend your knees and
place them on the floor as well (bent-knee style). To perform the push-up,
position your hands under your shoulders with the elbows out (see figure
2.3a). Lower your chest as low as you can go without touching the ground
(see figure 2.3b), and then push up to a straight-arm position, maintaining a strong, straight body position throughout. Do as many push-ups as
Fitness Assessments
Figure 2.3 Push-up test.
possible until exhaustion, counting the repetitions as you go. Simply dipping your chest to the ground whilst keeping your bum in the air does not
count as a repetition! Your body must remain straight for every counted
repetition, even if performed from your knees.
Record the total number of push-ups performed so you can aim to improve
next time you test. Use table 2.2 to compare your results to a general standard of women aged 20 to 49 for the push-up exercise from your feet:
Table 2.2 Push-Up Test Standards for Women
Age 20–29
Age 30–39
Age 40–49
Very poor
Adapted with permission from The Cooper Institute, Dallas, Texas, from Physical Fitness Assessments and Norms
for Adults and Law Enforcement. Available online at
Take Action!
Chapter 7: Going Strong challenges you to improve both your maximal
strength and strength endurance. You will find ways to improve your assessment results with a multitude of exercises and some workout examples. Some simply utilise your body weight, whilst others add resistance,
weight and even vibration.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Power test
A power test measures your ability to move a load quickly so evaluating
your strength and speed combined.
Standing Vertical Jump test
This classic power test assesses explosive power (pure power). If your sport
or activity involves jumping (volleyball, basketball, netball, high jump),
then this test is specifically relevant to you, but it’s a valid measurement of
muscular power for everyone.
How To
Stand next to a wall facing sideways. Chalk the hand closest to the wall and
reach up, making sure to keep your feet flat on the floor (see figure 2.4a).
Make a mark on the wall using your longest finger. Bending your knees at
right angles (see figure 2.4b), jump as high as possible and make another
mark with your hand (see figure 2.4c). Measure the distance between the
two marks. Repeat a total of three times, again making sure to fully recover
between efforts. Take your best score of the three trials.
Figure 2.4
Standing vertical jump test.
Fitness Assessments
Table 2.3 provides the female standards with which you can compare your
table 2.3 Vertical Jump test standards
for Women
>53 cm
41-52 cm
30-40 cm
Needs improvement
<29 cm
Adapted, by permission, from E.P. Roetert and T.S. Ellenbecker, 2007, Complete conditioning for tennis (Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics), 32.
Take Action!
To improve your results, include Olympic lifts and box jumps in your weekly training routine. Chapter 11 provides sample workouts for you to try.
Flexibility test
Flexibility tests usually involve the linear measurement of distances between
your body parts or from an external object. Overall flexibility can be difficult
to assess, as most of us have greater flexibility in one area or side of our
body than another. It is therefore important to measure flexibility through
several tests across different body parts. Here we provide an example of
one of the most common tests.
Sit-and-reach test
The sit-and-reach test has long been used as a standard measure of flexibility. It is particularly important for anyone taking part in sport and exercise involving sprinting and jumping, which put the hamstrings under extra
stress. This test is suitable for anyone who does not have any spinal disc
problems (in that case, avoid flexing the spine).
Use a ruler and a step (the bottom of a staircase or a stand-alone box
roughly the height of your foot length).
Better Body Workouts for Women
How To
Warm up with some light cardio and dynamic stretches (see chapter 4:
Warming Up and Cooling Down). Sit on a flat surface, with the legs extended in front of your body, toes pointing up and feet slightly apart.
Brace the soles of your feet against the base of the step (see figure 2.5a).
Place the ruler on the top of the step and one hand on top of the other,
and then reach slowly forward, keeping your back flat and your head in line
with your body (see figure 2.5b). Hold the stretch for a couple of seconds,
and then measure the distance you have reached. If you do not reach the
step, measure the distance between the point you reached and the step;
this is a negative measurement score.
Figure 2.5
Sit-and-reach test.
Record your distance to compare next time. For women, more than 8 centimetres is considered an excellent score, 5 to 8 centimetres is average
and less than 2 centimetres is poor.
Take Action!
To improve your flexibility scores, incorporate various forms of stretching
into your workout plan. Chapter 4: Warming Up and Cooling Down will
guide you on which type of stretches to perform and when to perform
them, as well as every stretch exercise needed for improving your flexibility in a desired muscle. To improve your hamstring flexibility and, therefore,
the results in this test, look for stretches indicated for hamstrings.
Fitness Assessments
Body Composition tests
Body composition describes the different components and tissue types that
make up your body weight, including lean tissues (muscle, bone and organs),
which are metabolically active, and fat (adipose), which is not.
Standard body-weight scales will provide you with a measure of total
body weight, but they will not determine the lean-to-fat ratio of that weight
or, in other words, how much of that weight is muscle and how much is
fat. Typically when you begin or advance your exercise routine, you will
increase your muscle mass and, consequently, your weight, as the same
volume of muscle weighs more than that of fat! This can be disheartening
when you’ve been putting in the gym time to lose weight. Rest assured,
though, this increase in muscle weight actually translates to a slimmer,
stronger, leaner you if you adhere to consistent exercise and good nutrition.
So, body composition tests are more reflective of your progress.
Body composition tests can be a great measure of your progress both in
terms of performance and aesthetics, but it is important not to obsess over
your results. Remember that this is just one component of your training
progress. A low level of body fat is related to improved sporting performance,
but it is also sport dependent. If your body fat becomes extremely low, you
risk injury, decreased performance and health issues.
Now that we’ve raised the preoccupation warning, let’s look at testing
methods. Many different methods exist for assessing your body fat and lean
mass percentages, each with different levels of accuracy. The key is to be as
consistent as possible with the protocol of your choice so that differences
over time reflect changes in your body rather than in your measurement
practice. One way to ensure this is to be tested by the same person, with
same equipment and at the same time of day each time. The following methods are the best and most practical tests for you to perform on your own.
body mass index (bmi) test
This method for estimating body fat percentage is based on simple weight
and height measurements. Although it is an indirect measurement, it can
be a reliable indicator of body fat in the average person. However, it tends
to be less accurate for athletes who display a high BMI. This is due to their
high levels of muscle mass, which weighs more than fat. It’s actually possible for someone who is very lean and muscled to achieve an ‘overweight’
BMI score, as if she had a high body-fat percentage! Although this test is
suitable for anyone, be aware that results for highly trained athletes may
not be accurate.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Weighing scales, measure tape and calculator
How To
Measure your height and your weight, divide your weight in kilograms by
your height in metres squared, and then compare your result to the figures
in the BMI chart in the following section. For example, if you weigh 65
kilograms and are 1.7 metres tall, your BMI would be:
65 ÷ (1.7 × 1.7 [=2.89]) = 22
Interpret your result using table 2.4:
table 2.4
BMI results for Women
Normal weight
Source: National Health Service, NHS Choices. Available: www. [June 17,
Take Action!
If your BMI falls outside of the normal weight range, it may be time for you
to take action. If you are underweight, consider whether you are refuelling
from your workouts with enough food and the right composition of macronutrients. Chapter 3: Nutrition Matters provides advice on meals and
snacks for your exercise type, with specific quantities of macronutrients
suited to your body weight. You may also benefit from increasing your lean
muscle mass. Chapter 7: Going Strong provides exercises and protocols
to help you. Remember that the BMI test is not the most accurate measure for athletes, especially if they are particularly muscular. If you are an
Olympic weightlifter, rower or rugby player with a high muscle mass, then
this test may interpret your measures as obese when clearly you are not. In
this case, a fat percentage test is more accurate. If, however, you are overweight or obese, consider losing weight to improve your overall health
and sporting performance. Incorporating a variety of exercises—aerobic,
anaerobic and strength training—and focusing on healthy eating will put
you on course to improve your BMI result.
Fitness Assessments
Waist-to-hip ratio test
Like the BMI test, the waist-to-hip ratio test indicates whether your body
is within acceptable body-fat levels. Fat is stored beneath the skin and
also around the vital organs with research showing that fat around the
abdomen presents a greater risk to health than that held on the hips and
thighs. Excess fat around the middle is linked to increases likelihood of
developing type 2 diabetes and heart problems. Be aware, though, that if
you have a very athletic physique with narrow hips, the test may suggest
that you are too lean. This test is suitable for anyone of any fitness level.
Measure tape and calculator
The most effective way to lose
weight around your midsection is
not to do hundreds of sit-ups but to control
your insulin levels by regularly eating (every 2
to 4 hours) carbohydrate low on the glycaemic index combined with good fat and lean
protein. Insulin spikes following consumption
of sugary foods have been linked to abdominal fat, so follow this advice to help shift those
midsection pounds!
Interpret your results using table 2.5:
table 2.5
Waist-to-hip ratio standards for Women
Age 20-29
Age 30-39
Age 40-49
Low risk
Moderate risk
High risk
Very high risk
Adapted, by permission, from V.H. Heyward and D.R. Wagner, 2004, Applied body composition assessment, 2nd
ed. (Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics), 78.
How To
Measure your waist at the
point of maximum girth
(above your hip bone) and
your hips at the point where
your bottom protrudes the
most. Then simply divide
your waist measurement
by your hip measurement
in centimetres (or inches),
and record and compare
your results to the following standards guide.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Take Action!
If your value is either average or high, it is deemed unacceptable. You
must take action to reduce the size of your stomach, as this is the most
dangerous place to store fat in terms of the risk of coronary heart disease. Moreover, a fat waist is not going to help your mobility or sporting
performance! Your diet is largely responsible for the size of your waist, so
make a priority to clean it up. Visit chapter 3: Nutrition Matters for meal
suggestions and tips for weight loss.
bioelectrical impedance analysis (bia)
body-Fat test
This method sends a low level of safe, electrical current through the body.
The current travels at a different rate through the various body tissues,
which then allows a calculation of fat mass and lean (fat-free) mass. The
current will pass easily through muscle tissue, but travels slowly through
the fat tissue. The resistance it experiences as it hits the fat tissue is called
bioelectrical impedance. This feature is common in many digital weighing
scales, such as Tanita or Omron. With the addition of information on your
height, gender and weight,
these scales can then comhtig lo
pute your body-fat perAlthough your BMI and waist-tocentage. Readings can be
hip ratio measures are great for
affected by your hydration
assessing your progress towards your weightlevels, food intake and skin
loss goals, a reduction in these measures can
temperature, amongst other
sometimes indicate an undesired loss in valufactors, but you will generable muscle tissue as well as fat tissue. Look
ate useful results if you use
at your body-fat percentage as a more useful
the scales under similar conindicator that you are becoming leaner, not
ditions each time. This test
just smaller!
is suitable for anyone of any
fitness level.
Digital scales with a BIA feature
How To
Follow the instructions on your scales to obtain a digital reading of your
body-fat percentage.
Record your result and observe the most commonly used body-fat chart in
table 2.6 to interpret your score.
Fitness Assessments
table 2.6 ACe Body-Fat Percentage
for Women
Body fat
Essential fat
© 2010 American Council on Exercise
Take Action!
If your results indicate that your body-fat level is not desirable or suitable
for your sport or activity, then you need to take action. The most effective
way to lose body fat is through dietary changes (see chapter 3: Nutrition Matters) and a combination of workouts designed to build muscle
mass (see chapter 7: Going Strong) and those that are high in intensity
(see chapter 6: Go Anaerobic and chapter 8: Power Up). This is because
increased muscle mass increases your metabolic rate throughout the day,
making you a greater fat-burning machine. High-intensity training increases your excess postexercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) so you continue
to burn fat at a greater rate during the hours following exercise (see chapter 7: Going Strong).
Another way to learn your fat percentage is the skinfold thickness
measurement test. This common test for body fat, performed by a personal trainer or physiologist, can be up to 98 percent accurate if the tester
is skilled. The test estimates your percentage of body fat by measuring
skinfold thickness at specific locations on your body. As the test requires
the assistance of a professional, we have not included the protocol here.
However, if your gym, training facility or physician has the tools and someone available to assist you, you may want to use this measure.
Your fitness tests should be performed regularly throughout the year,
usually every 6 to 8 weeks, or at the completion of each training cycle (if
you are indeed working in cycles). Your body composition tests can be
performed at the same time or even at weekly intervals if you are making
significant dietary changes or if this practice helps you to stay on track.
However, be advised that weekly body composition measurements can
vary quite considerably depending on the phase of your menstrual cycle.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Progress and rate of change and development will vary from person to
person and between the different fitness measures, but aim for a gradual
and steady rate of improvement with results that can be sustained over the
long term. You will face plateaus, but the training advice and workouts in
this book should give you new stimulus and information to break through
them. Remember, quick-fix attempts bring about fast but unsustainable
results! Assess, train and eat correctly for your body type and training goals,
and then retest.
At A glAnCe
• Assessing your fitness level is important for obtaining current fitness
measures, identifying goals and motivations for exercising, identifying areas of weakness, selecting appropriate training options and for
progressing your programme at the correct rate.
• At the most general level, fitness can be assessed by identifying whether
you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced exerciser.
• Body-type identification can be useful for determining the best exercise solutions for you, as your genetics play a big factor in your body
shape and subsequently how you will respond to exercise. Body types
can be classified as mesomorph (muscular and square), ectomorph (long
and lean) or endomorph (wide hips and narrow shoulders).
• More specific fitness tests include those for cardiorespiratory fitness
and strength.
• Cardiorespiratory abilities can be tested by (a) resting heart rate, (b)
maximum heart rate, (c) single-effort cardiorespiratory power, (d) multieffort cardiorespiratory power and (e) submaximal cardiorespiratory
fitness, as well as (f) with a general aerobic fitness test.
• Strength can be assessed through tests for maximal strength (onerepetition max tests) or strength endurance (e.g., push-up test).
• Power can be tested with the standing vertical jump test and improved
with Olympic lifts and plyometric exercises such as box jumping.
• Flexibility is most commonly assessed with a sit-and-reach test but
other body parts could be tested to identify imbalances.
• Body composition assessments include BMI tests, waist-to-hip ratio
tests, and bioelectrical impedance tests for measuring body-fat
nutrition Matters
ood nutrition is fundamental to getting the best results from your
workout and achieving your goals, whether they are related to
performance, fitness or aesthetics. Despite this, keen exercisers and athletes
commonly put 100 percent effort into their workouts only to let themselves
down with a poor understanding and execution of their diet.
This chapter covers essential information, tips and meal plans to help
you fuel and re-fuel your body for optimal results. It also addresses the
important area of hydration, including sports drinks and the minefield
subject of supplements.
Preworkout fuel
Eating the right food at the right time before your workout is essential for
optimal energy, performance, comfort and well-being. Get it wrong, and
you’ll sell yourself short or, worse still, suffer hunger at one extreme and
indigestion at the other! In addition to being easily digestible, your preworkout foods and fluids should satisfy your hunger, restock carbohydrate
stores that may have become depleted following a previous workout or
overnight fast, hydrate or rehydrate your body, optimise performance and
prepare your body for rapid recovery post exercise.
When to eat?
Ideally, you should eat 2 to 4 hours before you begin to exercise. This allows
your body enough time to digest the food. Provided you eat the right food,
you will still have energy by the time you begin.
A common mistake is to eat a meal high in carbohydrate too close to exercise. This leaves you feeling uncomfortable, nauseated and possibly weak,
as your blood supply is directed to your digestive organs instead of your
muscles. For example, taking in carbohydrate only 1 hour before exercise
may cause an insulin response that leads to hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar)
Better Body Workouts for Women
Fuel and early-morning WorkoutS
If you favour an early-morning workout, avoid exercising on an empty
stomach. Though this depends on the quality of your diet overall and
some evidence exists that this practice will help you to lose weight
(as carbohydrate stores are depleted in the morning and your body
therefore relies on fat mobilisation), it’s not our recommendation. Exercising with low blood glucose levels can induce early fatigue, which
could increase injury risk and also reduces overall calorie burn. You
will likely overeat after the session as your appetite and your body’s
need for fuel go into overdrive. If your goal is weight loss, your daily
energy balance and composition of what you eat will matter more than
a fasted workout. If you simply can’t face eating early in the morning,
experiment with different food options until you find something you
can tolerate, even if it is a liquid meal such as a sports drink, protein
shake, smoothie or juice that contains fast-release protein or highglycaemic carbohydrate.
during the first few minutes of exercise. If you need a preworkout boost of
energy or if you are exercising early in the day, have a snack of something
easy to digest, such as a banana or a handful of berries. In this case, you
can snack 10 minutes before you exercise without adverse effects. You will
not experience hypoglycaemia as there is simply not enough time for your
body to respond by pumping out insulin. By the time exercise begins, the
body immediately starts to downregulate its need for insulin. The following
section lists examples of suitable preworkout meals and snacks.
What to eat?
It is easy to choose good preworkout foods according to their macronutrient category, so we will look at carbohydrate, protein and fat, plus fibre in
turn to help you make the best selections.
The majority of calories in your preworkout meal, around 60 to 70 percent, should come from carbohydrate. The carbohydrate will raise your blood
glucose levels, boost muscle and liver glycogen levels and aid performance,
particularly endurance performance. If chosen correctly, the advantage of
carbohydrate is that it is digested fairly quickly. Choose foods with carbohydrate types that have a low glycaemic index (GI) and therefore release
their energy slowly (see table 3.1 for a list of popular foods and their GI).
All ingested carbohydrate releases sugar, which triggers your pancreas to
release the hormone insulin. This results in a rapid decrease in the body’s
Nutrition Matters
table 3.1
GI for Popular Foods
low GI foods
Moderate GI foods
high GI foods
Fruit (apples, pears,
plums, cherries, peaches,
Fruit (oranges, grapes,
kiwi, berries, mango)
Fruit (watermelon, papaya,
pineapple, bananas) and
dried fruit (raisins, dates,
Vegetables (broccoli,
green beans, asparagus,
Vegetables (sweet
potatoes, peas, carrots,
bell peppers)
Vegetables (baked
potatoes, beets/beetroot,
Grains (barley, bulgar, rye)
Grains (white rice, brown
rice, wild rice, basmati
rice, couscous)
Grains (instant white rice,
Breads (wholegrain
Breads (whole-wheat, pita,
Breads (white bread,
Cereals (All-Bran)
Cereals (oatmeal, Special
K and Grape Nuts)
Cereals (cornflakes, Rice
Krispies, puffed wheat)
Snacks (peanuts,
macadamias, almonds,
walnuts, Brazil)
Snacks (rye crisp breads,
popcorn, potato chips/
Snacks (rice cakes, corn
chips, pretzels, crackers,
chocolate, sweets/candy,
biscuits, pancakes)
Meat, fish, eggs
White or whole-wheat
Honey and sweetened
preserves (jam)
Cheese, milk (cow and
soy), plain yogurt
Beans (lentils, navy, kidney,
soy, black, chickpeas)
Oils (olive, walnut,
blood sugar level, followed shortly by increased hunger. Different sources
of carbohydrate release their sugar at different rates, and the GI indicates
the speed at which a food releases its sugar. Good examples of low-GI
carbohydrates include wholegrain breads, porridge, beans and lentils. As a
general rule, the earlier you eat before a workout, the lower the food you
choose should be on the glycaemic index.
You should also add some protein to your preworkout meal to further
slow the release of the carbohydrate and delay the onset of fatigue. Complete
proteins (those that contain all the essential amino acids your body needs)
are a good choice. These include eggs, lean meat (chicken and turkey) and
fish. You can add incomplete proteins (those that contain some but not all
Better Body Workouts for Women
of the essential amino acids), which are often more convenient and readily available. These include nuts, beans, lentils and yogurt. Three essential
amino acids in particular, known as branched-chain amino acids (BCAA),
have been found to benefit performance when taken before aerobic exercise.
Other research has shown that combining these BCAA with carbohydrate
before strenuous exercise stimulates protein synthesis afterwards, improving your speed of recovery. Whole eggs are a good source of BCAA; you
can also use supplements.
Fatty foods (fried food especially) delay digestion and can cause discomfort. In particular, fat remains in the stomach for a long time, often pulling
blood there to help aid digestion, which can cause abdominal cramping of
the stomach and deprive the muscles of the blood for exercise. Avoid meats,
fries, nuts and candy bars before your workout.
Though high-fibre foods have a low GI and are a great part of a general
daily diet, they may be too effective as a pre-exercise meal. The fibre in
some foods can be so dense that it sits in your gut for several hours, soaking
up fluids and swelling. Keep your preworkout meal low in fibre to avoid
unnecessary discomfort.
Low-fat dairy is an acceptable food choice for some people before a workout. However, those who suffer from lactose intolerance, which can lead to
lethargy, acid build-up, bloating, gas and burping, should eliminate dairy
to avoid feeling discomfort and being slowed down during their workout.
Preworkout Meal and snack suggestions
Some recommended meals for 2 to 4 hours pre exercise include the
• Porridge oats made with water, added berries and ground flaxseeds—Oats
provide a great slow release of energy whilst the berries provide antioxidant vitamins. Flaxseeds are high in omega-3s, and they lower the
GI of the meal further.
• Broth-based soup with chicken and soft vegetables—Lean protein and easily
digestible vegetables are a great combination of slow-release carbohydrate and protein. As an added bonus, the broth provides fluid for
• Sweet potato with tuna—Sweet potato has a lower GI value than a regular
potato and is packed with vitamins, whilst the tuna provides a great
protein addition.
• Boiled egg and fresh fruit—Eggs are loaded with protein and are easily
digested by most people. Combine with a banana or melon which are
an easily digestible fruit choice.
• Oatcakes with cottage cheese—Oatcakes are a light snack that, when combined with 100 grams plus of cottage cheese, feel quite substantial and
Nutrition Matters
satisfying. Cottage cheese is high in protein and low in fat. Combine
it with pineapple chunks or herbs for added flavour.
• Baby food—This may sound like an odd choice for an adult, but it is
easily sourced and digested by the human gut at any age. Good choices
are those with fruits or vegetables. Combine them with chopped meats
such as turkey, fish or chicken.
• Meal-replacement bars—Though these are our least recommended option
for added protein, due to being highly processed, they can be a valuable
go-to option when real food is not readily available, and they can be
purchased almost everywhere and carried in your bag. Though most
are primarily carbohydrate based, some also contain protein to slow
the glycaemic reaction and add some BCAA to the meal. However, they
can be dry, and they may draw fluids from your body into the gut to
assist with digestion, leaving you dehydrated, so you must drink lots
of water with them.
• Blended low-fibre fruit, fruit juice and protein powder—Combining easily
digested carbohydrate—again with protein, including BCAA—helps
the body release energy slowly. Some people can stomach this liquid
formula more easily than whole foods. Add some low-fat yogurt if you
want to create a more substantial meal.
Also, as mentioned in the previous section, you can have a snack 10 minutes before exercise. Select a carbohydrate source with a moderate to high
GI for instant energy. Good choices include bananas, dried fruit and cereal
bars. However, be careful of too much sugar as this may cause a rebound
drop in blood glucose levels (hypoglycaemia) during your workout, leading
to light-headedness, nausea and early fatigue. As a guide, limit the amount
of sugar in your preworkout snack to fewer than 25 grams (one medium
banana contains approximately 18 g of sugar).
Some recommended snacks for 10 minutes before exercise include the
• Dried fruit—A small serving (about 30 grams) of dried fruit such as
raisins provides instant energy.
• Natural yogurt with honey—Honey is a natural sugar with a high GI
value for instant energy. Combine with natural yogurt for a light snack
(provided you do not suffer adverse effects from dairy) or simply add
a spoonful to warm water for a liquid snack.
• Banana—This fruit has a high GI value for instant energy and contains
potassium to help balance your electrolytes. Sometimes just half or
a few mouthfuls can be enough to provide an energy boost without
making you feel too full.
• Berries—Sweet and easily digested, a handful of berries such as raspberries, blueberries or strawberries are ideal.
Better Body Workouts for Women
• Mini pancakes—Commercially available and light and easily digested for a
preworkout energy boost, one to three pancakes do the job! Even better
if you can make your own and add berries to the mix!
• Jaffa cakes—These are also light and easily digested before training. They
are calorific if too many are eaten (they are very tasty!) so moderate
your intake to three or four depending on your size and energy needs.
• Sports drink or gel—Consuming 100 to 200 calories from a drink or gel
with around 200 millilitres of water provides an effective energy boost
for those who can’t stomach whole foods.
how Much to eat?
The number of calories you consume in your preworkout meal (and preworkout snack) will depend on the timing of your meal, the length and intensity
of your workout and your body
htig lo
size. So you should consume
If your workout goal is weight
more calories the larger you
loss, skip the last-minute preare, the sooner you eat before
workout snack. The carbohydrate boost this
your workout and the longer or
provides delays fat burning, as your body
more intense your workout will
works to metabolise the carbohydrate as
be. The closer you are to your
the primary fuel. But have your preworkout
workout, the less you should
meal at least two hours before exercise
eat. The following guide is for
rather than up to four hours, with choices
calorie consumption according
from our selection to ensure sufficient ento when you choose to eat your
ergy for your workout.
preworkout meal or snack:
• 4 hours pre workout: 400 to 500 calories
• 2 hours pre workout: 200 to 400 calories
• 10 minutes pre workout: 100 to 200 calories (often suitable as liquid)
PoStworkout fuel
You’ve just pushed out your final repetition or powered through the last
few gruelling minutes of that spin class. You’re now ready for some essential
recovery nutrition to get the best results from your training and remain
consistent across all workouts.
Your postworkout fuelling begins with a snack during the all-important
30-minute window immediately after exercise, when your body is at its
most receptive to the nutrients you consume, and then continues with a
meal 2 to 4 hours post exercise. The goals during this 30-minute window
are to replace your muscles’ carbohydrate stores and provide protein to
repair the naturally occurring muscle damage that takes place during exercise, especially when you have performed strength and power work. It is
Nutrition Matters
also vitally important you rehydrate and replace your body’s electrolytes.
Your refuelling goal for 2 to 4 hours post workout is complete nutrition
that focuses on macronutrient recovery, primarily that of carbohydrate and
protein. After 4 hours, your diet should reflect your general needs as an
endurance- or strength-based athlete or general exerciser.
The following sections address postworkout macronutrient needs during
the 30-minute window and the 2 to 4 hours after exercise, as well as your
hydration and electrolyte requirements.
30-Minute Window
Within 30 minutes after exercise, choose carbohydrates with a high GI,
such as sports drinks containing glucose (isotonic or hypertonic), for quick
replacement of muscle glycogen. This liquid meal begins the rehydration
process, and it is easier to stomach than whole foods. If you can stomach
whole foods, then your choices will be similar to the 10-minute preworkout
snacks identified earlier, as they contain readily available glucose.
During an intense 1-hour workout, it’s possible to use 30 grams (1 oz)
of muscle protein for fuel. Protein sources, especially those rich in BCAA,
should therefore be taken during this 30-minute window at a carbohydrateto-protein ratio of around 4:1 after an aerobic endurance training session
and 2:1 after a resistance training or anaerobic session. Research indicates
that a good carbohydrate–protein combination post workout leads to a significantly greater muscle glycogen replacement as well as greater strength
development compared to ingesting carbohydrate alone. Opt for complete
protein sources such as egg whites or whey protein powder in a recovery
drink as they contain all the essential amino acids your body needs for the
purpose of resynthesis of muscle protein and they can be easily digested
immediately post workout. An intense workout, especially if strength and
power based, also causes some muscle cell damage to occur. This process,
as mentioned before, is necessary for muscle rebuilding and development,
but it relies on adequate replacement of BCAA, the building blocks for
repair. This is present most notably in eggs and through supplementation.
2 to 4 hours After the Workout
At this stage, focus on carbohydrate replenishment if you have performed
an endurance workout. However, the type of carbohydrate you consume
should contain more starches, which have a high glycaemic load (GL). The
GL is a measure of how fast the food’s sugar gets into the blood together
with how much carbohydrate is delivered. Good food choices include sweet
potato; grains such as rice, bread and cereal; as well as dried fruits, such as
raisins. Your appetite should serve as a guide as to how much to eat, though
eat slowly and chew food thoroughly so your brain receives this signal that
your stomach is full. This usually takes about 20 minutes. Carbohydrate
Better Body Workouts for Women
intake at this stage is less important for those having completed strengthbased workouts and those focused on weight loss. Once you have adequately
replenished your muscle glycogen levels, your carbohydrate requirements
go down, and the type you need to consume changes from high-GI and
high-GL foods to low-GI fruits and vegetables containing more fibre and
micronutrients. Some examples of the many low-GI fruits and vegetables
include apples, pears and berries for fruit choices and broccoli, cabbage,
cauliflower and sprouts as your vegetable choices. Our general carbohydrate recommendations for those performing low- to moderate-intensity
exercise are 5 to 7 grams per kilogram per day and for those performing
high-intensity exercise are 7 to 12 grams per kilogram per day.
Your body still requires amino acids for resynthesis of muscle protein two
to four hours post workout as well as for general maintenance of physiological structures such as the nervous system, so meals should contain
adequate protein by way of whole foods. Animal products are great choices
as they are complete proteins. Fish, egg whites and lean meats such as
turkey and chicken breast are ideal. These proteins also lower the GI of the
carbohydrate foods eaten at the same time, which helps control blood sugar
levels. As an athlete or committed exerciser, you should consume more
protein throughout the day than a sedentary or less active person due to
your enhanced needs for essential amino acids to repair damaged muscle
tissue. However, how much you need depends on your body weight,
particularly your muscle mass, your training volume and the intensity of
your training. Heavy lifting, sprint and power training also increase your
protein requirements. We recommend protein intakes of 1.2 to 1.4 grams
per kilogram per day for athletes participating in aerobic and endurance
exercise and 1.6 to 1.8
grams per kilogram per
h ig lo
If your goal is weight loss, don’t
day for those involved in
make the mistake of removing fat
anaerobic and strengthfrom your diet. Eating good fats actually helps
based activities. Again,
your body to mobilise and metabolise more fat.
animal products are the
Fat also has a high satiety factor, helping you
best sources of protein.
to feel full for longer. Low-fat diets are certainly
Vegetarians may opt for
not recommended for active women, as they
plant-based sources such
decrease energy and nutrient intake and reduce
as grains and beans, with
exercise performance. We do however advise
quinoa being a particuyou to reduce saturated fats (bad fats) from your
larly good choice as it condiet, those found in fatty meats and whole dairy
tains the highest number
foods, as well as trans fats, sometimes called
of essential amino acids.
partially hydrogenated oil, found in many proHowever, the quantity
cessed foods and ready meals, but overall, fat is
of these you will need to
not the enemy when it comes to weight loss!
eat to get adequate daily
protein is considerably
Nutrition Matters
higher, so you may fall short of consuming all the essential amino acids.
Therefore, it may be advisable for vegetarian athletes to use protein
Though ingesting fat is not essential during the 30-minute window post
workout, the intake of good fats forms a valuable part of your daily diet
and helps with general recovery and well-being. The most desirable fats
are omega-3 fatty acids, as they have been found to reduce inflammation,
a common and persistent problem for athletes, by lowering the ratio of
omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids (which should be approximately 2:1). In
today’s society, we consume far more omega-6 than this, mostly through
readily available packaged foods, vegetable oils and grain products, so it is
important to redress the balance. Good sources of omega-3s include oily fish
(salmon, mackerel, and tuna), leafy vegetables, walnuts, omega-3-enriched
eggs, fish oils and flaxseed oil supplements.
Finally, it’s quite likely you will be slightly dehydrated after your workout.
You will need to drink to replace the fluids lost from sweating. How much
fluid you lose depends on your preworkout hydration, fluid consumed during
your workout as well as the duration and intensity of your workout. Consider also that environmental factors such as heat and humidity also increase
your sweat rate and volume. You can calculate your fluid loss by weighing
yourself before and then immediately after your workout. A 1-kilogram
loss is roughly equivalent to 1 litre of water (1 pound is approximately 0.5
litres). Use this measure to calculate the amount of fluid you need to drink
to rehydrate. You don’t need to drink it all in one go, and this would likely
be difficult and uncomfortable, but plan to continue this hydration process
over the next few hours as your body’s hydration needs continue, perhaps
even consuming 150 percent of what your weight indicates you have lost
to be certain of complete rehydration. During exercise, your body also loses
a small amount of electrolytes, mainly sodium, through sweat. These losses
are most critical in endurance events and in extreme heat. You can replace
any lost electrolytes with natural foods consumed post workout, especially
with fruit, which contains most of the electrolytes lost during exercise.
Sodium can be replaced by consuming a recovery sports drink, adding a few
pinches of salt to fruit juice or eating a salty snack such as pretzels. See the
next section for more information on general fluid intake.
Your body is 65 to 75 percent water, so it’s vitally important you hydrate,
rehydrate and avoid dehydration throughout the day. Water performs the
general body functions of regulating temperature through sweating, acting
as a medium for chemical reactions, eliminating waste products and toxins,
lubricating the digestive track and providing a carrier for blood cells amongst
others. Water is quite simply the most essential part of our diet.
Better Body Workouts for Women
The most common recommendation for hydration is 2 litres per day (or
around 6 to 8 glasses), but your need may vary from that of others, depending on your activity, body size and food consumption. For general daily
hydration, we personally prescribe 1 millilitre per calorie consumed and
advise you to be aware of specific indicators of your hydration as follows:
• Thirst—By the time you’re thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Don’t
wait until you reach this stage before reaching for a drink.
• Urine colour and quantity—Your urine should be relatively clear, fairly
substantial in volume and odourless. Dark, smelly or scant (merely a
trickle) urine output suggests that undiluted toxins and waste products
have built up. Please note, however, some nutrition supplements can
also lead to darker colour urine, so keep this in mind when assessing
your hydration level.
• Mouth moisture—A dry mouth is often a sign of dehydration and is one
of the first signs of its onset.
• Headache—This is a common symptom of dehydration and a sign that
you need to drink more water.
• Muscle cramps—These involuntary contractions of the muscle are often
associated with dehydration and the associated electrolyte disruption.
• Elevated heart rate—When you are dehydrated, you have either less
fluid in your blood or a lower blood volume. This means your body
requires more effort to circulate blood. Your heart therefore has to
beat more often, raising your heart rate.
the loWdoWn on SportS drinkS
With so many sports drinks on the market and extensive advertising
about their benefits, it can become confusing to select one and to
understand when is best to drink it. The first decision, however, should
be whether you actually need one at all.
Many gym enthusiasts, especially those new to exercise, consume a
sports drink only to ingest calories in excess of those being expended,
prevent fat mobilisation due to the additional carbohydrate consumed
and sometimes feel sick from high sugar levels. The truth is that if you
are exercising continuously or for weight-loss purposes for less than 60
minutes, and if you’ve eaten properly in the hours leading up to your
workout, then it’s best to simply drink water. A sports drink is only a
useful hydration method if you exceed 60 minutes of exercise, if you
are focused on performance over weight loss or if you’ve not eaten
properly before a workout, especially if you’re performing an earlymorning workout and you can’t stomach whole foods.
Three types of sports drink exist, all of which contain various levels
of fluid, electrolytes and carbohydrate. The following section describes
them and helps you decide if any are suitable for your workout needs.
These rapidly replace fluids lost by sweating. Containing fluids, electrolytes and a very low level of carbohydrate, the main function of
hypotonic drinks is hydration. They are suitable for strength and power
athletes who do not need a boost of carbohydrate. Examples include
Powerade Zero, Gatorade G2, and Amino Vital.
Isotonic drinks are the most popular choice for endurance athletes
and team sports. They quickly replace fluids lost by sweating and
supply a boost of carbohydrate. The carbohydrate source is typically
supplied as glucose in a concentration of 6 to 8 percent. As glucose is
the body’s preferred source of energy, isotonic drinks are ideal for long
workouts where a drop in blood glucose or muscle glycogen levels
would result in decreased performance. Examples include Gatorade
(original), Powerade (original) and Powerbar Endurance Sport drink.
With a glucose concentration of 10 percent or more, these drinks are
more food than fluid. They can be used to supplement daily carbohydrate intake, usually after exercise to top up muscle glycogen stores or
during an ultradistance event where a greater level of fuelling required.
If you do choose a hypertonic drink, consume plenty of plain water
with it to hydrate. Examples include the Gatorade Performance Series
and simple fruit juice.
Sports drinks can be expensive, so if you do decide they are the
right choice for you, consider making your own with this quick and
easy process. Simply add one pinch (1 gram) of salt to 1 litre of water
and mix 100 millilitres, 200 millilitres or 400 millilitres of orange or
lemon squash (made from concentrate) to create a hypotonic, isotonic
or hypertonic drink, respectively. Mix well and keep the drink chilled.
One advantage of a sports drink over plain water is the electrolytes it
contains. However, correct food fuelling can also help balance electrolytes if you choose to rely on water alone for hydration.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Your hydration levels pre
workout can directly influence
If weight loss is your goal,
your performance, as even mild
stick to plain water rather than
dehydration can reduce exercise
selecting a sports drink or juice, as the adintensity and duration. You can
dition of carbohydrate before and during
prevent the onset of dehydrayour workout only delays fat burning.
tion during exercise by making
sure you are well hydrated
before starting. This does not mean glugging copious amounts of water
immediately pre workout, which will simply leave you feeling uncomfortable and will dilute essential electrolytes (mainly sodium, which is important
for muscle contractions). If you’ve ever experienced muscle cramps during
exercise, you were quite likely lacking sodium.
The correct way to adequately hydrate pre workout is to drink water at
regular intervals throughout the day, paying attention to the previously
mentioned signs of dehydration. If you do need to compensate for any previously incurred fluid deficits, consume around 400 to 600 millilitres about
2 hours before your workout, and then continue to drink small amounts
frequently up to the beginning of exercise and throughout it.
Fruit and vegetable juices are suitable in moderation during the day.
Experiment with these as fluid options for immediately before your workout,
perhaps diluting them with water to ensure you do not feel any sickness or
other adverse effects during exercise. Good juice choices include tomato,
apple, lemon and orange. Tomato juice in particular has added sodium,
which may help address your electrolyte balance during endurance training and prevent cramps. Lemon juice increases the alkalinity of your body,
which is especially beneficial as your body fluids become more acidic during
exercise. This acidity has a number of negative consequences, including loss
of calcium from bones if in a prolonged state of acidity.
htig lo
Supplements fall into different categories according to whether they claim to
enhance performance (ergogenic), aid recovery or improve general health. A
nutritious diet should provide all you need to perform well, recover fast and
maintain good health. However, certain supplements may be appropriate
for people at the top of their sporting game and for those whose nutrition
is inadequate, which can be due to the deteriorated nutritional value of
today’s fruits, vegetables and grains from overfarming or from poor available choices (though we hope you will plan ahead and prepare foods ahead
of time to avoid the latter).
This chapter cannot cover every supplement, since there are just so many
on the market, but table 3.4 identifies our chosen selection of supplements,
their benefits and advised dosage to help you to decide what could benefit
your body.
Sample Meal Plans Fit for Purpose
Select the daily menu suited to your activity. Whilst the menus in tables
3.2 and 3.3 both provide a good balance of fibrous carbohydrate, lean
protein and healthy fat, our menu for strength athletes includes a larger
protein component to further assist repair of natural muscle damage
caused during strength training. The menu for endurance athletes leans
towards a higher carbohydrate intake, as more of this macronutrient
is required to sustain long bouts of aerobic exercise.
Table 3.2 Sample Daily Menu for a Strength Athlete
Scrambled eggs (1 or 2 whole, 3 whites) with spinach
and berries
Grilled turkey, green vegetable (broccoli, cabbage,
asparagus) and avocado
Baked chicken breast with roasted butternut squash,
peppers, mushrooms, onion and a drizzle of olive oil
Snacks: 30 g raw nuts (walnuts, almonds, Brazil
nuts) with apple, cottage cheese with ham or
turkey slices, Dried beef snacks (beef jerky or
Fluids: 2 L or more
Table 3.3 Sample Daily Menu for an Endurance Athlete
Porridge oats with berries and seeds plus boiled egg
Grilled turkey in wholemeal pitta bread with salad and
Salmon stir fry with green vegetable (broccoli,
asparagus), peppers, onion, mushrooms and brown
rice, plus a drizzle of olive oil
Snacks: Oatcakes × 2 with cottage cheese,
dried apricots (25 g) and walnuts (25 g), Greek
yoghurt with banana, honey and flaxseeds
Fluids: 2 L or more
Your individual daily calorie requirements and therefore quantities at
each mealtime will depend on your body size, exercise duration and
intensity, and weight loss or maintenance goals. Your fluid requirements also increase with activity. Don’t forget to adapt these sample
meal plans according to the timing of your workout and hence your
pre- and postworkout needs. If your goal is weight loss, the strength
athlete meal plan will have the best metabolic effect on fat burning
and increasing lean tissue and help to achieve a calorie deficit without
feeling hungry.
Table 3.4 Recommended Supplements for Women
(fish oils)
Aids workout recovery, improves joint health, assists
weight loss (in association with regular exercise), lowers
high cortisol levels (your stress hormones produced during
exercise) which encourage fat storage, reduces the risk of
heart disease and is vitally important for healthy brain and
cell function.
1,000 mg twice per
Prevents sugar cravings, raises energy levels and assists
workout recovery.
400 mg twice per
Vitamin C
Speeds up recovery from the common cold, reduces
cortisol and prevents urinary tract infections when taken in
the form of ascorbic acid, as it helps acidify the urine and
discourage bacterial growth.
500 mg twice per
Improves recovery from exercise and raises energy levels,
enabling you to work harder and more frequently.
1,000 mg twice per
Facilitates the body’s ability to burn fat for energy and
helps overcome low energy, obesity and fatigue.
1,000 mg per day
in powdered form,
mixed into water
Reduces joint pain associated with arthritis and injury;
paired with the cartilage molecule chondroitin, it may help
to slow osteoarthritis progression.
2,000 mg
daily or 1,500
mg glucosamine
+ 1,200 mg
chondroitin daily
Involved in making the energy molecule adenosine
triphosphate (ATP) needed to drive muscle contractions,
helping you to exercise for longer. It’s also an antioxidant,
which scavenges free radicals and aids recovery from your
100 mg twice per
Builds bone and muscle and provides energy. Female
athletes are at increased risk of iron deficiency because
menstrual losses and deficiency can lead to long-term
fatigue. However, supplementation may only be beneficial
in women with actual iron-deficiency anaemia and not
in nonanaemic athletes who have exhausted iron stores
alone (prelatent iron deficiency), so identify which situation
applies to you.
10–15 mg/day
Reduces fatigue and increases alertness, muscular power
and endurance performance by enabling more fat to
enter the bloodstream to be used as fuel, sparing the
carbohydrate stores. Be aware of its diuretic effect and
possible stomach upset, nervous jitters and headaches.
Furthermore, its ergogenic effects will be greater if you
abstain at certain times to prevent developing a tolerance.
3 mg per kg body
weight (approx.
equivalent of 1 Red
Bull or 1 strong
coffee for a 60 kg
Nutrition Matters
Increases muscle mass and strength and aids with short
bursts of exercise such as sprinting and weightlifting
when combined with appropriate training. It is particularly
effective in performance of repeated bouts of exercise
because it enhances recovery. However, it can cause
bloating, especially in women, but products specifically
designed for women reduce this effect.
3–5 mg/day
At A glAnCe
• Eat 2 to 4 hours before exercise and include mostly low-GI carbohydrate, such as whole grains, combined with complete protein sources,
such as eggs, to further slow the release of carbohydrate for energy. For
an energy boost 10 minutes before exercise begins, choose an easily
digested preworkout snack with a high-GI value, such as a banana or
a sports drink.
• Consume 400 to 600 millilitres of water 2 hours before exercise if you
have incurred any water deficit, and then continue to drink small
amounts often leading up to and during your workout. Even mild
dehydration can impair performance, so hydration is vitally important.
• Sports drinks are necessary only if you are exercising continuously for
longer than 60 minutes or in extreme heat, if you have not adequately
fuelled pre workout (especially during the morning) and if you focus
on performance over weight loss. Otherwise, plain water is adequate.
The three types of sports drinks are hypotonic, isotonic and hypertonic.
Each contains varying levels of fluid, electrolytes and carbohydrate.
• Refuelling should begin during the 30-minute window after exercise
with consumption of high-GI carbohydrate foods or sports drinks to
instantly replace muscle glycogen. Add easily digested proteins, such
as egg whites or whey protein drinks, to help resynthesis of muscle
protein, which is naturally broken down during strenuous exercise.
• Refuelling should continue with a whole-food meal 2 to 4 hours post
workout and throughout the rest of the day with nutrition that suits
your needs as an endurance or strength-based athlete. Combine low-GI
carbohydrate with lean protein sources and good fats rich in omega-3
in each meal.
• Body-weight loss after exercise is a good indicator of dehydration, and
it can be used to determine fluid consumption. A 1-kilogram loss is
equal to 1 litre of water. Consume 150 percent of your loss during the
Better Body Workouts for Women
hours that follow exercise to be sure of rehydration. Replace electrolytes with sports drinks or salty snacks.
• Your requirement for supplements depends on the type and intensity
of your workout as well as the quality of your diet. Supplements can
aid performance (ergogenic), such as caffeine and creatine; help recovery, such as L-carnitine and magnesium; or simply improve general
health, such as omega-3 fish oils. Choose supplements that suit your
requirements, but do not use them as a substitute for good nutrition.
Warming Up and
Cooling Down
good warm-up and cool-down are undoubtedly an essential part of
any workout, and we all know we should include them. Why, then, do
so many of us take shortcuts by performing a token swing of our arms and
some toe touches or even bypassing any attempt altogether? The answer is
usually time restraints or a lack of understanding of what to do. When time
is limited, we are keen to get on with our workout and get back to work,
home or study. Warming up and cooling down take additional time, effort
and understanding. But before you skip onto the next chapter, consider
this: If you are serious about your workout or sport, then time spent on
warming up and cooling down effectively is time well spent, as both have
the following proven benefits:
Enhance performance
Prevent injury
Increase total calorie burn to help weight loss or weight management
Aid recovery
Address and correct any muscular imbalances
So now that we’ve established that this is a must-do part of any successful
training programme, let us guide you through the different stages of your
warm-up and cool-down, explain the benefits of each and provide specific
examples for you to try. Your warm-up and cool-down involve different
stages, and various methods are available for each. We will explore the
incorporation of cardiorespiratory exercises, joint mobilisation, various
stretching techniques and movement drills, including pre-activation and
even mental-preparation techniques for warm-up and further recovery
aids for the cool-down. We will also look at the recent trend for utilising vibration training to further enhance your preparation, recovery and
Better Body Workouts for Women
The main purpose of any warm-up is to improve your performance in
the workout, sport or competitive event to follow, and several benefits of
warming up help you to do just that.
Increased Heart Rate
Beginning exercise at a workable rate increases blood flow around your
body, delivering oxygen and vital energy components to your muscles.
Increased Muscle Temperature
Temperature increases in the muscles being warmed up, allowing them to
contract more forcefully and relax more quickly, allowing for greater speed
and strength. Furthermore, a warm muscle is more pliable and less likely
to be overstretched and injured. Think of your muscles as elastic bands—a
warm band is more springy and reactive than a cold band, which is more
likely to snap when under tension!
Increased Blood Temperature
As blood travels through the active muscles, its temperature rises and the
binding of oxygen to haemoglobin weakens so oxygen is more readily available to working muscles. This has the potential to improve your endurance.
Increased Range of Motion (ROM)
A good workout increases the range of motion and mobility of a joint,
allowing more efficient movement and helping to prevent injury.
Increased Muscle Activation
Performing pre-activation exercises as part of your warm-up puts your
muscles in a state of readiness, which stimulates nerves, speeds up neural
transmission and readies muscles to respond faster and more efficiently.
This is most beneficial ahead of a workout relying on speed and power.
Hormonal Stimulation
During the warm-up, your body increases its production of the different
hormones responsible for regulating energy production. This balance of
hormones makes more carbohydrates and fatty acids available for energy
Blood Vessel Dilation
This occurs in response to your rise in body temperature and reduces both
the resistance to blood flow and the stress on your heart.
Warming Up and Cooling Down
Mental Preparation
The warm-up process is great for getting into the zone with mind techniques,
such as mental rehearsal and imagery, and for giving you the confidence
that you are physically ready to perform or train at your best.
Now that you’re happy with why it’s important to warm up before
exercise, let’s look at how to do it. The four stages of a warm-up typically
include the following:
Light cardiorespiratory exercise: 5–10 minutes
Dynamic stretching exercises: 5–10 minutes
Exercise drills: 5–10 minutes
Mental preparation: 5–10 minutes
The time, relevance and emphasis you place on each part of the warmup very much depend on the nature and intensity of the activity or event
to follow. The warm-up can be as short as 10 minutes prior to a cardiorespiratory gym session where you include stages 1 and 2 only or as long
as 40 minutes or more prior to a competition where all four stages are
completed. We will now look into the details of each stage and provide
examples for each one.
stage 1: light Cardiorespiratory exercise
This first stage of the warm-up is 5 to 10 minutes of light cardio, which
increases heart rate and the temperature of the body, blood and muscles
as described previously. You choose the mode of exercise, which should
be general in nature at this stage. Examples include jogging, cycling, crosstrainer, rowing or skipping. At this stage, runners can jog, but play around
by adding skips forwards, sideways and backwards to warm and activate
your muscles from all angles. You can even swing your arms as you do so
to further raise your heart rate and incorporate your upper body. If you are
trying to reduce impact-based activity because of knee or back injuries, then
a cycle or cross-trainer may be a better option for you. Again, incorporate
movements with your upper body and vary the tempo as your muscles
start to warm up.
During this stage, the intensity should be light. As such, you should be
able to hold a conversation without feeling uncomfortable or out of breath.
We like to use a rating of perceived exertion (RPE) scale to guide your effort
level during cardiorespiratory warm-ups. Use the following 10-point scale
for reference and aim for a rating between 3 and 4 as a rough guide.
Better Body Workouts for Women
figure 4.1
rating of Perceived exertion (rPe) scale
Breathing rate/ability to talk
Very slight
talking is easy
talking is easy
You can talk but with more effort
somewhat hard
You can talk but with more effort
Breathing is challenged/don’t want to talk
Breathing is challenged/don’t want to talk
Very hard
Panting hard/conversation is difficult
Very hard
Panting hard/conversation is difficult
Very, very hard
Cannot sustain this intensity for too long
Reprinted, by permission, from K. Austin and B. Seebohar, 2011, Performance nutrition: Applying the science of
nutrient timing (Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics), 30.
stage 2: Dynamic stretching exercises
Now that you have warmed your muscles, the second stage of the warm-up
involves 5 to 10 minutes of dynamic stretching. This stage of the warm-up
is about lengthening your muscles to the degree that you will use them in
your subsequent activity or event, increasing the range of motion around the
joint and addressing any muscle imbalances. Stretching beyond the desired
range for your activity provides no benefit as you are not likely to have the
strength at the extreme ranges. You will suffer reduced performance or,
worse still, strained muscles.
You can choose from a number of stretching techniques, including static,
dynamic, passive and active stretches and their variations. We have included
a review of each type of stretching in the following section. Familiarise
yourself with the terms and techniques before reading our discussion of
why dynamic stretches are most suitable at this stage.
Stretching Terms and Techniques
Several stretching terms and techniques exist, and each is performed
in a different way and at a different time depending on your desired
Static Stretching
A static stretch (e.g., seated straight-leg toe touch) is held in a fixed
position (challenging but comfortable) for a set period of time (usually up to 30 seconds). It is the most commonly used stretch for safely
improving overall flexibility.
Dynamic Stretching
A dynamic stretch (e.g., forward and backward alternating leg swings)
is performed by repeatedly moving through a challenging but comfortable range of motion for a set number of repetitions (e.g., 10 to
12). It is ideal for improving functional range of motion and mobility
for sports and daily activities. The controlled, smooth and deliberate
movement should not be confused with ballistic stretching (remember
bouncing toe touches from your school physical education lessons),
which is uncontrolled and jerky, and is likely to lead to injury.
Passive Stretching
A passive stretch (e.g., stretching the hamstring while lying down, hooking a band around your foot, and using the held end to pull your leg
towards your body) is achieved using some external assistance such as
your body weight, a strap or resistance band, gravity, stretching device
or even another person. You relax the muscle to be stretched whilst
the external force holds you in place. This technique can be used for
both static and dynamic stretches. It is a relatively easy and relaxed
way to stretch, provided the external force being used doesn’t push
you into too much discomfort or beyond your desired range of motion.
Active Stretching
An active stretch (e.g., kneeling hip and quad stretch, whereby you
contract your gluteal muscle on the side being stretched to assist and
enhance the stretch) is achieved by actively contracting the opposing muscle to the one you are stretching whilst the stretched muscle
is relaxed. Although no external assistance is necessary here, active
stretching can be challenging due to the muscular strength required
to generate the stretch. However, as you are controlling the stretch
force internally (with your own force), the risk of overstretching is very
low compared to those using external assistance. This technique can
be used for both static and dynamic stretches.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF)
PNF stretching (e.g., a lying-down hamstring stretch whereby a person
pushes your leg towards you whilst you resist by pushing back against
them) is a combination of the four preceding techniques. It is generally
thought to be one of the most effective forms of stretching for flexibility and generating a fast muscle relaxation response. To perform
this technique, apply force using the muscle being stretched against
an external source (usually a partner) whilst they resist and push back
for 5 to 10 seconds. As your muscle gradually lengthens, you progress the stretch to a greater range, relaxing between each effort and
repeating the contraction.
It has recently become clear that static stretching (the technique most
commonly used to stretch) is not beneficial before exercise. Studies suggest, alarmingly, that people who perform these stretches before physical
activity may even have a higher rate of injury than those who don’t! Static
stretches may also reduce the ability of the muscles to produce power and
force, which may be necessary for those of you about to perform a weight
training or circuit training session and for those participating in sports such
as tennis, netball and athletics. This is because in the moments immediately
following a static stretch, the soft tissue is not as responsive as it might have
been before the stretch. It has in effect lost its excitability and reactiveness.
Therefore, static stretching can diminish performance.
We expect many of you reading this book have come to rely on static
stretches as a familiar precursor to exercise. We have also done the same
at various stages of our athletic careers. You may therefore feel reluctant
and even vulnerable leaving these out altogether. But before you sadly
abandon static stretching, we want to put it in context and reassure you
that it still has its place, but that place is post exercise, when the muscles
are fully warm and no longer required to produce power, or as a primary
focus session such as some forms of Pilates and yoga. Improvements only
come with adaptation, so try changing when you use static stretches and
note changes in performance and recovery.
Now we’ve established that static stretching is not ideal during the warmup stage, we will turn our attention back to our prescription of dynamic
stretching exercises. As part of the overall warm-up, dynamic stretches will
in fact improve performance and reduce the risk of injury as they gradually and progressively stimulate and replicate the more stressful activity to
follow. Dynamic stretches, even if not sports-specific at this stage, enhance
total body range of motion and further increase tissue temperature.
Warming Up and Cooling Down
The following stretches incorporate multiple muscle groups. They are suitable both before an all-over body gym workout and before sporting activity.
These stretches are all dynamic and suitable for intermediate to advanced
exercisers. The main muscles targeted and the purpose of the stretch are
indicated for each one. Each stretch repetition should take 1 to 3 seconds.
Repeat the movement continuously in a controlled and smooth manner 10
to 12 times. For each stretch, exhale as you move into the stretch position
and inhale each time you release the stretch. For those dynamic stretches
that are more continuous, aim for a general controlled state of breathing
throughout that matches the rhythm of the movement. These stretches are
examples, and we advise you pick and choose those that suit your activity
needs and address areas in which you particularly lack flexibility.
dynamic Side-to-Side lunge
With arm reach
Exercise Focus
Adductors, latissimus dorsi and trunk lateral flexors
How To
Contract the gluteal
Stand with your feet wide apart and your toes
muscle on the side opposite to
at 45 degrees. Bend one knee and lunge to
the one being stretched to control
that side, reaching the opposite arm over
lunging depth and avoid leaning
your head simultaneously and keeping the
forward or back.
opposite leg straight (see figure 4.2a). Use
your free arm to support your body weight on the
thigh if needed. Then, reach and lunge immediately to the other side (see
figure 4.2b). Continue to alternate lunging and reaching from left to right.
Figure 4.2
Dynamic side-to-side lunge with arm reach.
Better Body Workouts for Women
qigong toe touch
Exercise Focus
Hamstrings, gastrocnemius and erector spinae
How To
Stand with your feet together and slide your hands down
Avoid fully
your legs, bending your knees (see figure 4.3a). Place
your hands directly over your toes, keeping the finyour
gers aligned with the toes. Raise your hips up and roll
slightly back on your heels to straighten your legs (see
figure 4.3b). Drop down again, rolling forward towards
the balls of your feet. Repeat.
Figure 4.3
Qigong toe touch.
Warming Up and Cooling Down
Forward to backward leg Swings
Exercise Focus
Hip flexors, quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings
Wall or fixed object
How To
Stand up straight with your feet together and your side to a wall, tree or
other fixed object. Hold on to the object with your nearest arm for support. With a swinging motion, straighten the leg farther away from the wall
and extend it behind you (see figure 4.4a). Then,
Work to avoid
immediately swinging it back in front of your
outward hip rotation during
body (see figure 4.4b). Perform continuously,
the backward phase by keeping your
swinging the leg from back to front with a
hips forward throughout
pendulum movement whilst keeping your
the movement.
anchor leg strong but slightly flexed. Repeat
on the other side.
Figure 4.4
Forward to backward leg swings.
Better Body Workouts for Women
lateral leg Swings
Exercise Focus
Adductors, abductors, glutes and hip rotators
Wall or fixed object
How To
Stand up straight with your feet together, face a wall, tree or other fixed
object, and support yourself with both hands. Lift one leg, bending it 90
degrees at the knee, and swing it across your body (see figure 4.5a). Then,
immediately swing it back in the opposite direction and out to the side of
your body (see figure 4.5b). Perform continuously, swinging the
leg from one side to the other. To progress this stretch, allow
Keep your
the swinging leg to extend at the knee as it moves out to
hips facing forward
the side at the point where the foot is farthest away from
throughout the
the body. Rise up on the ball of the foot of the supporting
leg to allow the swinging leg to move more freely without
contacting the ground.
Figure 4.5
Lateral leg swings.
Warming Up and Cooling Down
dynamic calf Stretch
Exercise Focus
Wall or fixed object
How To
With your feet together, lean
your body forwards and press
your hands against a wall, tree or
other fixed object for support.
Keeping your body straight,
walk your feet backwards to the
farthest point where you can
keep your heels on the ground
while still touching the supporting object. Keeping both feet in
contact with the ground, raise
one heel and push your weight
into the heel still touching the
ground (see figure 4.6a). Switch
legs (see figure 4.6b). Alternate
pushing and lifting your feet,
shifting your weight from one
side to the other.
Figure 4.6
Dynamic calf stretch.
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dynamic roll and reach
Exercise Focus
Erector spinae, glutes and hamstrings
How To
Sit on the floor with your knees bent and your hands holding onto your
shins, and pull your thighs close to your chest (see figure 4.7a). Tuck your
chin to your chest and roll backwards until your shoulder blades
touch the floor (see figure 4.7b). Immediately roll back into a
Keep your
seated position, extending your legs in front of your body
neck and shoulders
and reaching your arms forwards to touch your toes (see
figure 4.7c). Return to the start position and repeat, working to move your chest progressively closer to your thighs with
each leg extension.
Figure 4.7
Dynamic roll and reach.
Warming Up and Cooling Down
arm Swings across chest
Exercise Focus
Deltoids and pectorals
How To
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms outstretched to either
side of your body. With a fluid movement, swing both arms across your
chest, crossing one over the other during the movement (see
figure 4.8a). Then immediately swing them back and behind
your body, lifting your chest as you go (see figure 4.8b). Perspine.
form continuously, increasing your range with each repetition.
Figure 4.8
Arm swings across chest.
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dynamic Standing Figure-Four Stretch
Exercise Focus
Glutes and piriformis
Wall or fixed object
How To
Stand with your feet slightly apart and hold a fixed object in front of you for
support. Place one foot across the thigh of your opposite leg in a figurefour position (see figure 4.9a) and squat down to a 90-degree
knee bend (see figure 4.9b). Stand up and move out of
flat and
the squat position, keeping your foot on your thigh. Reyour
peat the down and up movement. The deeper you sit into
the stretch, the greater the stretch you will achieve. Repeat
with the other leg.
Figure 4.9
Dynamic standing figure-four stretch.
Warming Up and Cooling Down
lying Spinal rotations
Exercise Focus
Erector spinae, glutes and pectorals
How To
Lie on your back with your knees bent and arms extended to each side of
your body. Rotate your hips and knees, lowering them to the floor on one
side of your body, and move your head and neck in the opKeep both
posite direction (see figure 4.10a). Then immediately lift
shoulders pressed
and move your knees up and across to the other side of
to the ground as you
your body, again moving your head and neck in the opmove from side
posite direction (see figure 4.10b). Repeat continuously.
to side.
Figure 4.10
Lying spinal rotations.
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dynamic kneeling latissimus Stretch
Exercise Focus
Latissimus dorsi
Swiss ball
How To
Kneel on the floor and place your forearms on a Swiss
ball about half a metre in front of you (see figure
Apply more force
4.11a). Bend at the hips and push your shoulders
into the ball on the downward
towards the floor, allowing the ball to roll away
phase of the movement for
from you until you feel an optimum stretch down
a greater stretch.
both sides of your body (see figure 4.11b). Lift your
hips back to the start position and repeat continuously.
Figure 4.11 Dynamic kneeling latissimus stretch on a ball.
Try out all of the preceding dynamic stretching exercises to discover which
best suit your activities and particular flexibility and mobility needs. Your
stretching requirements will vary depending on your level of conditioning,
existing flexibility and joint mobility, the surrounding temperature, previous injury considerations and the demands and nature of the workout to
follow. If you are about to perform a cardiorespiratory, steady-state elliptical workout, for example, you would perform fewer stretches and choose
those of a more general nature than if you were preparing to take part in
sport. Further, the sport to be performed, whether it involves predominantly
upper or lower body exercises, repetitive movements or power efforts,
multidirectional movements and rotations or linear movements, will also
dictate the stretches you choose. Become familiar with your own requirements and choose your warm-up stretches accordingly.
Warming Up and Cooling Down
stage 3: exercise Drills
This stage of the warm-up is most appropriate for those preparing for sport,
for any exercise involving load and for power-based exercises. These may
include running, tennis, weightlifting and sprinting. The purpose of stage
3 is to spend 5 to 10 minutes preparing yourself for action by moving your
now warmed and mobilised muscles and joints through patterns that imitate those you are about to perform during your session. If you were to go
straight into a tennis match after a cardiorespiratory warm-up and some
dynamic stretching, you would not have fully activated the muscles and
neural pathways necessary for efficient movement patterns in tennis. You
will often see a track athlete doing various skips, high knees and extended
strides before a full-out sprint. Likewise, a weightlifter will begin her session
with light lifts (perhaps at 50 to 60 percent of her max) before increasing
the load.
Exercise drills essentially preactivate the muscles needed for your sport
or activity so that they contract faster, more explosively and with better
efficiency. As such, these drills should not create fatigue or excess stress, and
you should feel recovered prior to each effort. They also provide you with
the confidence that your body is ready to perform optimally and without
restriction and they can help to increase the level of conditioning of your
Suitable drills exist for both the lower and upper body and for different
sports. We will explore these now and provide examples for you to try
and to incorporate into your own warm-up when required. The following drills are general in nature and as such are suitable before an all-over
body workout or sporting activity. Perform each drill over 20 to 30 metres.
Perform 1 to 3 sets of the drills (building this number of sets at 2-week
intervals). To recover, walk back or jog gently between drills; rest for 5
minutes between sets.
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heel-to-toe Walking knee drive
Drill Focus
How To
Plant the heel of one foot out in front of you and leverage your weight over
this leg whilst keeping the leg straight (see figure 4.12a). Next, drive your
weight forward, rising up onto the ball of the planted foot, and bringing
your other leg up to knee drive position (see figure 4.12b). Perform continuously from one foot to the other.
Figure 4.12
Heel-to-toe walking knee drive.
Warming Up and Cooling Down
bum kicks
Drill Focus
Hamstrings and calves
How To
Standing tall on the balls of your feet,
kick your feet backwards one at a time,
flicking your heel to touch the corresponding cheek of your bottom (see
figure 4.13) and moving forwards as
you alternate feet. Drive your arms in a
running motion.
Figure 4.13
Bum kicks.
high-knee Skips
Drill Focus
Calves, quadriceps and glutes
How To
Perform a standard skipping motion,
driving off the back leg and raising the
opposite knee up and forwards (see
figure 4.14). Land with soft knees and
then drive off with the opposite leg.
Continue the process, alternating legs.
Remember to drive up the arm opposite to the lifting leg.
Figure 4.14
High-knee skips.
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Side heel tap Skips
Drill Focus
Calves, adductors, quadriceps, glutes and abductors
How To
Stand sideways and with the feet together. Step one leg out to the side
and plant it to the ground to lead the movement (see figure 4.15a). Next,
push off and up from this lead leg, bringing the trail leg up to tap heels
together at your highest point in the air (see figure 4.15b). Land with the
weight on the trail leg and step onto the lead leg again to repeat the
movement (see figure 4.15c). Repeat leading with the opposite leg.
Figure 4.15 Side heel tap skips.
Warming Up and Cooling Down
backward lunges
Drill Focus
Quadriceps, calves and glutes
How To
Start with the feet together, then lift one foot (see figure 4.16a) and place
it behind you into a lunge, keeping your hips and chest facing forward
(see figure 4.16b). Push off the front foot and place it behind you in a
lunge position on the opposite side. Continue alternating legs for reverse
lunges, working your arms in conjunction with your legs for balance and
Figure 4.16
Backward lunge.
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stage 4: Mental Preparation
There’s just one more thing to do before you begin your workout or competition, and that is to train your brain. We’re talking about being as mentally
prepared as you are physically. Mental preparation is frequently overlooked,
yet it can make the difference between an average session or race and a
spectacular one. Some benefits of mental preparation include the following:
• Creating the perfect pre-event state—arousal, relaxation, concentration and energy
• Improving technical skills (even when injured and unable to train
• Counteracting negative images and mistakes
• Developing game tactics
• Gaining confidence in your abilities
The purpose of mental preparation is to create the state required to train
or perform at your best. This ideal state will vary from person to person
and from one activity to another. The process is sometimes referred to as
‘getting into the zone’. A boxer, for example, will typically want to create
a state of maximum arousal and controlled aggression, whilst a tae kwon
do athlete and high jumper may require a calm, clear head. Remember,
mental preparation is not just reserved for competition. Mentally preparing for any workout, whether it is a long cycle ride or a circuit training
session, will mean you push harder, work more efficiently and ultimately
achieve greater results and satisfaction. There’s nothing more frustrating
than watching someone going through the motions of a training session
without fully maximising her efforts. Training time is your time and your
chance to be the best you can be.
We want to focus on three mental preparation practices here: imagery,
self-talk and physical movement. Try them and discover which works best
for you. You may find you are already doing some of these without even
realising it!
Imagery, sometimes referred to as visualisation, uses the power of your imagination. This is the process of mentally mimicking real physical rehearsal.
It works by programming your muscles to react in the way that you want,
as simply thinking about doing an action creates neural patterns in your
brain that induce micro muscle movements that mimic what will actually
happen when you perform that action.
Imagery uses all of your senses (sight, sound, touch, taste and smell). The
clearer and more controllable your mental images are, the more effective
your mental preparation will be. We all have a preferred way of thinking
and will favour drawing on certain representative systems, or senses, more
than others. We might practice imagery in two distinctly different ways:
Warming Up and Cooling Down
• Association—Picture the action or event, as seen from your own eyes
and body. Mental rehearsal must be associated to be effective. Your
muscles respond to your images only when you imagine them in terms
of your own body.
• Dissociation—Watch yourself from outside your body, as though you’re
viewing yourself in a picture or movie. This is a good learning practice
that is useful for setting up mental rehearsal.
With this understanding, you can mentally prepare using the following
1. Imagine your race or workout environment. If this is a gym, running track
or games field, for example, then picture any equipment, including
its positioning, colours, and dimensions, as well as any people who
may be present, whether competitors or friends and family.
2. Visualise your technique or skill using dissociation. Whether you need to
shoot a goal in netball or complete a 5,000-metre rowing time trial
in your gym, watch yourself going through the different movement
patterns required and create a picture of fluidity and ease between
the movements.
3. Mentally rehearse with associated imagery. Now do the exercise, visualising from inside your body. Go through the movement pattern
in your mind, almost feeling your body and relevant muscles in
action. Do this several times until you feel you’ve accomplished a
great execution of the movement or activity.
Now set up and rehearse these components, which are important for the
effective use of imagery for any event or practice:
• Set your goal—Your goal may be running 10K on the treadmill or
executing the perfect tennis game where you win in 2 sets. Whatever
it is, make sure you’ve made it clear. Refer back to Chapter 1: Training
Essentials, for advice on setting your goals.
• Focus on the process, not the end result—This means breaking down your goal
into manageable stages and skills to help you physically and mentally on
your way to achieving it. For an open water swim, the processes may
include changing the length of your stroke to overcome the large waves,
adjusting to the temperature of the water and executing the movement
patterns of your chosen stroke. The result will then come naturally.
• Be specific at each stage—Understand and have a clear picture of every
stage of your event or practice. This may include how much time you
have to warm up, how many competitors you will face, how you will
execute the first move and so forth. Don’t leave anything to chance,
as you will likely feel panicked and underprepared during the performance. Without a clear picture of every stage, your visualisation
technique will be compromised.
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• Visualise perfection—As you begin to visualise your event or practice,
imagine everything as you want it to be. Your preparation process,
execution and result are perfect.
• Use all of your senses—Hear the sounds, breathe the fresh air and feel
your sense of balance. The more senses you use, the more memorable
the experience will be.
• Relax—Find a place where you can visualise without distraction, as
relaxation enhances the effects.
• Practice—Perfect practice makes perfect performance. Imagery is a skill
like any other, so the more perfect practice you do, the more skilled
you will become and the better your results will be. No set rule exists
as to when to perform visualisation, but a good guide is to aim to do a
10-minute imagery session 2 or 3 times per week, incorporating parts
of this into your warm-up.
Self-talk reflects the link between your thoughts and performance. This
strategy uses self-addressed cues (words or short phrases) to trigger appropriate responses and actions that improve performance. It is helpful for both
focusing your attention and psyching up.
Different types of self-talk have been identified by researchers. You can
call on them as the situation requires and to suit your particular needs.
• Instructional self-talk—This instruction is technical and is most suitable
for tasks involving fine skills. For example, a hurdler may say ‘Keep
your elbow tucked in’ whilst negotiating the barriers and a novice
tennis player would repeat ‘Keep your eye on the ball at all times.’
• Motivational self-talk—This is most suitable prior to tasks involving
strength or endurance, and is used for boosting confidence and for
psyching up. You may have heard athletes shouting ‘Give it all you’ve
got’, ‘Destroy the field’, or ‘Eat up the track!’
It is often said that self-talk has a greater effect on fine skills (putting a
ball) than gross skills (running or swimming), as it mainly improves concentration, but this really depends on you as an individual and what you
respond best to.
Self-talk is also believed to be most effective at the early stages of
learning a sport or new movement pattern because learning takes place
faster and more easily at these stages. Nonetheless it can be a valuable
tool for both novices and experienced athletes because as you prepare
your scripts and practice regularly, you will enhance your self-belief and
Warming Up and Cooling Down
Physical Movement
This technique does not refer to the physical warm-up you perform for cardiorespiratory exercise, stretching and drills, but rather the physical presence,
actions or demeanour that you display prior to a race, maximal lift or effort
to ready yourself for action. For example, if you compare video of the final
race preparations of sprinter Usain Bolt to those of Michael Johnson before
stepping into the starting blocks, you will see two very different approaches.
Whilst Bolt made jokes and pulled his signature moves to the crowd, Johnson
would simply stand very calm and still. It is clear that whilst Bolt required
energy and excitement to feel mentally prepared, Johnson sought inner focus,
blocking out everything around him. So the final physical movements you
display, either with the purpose of helping yourself get into state or disturbing
that of your competitors, has to be specific to you and what comes naturally.
What you are visualising (imagery), saying (self-talk) or doing (physical movement) needs to be congruent with what you believe and what
you want. There is no point shouting ‘I’m the best’ if inside you’re feeling
embarrassed for doing so and totally insecure. Congruence, or making sure
your delivery matches your meaning, will enable you to truly maximise
the potential of mental preparation.
The purpose of a cool-down is to gradually return your body to its resting
state and to reduce the chances of muscle soreness in the days that follow.
An effective cool-down has the following benefits:
• Removes toxins—Keeping your blood flowing post exercise with light
cardiorespiratory exercise, rather than abruptly stopping movement,
increases lymphatic flow that will remove the waste products that
build up during exercise, namely lactic acid.
• Reduces the potential for delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS)—The requirement here is to reduce the inflammation to nerve endings and deliver
nutrients to your muscles for repair and recovery. A cool-down can
potentially do this by increasing blood flow and removing toxins. See
the sidebar for more detail on DOMS.
• Prevents chances of dizziness or fainting—These unpleasant effects are
caused by the pooling of venous blood if you stop exercising abruptly.
• Reduces adrenaline levels in the blood—This acts to reduce the stress levels
of your body, as adrenaline and cortisol, produced during exercise, are
stress hormones.
• Lowers heart rate to resting level—This helps return all your bodily functions—breathing, hormones and body temperature—to normal.
Better Body Workouts for Women
underStanding delayed-onSet
muScle SoreneSS (domS)
DOMS is an unpleasant feeling that often lasts a couple of days after
any exercise where you have worked your muscles harder or in a different way to what you are familiar with. Here’s a little more information
to understand the process and how to minimise its effects:
• DOMS describes the experience of muscle soreness, pain or
stiffness that occurs 24 to 48 hours after exercise.
• It is most likely to be experienced when you begin a new exercise programme, change your exercise routine or significantly
increase the duration or intensity of your workout.
• DOMS is a normal response to extreme exertion and is part
of an adaptation process that leads to greater endurance and
strength as muscles recover and build.
• It is caused by microscopic tearing of the muscle fibres. The
extent of tearing, and soreness, depends on the intensity and
type of the exercise done.
• Eccentric muscle contractions, movements that cause the muscle
to forcefully contract as it lengthens, seem to cause the most
soreness, as they increase intracellular pressure that irritates
the nerve endings, causing swelling and local pain. Examples
of eccentric contractions include running downhill and slowly
lowering a weight under tension.
• DOMS can be reduced by performing a good warm-up and
cool-down and using additional recovery methods, all described
in this chapter.
The three main stages of a cool-down include the following:
1. Light cardiorespiratory exercise: 5 to 10 minutes
2. Static stretches: 5 to 10 minutes
3. Recovery methods: time depends on technique
As stated for the warm-up, the time and emphasis you place on your
cool-down will depend on the workout performed, with more intense and
enduring workouts necessitating a more substantial cool-down. We will
address these three stages now, providing examples for you to try.
Warming Up and Cooling Down
stage 1: light Cardiorespiratory exercise
This first stage of your cool-down will prevent your blood from pooling,
which leads to dizziness and fainting, and will reduce your body temperature, heart rate and breathing rate gradually. Consequently, you should
gradually decrease the intensity of this cardio exercise, slowly reducing
your pace and range of motion.
To cool down the right muscles, choose a modality that mimics the one
you have been using during your workout. However, this is a personal
choice. You may wish to use a nonimpact modality if you have been running and are feeling some tenderness or stress from impact. The most commonly used cardio cool-down modalities are jogging, walking, cycling and
gliding on a cross-trainer. Whichever modality you choose, aim to reduce
the resistance, range and pace. If you are jogging, then transition to a brisk
walk after a few minutes and lower your arms to perform a simple swinging
motion to help reduce your heart rate before finally stopping.
stage 2: static stretching
We have already established that static stretching is most effective when
performed as part of your cool-down, as it helps the muscles to relax,
realigns muscle fibres and re-establishes their normal range of motion. Your
muscles will already be warm and pliable from your previous activity and
cardiorespiratory cool-down, so you can now focus on a deeper and more
beneficial stretch to all your major muscles.
Perform a total-body stretch routine at this stage, playing particular
attention to the specific muscles you have used during your exercise or
sport. Hold each stretch for 10 seconds (30 seconds if done as part of a
stand-alone stretching session), remembering to stretch both sides of your
body. Begin by simply holding your stretch position at the level whereby
you feel slight discomfort but not pain. As this level of discomfort eases,
push slightly further into the stretch. Try the contract–relax method, or PNF
method described earlier in this chapter, to further enhance and progress
your stretch. Exhale as you move into the stretch position and inhale each
time you release the stretch.
Try our pick of the best static stretches and incorporate into your cool
down routine. The main muscles targeted are indicated for each stretch.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Seated Straddle
Exercise Focus
Adductors and latissimus dorsi
Keep your
knees slightly bent for
comfort and ease gently
into the stretch.
How To
Sit on the floor with your legs straight. Position them
as wide apart as possible whilst still keeping your chest
upright. With your back flat, arms outstretched and head
neutral, lower your chest between your legs (see figure 4.17).
Figure 4.17
Seated straddle.
Exercise Focus
How To
Lie on your belly with your hands just outside the tops of your
shoulders (see figure 4.18a). Raise your upper body, pushing
up with your hands and keeping your hips pressed into the
floor (see figure 4.18b).
Figure 4.18 Cobra.
Relax your
back muscles.
Warming Up and Cooling Down
kneeling lunge With reach
Exercise Focus
Hip flexors, latissimus dorsi and obliques
How To
Assume a lunge position and drop your
back knee to lightly rest on the floor.
Move your hips forwards, keeping
them square to the front. To increase
the stretch further, reach the arm on
the side you are stretching over your
head and bend your trunk to that same
side (see figure 4.19).
To maximise the
hip flexor stretch, draw your navel in
towards your spine and tuck your tailbone
under to flatten your lower back before
moving into position.
Figure 4.19
Kneeling lunge with
Better Body Workouts for Women
90–90 Hip Stretch
Exercise Focus
Glutes, piriformis and erector spinae
How To
Sit on the floor with both your legs bent to 90 degrees, maintaining the
angle with the position of your groin. Place your hands on the ground
on either side of your hips (see figure 4.20a). Keeping
As you lean
your back flat, lower your chest over your front leg
into the stretch,
until you feel a comfortable stretch in your outer
do so with a flat back, avoiding
thigh and hip (see figure 4.20b). You can use your
an arched and strained
hand to press your front knee and ankle firmly into
reaching position.
the ground for the last few seconds of the stretch.
Try leaning across over your ankle to change the angle
of the stretch and to target a different part of your gluteal muscles (see
figure 4.20c). If you are lacking in hip flexibility, you can adjust the angle of
your front knee to 45 degrees.
Figure 4.20 90–90 hip stretch.
Warming Up and Cooling Down
Downward Facing Dog
Exercise Focus
Calves, hamstrings, abdominals
and pectorals
How To
Stand with your feet together, then
place both hands flat on the floor
in front of you and walk them out
to a distance whereby your heels
remain on the floor. Slowly push
your chest downwards and your
Figure 4.21 Downward facing dog.
hips backwards to transfer your
weight through your
Keep your
heels (see figure 4.21). Ensure that both your legs and arms
head in a neutral
are straight to lengthen your spine as far as possible.
position in line with
your spine.
Chest Stretch
Exercise Focus
Swiss ball
How To
Kneel on the floor and place your
forearm on a Swiss ball positioned
to one side of your body. Keeping
your shoulders parallel to the floor,
Figure 4.22 Chest stretch.
drop your body downwards until
you feel a stretch in your chest and
press your forearm into the Swiss ball (see figure 4.22). If you want to target
your pectoralis minor (smaller muscle beneath the pectoralis major), place
the front part of your shoulder, rather than your forearm,
A small
on the ball. Bend your elbow to 90 degrees and drop
Swiss ball is preferable
downwards into the stretch as before.
to allow you to square your
shoulders to the ground
most effectively.
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neck Side Flexion
Exercise Focus
Keep your
chin up and look
straight ahead.
Bench or chair
How To
Sit on a bench or chair with good upright posture. Grip onto the underneath of the bench or chair with one
hand and lean away until you feel a
stretch in your neck. Use your opposite
hand to gently move your head away
from your anchored shoulder (see figure 4.23).
Figure 4.23
Neck side flexion.
rhomboids Stretch
Exercise Focus
Upper back
Swiss ball
How To
Kneel next to a Swiss ball and
place your farthest elbow on the
ball and the hand of the other arm
on the floor or the side of the ball
Figure 4.24 Rhomboids stretch.
for support. Move the arm on the
ball across your body, keeping
your elbow rested on the ball and your chest facing forwards. Press your
elbow into the ball and allow your shoulder blade to move away from your
spine (see figure 4.24).
with a different angle at your
elbow to find the perfect stretch
position for you.
Warming Up and Cooling Down
Four-point groin Stretch
Exercise Focus
How To
Assume a kneeling position and
spread your knees apart as far as
you comfortably can. Reach forwards and place your hands on the
floor in front of you. Push your hips
towards the floor, keeping your back
flat and chest up (see figure 4.25).
Figure 4.25
Four-point groin stretch.
This stretch
is best performed with
a contract–relax procedure,
whereby you alternate pushing
your body into the stretch
and then relaxing
out of it.
iliotibial band Wall Stretch
Exercise Focus
Iliotibial band
How To
Stand sideways on and holding onto
a wall or chair for support. Cross your
inside leg over your outside leg and
press your hip away from the wall or
chair keeping your outside leg straight
and your inside leg bent (see figure
4.26). To increase the stretch, bring
your hips forwards slightly
and rotate your pelvis
toward the front.
both feet flat on
the floor throughout
the stretch.
Figure 4.26
Iliotibial band wall
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stage 3: recovery Methods
Specific recovery methods are useful following enduring and high-intensity
sessions to speed up your recovery time (especially when training frequency
is high) and for times when you are suffering with a particular tightness
or injury.
Foam Rolling
Your muscles are surrounded by superficial fascia, a soft layer of connective
tissue around the muscle. This layer is susceptible to damage and tightness
during exercise, as well as injury through lack of stretching and in times of
disuse, as the fascia and underlying muscle tissue become stuck together
and form an adhesion. This adhesion will feel as though you have a knot
in your muscles. It can reduce your muscle movement and flexibility, and
can sometimes cause soreness.
Foam rolling is commonly used to release the tension in the fascia. The
process of doing so is called myofascial release. This body-work technique
uses gentle sustained pressure on the soft tissues whilst applying traction to
the fascia. This softens and lengthens the fascia, and also breaks down any
scar tissue or adhesions that may have built up. Through the technique of
myofascial release, foam rolling can have the same beneficial effects as a
sports massage, but it is available to you instantly and with much less cost.
As they are usually made of simple polystyrene material, foam rollers are
inexpensive and portable.
For effective foam rolling, simply follow these steps:
1. Place the foam roller on the floor and position the body part you
wish to target on top of it.
2. Use the rest of your body to move the roller along the length of the
3. When you find a spot that is particularly tight, hold the position and
apply greater pressure in that area until the tightness begins to ease.
4. Continue to move over the roller until the length of the muscle
feels free of tension.
With some experimentation, you can target most muscle groups. To help
get you started, figure 4.27 shows various main body parts to target with
a foam roller.
Start with no more than 1 minute of rolling per body part, even if the
tension does not completely ease during this time, to avoid inflammation
or aggravation. With regular practice, your muscles will respond faster to
this technique and you will be able to tolerate more pressure.
Figure 4.27 Foam Rolling Target Areas:
(a) Iliotibial band, (b) glutes, (c) erector spinae,
(d) quadriceps, (e) hamstrings, (f) calves,
(g) adductors, (h) latissimus dorsi, and
(i) shoulder girdle.
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htig lo
Sports Massage
A sports massage is a more
mechanical and intricate
way to achieve myofascial
release, as the masseur will
be able to use a smaller
surface area (fingers and
hands) to apply the pressure. Sports massage also
serves a number of additional functions. The ongoing and extended pressure of massage increases blood flow and therefore
muscle temperature, helping to increase flexibility and range of motion.
Many psychological benefits to regular sports massage have been reported.
Athletes claim it helps to relax them after a hard session and enhances their
mind–body connection. Find a well-qualified masseur whose technique and
approach works for you.
If you’re looking to lose weight,
refuel with a protein snack, such
as an easily digested protein shake or cottage
cheese, after your cool-down rather than ingesting a carbohydrate recovery food such as
a banana. Refer back to chapter 3: Nutrition
Matters for guidance on the best refuelling
method for you and your specific activity
Ice Bath and Contrast Water Bath
Stepping into an ice bath is common practice amongst athletes to recover
faster and reduce muscle soreness following intense training or competition.
It works by constricting blood vessels and flushing out toxins, such as lactic
acid, from the affected tissues. An ice bath may also reduce swelling and tissue
breakdown. When you step out of the ice bath, your body begins to warm
again and blood flow and circulation increase, aiding the healing process.
More research needs to be done on the perfect protocol for maximising the
benefits of an ice bath for recovery, but general guidelines are as follows:
• Water temperature: 12 to 15 degrees Celsius
• Submersion time: 5 to 10 minutes
• Frequency: Following intense training sessions
If you don’t have an ice bath facility at your training centre, you can
easily create your own. Simply fill your bath to hip level with cold water and
add lots of ice. Submerge
yourself immediately. You
Exercising on a vibration platform
may not be able to achieve
can accelerate weight-loss results,
a water temperature as low
as the process activates and trains a higher
as 12 degrees, but there is
percentage of muscle fibres compared to
evidence that even coldperforming your exercises on the ground. The
water immersion (around
more muscle fibres recruited, the more calo24 degrees Celsius) can be
ries you will burn.
just as effective (and far less
Vibration Training for Warming Up
and Cooling Down
Vibration training with a machine such as a Power Plate uses acceleration and destabilisation to improve the strength and flexibility of your
muscles. As you perform your exercises on the vibrating platform,
which moves primarily up and down and commonly at a frequency
of between 30 and 50 Hertz, your muscles detect the vibration and
respond automatically to either contract or relax as a reflex action. This
process occurs very quickly, acting to accelerate several responses in
the body, making it a highly effective way to exercise, warm up and
cool down. Performing your stretching exercises on a vibration platform
can enhance the effects of your stretch as follows:
•Increases blood flow so the muscles become warmer more
quickly, therefore reducing time required for stretching.
•Stimulates the Golgi tendon organs (GTOs) to switch on more
quickly to induce muscle relaxation through a process known
as autogenic inhibition.
•Increases the production of hormones, and speed of their
delivery around the body, namely endorphins, testosterone and
human growth hormone, to enhance exercise performance and
strength development.
•Speeds up the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles
for energy, recovery and repair.
•Reduces the amount of time required to perform the exercises
as muscles respond to vibrations at an accelerated rate.
Simply hold (static) or move through (dynamic) your stretch position
on the vibrating platform for up to 30 seconds per stretch, with your
machine set at a frequency of 30 Hertz and low amplitude on a Power
Plate machine.
To enhance and speed up your postexercise recovery, you can also
perform massage exercises on the vibration platform. Simply lay your
chosen body part on the platform and manoeuvre until the vibration
targets any tight adhesive areas. You can achieve myofascial release
in this way at speeds much faster than a masseur’s hands can work.
Perform each massage exercise for up to 60 seconds with your machine
set at 40 to 50 Hertz and at a high amplitude on a Power Plate machine.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Alternatively you may like to try a contrast water bath, whereby you
alternate between hot and cold baths. Common practice here involves 1
minute in a cold bath (12 to 15 degrees Celsius) and 2 minutes in a hot tub
(37 to 40 degrees Celsius), repeated about 3 times. The principle here is
that your blood vessels constrict and dilate rapidly as you move from cold
to hot, further speeding up circulation and healing. A similar effect can be
achieved in a shower alternating cold and hot temperatures.
At A glAnCe
• The main purpose of a warm-up is to prepare your body for action. It
can be broken down into 4 distinct stages: (1) cardiorespiratory exercise
to increase your heart rate and temperature of your body, blood and
muscles, (2) dynamic stretching to increase ROM around your joints,
as well as flexibility and blood flow, (3) exercise drills that transition
your now warmed muscles into the workout or sport you are about
to perform, and (4) mental preparation to create the perfect state for
you and your activity.
• The cool-down returns your body to its resting state and reduces the
chances of muscle soreness. It has 3 main stages: (1) cardiorespiratory
exercise that prevents blood pooling immediately after exercise by
keeping a light blood flow to remove toxins, (2) static stretching while
your muscles are warm and pliable, allowing you to achieve a deeper
stretch, realign muscle fibres and establish your normal ROM, and
(3) recovery methods such as ice baths and massage to speed up your
• Performing your stretching and massage exercises on a vibration
platform has been found to increase blood flow and reduce the time
required to both stretch and relax the muscles.
All In Aerobics
erobic training, whether you are familiar with the term or not, is what
the majority of women do when they hit the gym for their cardio
workouts, typically including running or cycling at a steady-state fixed
pace. By providing the essential fitness base for participation in sport and
burning significant amounts of calories that assist in weight-management
efforts, aerobic workouts are invaluable in helping to maintain and improve
our health and physiological functions. Health-related benefits of aerobic
training include the following:
Strengthens the heart muscle, improving its efficiency
Improves circulation, so reducing blood pressure
Enhances capability of the respiratory muscles
Burns stores of fat, improving body composition
Reduces the risk of diabetes
Positively affects mental health, reducing the risk of depression
In addition, aerobic training has several performance-related benefits:
• Improves the ability to utilize fats, which are a rich energy source
• Increases the speed at which muscles recover from high-intensity
• Enhances the blood flow through the muscles
• Increases the speed at which the aerobic system kicks in
But do you understand the principles behind this type of training and the
different aerobic training methods available to you? Let’s first understand
exactly what aerobic training is and how it works, and then provide some
fresh examples for you to try.
Better Body Workouts for Women
PhYSiologY of AeroBiC trAining
Aerobic capacity is the measure of how efficiently your lungs take in
oxygen, your heart pumps it around your body in the bloodstream and
your muscles then absorb and use it to generate movement. You will not
be surprised to learn, therefore, the word aerobic translates literally to mean
‘with oxygen’. Also known as stamina, cardiorespiratory fitness, endurance
and staying power, the number of labels reflects its importance as both a
key indicator of health status and a predictor of sporting performance. To
help you understand the role of this biological process so you can tailor
your training to improve aerobic capacity, let’s investigate the physiology,
beginning with respiration.
Mechanics of Breathing
When you inhale, your diaphragm contracts to move downwards; at the
same time, the intercostal and pectoralis minor muscles pull the ribs up
and out. This results in an increase in the volume in the thoracic cavity,
decreasing the pressure within the chest. Due to the pressure gradient,
air naturally flows from the area of higher pressure (the atmosphere) to
the area of low pressure in the chest through the nostrils and mouth. It
travels down the voice box and then the windpipe, which divides into two
bronchial tubes that in turn subdivide to feed the lobes of the lungs. Obviously this is where the air eventually ends up. As we exhale, the whole
pattern is reversed.
You may be surprised to learn the lungs are lopsided, with the right one
comprised of three balloonlike lobes and the left made up of only two. The
bronchial tubes split further into bronchioles and then further still into tiny
air sacs, known as the alveoli. Blood enters the lungs via the pulmonary
arteries, which split into smaller arterioles and then into the capillaries that
form a network around the alveoli. This is where oxygen is taken up by the
red blood cells and carbon dioxide is offloaded into the air to be expelled.
Water is also removed from the body at this stage, since it is another waste
product that results from the breakdown of glucose to fuel exercise. The
oxygen-rich blood then flows out of the alveolar capillaries, through the
venules and back to the heart via the pulmonary veins.
Blood Flow
The heart pumps oxygenated blood through the arteries to deliver this
vital fuel throughout the body, yet its design is very simple. Sitting beneath
and just to the left of the breastbone, it is a little larger than a tennis ball.
The heart muscle itself, the myocardium, is divided into chambers that are
All In Aerobics
separated by a smooth membrane. These chambers neatly sit on top of
each other, with two on each side. The upper ones, known as atria, receive
blood and then pass it on to the lower ones, called ventricles. Blood first
enters the right atrium. Since it’s returning from the body, it has given up
its oxygen for the muscles to use, so it’s low in oxygen concentration but
high in carbon dioxide, the waste product it has removed from the tissues.
Blood drains to the right ventricle, and is then pumped to the lungs via the
pulmonary artery, which branches into two legs to serve each lung. The
oxygenated blood returns to the heart by entering the left atrium. From
there, it’s shifted to the left ventricle, ready to be pumped through the aorta
to the rest of the body. A break in continuous blood flow could be fatal, so
the heart valves ensure blood is always moving in the right direction. The
opening and closing of the valves generates the lub-dub noise that gets
picked up by a stethoscope.
The whole cardiac cycle takes around only 0.8 seconds. Heart problems
can be identified via a disruption in this cycle, as the pattern will change
if the heart does not receive adequate supply of oxygen. When you take
your pulse, you’re actually measuring the number of cycles in a set period.
Although 75 beats per minute is accepted as the average, fitter individuals
tend to have a pulse of around 55. This variation is a result of the heart
becoming stronger with regular exercise, and thus more able to pump out
more blood with each beat. More blood with each beat means that the heart
doesn’t need to work as hard or pump as frequently, so is likely to last a lot
longer than an organ under constant stress.
Now let’s consider the essential transport system, the blood vessels
that take oxygen to your exercising muscles. We have already seen that
blood is ejected from the heart with some force into the arteries, so they
have to have elastic walls that can stretch. This is important, as the recoil
after they have expanded causes a squeezing effect that moves the blood
through the network. When the arteries reach your muscles, they split
into smaller vessels with thinner walls, called arterioles, and then again
into even smaller capillaries. Their small size allows the vessels to get
as close as possible to the tissues they serve, allowing them to deliver
oxygen and remove carbon dioxide. This happens through a simple process of diffusion through the capillary walls, which is why they must be
so thin. From here, the vessels begin their return journey, enlarging to
form venules and then again to become veins, carrying carbon dioxide
back to the heart. From there, it can be shifted to the lungs to be exhaled.
Haemoglobin changes colour to red when carrying oxygen to the tissues
and then to blue when transporting carbon dioxide away. This is seen
most notably in the blue veins in the wrists. The arteries are not visible,
as they are located deeper down.
Weight-Loss Implications
Let’s now apply the science of energy systems to establish the best
way to achieve weight loss or, more specifically, fat loss. Now, a big
word of warning here—weight-management programmes that set
out to prioritise fat burning often advise doing continuous training below your anaerobic threshold threshold (anaerobic threshold
being the point at which lactic acid builds up and leads to fatigue;
more about this in chapter 6). Cardio equipment in gyms usually has
a fat-burning-zone programme that alters effort level automatically
if you exceed a working heart rate of around 55 to 65 percent of
maximum. This is justified by the equipment manufacturers on the
basis that maximal ratios of fat burning to glucose burning will be in
place. This is true in terms of pure percentages, but at higher intensities, a greater number of total calories (and therefore more fat) will
be burned for the same workout duration, even though it will be a
smaller percentage of that total.
The argument against working at higher intensities is that there is a
danger of exceeding the anaerobic threshold and therefore decreasing
the percentage of fat burned in relation to carbohydrate. In addition,
these intensities cannot be sustained for a long duration. These considerations are valid, but in order to maximise fat burning, you need
to burn as many total calories as you can during the workout and to
enhance your postexercise calorie burn. The bottom line is that working at higher intensities maximises calorie burning and results in your
body continuing to burn more calories in recovery; therefore, you
should tackle higher workloads during your workouts. Even if these
higher workloads can only be sustained for 30 to 60 seconds before
returning to lower work rates, it will still increase the total number of
calories expended. Exceeding the anaerobic threshold will not stop fat
burning; it will simply make a lower contribution to energy generation
at these higher levels. Chapter 6 covers anaerobic training for fat loss
in greater detail.
If fat loss is your goal, then interval training is a very beneficial
approach. To achieve optimum results, you should vary your training
sessions. Pick and mix from the different formats mentioned later,
avoiding the natural inclination to stick with your favourite.
All In Aerobics
energy Provision
Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the chemical in your muscles that breaks
down to produce energy and relies on the breakdown of carbohydrate, fat
and protein (see chapter 3). Every biological process demands energy, and
this can only be in the form of ATP, which is made up of adenosine and three
phosphate groups. Since strong bonds exist between the phosphate groups,
breaking one of them results in a release of energy. In a muscle cell, the
breakdown of ATP results in mechanical work (i.e., a muscle contraction)
and also heat. So now you know why you feel warmer when you exercise.
When you first begin to exercise, the demand for energy increases relatively quickly, using your body’s store of ATP within a couple of seconds,
so more fuel is needed to produce further ATP. ATP can be resynthesised in
three different ways, which are referred to as your body’s energy systems. The
first two energy systems are referred to as anaerobic and the third is known
as aerobic. As we know from the beginning of this chapter, this implies that
oxygen is present when ATP is being regenerated to keep you on the move.
In the presence of oxygen, fat can be used as a fuel to make ATP. Fat can’t
be used alone for ATP generation. Even when plenty of oxygen is present,
there must always be a mixture of fat and glucose, hence the importance
of carbohydrate in your diet. The aerobic phase of ATP generation takes
place inside small cells called mitochondria that are particularly abundant
within your slow-twitch muscle fibres (see chapter 7). These fibres have
a considerable supply of capillaries bringing in oxygen that is then rapidly
transferred to the mitochondria. Your fast-twitch muscle cells have a more
limited capacity for aerobic work, although they can still do a little.
To help you to understand how the nature of your workout affects the
results you will achieve, table 5.1 defines the differing intensities, with 1
being rest and 10 your maximum exertion.
table 5.1
effects of Different effort levels
training zone
level 1–10
General health
Increases utilisation of fat as a fuel, the number of
mitochondria and the blood capillary density
Aerobic fitness
Improves recruitment of slow-twitch fibres,
concentration of aerobic enzymes, oxygen
transport and efficiency of glycogen (stored
carbohydrate) utilisation
Anaerobic fitness
Improves recruitment of fast twitch fibres and
muscle’s ability to work without oxygen. This is
covered in more detail in the next chapter.
Better Body Workouts for Women
underStanding your eFFort leVel
Training intensity is often expressed as a percentage of V̇O2max. It is
a measure of aerobic power, and specifically refers to the maximum
amount of oxygen your body can process per kilogram of body weight
per minute, as expressed in millilitres. Elite athletes tend to train at
percentages of V̇O2max rather than at a percentage of maximum heart
rate (HRmax) or effort level score because it has a greater relevance
for controlled training adaptation. Some anaerobic training, such as
circuit training, can improve your V̇O2max, but aerobic training has the
biggest influence.
AeroBiC trAining MethodS
And eXerCiSeS
Now that you have a basic understanding of how we take in and transport
oxygen, let’s investigate the type of aerobic exercise you need to engage in
to produce improvements in the cardiovascular and respiratory systems.
Many formats exist, but here are a few that will improve fitness and sports
Continuous training
Continuous training is based on working out at a constant intensity for a
specific duration of time. To do this, either in the gym or at home if you
own cardio equipment, you can select the manual programme and maintain a set workload for however long you intend to exercise. This might
be a certain speed or perhaps a resistance level. Clearly, a longer duration
workout will require a lower intensity level to allow you to maintain the
pace for the full duration. Similarly, do the opposite if you only have a
short time period for your workout, as you’ll be able to keep to the higher
level if it’s not for so long. Many advantages of this type of training exist,
the most obvious being that it’s simple and doesn’t have sudden spikes in
intensity that can cause discomfort. It has the great benefit of allowing you
to monitor your progress, as you will soon notice that you are able to work
at a higher speed or resistance and continue for longer. This might not be
challenging enough for advanced exercisers, however; they could instead
opt for light continuous training on their recovery days. Continuous training can also be performed outdoors with running or cycling for example,
but note you will have less precise feedback about your pace and distance.
All In Aerobics
Continuous training is usually split into two types—less than 60 minutes and greater than 60 minutes. The shorter sessions are conducted at a
moderate intensity, with the focus on burning calories. Endurance athletes
will sometimes adopt this format, using a continuous pace but going at a
much higher speed and referring to it as tempo training. The aim here is
to exercise at an intensity close to their anaerobic threshold, the point at
which the body begins to accumulate lactic acid in the muscles and fatigue
sets in. The result of this training is an improvement in the body’s ability to
remove waste products, leading to better performance on race days.
Workouts longer than 60 minutes are known as long slow distance (LSD)
or base sessions. They are ideal for endurance athletes seeking to improve
their marathon or triathlon time. The benefits of this training include
increases in the number of blood capillaries and the size of the mitochondria,
which is where fat is mobilised as an energy source, so endurance improves
and the body fuels from fat rather than carbohydrate. Care should be taken
with this type of workout as it can lead to overuse injury, so the best way
to follow this route is to mix different cardio modes to avoid too much of
the same repetitive movement. In addition, dehydration is a genuine concern, so ingesting fluid at regular intervals is a must. Don’t wait until you’re
thirsty to take a drink; take frequent sips of water or, ideally, an isotonic
drink that can be quickly absorbed (see chapter 3).
Fartlek training
Fartlek training is a phrase of Swedish origin that translates to mean speed
play. It was developed by runners who changed their pace according to
the surface they were running on, the gradient and just how they felt at a
particular moment in time. Have fun with this format and introduce lots
of variation. A bonus of this method is that it can easily be transferred to
the pool and bike. Cardio machines usually incorporate a fartlek option,
referred to as the random programme. If not, select the manual button and
then change the speed, incline or resistance at irregular intervals.
Further advantages of this style of training include variety, to beat the
boredom factor, and also development of different energy systems and
muscle fibres due to the introduction of short, fast bursts. Being able to
control the workout intensity, in that you can do more if you feel good and
less if you’re not having a great day, can lead to a more enjoyable exercise
experience. However, one drawback is that you cannot compare workouts
and measure your progress as easily. Since no two workouts are the same,
you can’t judge whether you’re getting quicker or working harder.
Interval training
Interval training consists of bouts of exercise interspersed with low-intensity
periods to allow for recovery before the next effort increase. If the exercise
Better Body Workouts for Women
is of very high intensity, the following period may even consist of complete
rest, though we advise you always move around a little during this recovery to prevent potential blood pooling in the limbs, causing dizziness. True
interval training differs from fartlek in that it features a set structure of
work and rest periods. For example, performing a fast pace for 60 seconds
followed by an easy pace for 30 seconds is labelled as a 2:1 work–rest ratio.
Logically, when designing an interval workout, the higher the intensity is,
the shorter the effort interval and the longer the rest period should be. A
bout of 15 seconds of full-out sprinting might be followed by a slow pace of
45 seconds to give a 1:3 ratio. Cardio equipment always includes an interval, although sometimes it might be called the hill programme. If a built-in
feature does not exist, select the manual setting and change the speed or
resistance at the appropriate times.
Interval training allows you to do a considerable amount of high-intensity
exercise, thus accelerating your results. It has the added flexibility of also
being adaptable to anaerobic training (see chapter 6). You can push yourself
in the work intervals, as your body will have time to rest immediately after,
enabling lactic acid to be removed from the muscle cells and so reducing
the discomfort that is associated with high-intensity exercise. Performing
10 sprints (either on foot or bike, or through the water) of 30 seconds with
a 1-minute rest is quite manageable, and it accumulates to 5 minutes of
maximal effort. However, if you simply set off on your sprint and try to
maintain it for as long as possible, you will likely have to stop after around
2 minutes without achieving even half the volume of exercise in the first
example. In addition, it’s psychologically easier to work at higher intensities
when you know there is a rest period coming. This is an ideal technique for
guaranteeing that you continue to progress your fitness, as you can simply
tweak the work-to-rest ratio.
Cross-training refers to the practice of using different cardio modes on different days or even within the same workout. Options might include using
the treadmill, rower and stationary cycle in the gym or, alternatively, jogging, cycling and swimming (think triathlon). The beauty of this approach
is that it helps to relieve boredom by providing a changing stimulus and it
also helps to reduce the risk of overuse injuries associated with repetitive
movement patterns. In addition, since the different cardio exercises offer
slightly different challenges, this method can lead to better balance in muscle
development and better overall fitness gains.
If you’re planning to complete a charity event involving one modality,
it’s better to prepare by training the actual discipline you will perform on
the day, as cycling for a few weeks before taking the plunge to swim might
leave you a few strokes short.
All In Aerobics
negative splits
Negative splits involve trying to complete the second section of an effort
interval at a faster pace than the first portion. The interval might be split
halfway, but the faster pace could also kick in three-quarters of the way
through or even later. Negative splits will accustom you to changing pace.
They are useful for preparing for races, as all distances over 400 metres will
require you to speed up towards the finish.
Turnarounds require you to complete repetitions of a set distance in a set
time. The set time is usually quite generous, so you can decide either to
take it easy with a short recovery or to push your pace and then enjoy a
greater rest before your next repetition. For example, you could choose a
distance of 400 metres and a time of 3 minutes. Select your own pace to run
the distance. The faster you run to complete the 400 metres, the more time
you will have to rest before beginning the next bout of effort. The slower
you run, the less rest time you will have before the next interval begins.
Turnarounds can be tailored to suit any level of fitness by manipulating the
distance and time variables, but they particularly suit fitter women who
have a competitive attitude. Manipulating the time and distance parameters
enables you to increase the intensity, so this technique can also be used for
anaerobic training (see chapter 6).
Tips for Better Technique
Since the primary training modes to improve your aerobic fitness are
gym cardio machines and outdoor modalities involving running, cycling
and swimming, here are a few pointers to help you to get the most
from your workouts. Remember, better technique will lead to better
performance and that can only lead to one thing—better results.
Gym Cardio Stations
•On each interval at slow or moderate pace, the resistance or
incline should be at a challenging level, requiring you to be at
75 percent effort. You can reduce this for the fast pace and sprint
bouts to raise your strides, strokes, or revolutions per minute.
•Be aware of your posture. In particular, do not lean forward on
the stair climber or elliptical trainer.
•Try to mix and match equipment stations, as this will lead to a
greater calorie burn and more rounded fitness gains. Perhaps
complete one full interval block on the cycle, then switch to
treadmill for the next block and the elliptical trainer for the last
repetition, for example.
Outdoor Modalities
•Select terrain suited to your workout needs, whether that be
a smooth pathway for cycling, soft grass for minimising joint
impact whilst running or water with minimal current if you are
getting accustomed to outdoor swimming. Mix it up to challenge yourself further.
•Select appropriate gear (equipment, clothing and shoes) that
will stand up to the outdoor elements.
•Concentrate on each phase of the movement. Lift the toe, bring
the heel to the backside, drive the knee through, extend the
lower leg and then, finally, claw the foot back.
•Keep your head neutral, your shoulders back and down and your
abdomen just slightly pulled in. Your neck should be reclined.
•Ensure that your arms drive through in the direction you are
travelling and not side to side with the elbow, as if rocking a
baby. Pumping the fists forward and the elbows backward is
one of the keys to increasing speed, should you desire to do
so, as arms drive the legs.
•It’s wise to invest in cushioned shoes, as these will absorb shock
that might otherwise wear down your ankle, hip and knee joints
from repetitive impact. A comfortable fit should allow room for
your toes to expand when jogging. Also opt for seamless socks
to further reduce the risk of sore feet.
•Set the saddle at hip height and the handlebars at a height to
give you a hinged position at the hip, but not so much that you
have to round your spine and bend forwards.
•A common mistake is to push hard on the pedals in a high gear
when, ideally, you should try to spin your pedals, as this will
prevent fatigue and strain on the knees. You should both push
the pedals down with your quadriceps and then pull them up
using your hamstring and calf muscles for most effective spinning. Also, try to release your feet and keep ankles in a neutral
or comfortable position.
•When approaching a hill, anticipate the lowest gear you will
need and then settle into a rhythm. Standing up on the pedals
is a good way to relieve the boredom of tackling a big incline.
Rocking side to side will also help.
•Hands do a lot of work in hanging on, so they could be prone
to fatigue, even injury. To prevent this, change hand positions
every 10 minutes or so.
•On the breaststroke, keep a streamlined position by lowering
your head on each stroke, so that the water comes just above
the eyebrows. Try to focus on three phases of leg movements:
Curl up, kick and then snap the inner thighs together.
•Try not to windmill the arms when crawling. As you bring your
arm forward, point your elbow to the ceiling, with your hand
directly below the elbow as it enters the water. Aim to take a
breath on every third stroke.
•To improve your backstroke, hold a floating device on your
thighs with one hand and swap hands after each stroke. This
will help you achieve a full movement. Also, try holding both
hands on the float to develop your kick, which should come
from the hip rather than the knee.
Better Body Workouts for Women
At A glAnCe
• Aerobic capacity, stamina, cardiorespiratory fitness, endurance and
staying power all refer to the same measurement of fitness—your
ability to take in, transport and then use oxygen to generate continuous exercise.
• Aerobic exercise takes place at low to moderate intensities. It depends
on the performance of the lungs, heart and circulatory system.
• To maximise fat loss, your training should focus on total calorie burn
rather than on percentage from fat as a fuel source. As a rule of thumb,
then, work as hard as you can for as long as you’ve got!
Go Anaerobic
naerobic quite simply means without oxygen, and anaerobic training
consists of intermittent bouts of high-intensity exercise involving
weight training, explosive plyometric exercises, speed, agility and interval
training. Therefore, if you have ever performed a short sprint or an explosive exercise such as a squat thrust or a burpee, then you have experienced
anaerobic exercise.
Anaerobic training is commonplace amongst sportswomen and athletes,
as most competitive sports, with only a few exceptions, will require a fast
burst of movement at some point. For example, gymnasts, track sprinters,
jumpers and throwers perform single maximal sprints or exertions, whilst
team players in sports such as lacrosse, hockey and netball perform repeated
bouts of high-intensity efforts. Even a distance runner is required to make
a sprint finish, therefore moving into anaerobic mode. As such, all athletes
train their anaerobic system to a greater or lesser degree depending on their
sport’s requirements. But anaerobic training is not just confined to athletes.
Every female exerciser can reap the many rewards that anaerobic training
can bring, from performance benefits to weight loss and exercise variety.
First we want to explain a little more about the physiology of anaerobic
training, and then we will move onto the benefits it can bring and the different methods used to achieve it.
PhYSiologY of AnAeroBiC trAining
The physiology of anaerobic training refers to the energy systems at work
during this type of exercise and the different levels of adaptation that occur
as a result. We will explore both here.
Anaerobic energy system
The anaerobic energy system can be divided into two stages of energy contribution. The first stage is the use of the phosphagen system, known as
the alactic stage, which lasts up to 10 seconds. The second is the glycolytic
system, or the lactic stage, which can last up to 2 minutes.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Phosphagen System
The phosphagen system has no reliance on oxygen. Instead, it relies on
stored energy sources (creatine phosphate) in your muscles and a chemical reaction that fires it up to produce energy in the form of adenosine
triphosphate (ATP). An example of exercising using this system would be
a 40-metre maximal sprint or lifting a set of heavy weights, and the first
10 seconds of any activity relies on the phosphagen system. Training this
system allows you to generate maximal power for a short period of time,
but it does require full recovery (e.g., 5 to 7 minutes of rest between sets or
efforts) to fully regenerate the phosphagen and allow a subsequent maximal
intensity effort to be performed effectively.
Glycolytic System
The glycolytic system also supplies your body with high powered energy
and it can do so for up to 2 minutes, but it increasingly relies on oxygen
contribution. Stored glucose is broken down by enzymes into pyruvic
and lactic acids with the release of energy (ATP). To train this system, you
need to exercise at a fast but not
flat-out pace. It is commonly
htig lo
If your goal is to lose body fat
trained through intervals that
and become leaner, anaerorange from 80 to 600 metres
bic training can be a more effective way
(when running is the modality
to do so than aerobic training due to the
of choice) with short recoveries.
increase in highly metabolic muscle that
Fatigue is ultimately brought
develops and the “afterburn effect” that
about by the production of the
follows the workout
lactate and hydrogen ions, the
body’s protection mechanism at
these intensities.
Physiological Adaptations to Anaerobic training
Anaerobic training brings about physiological adaptations to the nervous,
muscular, endocrine and cardiovascular systems that enable you to improve
your athletic performance. Encouragingly, a number of these adaptations
take place after just 4 weeks of including anaerobic training in your programme. Here are some performance improvements you can expect from
regular anaerobic training.
Muscular Strength
Improvements are evident after just 4 weeks of heavy resistance training.
Effects depend on the type of exercise and its intensity and volume. The
more highly trained you are, the greater intensity and volume you will
require for adaptations to continue. Improvements in muscular strength
will set a great foundation for your body to improve at all sports and
Go Anaerobic
Energy Pathways
Energy pathways all contribute towards the provision of a useable
form of chemical energy called ATP, which is used to fuel the muscles
for exercise. All energy pathways are active at the beginning of exercise. However, the contribution from each pathway will depend on
the individual athlete, the effort applied and the rate at which energy
is used. Here are some of the products essential in the production of
energy from different systems:
•Adenosine triphosphate (ATP)—This complex chemical compound is formed with the energy released from food and stored
in all cells, particularly muscles. Only from the energy released
by the breakdown of this compound can the cells perform work.
The breakdown of ATP produces energy and ADP.
•Creatine phosphate (CP)—This chemical compound stored in
muscle aids in the manufacture of ATP when broken down. The
combination of ADP and CP produces ATP.
•Lactic acid (LA)—This fatiguing metabolite of the glycolytic
system results from the incomplete breakdown of glucose.
Protons (the hydrogen ions) produced at the same time are
thought to be responsible for restricting further performance.
As the lactic acid and protons build up through greater exercise intensity, the accumulation makes further exercise harder
and eventually impossible. This is essentially when your lactate
threshold is reached. The more intense your exercise intervals
or efforts, the greater the concentration of lactate build-up.
•Oxygen (O2)—In aerobic running, ATP is copiously manufactured from food, mainly carbohydrates and fat. This is the prime
energy source during endurance activities (see chapter 5 for
more information).
Increased force output at higher velocities and increased rate of force development is improved following power training (a form of anaerobic training
that utilises the phosphate energy system). This is great if you partake in a
sport or activity involving jumping, throwing or any other explosive action.
Local Muscular Endurance
This is enhanced by training your body in the lactic stage of energy contribution with short sprint repetitions and short recoveries or with longer
Better Body Workouts for Women
efforts up to 600 metres and longer recoveries. This type of training improves
your oxidative capacity through increased metabolic enzyme activity and
mitochondrial and capillary numbers, as well as improved buffering capacity and muscle fibre-type transitions. In short, these improvements mean
delaying the pain and discomfort caused by the accumulation of lactic acid,
thus enabling you to maintain your effort for longer, a great benefit for
those speed endurance gym sessions and track, rowing, cycling and swimming performances.
Aerobic Capacity
Circuit training and other sessions involving high volume workloads and
short recoveries have been shown to increase V̇O2max. Additionally, heavy
resistance training using an anaerobic protocol can also improve aerobic
capacity in deconditioned individuals.
Motor Performance
These are improvements to the movement pattern involved in the exercise
and are based on the specificity of the exercises or modalities performed.
Resistance training has been shown to increase running economy, vertical jump, sprint speed, swinging and throwing velocity and kicking performance, all of which are beneficial to both the professional athlete and
regular exerciser.
anaerobic training and Weight loSS
Although it is commonly assumed that exercising below your anaerobic threshold is optimal for weight loss or, more specifically, fat loss
(see previous chapter), this conclusion does not take into account
the physiological adaptations from anaerobic training that enhance
calorie burn and fat loss or the excess energy requirements that follow
anaerobic training.
Resistance training, one form of anaerobic training, increases lean
tissue mass, daily RMR and energy expenditure during exercise, helping you to become leaner and more efficient at fat burning. What’s
more, the energy requirement following anaerobic training to repair
muscle tissue and replace energy stores is greater than that required
after aerobic training. Consequently, your body continues to burn more
calories during your recovery. This is known as the “afterburn effect.”
Go Anaerobic
Hormonal Response
Anaerobic exercise, especially resistance exercise, has been found to elevate
testosterone, growth hormone and cortisol for up to 30 minutes post exercise. This effect is more pronounced in men, but it can also be found in
women. These testosterone increases can produce greater strength development and consistent resistance training leads to chronic changes and the
ability to exert more effort in successive training sessions.
AnAeroBiC trAining MethodS
And eXerCiSeS
Anaerobic training methods include resistance exercises for strength development, plyometric and sprint exercises for power training, agility exercises
and intervals. We will focus here on interval training, as exercises for the
other methods are covered extensively in the other chapters of this book.
Check out chapter 7 for strength exercises, chapter 8 for power training
examples and chapter 9 for agility movements.
Interval training is a great method of cardiorespiratory training that
particularly develops anaerobic fitness, whether you are a sportswoman or
recreational exerciser. It can be carried out on any piece of cardio equipment—treadmill, bike or elliptical machine—as well as on the track, road,
field and in the swimming pool, and can be tailored to different levels of
fitness and to different training goals. Interval training includes performing
your chosen activity for a specific distance or time and exercising to a designated heart rate, rating of perceived exertion (RPE), HRmax or V̇O2max
percentage. The interval can be as short as 6 seconds or as long as 20 minutes
and can have a primarily aerobic or anaerobic affect. Examples of aerobic
interval training can be found in chapter 5: All In Aerobics.
For anaerobic development, the maximum interval time is likely to last
around 60 seconds. The recovery for interval training can be passive or
active, and it takes place at the end of each completed interval. A passive
rest involves walking or standing around for a set time after the completion
of each interval. Despite its name, we do not advise you simply flop down
on the floor during this time! Simple walking and passive stretching will
maintain your physiological readiness for the next interval and help keep
blood flowing to remove the toxins that have accumulated. Active recovery
involves a set period of gentle cardiorespiratory work between your more
intense intervals, such as a light jog or continued pedal turnover at a lighter
resistance if cycling. Interval training sessions can be of a low, medium or
high intensity. We will focus here on the medium- to high-intensity sessions
to elicit the anaerobic training adaptations described.
Better Body Workouts for Women
The benefits of interval training, in addition to improving aerobic and
anaerobic fitness, include the following:
• You can reduce your exercise time as the overall intensity is higher,
meaning you get fit and burn calories faster in this more condensed
• It removes boredom associated with steady-state exercise, as you focus
on one interval, or effort, at a time. This has an additional motivational
factor in making the session seem more manageable and the achievements more noticeable.
• The recovery periods require your cardiovascular system to continue
to work to return your body to a more rested physiological state,
once again increasing the total workload and calorie burn, as well as
improving fitness further.
• It increases lactic acid tolerance.
• It helps avoid injuries associated with repetitive overuse, common in
endurance athletes, and increases training intensity without overtraining or burnout.
• Variety in the different interval sessions you can incorporate into your
programme ensures that exercise stays fun and challenging and that
your body continuously adapts. Your body responds best to change
and variety.
You can choose from numerous interval training sessions. It is fun and
easy to make up your own. Here are the interval training variables you can
adapt to suit your training level and exercise goals:
Duration (time/distance) of intervals
Duration of rest/recovery phase
Number of repetitions of intervals
Intensity (speed) of intervals
Frequency of interval workout sessions
Modality of interval
Progression (Don’t try to progress all variables at the same time!)
Now, we will outline a selection of sample interval training workouts for
developing your anaerobic fitness. The full workout details can be found
in chapter 11.
Interval Training Safety
and Considerations
Anaerobic style interval training requires you to work at a moderate
to high intensity of exercise, so it is important to be fully prepared
and conditioned as follows to maximise your enjoyment and results:
•Always warm up before beginning your interval training session
(see chapter 4 for ideas) as high-intensity training (HIT) characteristics of interval training will require maximal muscle recruitment.
•Only perform HIT intervals once a suitable base of cardiorespiratory fitness has been established.
•Stop the interval session when you can no longer maintain form
and when your interval times show a noticeable decline.
•Aim to bring your heart rate down to 100 to 110 bpm during
the recovery phase.
•Perform HIT intervals an average of two times per week to see
adaptations after 4 weeks of training. Combine with other forms
of anaerobic training (resistance, power and agility) as well as
aerobic training to develop all-round fitness and to improve
•Consider specificity of the interval training you practice—do
the modality and intervals mimic your own sport and recreational requirements? This is essential for transfer of training
to performance.
•If injured, consider performing low- to medium-intensity intervals, changing modality (from running to bike or pool if impact is
a problem) and doing more aerobic exercise, as well as specific
rehab. Always consult your physician or physiotherapist if you
are unsure if you should perform HIT intervals.
•Remember to breathe! It is not uncommon for those new to
anaerobic training to hold their breath during a sprint effort. This
will only act to enhance lactic generation and fatigue. Breathe
naturally, not forcefully, during intervals.
•Record your training sessions in your diary so that you can apply
progressive overload to make gains at the right rate. See chapter
10 for more details on programme design and chapter 12 for
information on creating a training diary.
Better Body Workouts for Women
back-to-back 60-metre running Sprints
Mark out 60 metres and sprint back and forth between the markers, resting for 10 to 20 seconds between each effort. Perform multiple reps and
sets. This type of session relies on fast regeneration of ATP and therefore
trains your phosphagen system. The rest between sets is considered long
enough to recover 90 percent peak power output, enabling you to perform subsequent sets at close to the same speed as the previous one.
incline treadmill Sprints
Stand on the edge of the treadmill (i.e., off the moving belt) and bring
the treadmill up to your starting speed and gradient. Step onto the moving belt and sprint. After 30
seconds, step off the belt onto
the edges of treadmill for 30
Sprinting with an incline or
seconds of recovery, and then
up a hill will increase your
repeat subsequent sprints. This
calorie burn, as it increases the intensession relies on fast regenerasity of each sprint effort and recruits a
tion of ATP and therefore trains
greater number of muscle fibres. A direct
your phosphagen system. The
correlation exists between intensity and
incline will also encourage
calories burned.
greater glute activation and require more work from your calf
and quadricep muscles.
bike Sprint effort Session
Perform a series of sprint efforts—60 seconds, 45 seconds, 30 seconds and
15 seconds—with a recovery equal in time to the next effort to be performed.
Once you have completed one set, continue straight into the next one, building up the number of sets you can complete from week to week. This session
will tax your glycolytic system. The active recovery advised will encourage
faster removal of this lactic acid produced and will pay back the oxygen debt
that has accrued during the interval. Cycling is often a quadriceps-dominant
exercise modality for many, but a more efficient technique whereby you actively claw your heel to your bottom during the recovery phase of the cycle
will encourage greater activation of your calves and hamstrings.
Go Anaerobic
track Sprint pyramid Session
Sprint distances of 200 metres, 250 metres, 300 metres and repeat in descending order back down to 200 metres, walking slowly for an active
recovery of 3 to 5 minutes between sets. Ideally, you would sprint on a
running track and at close to maximum speed for each distance. This session develops local muscular and speed endurance, helping your body to
delay the onset of lactic acid and therefore achieve faster times over these
sprint distances. A grass surface can also be used if you mark out the distances to guide your session.
Spinning Session
Cycle for 20 to 30 minutes, performing a sporadic number of efforts ranging from 10 to 60 seconds in duration, including hill climbs and hovers
(where you slightly elevate your bottom above your seat). You determine
the speed, time and type of effort as you see fit during the session. This
session is based on early forms of interval training, known as fartlek, where
the intervals are more casual and unstructured.
Stair climbs
Sprint up the stairs (30 to 50 steps), covering single, double or triple steps
with each stride, and then jog slowly to the bottom. Repeat the process.
Stair climbing is great for developing overall quickness and foot speed
whilst getting a great workout.
Swim Sprints
Swim predetermined distances between 25 and 50 metres, rest and repeat, increasing your number of repetitions from session to session. Train
at close to your maximum swimming speed for your chosen stroke and
Better Body Workouts for Women
At A glAnCe
• Anaerobic training refers to training without oxygen and includes
intermittent high-intensity bouts of exercise, such as weight training,
explosive plyometric exercises, and speed, agility and interval training.
• Energy is provided for anaerobic training from the phosphagen system
(in the first 10 seconds of exercise) and from the glycolytic system (for
up to 2 minutes) of high-intensity exercise.
• Weight loss, particularly fat loss, can be accelerated by anaerobic training due to the resulting increase in lean muscle tissue, which increases
metabolism and calorie burn during exercise, and the “afterburn effect,”
where the body works to recover and repair muscle tissue and repay the
oxygen debt accrued after exercise, which requires additional calories.
• Interval training is the most common form of anaerobic training. It
includes performing high-intensity exercise efforts interspersed with
passive or active recovery periods. Interval training is suitable for professional sportswomen for improving performance and lactate tolerance
and for recreational gym goers for improving fitness and performance
and enabling controlled progression.
Going strong
his chapter looks at muscular strength and local muscular endurance,
investigating basic anatomy and how the muscles function in order to
make sense of the different training modes proposed that will lead to gains
in these areas. An obvious starting point is to define these two parameters,
something that is easily explained using the strength–endurance continuum,
an imaginary line with absolute strength at one end and pure endurance at
the other. This illustrates that there exists no clear point at which strength
training ends and endurance training begins; rather a gentle shift in emphasis
occurs as we move along the line. So every workout format will improve both
strength and endurance within the muscles; however, improvements could
be quite minor for one of them, depending on the precise protocol adopted.
The important thing to know about strength training is it isn’t just for
performance sportswomen and gym bunnies. It’s an incredibly useful
weapon in your armoury in the pursuit of weight-loss goals. Here are a
few reasons why:
• As with other modes of training, strength training burns calories, helping to achieve an end-of-day calorie deficit.
• Since women have lower testosterone levels than men, they do not
grow big muscles a result of regular strength training. Rather, they will
develop a lean, toned appearance.
• Studies show that after strength training, the metabolic rate remains
elevated for a while, more so than after a cardio workout, again leading to a greater calorie burn.
• Strength training leads to increased lean tissue (i.e., muscle that has a
higher resting metabolic rate than fat, for example). This brings the welcome bonus that you’ll burn more calories, even when you’re sleeping.
In order to fully appreciate the many performance and aesthetic benefits
strength training can bring, it’s really useful to first understand how the
muscles are made up and how they respond to different workouts. Armed
with this knowledge, you can better judge how to plan your workout
schedule in order to achieve your specific goals.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Strength And MuSCle StruCture
Muscles are comprised of two distinct fibre types. This is a vital concept to
grasp, as they respond differently to training stimulus and so determine our
results. Slow-twitch muscle fibres are red in colour, as they hold myoglobin
where oxygen is stored. They also contain a high concentration of mitochondria, an enzyme that is vital for the production of energy in the muscle
cells. These muscle fibres are slow to contract, but also slow to fatigue. So,
they are ideally suited to activities of a lower intensity and longer duration,
in other words, endurance events. Fast-twitch muscle fibres are white in
colour and contract quickly but also tire equally rapidly, so they are suited
to high-intensity, short-duration exertions. Unlike the slow-twitch fibres,
fast-twitch can be subdivided into two categories. Some fibres can contract
quickly and have a little more staying power than typical fast-twitch fibres.
These pink fibres, as they are known, are incredibly useful as they can assist
the slow-twitch fibres if the intensity increases in an endurance event. They
also support the fast-twitch fibres when they begin to fail, allowing for a
few extra repetitions, yards or seconds. The percentage split of which fibre
type you possess is genetically dependent, hence the suggestion that if you
wish to win an Olympic gold medal, you should choose your parents and
grandparents very carefully!
Following is a brief explanation of the different muscle fibres.
Type I
Type I (slow-twitch, slow-oxidative, aerobic, oxygen-burning) muscle fibres
are fatigue resistant and have a high capacity for aerobic energy supply and
a limited potential for explosive force production. Endurance athletes train
their slow-twitch fibres, and they may naturally have more endurance fibres.
Slow-twitch fibres have low force production, slow contraction speeds and
high endurance. They are also aerobic. Therefore, they are not favoured
during exercises requiring high power. Instead, they are used to keep our
stability muscles active throughout to support the powerful movements.
Type IIa
Type IIa (fast-twitch, slow glycolytic, anaerobic, carbohydrate-burning)
glycolytic muscle fibres can produce force rapidly. They have high anaerobic
power, possess good aerobic and anaerobic potential, and have a greater
resistance to fatigue than Type IIb fibres. They are therefore in demand
when repeated powerful movements are performed.
Type IIb
Type IIb (fast-twitch, fast-glycolytic, anaerobic, carbohydrate-burning) glycolytic fibres have poor aerobic capacity and good anaerobic characteristics.
They are therefore most suited for single powerful movements.
Going Strong
This understanding of muscle structure leads to the following training
• Strength will be improved by stimulating the fast-twitch fibres, implying that you should lift heavy loads. By definition, then, this will allow
for only a low number of repetitions. The body’s adaptive response will
be to enhance the neuromuscular processes that govern the number
of muscle fibres recruited in the exercise together with how frequently
they fire, so resulting in an increase in the force generated.
• Working with a moderate load allows a greater number of repetitions
to be performed and results in both fast- and slow-twitch fibres being
deployed. This taxes a greater number of muscle fibres, which develop
by the thickening of the individual fibres, thus increasing their crosssectional area. Therefore, this is the optimum route for improving
muscle size.
• Endurance capacity will be heightened through adaptations in the
slow-twitch fibres that respond to low resistance and high numbers of
repetitions. Training for endurance gains carries an associated loss in
strength and muscle mass. Although the slow-twitch fibres increase in
size, they are much smaller than their fast-twitch counterparts.
This information enables us to set training guidelines to achieve specific
goals, as shown in Table 7.1.
table 7.1
effects of repetition and load Variation
number of
resistance (as a % of
1-repetition maximum)
Primary result
Increase in strength
Increase in strength plus size
Increase in size
Increase in endurance
A key element here is to work with a resistance based on your onerepetition maximum (i.e., the amount of weight you can lift only once,
with correct form, for each exercise in your routine). To discover your
single repetition maximum, use our suggested 1 Rep Max test featured in
chapter 2: Fitness Assessments. Alternatively, trial and error can help you
identify appropriate weights to work with. The rule of thumb is that if the
last couple of repetitions are difficult to complete, whether in the low-,
mid- or high-repetition range, then the load is in the correct area.
Better Body Workouts for Women
keyS to making progreSS
Resistance training actually breaks down the muscle at cellular level.
In addition to this, the body undergoes adaptations by absorbing
protein into the muscles to help them to repair. The genius here is
a phenomenon at work known as supercompensation, whereby the
muscles cleverly absorb protein more than is required to repair. So,
the muscle fibres become thicker and therefore stronger. Since you
will become stronger over time, if you’re working out regularly, you
will need to incrementally increase the loads you lift for each exercise.
This is the principle of progressive overload. If you stick to the same
weight you always use, the law of diminishing returns will apply and
you will see very little improvement despite your continued endeavours. In addition, you can increase the intensity of your workout as
you become stronger by performing extra sets of each exercise while
slowing down the movement or reducing the amount of time you rest
between each set. This results in the recruitment of more muscle fibres.
A bonus side-effect of achieving muscular overload that is worthy of
mention here is that it also helps to strengthen both the ligaments and
tendons. It also stimulates an increase in bone mineral content through
a phenomenon known as the piezoelectric affect (a significant factor
in the prevention of osteoporosis). For more detail, see chapter 10.
reSiStAnCe trAining MethodS
And eXerCiSeS
The beauty of resistance training is that, at the cellular level where the
changes take place, your muscles have no way of identifying exactly which
exercises you’re doing or the tools being used. It actually doesn’t matter as
long as you hit fatigue on the last couple of repetitions. This is great news,
as it allows you to choose from the wide spectrum of resistance modes on
offer, ensuring your workouts are never boring.
resistance Machine exercises
Resistance machines are found in nearly every gym. They generally target
a specific muscle or group of muscles with one exercise. They allow you to
attempt heavy loads without the need for a spotter’s assistance in assuming
the start position, and also remove the likelihood that weights will drop on
you (or worse, on others!). Range of movement is fixed, however, so the
Going Strong
machine might not suit your body shape perfectly. The cost and size of these
items pretty much rules them out of home use; thus, they are accessible to
you only if you belong to a health club or leisure centre.
One simple routine is based on working the larger muscle groups first.
The premise here is that you should tackle the most demanding exercises
when you have lots of energy. Then, as you tire, the exercises for the
smaller muscle groups are not so taxing. This is a sensible injury-prevention
tactic. The following section outlines a sample programme that works the
larger muscle groups first. Performing every exercise in the order listed will
give you a great total-body workout in around 30 minutes if you aim for
1 set of each exercise. Clearly, if you’re more advanced, you should aim
for 2 or 3 sets of each exercise to ensure results by reaching momentary
muscular fatigue.
leg press
Exercise Focus
Glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings
How To
Sit at the station in a comfortable position, with your upper body pressed
against the back of the seat so that your back is fully supported by the
backrest. Place both feet on the foot plate with your knees
Be careful
bent as far as is comfortable (see figure 7.1a). Push down on
to lock your
foot plate and fully extend your legs (see figure 7.1b). Slowly
at the end
return to the original position, lowering the weight plates
with control.
Figure 7.1
Leg press.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Exercise Focus
Glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings
How To
Stand inside the cage with the bar placed behind your neck, resting on
your shoulders. Position your feet hip-width apart and the bar at a height
that allows your legs to be straight but not locked out at the knees (see
figure 7.2a). Firmly grip the bar at a position wider than
Your upper
shoulder width, and lift the bar from the cage and take
will naturally
the whole weight. Keeping your abdominal muscles
hinge forward at the hip
pulled in tight, bend your knees and lower your backas you lower, but take
side (see figure 7.2b). Press through your heels to excare not to round
tend your legs and return to the standing position.
your spine.
Figure 7.2
Going Strong
chest press
Exercise Focus
Pectorals, deltoids and triceps
How To
Sit on the seat with your feet flat on the floor, ideally at a height with the
handles at chest level. Take hold of the handles and lift your elbows out
to the side (see figure 7.3a). Keeping your shoulder blades
Exhale on
drawn together, press the handles forward and fully extend
the exertion to
the arms, but do not lock out your elbows (see figure 7.3b).
add extra oomph
Slowly return the weight to the start position.
to your effort.
Figure 7.3
Chest press.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Seated row
Exercise Focus
Upper back, latissimus dorsi, deltoids and biceps
How To
Sit with your chest placed against the rest at a height
Although the
so you can comfortably reach the handles with your
arms are moving, try to
arms extended but not stretched (see figure 7.4a).
forget them. Focus instead on
Keeping your abdominals engaged and elbows
squeezing your shoulder
high, draw your arms back (see figure 7.4b). Reblades together.
lease slowly to lower the weight plates with control,
and return to the start position.
Figure 7.4
Seated row.
Going Strong
Shoulder press
Exercise Focus
Deltoids and triceps
How To
Sit with your back pressed firmly against the seat and
As you lift,
your feet flat on the floor. Take the handles in line
have an urge to
with your shoulders and move your elbows out to
arch your back. Concentrate
the side to open your chest (see figure 7.5a). Lift the
on keeping your tummy
handles up overhead in a smooth motion, taking
pulled in.
care not to fully extend your arms (see figure 7.5b).
Slowly lower to the start position.
Figure 7.5
Shoulder press.
Better Body Workouts for Women
cable curl
Exercise Focus
How To
Stand facing the cable machine, holding the handle in front of the thighs
with your arms extended and palms facing upwards (see figure 7.6a). In
order to avoid your body swaying and potentially putting unwelcome
strain on your lower back, place your feet slightly
wider than hip width, keeping your knees soft
and your abdominal muscles pulled in tight.
on keeping your shoulders
and upper arms fixed in position
Slowly bend the elbows to lift the bar up towards the chin but keep your elbows in con- throughout the lift to ensure the whole
effort (and therefore benefit)
tact with your ribs at all times and resist the
is associated with the
temptation to swing your upper arm to asbiceps only.
sist the movement (see figure 7.6b). Lower the
weight under control to the start position.
Figure 7.6
Cable curl.
Going Strong
triceps push-down
Exercise Focus
How To
Stand facing the cable machine, with knees slightly bent
Try to think
and abdominal muscles pulled in, and take the bar in
about your triceps
an overhand grip at about shoulder width (see figure muscles contracting and
7.7a). Keeping your elbows fixed by your side, press
shortening as you
press down.
down on the bar to extend your arms (see figure 7.7b).
Slowly bend the elbows to return to the start position.
Figure 7.7
Triceps push-down.
Better Body Workouts for Women
abdominal crunch
Exercise Focus
Abdominals and obliques
How To
Sit on the seat, take hold of the handles and place
your feet behind the pads (see figure 7.8a). Focus
your abdominal muscles
on generating the movement by contracting your
as a spring. Think of taking it
abdominal muscles rather than pulling with your
in your hand and squeezing it
arms. Squeeze down. Aim to squeeze your ribs to
so the ends come closer
meet your hips (see figure 7.8b). Release gently to
return to the start, but keep the tension on.
Figure 7.8
Abdominal crunch.
Going Strong
Why Weight?
Hydraulic resistance machines employ compressed air to remove the
need for weights and plates and therefore remove the associated risk of
injury. These machines have come a long way in terms of design. They
now feature easy-to-adjust resistance levels and feedback regarding
the resistance levels being used. Unlike weight and plate machines,
however, you don’t need one for each exercise, as most feature what
is referred to as a dual positive motion (i.e., you have to push and pull
in both directions, rather than lowering the weight against the force
of gravity). So, although they are still relatively expensive, they will not
take up as much space as fixed-weight machines. The dual positive
movement removes the negative phase of the exercise, or the eccentric
contraction whereby the muscle is under tension whilst lengthening,
which has been shown to significantly reduce the effect of delayedonset muscles soreness that follows an intense workout.
Free-Weight exercises
Free weights might once have had the negative connotation of big beefy
meatheads grunting loudly as they drop chunks of iron to the floor with a
crash, but times have changed. Rusty bars and plates have now been replaced
by soft-to-touch updates in vibrant colours, and weighted balls, kettlebells,
ViPR and powerbags have been added to the mix. You can now lift, carry and
throw a fabulous array of tools to improve your strength. Without doubt,
you need a higher skill level than when working on fixed machines, and
you might drop something on yourself, but these drawbacks are outweighed
by the qualities of free weights: They are easily transportable, they occupy
little storage space and they can be relatively inexpensive. Most importantly,
they allow for a whole-body approach by demanding recruitment of fixator
or stabilising muscles (e.g., the core muscles required to maintain good
spinal alignment throughout specific exercises). In contrast to machines,
free weights allow for more functional training (i.e., exercises that mirror
movement patterns you use in particular sports or in everyday tasks).
A number of different workouts now follow, with each exercise illustrated
and described in detail, to help you to master the technique. You can choose
whether you wish to follow the whole routine or simply cherry-pick one
or two exercises to add to your current workout.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Dumbbell Exercises
Following are several dumbbell exercises that you can choose to use in
your workouts.
Squat laterals
Exercise Focus
Glutes and deltoids
How To
Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and your shoulders drawn back.
Hold the dumbbells by your side with your palms facing inward (see figure
7.10a). Keeping the weight in your heels and your
chest lifted, bend your knees and push your
Although you may
backside behind you to descend into a squat.
be able to easily perform both
At the same time, lift your arms up to the
the squat and the lateral raise, when
side so the dumbbells end up just above
combined, they exert a great demand
shoulder level, remembering to keep your
on the core, so focus on keeping
elbows slightly bent throughout (see figure
your centre tight.
7.10b). As you contract your thighs to press up
to a standing position again, slowly lower your arms.
Figure 7.10
Squat laterals.
Going Strong
lunge Swing
Exercise Focus
Glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, triceps and biceps
How To
Standing in a static lunge position, ensure your feet are not in line but are
spread for balance. Bear your weight on the ball of your rear foot and keep
it facing forward. To start, hold the dumbbell with one hand and place it
behind your shoulder, keeping the elbow high (see figure 7.11a). Extend
your arm to lift the dumbbell (see figure 7.11b) and then
Do not let
continue the motion by letting it swing forwards and
take your
down. Lower down into the lunge as far as is comarm
fortable, but be wary not to bend the front knee
position. Concentrate on
beyond 90 degrees (see figure 7.11c). As you now
control through your
swing the dumbbell forward and up to return to
shoulder girdle.
the start position, simultaneously contract your legs
to lift out of the deep lunge. Repeat on the other arm
with the opposite foot forward. Pull the abdominal muscles in tight to
keep your back from arching and maintain a comfortable speed.
Figure 7.11 Lunge swing.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Exercise Focus
Pectorals and deltoids
How To
Lie on your back with your knees bent so you can place
your feet flat on the floor. Hold the dumbbells directFocus on pulling
ly above your chest, one in each hand, with your
your tummy in throughout
palms facing in and your elbows bent just a little
the movement to avoid being
(see figure 7.12a). Lower your arms to the side in
pulled into an exaggerated
an arc movement until the back of your upper arms
lumbar curve.
touch the floor (see figure 7.12b) then raise them to
the start position by squeezing your pectoral muscles.
Figure 7.12 Fly.
Going Strong
bent-over row
Exercise Focus
Upper back, deltoids and biceps
How To
Hold a dumbbell in each hand. With your feet slightly wider than hip-width
apart and your knees soft, hinge forward at your hip, keeping a curve in
your lower back and avoiding the temptation to round your spine. Extend
your arms down towards the floor, but don’t let the weight of the dumbbells pull your shoulders down (see figure 7.13a). You will really need to
focus on your core muscles, pulling in your navel, from start
Lift only as
to finish of this exercise. Bend your elbows to lift the
is comfortable.
weights and concentrate on squeezing your shoulder
Do not alter your upperblades together to get the most benefit for the upper
body position.
back muscles (see figure 7.13b).
Figure 7.13
Bent-over row.
Better Body Workouts for Women
dumbbell Walkout
Exercise Focus
Abdominals and triceps
How To
Start on all fours, with the knees under the hips and the hands under the
shoulders. Rest your hands on the dumbbells (see figure 7.14a). Keeping
your spine in a comfortable position, with just
Engage the deep
a small curve in your lower back, walk your
muscles and those
hands forwards one at a time (see figure
blades to provide
7.14b), then as far as you can until your
stability and prevent the dumbbells
hips begin to sag down (see figure 7.14c),
from rolling.
then return by walking slowly back.
Figure 7.14 Dumbbell walkout.
Going Strong
resisted Sit-up
Exercise Focus
How To
Start in your normal sit-up position, and then place either one or both
dumbbells on your chest in a comfortable position (see figure 7.15a). As
usual, ensure you use your abdominal muscles rather than
your arms to generate momentum. Lift your upper body
so that your shoulder blades leave the floor (see figure
releasing a spring as
7.15b). Relax your neck muscles by picking a point on
you sit up and lower
the ceiling to look at.
yourself down.
Figure 7.15 Resisted sit-up.
Better Body Workouts for Women
arm blast
Exercise Focus
Biceps and triceps
How To
Assume a sturdy stance, either with feet placed hip-width apart or in a split
lunge position for extra stability. Keep one dumbbell by your side and lift
the other dumbbell and place it behind your head, pointing
Ensure that
your elbow towards the ceiling (see figure 7.16a). Now,
the upper arms do
simultaneously lift both dumbbells, performing a bicep
not move on either the
curl with the lower arm and a triceps extension with the
triceps extension or
top arm (see figure 7.16b).
the biceps curl.
Figure 7.16
Arm blast.
Going Strong
resisted reverse curl
Exercise Focus
How To
Lie on your back and draw your knees up to your chest, then cross your
feet. Carefully secure one dumbbell between your feet. Place your hands
on the floor by your side, with the palms facing upwards, so you can’t use them to give extra push
Avoid using your
legs to kick yourself up. Work
(see figure 7.17a). Now, relax your neck as you
against gravity on the way down
tighten your abdominal muscles to bring your
to get the most benefit
knees closer to your chest and lift your bum off
for your midsection.
the floor (see figure 7.17b).
Figure 7.17
Resisted reverse curl.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Medicine Ball Exercises
Following are several medicine ball exercises that you can choose to use
in your workouts.
Squat throw
Exercise Focus
Glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, deltoids and core
How To
For obvious
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and facing front.
this is best
Hold the ball down in front of your body with slightly
suited to a sports hall,
bent arms. Slowly squat down until your thighs are parhigh-ceiling gym or
allel with the floor, lowering the ball between your legs
outdoor setting.
(see figure 7.18a). Keep your shoulders back and your
abdominal muscles pulled in and, pressing your heels into
the ground, use your legs to explode up. At the same time, swing and
throw the ball as high as possible directly upwards (see figure 7.18b). It
should land on the ground just in front of you.
Figure 7.18
Squat throw.
Going Strong
Exercise Focus
How To
Stand with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart. Hold the ball in
both hands and position it behind and above your left ear (see figure
7.19a). Bear your weight on the ball of your right foot, with the heel raised,
not flat. Keeping your arms extended, move the ball
Keep your
diagonally down and across the body. Hinge at
abdominal muscles
your hip so you end with the ball near your right
engaged throughout and rotate
knee or foot (see figure 7.19b). Return to the start
your left leg or foot in as
position by reversing the same pattern.
you chop down.
Figure 7.19
Better Body Workouts for Women
Sprint pass
Exercise Focus
Glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, pectorals, triceps and core
How To
Assume a crouched, sprinter’s start position and place both hands on the
ball that is resting on the floor, just in front of you (see figure 7.20a). As you
explode up, pick the ball up to chest level (see figure
Concentrate on
7.20b) and throw it straight out in front of you to a
your co-ordination and aim
partner or at a wall, as far and fast as you can (see
for a simultaneous movement
figure 7.20c). At the same time, drive through with
of the legs and arms, rather
your rear leg so that you actually sprint forward
than stand then throw
a couple of steps. Alternate the lead leg on each
then run.
Figure 7.20
Sprint pass.
Going Strong
V Sit-up
Exercise Focus
How To
Lie on your back, with feet lifted to the ceiling and knees bent, holding the
ball above and behind your head in both hands, so that it is also resting on
the floor (see figure 7.21a). Strongly contract the
Avoid swinging
abdominal muscles to raise your shoulders off
generate momentum.
the floor, bringing the ball over and in front
Try to keep your head, neck and lower
of you with the arms extended, reaching
back in a neutral (or comfortable)
the ball to your feet (see figure 7.21b).
position throughout
the exercise.
Figure 7.21
V sit-up.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Exercise Focus
Pectorals, deltoids and triceps
How To
Start in the press-up position, with your hands slightly wider than shoulderwidth apart and one hand on the ball. You can assume the full press-up
position or modify it by placing your knees on the floor (see figure 7.22a).
To ensure your lower spine maintains its natural curve, do not drop your
hips down. Lower the chest close to the floor by bending the
elbows out to the side, concentrating on alignment so that
Try not to
twist your trunk.
the whole body moves as one unit (see figure 7.22b). Push
up to return to the start position, keeping the abdominal
muscles pulled in.
Figure 7.22 Press-up.
Going Strong
Exercise Focus
Quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes
How To
Assume a long lunge position, with your feet placed
Balance will
hip-width apart to give stability and with your rear
be a challenge, but do
foot resting on the ball (see figure 7.23a). Keeping
not twist your hips, as this will
your upper body upright, slowly lower into a lunge
generate a torque on the
by bending both knees as far as is comfortable (see
knee joint that could
figure 7.23b). Strongly contract your thighs and butlead to injury.
tocks to return up to the start position.
Figure 7.23
Better Body Workouts for Women
chest press
Exercise Focus
Pectorals and triceps
How To
Lie on your back, with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, and hold the
ball in both hands just above your chest (see figure 7.24a). Engage your
core by pulling in your tummy and waist, then exYou may need
plosively push the ball upwards and let it fly
a few gentle attempts to get
straight up to the ceiling (see figure 7.24b).
your technique right, as slight variation
Softly catch the ball as it drops and immein
angle of push or balance of pressure
diately lower it to your chest, then powerfrom
left to right will result in losing
fully push again.
control of the ball.
Figure 7.24 Chest press.
Going Strong
Exercise Focus
How To
You must
Kneel on the floor, creating a wide base and lifting your
this exercise
buttocks so you are not sitting on your legs. Hold the
slowly, with control of your
ball in both hands and place them directly above your
momentum and with
head but also slightly forward of the line of the body
full awareness.
(see figure 7.25a). Keeping your navel pulled in and
your hips in line, slowly hinge at the waist to lower to one
side (see figure 7.25b). Move your upper body as one and maintain a long
spine. You may only move a small distance, but you should target the core
muscles effectively rather than letting your chest twist, as your hips will
quickly follow, putting undue strain on your lower back.
Figure 7.25
Better Body Workouts for Women
Kettlebell Exercises
Following are several kettlebell exercises that you can choose to use in
your workouts.
alternate Swing
Exercise Focus
Glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, deltoids and core
How To
Engage your core
Standing with your feet slightly wider than hipmuscles at all times by pulling
width apart, bend your knees and take the
in your tummy and your waist to
protect your lower spine. Check that
handle with one hand in an overhand grip with
you do not round the spine at
a slight bend in your elbow (see figure 7.26a).
the bottom of the
Hold the weight in a hanging position between
the legs, but try to keep your upper body near
upright, with your chest lifted and shoulder blades
drawn back and down. Your free arm should be out to the side. Initiate the
swing (see figure 7.26b) and rock your hips forwards rather than using your
arm or shoulder to lift. Raise the kettlebell upwards with momentum and focus on a deliberate hip thrust at top of movement. Aim to lift no higher than
eye level, with the kettlebell ending in a horizontal position (see figure 7.26c).
As you near the end of the upward swing, bring your free arm in and swiftly
swap hands at the still point, just before the kettlebell begins its descent.
Allow gravity to bring it downwards, but ensure that you exert some control.
Figure 7.26 Alternate swing.
Going Strong
Single-leg dead lift
Exercise Focus
Hamstrings, glutes and core
How To
Standing tall with your feet together, hold the kettlebell in front of your
body in both hands, with your elbows slightly bent, your shoulders pulled
back and your deep abdominal muscles engaged to support your lower
spine (see figure 7.27a). Hinge at your hips to lower the weight towards
the ground, keeping your tummy pulled in, shoulders back and neck in a
relaxed position (i.e., let your head drop) so you look to the ground about
2 metres in front of you. Aim to lower the weight until
Concentrate on
your upper body is parallel with the ground. At the
your back long
same time, lift one leg up behind you, extended
and the top of your head as
out straight (see figure 7.27b). Do not allow your
far away from your tailbone
hips to twist. Then straighten back up by driving
as possible.
your hips forwards.
Figure 7.27 Single-leg dead lift.
Better Body Workouts for Women
lunge twist
Exercise Focus
Glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, core and obliques
How To
Hold the kettlebell close to your body at chest height and assume a standing position, with your chest lifted and abdominal muscles pulled in tight
(see figure 7.28a). Step one foot behind you with a long
Focus on
stride length, and bend both knees to lower yourgenerating
the rotation
self down into a lunge. Simultaneously turn your
body as far as is comfortable to the side of your
in your waist rather than
front leg, keeping the hips fixed and rotating from
letting your arms take
above the waist (see figure 7.28b). Alternate legs
the lead.
on the rear lunge.
Figure 7.28
Lunge twist.
Going Strong
one-hand plié lift
Exercise Focus
Glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, adductors, deltoids and core
How To
Take your feet out wide and squat down, with your knees out, to hold the
kettlebell on the floor between your legs (see figure 7.29a). Aim to keep
your chest lifted and shoulders back rather than rounding
your spine down as you pick up the weight. Keeping
Do not let
your shoulders drop
your core muscles strongly engaged, bend your elbow
forwards when lowering
to lift the weight from the floor as you jump upwards
the weight.
off the ground (see figure 7.29b). Then flick your wrist
to roll it onto the back of your hand and press the weight
up overhead whilst jumping your feet in to meet in the middle as you land
(see figure 7.29c). Then walk your feet out wide again as you swing the
weight forward and lower it down to the floor.
Figure 7.29 One-hand plié lift.
Better Body Workouts for Women
prone row
Exercise Focus
Upper back, biceps and core
How To
Assume either a full or modified (knees down) press-up position, with one
hand on the floor and the other on the kettlebell (see figure 7.30a). Check
your alignment, particularly making sure that your hips have not dropped
to the floor, causing an exaggerated curve in your lower back.
Next, shift all your body weight across to your free arm,
without twisting your torso and perform a row with the
to a minimum, and
weight, lifting it up to your shoulder (see figure 7.30b).
only use your arm
Slowly lower the kettlebell and reset your posture before
to row.
the next lift. This is not easy, so take your time.
Figure 7.30 Prone row.
Going Strong
turkish Stand-up
Exercise Focus
Glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, deltoids and core
How To
Lie on your back, holding the kettlebell in one hand directly above your
chest (see figure 7.31a). Strongly contract your abdominal muscles to lift
your upper body whilst bringing one foot in close to your backside (see
figure 7.31b), and then drive onto the near foot and step up into a standing position (see figure 7.31c). Now reverse this by placing one knee down
first and slowly lowering until you are lying flat again. Keep your arm with
the kettlebell fully extended at all times.
You may need
to place your free hand
on the floor for extra push
as you drive onto the near
foot and step up into a
standing position.
Figure 7.31 Turkish stand-up.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Single-Shoulder press
Exercise Focus
Deltoids, triceps and core
How To
Stand tall, with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent and
postural muscles engaged. Lift the kettlebell to shoulder level,
Be careful
with the weight resting on the back of your wrist (see figure
not to lock out
7.32a). Bend your knees to drop your body weight just slightthe elbow.
ly, then press through your heels and drive from the legs. Use
this momentum to initiate the shoulder press, lifting the weight
up overhead (see figure 7.32b).
Figure 7.32
Single-shoulder press.
Going Strong
russian twist
Exercise Focus
Core and obliques
How To
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold the kettlebell with both
hands, keeping your elbows bent and into the body (see figure 7.33a).
Contract the obliques at the side of your waist to rotate
Try to keep
your torso and move the kettlebell to one side as far
body stable
as is comfortable (see figure 7.33b). Return to the
and your hips square to the
centre and repeat to the other side. You can also
front. Remember, slower
perform this exercise sitting on a fitness ball or on
is better with this
the floor. Whichever option you choose, focus on
your alignment, with your navel drawn back towards
your spine, chest lifted and neck long.
Figure 7.33
Russian twist.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Body-Weight Exercises
Please don’t think we’re suggesting that joining a gym or purchasing home
fitness kit are worthless investments. In fact, we believe quite the opposite.
They can both be vital contributing factors in helping you to stick to a regular
exercise routine. Let’s be honest, however, in this current age of austerity
some of us are going to have to find ways to cut our financial outgoings,
but the good news is that this doesn’t mean you have to cut back on your
workouts. Mother Nature has kindly provided us the best workout aid,
completely free of charge—gravity. Using just your own body weight, we’ve
created a range of exercises you can do to target all your problem areas and
ensure you burn a truckload of calories.
Going Strong
hindu press-up
Exercise Focus
Pectorals, deltoids and triceps
How To
Start in a downward dog pose, with your hands and feet on the floor, your
backside lifted up towards the heavens and your tummy pulled in tight.
Pull your shoulders away from your ears to lengthen your neck, and drop
the top of your head toward the floor (see figure 7.34a). Now bend your
elbows and take your chin close to the floor, shifting your body weight forwards so your chin traces a path close to the floor, between your hands (see
figure 7.34b). Next, extend through your back to lift your
face up and forwards (see figure 7.34c), then return to
Keep your chin
the start position. You will perform three movements
as close to the floor as
here—shifting down and forwards, lifting up and then
possible as you shift your
weight forwards.
returning up and back to the start—but you should
aim to link them together in one smooth movement.
Figure 7.34 Hindu press-up.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Single-leg bridge
Exercise Focus
Hamstrings, glutes and core
How To
Lie on your back with one leg extended and the other bent at the knee
so your foot is flat on the floor (see figure 7.35a). Take a moment to locate your neutral spine by gently tipping your lower pelvis up and down
until you find the position that feels most comfortable for
your lower back. This will gently curve your lumbar
Keep your body
spine away from the floor. Begin by engaging your
in a long line and your
core muscles—drawing up your pelvic floor, pulling
core engaged so that your
in your navel and squeezing your oblique muscles
hips do not sag or
in the waist. This will brace your lumbo-pelvic region
arch upwards.
so that your lower spine remains in the neutral position
when you move, protecting it from potential injury.
Now use a strong contraction in the buttocks and hamstring muscles
to press the planted foot into the ground and lift your lower body off the
floor (see figure 7.35b). Avoid placing stress on the top part of your spine,
shoulders or neck.
Figure 7.35 Single-leg bridge.
Going Strong
Split lunge
Exercise Focus
Glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and core
Step, platform, chair
How To
Stand a long stride length in front of a step, platform or chair, facing away
from it. Raise one leg and reach it behind you to rest the ball of the foot
on the prop (see figure 7.36a). Point the rear foot down
rather than out, and place it so that the feet are not
If your front
knee bends beyond your
in line, but are hip-width apart to assist balance.
Bend the knee on your front standing leg to low- supporting foot at the bottom
of the lunge, lengthen your
er your body down, taking the rear knee directly
stride position.
down towards the floor (see figure 7.36b). Take care
not to twist this rear knee. Go as low as you comfortably can and then contract through your thighs and buttocks
to lift yourself back to the starting position, keeping your tummy pulled in
tight and your head up throughout the movement.
Figure 7.36
Split lunge.
Better Body Workouts for Women
triceps press
Exercise Focus
Triceps and obliques
How To
Lie on the floor on your side with knees bent and your top hand placed
flat on the floor directly in front of your chest (see figure 7.37a). Press the
hand into the floor and extend your arm to lift your torso
off the ground, as high as you can (see figure 7.37b),
Resist the
temptation to twist your
then slowly return to the start position. Keep your
body as you lift or to use
core muscles engaged, pulling in the navel and
oblique muscles in the
waist and lifting up the pelvic floor to keep your
Let the arm do
torso rigid.
all the work.
Figure 7.37 Triceps press.
Going Strong
Single-Leg Calf Raise
Exercise Focus
Calves and core
Step or stair
How To
Stand on one leg on a step platform or the bottom step of a flight of stairs,
holding a handrail or using the wall for balance. Place your foot right on
the front of the step so that your heel hangs over the edge (see figure
7.38a). Roll onto the ball of your foot, lifting your heel as
If your balance
high as possible through a strong contraction in your
you could try
calf muscles (see figure 7.38b). Then lower yourself
the exercise without holding
down gently and drop your heel below the level
on for support, as this will
of the step, working through your full comfortable
introduce extra benefit for
range of motion. Throughout the exercise, ensure
your core muscles.
the knee on your standing leg is not locked out, but
is slightly soft.
Figure 7.38 Single-leg calf raise.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Side lunge
Exercise Focus
Quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and core
How To
Start by standing with your feet together and
Focus on
your weight evenly balanced. Now take a wide
your alignment. The hinge
step out to the left side with your left leg,
at the hip is not a rounding
of your spine, so keep your core
placing your foot so that it points slightly
engaged at all times and your
outwards in the direction you are stepping.
shoulder blades drawn back
In a smooth, continuous movement, bend
and down, away from
your left knee, keeping your right leg straight
your ears.
and simultaneously hinging at the hip to reach
your hands towards the ground (see figure 7.39).
Next, drive through your left foot
to push back to the start position. Complete the target number
of repetitions before changing
sides; do not alternate.
Figure 7.39
Side lunge.
Going Strong
plank lift
Exercise Focus
Core, deltoids, glutes and triceps
How To
This is a
Assume a plank position, with your hands directly
so you
under your shoulders and your lower back in a
with just
comfortable place (see figure 7.40a). Do not allow
a leg lift for a while. Progress
your hips to sag towards the floor or your bum
to the full lift when you
to stick up in the air. Now focus on your centre,
feel stronger.
really pulling in at the navel and the waist and up
from your pelvic floor to fix your hips in space. Without
moving anything else, slowly lift one leg. Hold it steady and then lift the
opposite arm out to the side (see figure 7.40b). The aim is to challenge
your core muscles to hold your body in position, without twisting or dropping your hips.
Figure 7.40 Plank lift.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Exercise Focus
How To
Lie on your back with knees bent so your feet are flat on the floor, and rest
your hands on your thighs (see figure 7.41a). Tightly tense your upper abdominal muscles to lift your shoulders off the floor, reaching your hands forwards. At the same time, strongly
If you begin
contract the lower abdominal muscles to lift your
to feel stress in your neck
feet off the floor (see figure 7.41b). Return to
muscles, place one hand behind
the start position, lowering yourself down slowly
your head for support and
and working against rather than with gravity. For
simply reach with the other
hand as you lift up.
additional benefit, try to hold the raised position
for a couple of seconds before descending again.
Figure 7.41 Crunch.
Resistance Training Workout
Whatever your favoured choice of resistance, it is advisable to vary
your workouts to avoid the plateau effect, whereby your body becomes
accustomed to your routine and so responds poorly, slowing down
your progress.
Before introducing specific workout formats, let’s take a moment
to demystify a current hot topic in the fitness domain—functional
training. Although much has been said and written, unfortunately,
not all of it has been helpful. A functional exercise can be described
as one that improves specific strength that will then influence sports
performance or everyday tasks. To illustrate this, take the examples
of a jump athlete who needs to develop explosive strength in her
take-off leg and a woman who needs to be able to walk up a flight
of stairs carrying a baby. The former might practice single-leg squats
at speed, whilst the new mum would benefit from holding a weight
in her hands and performing step-ups onto a platform. The converse
of these is an exercise that is purely designed to achieve aesthetic
benefits, such as a traditional sit-up, a movement we only use twice a
day, when we get out of bed in the morning and then return at night.
The vital difference is that functional exercises train the movement,
whilst aesthetic (body-building) training targets the muscle. A sensible approach would be to include a mix of exercises, so promoting
improvements in both domains.
The following four formats can be applied to the resistance machine
and free-weights routines.
This gym format works on varying the resistance and therefore the
number of repetitions on each set for all exercises. It can be tweaked
either as an ascending (resistance from light to heavy repetitions from
high to low), descending (resistance from heavy to light repetitions
from low to high), or full pyramid (combines both to go from light to
heavy and then back to light load, with repetitions decreasing and
then increasing again). A rest of about 2 minutes between each set is
usual. Pyramids are useful for improving both strength and endurance
as you work through a varying repetition range, targeting both the
slow- and fast-twitch fibres. Be warned that this is not easy, as each
set must be performed to failure. The intensity is high. In addition,
if you take this approach to every exercise or routine, you will need
plenty of time.
Pre-Exhaust Sets
The theory here is based on the fact that often, when working the larger
muscle groups, it’s the smaller ones assisting that fatigue first, so you
don’t get to the point of momentary muscular fatigue that is required
to stimulate the adaptive responses that lead to stronger muscles.
The answer, then, is to perform a set of isolation exercises (using just
one muscle group) before performing a compound exercise (requiring
several muscles to work together).
Negative Training
When a weight is lifted, either directly (as in the case of a dumbbell
and barbell) or indirectly (as with the plates on a fixed-weight machine),
it should be lowered with some resistance to ensure gravity doesn’t
send it crashing back down. This is referred to as the negative phase
of the exercise. Negatives describe just performing this second part
of the lifting exercise, with a partner assisting you on the lift of the
weight. The beauty of this approach is that it allows you to work with
loads that are greater than your maximum lift, leading to considerable strength improvements and the psychological gain of handling
larger weights that can in turn promote greater volumes of training in
future. There is a possible disadvantage of this technique, however, as
research suggests it is linked with more pronounced muscle soreness
on the day following your workout.
Drop Sets
This is actually a modified version of the descending pyramid, the difference being that very little (or no!) rest is taken between each set. The
easiest route to achieving this is on fixed-weight machines, as you can
very quickly pull the pin out of the weight stack and place it in a lighter
position. The usual target is performing an additional three sets after
the initial set to failure. Since these should also be performed to total
fatigue, this is not for the faint-hearted. The first set you will perform
is at a heavy load, so you must warm up thoroughly beforehand. The
advantage of this method is that you can achieve complete overload of
the target muscle groups in a fairly short space of time. One complete
round of descending sets is enough.
Peripheral Heart Action (PHA)
The PHA approach is most commonly applied to circuit training sessions. It allows for a high volume of exercise in minimum time. This
versatile format can be used with all the resistance modes previously
Going Strong
By alternating exercises between the upper and lower body, one
muscle group has the opportunity to rest while another is exerting, so
specific rests are not required. The cardiovascular system also benefits,
as it is called on to constantly shift blood from one area of the body to
another location. This vascular shunt, as it is known, is brought about
by the muscles’ demand for oxygen when they are working. This leads
to a greater total calorie burn for the workout.
At A glAnCe
• Muscles are made up of two different fibre types: fast-twitch and
• Strength training aids weight-loss efforts.
• For pure strength gains, you need to lift heavy weights for only around
5 repetitions.
• More commonly, though, the target is 12 repetitions, which produces
improvements in strength and also endurance.
• In both cases, however, it’s crucial to work with loads that are heavy
enough to result in fatigue on the last couple of repetitions of each set.
• As you get stronger, you must increase the resistance or your visible
results will stall.
• Ideally, your routine should incorporate both functional exercises that
train movements and aesthetic exercises that train muscles.
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Power Up
hat comes to mind when you think about being powerful? Which
sports, athletes and physiques do you visualise? Most people associate power with competitive sport and professional athletes, but the truth
is that we all require power for everyday life. It is vital for many functional
demands and movements, such as sport, play and active daily living (mowing
the lawn and climbing a flight of stairs), and also during emergencies, such
as preventing a fall or dodging an obstacle. Consequently, increasing power
will increase your efficiency and ability to do all tasks, as well as enhance
sporting performance. In a primal world where danger lurked around every
corner, our ability to move fast determined our survival. In fact, we were
designed to move quickly, originally to avoid a charging herd of mastodons
or to run down small game for dinner! Primal needs aside, power training
has an incredible ability to improve your physique and help you lose weight
whilst spending much less time exercising than you would with a typical
steady state cardio workout.
Power deVeloPMent
Quite simply, power is defined as strength expressed at high speed. For
example, a conventional squat with additional weight is an example of
strength, whereas a squat performed explosively (for example, as a squat
jump) is power. Most movements performed at speed, such as sprinting, are
power moves. Developing muscular power to enhance these movements is
different from developing muscular strength and endurance.
To take this further, understand that strength is independent of time. That
is, it is simply the maximal force a muscle (or group of muscles) can exert.
Power, however, is an expression of how quickly that force can be generated, for example, when accelerating, jumping or throwing. Here are a few
benefits of including power workouts and exercises into your training plan:
• Time efficiency—A power-based workout (sprints or jumps) cannot be
sustained effectively for a long period of time. In fact, it’s unlikely
Better Body Workouts for Women
you will perform any one exercise for longer than 30 seconds before
your power declines. For most people, 10 seconds is enough to begin
with. Consequently, only short sets and reps are required to achieve
a fatigued state and elicit performance gains.
Muscle tone and definition—A higher percentage of your muscle fibres
are recruited when you work quickly and explosively. More musclefibre activation equals more complete muscular definition. Visualise
the lean, toned body of a high jumper or beach volleyball player; they
are some of the most powerful yet most aesthetically pleasing athletes
and they do lots of power training!
Fat burning—Power exercises have a high energy demand; therefore,
they increase your metabolism and burn fat faster than high-volume
workouts performed slowly. They also suppress your appetite due to
elevated body temperature in the hours following exercise, as well as
develop more calorie-burning lean muscle and improve insulin sensitivity (highly worked muscles learn not only to burn glucose effectively
but also to absorb glucose, transported by insulin, after workouts).
Anti-ageing and well-being—Maximal explosive efforts minimise the
effects of ageing by promoting the release of testosterone, human
growth hormone and serotonin, which are beneficial for women as
well as men. These endocrine responses help promote balance in
the autonomic nervous system and benefit the processes of growth,
recovery and regeneration, all of which create an environment for
positive change.
Improved sports performance—As already stated, most sports rely on
power at some stage. The more you work to increase both your absolute power and power endurance (see following sections), the better
your sporting performance will be.
Improved daily activity performance—The more reactive your muscles
become, the faster they will respond to stimuli and will ensure you
can go about your daily activities more efficiently and with minimal
stress. This can apply to tasks as simple as walking up a hill or moving
htig lo
Power training can be a great
calorie burner, as it involves
the recruitment of a large number of
muscle fibres. As more muscle fibres
become active and, subsequently adapt
and develop, the faster your metabolic
rate will be.
• Fun and focused mind—There’s
not a chance of becoming
bored during a power workout! Your body and mind are
invigorated. Concentration
remains high and results occur
fast. Progression is easily measured through timed runs,
jump heights and throw distance to ensure you remain
driven by goals and results.
Power Up
poWer and plyometricS
You may have heard the word plyometrics being thrown around by
athletes, coaches and others in the know. Plyometrics are extremely
effective exercises for producing power, and they are often used by
women to improve sports performance. They are essentially a series
of explosive exercises that stretch your muscles like a rubber band
and then contract them again quickly, enabling you to produce fast,
powerful movements. Plyometrics actually reduce the time it takes for
a muscle in the human body to contract, which means that the muscle
can exert a greater amount of power and force.
Most sports—athletics (sprinting, throwing and jumping), cycling,
netball, football, basketball and swimming—include plyometric power
movements. Even the serene nature of a yoga class can involve some
power moves such as when you leap out of a downward dog position
into a standing forward bend or kick up into a headstand. Many fitness
classes familiar to you feature power components, including spinning,
circuits and kettlebell workouts, to mention just a few.
So why not utilize the elasticity of your muscles and benefit from
plyometrics in your workout? Typical plyometric exercises include
jumps and bounding. Our favourites are detailed later in this chapter.
Power trAining MethodS
And eXerCiSeS
We all have individual needs when it comes to working out, and the same is
true of selecting the right type of power training for you. For example, some
athletes train to be able to perform one maximal explosive action. Examples
include a weightlifter, shot-putter, long-jumper and javelin thrower. These
athletes need to train for pure or explosive power. Some athletes are required
to complete these controlled explosive moves repeatedly but continuously
for a short period of time. This applies to sprinters, who need to train for
short-term power. Other athletes will need to perform repeated power moves,
taking very little recovery between efforts. They need to deliver fast and at
short notice, often in response to an external stimulus. This is typical for
boxers and for volleyball, tennis and netball players, and they need not only
pure power, but power endurance, which develops the anaerobic lactic-acid
buffering system described in chapter 6: Go Anaerobic. One or all of these
may apply to you for your own sport, activity or lifestyle requirements, so
we want to make sure you know how to train specifically for the type of
power that you need. We also want to make this fun and varied, and in
keeping with any other special requirements you may have.
Power Training Safety
and Considerations
Due to the high-impact nature of most power exercises, you must
consider some prerequisites and put safety measures in place:
•Condition your body before attempting any power workout.
You need good joint stability and muscle strength, as well as
good technique and flexibility, to prevent injury and ensure you
get the most from your power workout. For example, it is no
use performing squat jumps until you have established a good
movement pattern for a conventional squat, based on achieving
full range with good posture and with sufficient load. Adding
a jump increases the stress on your joints as the force factor
increases, magnifying any movement imbalances.
•Warm up with some light cardio and muscle activation through
drills that replicate the movements you are to perform before
doing any full explosive actions (see chapter 4: Warming Up
and Cooling Down for examples and details).
•For an explosive power workout, ensure you are in a rested state,
with no fatigue lingering from earlier workouts or exercises.
Perform the exercises at the beginning of your workout for best
results and to avoid injury from fatigue. For a power endurance
workout, select greater repetition numbers with shorter rest but
do exercises requiring less impact and risk than those selected
for explosive power.
•Progress sensibly—When you first start power training, opt for
a shorter exercise time and lower-impact exercises, such as
cycling or sprinting up a steep hill and then walking down again
for repeat efforts. Progress gradually based on adaptation and
mastery of each movement pattern.
•Ideally, you should perform power workouts only when your
motivation is high. Half-hearted attempts can result in poor
performance and injury.
•Expect DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness) after a power
workout, especially if you are trying something new or stepping up your workout level. This is due to the stress response
to the body that occurs—hormone levels, muscular breakdown
and joint inflammation. Consider good post-workout nutrition,
Power Up
supplements and treatments such as massage (see chapter 3:
Nutrition Matters and chapter 4: Warming Up and Cooling
Down). However, you can expect to quickly adapt to a power
workout routine.
• Clear the area you will be exercising in of bags, equipment and
other objects that you do not want to land or step on during
the movement.
• Ideally, you should work with a partner or trainer who can
observe your technique and instruct on whether you are landing
safely and executing the movement correctly.
Body-Weight Plyometric exercises
Body-weight plyometric exercises for power are perfect for general conditioning, as an introduction to power training and for sports requiring
all over power endurance (football, volleyball, netball, boxing), especially
when performed as a circuit. These exercises are time saving and work
your whole body.
This section describes the exercise methods you can use to increase your
power as well as the most effective exercises for each. These methods include
the use of body-weight exercises,
plyometrics, sprints and equiphtig lo
If your goal is weight loss,
ment-based exercises. We have
steer yourself towards the
outlined the necessary points to
power endurance exercises to blast more
help you understand their purcalories compared with single power
pose. For details of full workouts
explosive exercises.
incorporating these exercises,
check out chapter 11: Sample
Workouts and Programmes.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Exercise Focus
Total-body explosive power
How To
Stand with your feet together, and then
bend at your knees, lean forwards and
place your hands flat on the floor just in
front of your feet (see figure 8.1a). Jump
both feet backwards to create a straightarm plank position (see figure 8.1b)
before jumping your feet back again
towards your hands (see figure 8.1c),
performing a squat thrust. Finally jump
upwards from this squatting position,
driving your legs straight and arms behind you (see figAim for maximum
ure 8.1d). Land
on the jump, and keep
and repeat.
all phases of the movement
Figure 8.1
Power Up
Wide-to-narrow Squat Jumps
Exercise Focus
Power exercise for adductors, quadriceps and glutes
How To
Start in a wide squat position, with the toes and knees
Aim for
facing outwards (see figure 8.2a). Bend at the knees
maximal height with
and jump upwards (see figure 8.2b), bringing your feet each jump and for good
depth in each squat
together as you do so. Land with both feet together
(see figure 8.2c), and then immediately jump back to
the wide squat position to repeat the movement.
Figure 8.2
Wide-to-narrow squat jumps.
Better Body Workouts for Women
mountain climbers
Exercise Focus
Knee drive for power endurance
How To
Start in a straight-arm plank position with your feet shoulder-width apart
and your bottom slightly raised so that your body creates a V-shape. In
a continuous movement, drive one knee forwards toward
your chest (see figure 8.3a). Bring it immediately back
To allow
again and drive the other knee forwards, as if you
more space to drive
were sprinting (see figure 8.3b). Continue this patyour knees forwards, place
your hands on a raised
tern with alternating leg movements. Aim to create
block or step.
a near-straight position with your back leg to create
as much range as possible between the knee tuck and
knee drive. Keep your hips as low as your body will allow.
Figure 8.3
Mountain climbers.
Power Up
double-leg calf bounces
Exercise Focus
Lower leg explosive power and ground reaction training
How To
Stand with your feet together and your hands on your hips, soften your
knees and shift your weight onto the balls of your feet (see figure 8.4a).
Perform small double-leg bounces with your feet in a dorsiflexed position
on the upward phase (see figure 8.4b). Activate the
To minimise
jump with your calf muscles each time you land.
stress on the joints,
To do this, keep your knees soft, but do not bend
on a soft mat or
them to squat. Aim for maximal height and minifl
mal ground contact time. For more foot muscle
activation, consider performing barefoot.
Figure 8.4
Double-leg calf bounces.
Better Body Workouts for Women
alternating Split-Squat Jumps
Exercise Focus
Explosive power for quadriceps and glutes
How To
Start in a split-squat position (shallow lunge position), with both feet facing forwards (see figure 8.5a). Bend both knees and drive upwards off the
ground switching feet in the air (see figure 8.5b) and land
To minimise
with the opposite leg facing forwards (see figure 8.5c).
impact and protect
Immediately repeat the movement, switching your
legs with each repetition. Aim for height with every your joints, you can perform
with your front leg on a
jump and try to land in the same spot you jumped
step or box.
from, rather than travelling forwards, to ensure that
both your legs are working to apply equal force. You can
use your arms to assist the movement and land firmly and safely. To assist
your balance throughout this exercise, ensure your feet are about hipwidth apart rather than in a straight line with each other.
Figure 8.5
Alternating split-squat jumps.
Power Up
poWer training protocol
Due to the intense and challenging nature of power training, you should
incorporate it into your training programme appropriately to maximise
the benefits, achieve optimal results and avoid overtraining and injury.
The frequency of your power training will depend on the type of power
training you are performing, your conditioning level, current training
methods and sporting or activity goals, as follows.
Competitive Athletes
Perform an absolute or pure power workout one or two times per
week in the 6- to 8-week phase leading up to your competitive season.
During the competition season itself, your exercise intensity will naturally increase as a result of performing in your event so you can drop
the specific power training frequency down to a single session per
week. During your general conditioning training phases (off-season),
incorporate power endurance workouts with the circuit training suggestions previously mentioned once per week.
Fitness Enthusiasts
You can incorporate power endurance exercises into your training all year
round, with one or two sessions per week to gain outstanding fitness
benefits and break out of any chronic cardio ruts that may have lasted
for years. Once you have a good level of conditioning, add the pure
power exercises. Remember to first learn the skill in its component parts
and then build the intensity as you become familiar with each movement
pattern. This is particularly important for Olympic lifts and bounding
exercises. You can then include these pure power exercises once every
7 to 10 days. As a general rule, perform power training on the days
where your energy levels and motivation are high. You should never
push your body through an intense workout if you have any symptoms
of fatigue, soreness, compromised immune system or another malaise.
Bounding Plyometric exercises
These exercises improve pure explosive power. They are typically performed
by women with a high level of conditioning, such as sprinters, jumpers and
throwers, or by sportswomen whose sports incorporate these bounding
movements. However, whether you’re a competitive athlete or general
exercise enthusiast, these exercises can take your workout to another level,
adding dynamism and energy to your programme. If you want to look like a
toned and honed athlete, then you, too, can work towards training like one.
Better Body Workouts for Women
The exercises have a high level of impact and will require some technical training in movement patterns. We suggest you begin by breaking the
movements down into their component parts. Next, perform the sequence
at about 60 percent maximal effort to allow your muscles, joints and neurological system to adapt over the first couple of sessions.
You will need a flat surface (a synthetic athletic track is ideal) and a 30to 50-metre distance to work along.
alternating bounds
Exercise Focus
Leg explosive power and strength and stability of landing
How To
From a start marker, move your weight onto your front leg for a stationary or rolling start (see figure 8.6a), and push off your back leg driving
your front knee forwards so that this leg is parallel to the ground as you
lunge forwards (see figure 8.6b). Land on the opposite leg, and then immediately drive the other leg forwards to produce a continuous succession of bounds, alternating from one leg to the other. Aim for minimal
contact time with the ground (action–reaction) and try
To stay tall,
to cover as much horizontal distance as possible
imagine that you have
with each bound. Keep your hips tall and faca piece of string attached to
ing forwards. All joints (ankles, knees and hips)
top of your head and that you
must remain strong, as any sinking as you land
are being pulled upright as
will minimise the effect of the stretch-shortening
you move along.
cycle, or elasticity effect, and will reduce power
and effectiveness.
Figure 8.6
Alternating bounds.
Power Up
double-leg bunny hops
The most
advanced can perform
these hops continuously, whilst those
new to this exercise can pause to stand up
How To
and reset between hops. The secret to a good
Stand with your feet shoulder-width
bunny hop is the smooth sequence of drive
apart, bend at the ankles, knees and
and extension from the ankles to
hips, and bring both arms back behind
knees to hips and arms.
Exercise Focus
Quadriceps power
you (see figure 8.7a). Explode upwards
and forwards from your legs and hips, and
move your arms overhead in one continuous movement (see figure 8.7b).
Land with your knees and arms back down in the start position, and repeat.
Figure 8.7
Double-leg bunny hops.
Box-Jump Plyometric exercises
These are traditional plyometric exercises whose purpose is often to develop
pure explosive power. As with bounding, these are often performed by
sprinters, throwers, jumpers and weightlifters. Performing these drills
requires co-ordination and practice.
The level of impact associated with each exercise depends on whether
you’re jumping onto a box (reduced impact) or off a box (greater impact).
Therefore, select exercises carefully for your training status and requirements. Secure boxes, steps or platforms of varying heights on a clear, flat
Better Body Workouts for Women
depth Jump
Exercise Focus
Lower body reactive power
A secure box or step at approximately shin to knee height
How To
Standing in front of the box, bend at your ankles, knees and hips and bring
your arms behind your body (see figure 8.8a). Jump up high bringing your
arms in front of your body to assist the movement (see figure 8.8b) and
land onto the box with bent knees and both feet flat (see figure 8.8c). Step
back down carefully and repeat.
Beginners can use a lower box, whilst those
Aim to fully
your body on the
more advanced can continue to raise the height
you tuck your legs
of the box. Progress to single-leg jumps: First,
box. This will make
try taking off from two feet and landing on one
height and
foot. Then try both taking off and landing with
one foot. We advise you lower the box height
when you first attempt single-leg jumps.
Figure 8.8
Depth jump.
Power Up
Vertical depth Jump
Exercise Focus
Lower body reactive and explosive power
A secure box or step at approximately knee to thigh height
How To
Stand on the front edge of the box with a clear space on the floor in front
of you and lift one leg off the box and slightly in front of your body (see
figure 8.9a). Lean forwards and step off the box, landing
on both feet with your knees slightly bent and weight
Place a vertical
on the balls of your feet (see figure 8.9b). Immedijump flag or equivalent
ately, jump upwards as quickly as possible, aiming
marker overhead and aim
for maximal height (see figure 8.9c). Step back up
to reach up and touch it
onto the box and repeat. Progress by increasing the
with every jump.
height of your marker (see following tip) and the box.
Figure 8.9
Vertical depth jump.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Medicine Ball Power exercises
Medicine ball power exercises are perfect for general total-body conditioning
and as an introduction to power training. They are also suitable for sports
and activities that require all-over power endurance (football, volleyball,
netball and boxing).
For each exercise, select a medicine ball of a suitable weight. You may find
that you need to change weights to suit different exercises. You also need
to work in a clear area, with access to a partner or a wall. When performed
as a circuit, these exercises are great for calorie burning.
Power Up
Seated overhead throw
Exercise Focus
Upper body explosive power
2- to 5-kilogram medicine ball; wall or partner
How To
Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you, positioned at a
throwing distance away from a wall (or partner). Raise the medicine ball
above and behind your head with your arms bent (see figure 8.10a). Forcefully throw the medicine ball at the wall (or your partner) just above head
height by extending at your elbows (see figure
8.10b). As the ball comes back at you, catch
Extend and
flick with your fingertips as
it with both hands. Allow the ball to reyour release the ball for efficient
coil behind you and immediately throw
follow through. Keep your core strong
it back in. Repeat back and forth. Start
and your chest up as you catch and
slowly, and gradually increase the speed
recoil the ball to avoid any force
throughout the repetitions. Progress to a
single-handed throw with a lighter ball for
added shoulder stability and precision work.
Figure 8.10 Seated overhead throw.
Better Body Workouts for Women
tantrum throws
Exercise Focus
Upper body explosive power
2- to 5-kilogram medicine ball
How To
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and raise
the medicine ball directly above your head (see figure 8.11a). With one
continuous movement, push the ball downwards and into the ground in
front of your feet, by first bending then extending your elbows and finally flicking the ball with your fingertips (see figure
8.11b). As the ball rebounds upwards, catch it
You can keep
and repeat the process. Make sure you move
your legs straight for isolated
your head backwards as the ball rebounds so
triceps activation or bend your knees
as you throw for a total-body
it doesn’t hit you in the chin! The closer the
ball lands to your feet, the more accurately it
will rebound, so you won’t have to move around
to recover it.
Figure 8.11
Tantrum throws.
Power Up
Seated Side twist and throw
Exercise Focus
Core explosive power
2- to 5-kilogram medicine ball; wall or partner
How To
Sit on the floor perpendicular to a wall (or partner) and throwing distance
away (approximately 2 metres) and with your legs stretched out in front of
you and knees slightly bent. Hold the medicine ball with both hands and
rotate your torso away from the wall or your partner so it’s just behind your
far hip (see figure 8.12a). Throw the ball at the wall or your
partner by rotating your torso back in the other direction
Keep your core
and extending your arms across your body to release the
strong and your chest
ball from shoulder height (see figure 8.12b). Receive the
up throughout the
returned ball behind your far hip, allowing your body to
recoil, and repeat the throw. Change direction and repeat
reps on the other side. Start slowly and gradually increase
the speed throughout the repetitions. Progress by increasing the distance
between the catch and release point of the ball and lifting your heels
slightly off the ground for the duration of the exercise.
Figure 8.12 Seated side twist and throw.
Better Body Workouts for Women
reverse overhead throw
Exercise Focus
Total-body explosive power
2- to 5-kg medicine ball
Check that the
trajectory of your ball follows
an arch. If the ball hits the floor too soon
(i.e., before making contact with the wall),
it is likely you are pulling it down at the
release point rather than releasing
it at the optimal point
of extension.
How To
Stand in an open space with 10 to 20
metres of space behind you, depending on
your throwing ability. (If you have limited space
or distance behind you, then work with a heavier ball, which is unlikely to
travel as far.) With your feet wider than shoulder width, hold the medicine
ball overhead with both hands (see figure 8.13a). Swing the ball down
between your legs, bending your knees and keeping your back flat (see
figure 8.13b). Extend from your knees and arms to throw the ball up and
backwards over your head and then release it (see figure 8.13c), aiming for
maximal distance. It is natural for you to travel backwards as you release
the ball just be prepared to back step to catch yourself from stumbling
over. Collect your ball and repeat.
Figure 8.13 Reverse overhead throw.
Power Up
Seated Vertical throw
Exercise Focus
Deltoid explosive power
Keep your
core strong and your
chest up to isolate your
shoulders during
the exercise.
2- to 5-kg medicine ball
How To
Sit on the floor with your legs outstretched and hold the medicine ball at
chest height. Turn your elbows out and position the ball with your palms
facing upwards (see figure 8.14a). Extend at your elbows and fingertips to
throw the ball directly overhead (see figure 8.14b). Catch it and repeat the
movement. Progress by increasing the weight of the ball.
Figure 8.14
Seated vertical throw.
olympic lift exercises
These exercises are the most comprehensive for total-body muscle activation
and for developing maximum explosive power. They are not confined to
the programme of a weightlifter, being utilised by athletes across numerous
sports and disciplines, from marathon runners to track and field athletes and
team sports players. One Olympic lift can do the work of several machines,
achieving workout efficiency and saving time. If you want to make the
most of your time in the gym, then learning these moves could be your
time-saving solution to fitness.
Better Body Workouts for Women
To learn the correct technique prior to adding additional weight, begin by
breaking the exercises down into their component parts, as we mentioned
earlier in the chapter. Next, perform the sequence at about 50 to 60 percent
maximal effort to allow your muscles, joints and neurological system to
adapt and develop the correct motor learning process over the first couple
of sessions. Repetitions and sets will vary depending on whether you are
working for pure power or power endurance and you should also adjust
the weight accordingly.
power clean
Exercise Focus
Total-body power
Lifting platform (or dedicated flat surface suitable for lifting), lifting bar
(Olympic bar preferable), weight discs (vary weight according to strength
and goal), and weights gloves (optional)
How To
Stand with your feet hip-width apart or slightly wider with the balls of your
feet positioned under the bar. Squat down and hold the bar with an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder width. Keep your back flat, chest up
and hold your arms straight (see figure 8.15a).
To execute the movement, pull the bar up off the floor by extending
your hips and knees. As the bar reaches your knees, vigorously raise your
shoulders while keeping the barbell close to your thighs. As the bar passes
the mid-thigh area, allow it to touch your thighs (see figure 8.15b). Continue to pull upwards, extending your body and moving onto your toes.
Then, shrug your shoulders and pull the barbell upward with your arms,
flexing your elbows out to the sides (see figure 8.15c). Quickly pull your
body under the bar whilst rotating your elbows around the bar. Catch it
on your shoulders as your knees bend to 90
Perform the
degrees (see figure 8.15d). Stand up immemovement
smoothly and
diately to complete the repetition (see
continuously, lifting steadily from the
figure 8.15e). To lower the bar, bend
floor and then accelerating to the highest
your knees and drop it onto your thighs,
point of the movement. Avoid jerking the
and then lower it to the ground whilst
bar from the floor, as this will disrupt
keeping your back straight. If the weight
the movement pattern and
is heavy, you may choose to drop the bar
potentially risk injury.
as you lower it.
Figure 8.15 Power clean.
Better Body Workouts for Women
clean and Jerk
Exercise Focus
Total-body power
Lifting platform (or dedicated flat
surface suitable for lifting), lifting bar
(Olympic bar preferable), weight discs
(vary weight according to strength and
goal), and weights gloves (optional)
Most women can
clean more weight than they
can jerk, so you may require a lighter
weight to that with which you performed
the isolated power clean. Furthermore,
shoulder stability is key to a successful jerk,
so condition your shoulders with
strength work prior to trying
out this exercise.
How To
Perform the clean movement as described previously (see figure 8.15a-e).
Execute the jerk from the finish position of the clean. With the pressure
on your heels, dip your body by bending your knees and ankles slightly
(see figure 8.16a). Explosively drive upwards with your legs, pressing and
splitting one foot forwards and the other backwards as quickly as possible
while vigorously extending your arms overhead (see figure 8.16b). In the
split position, your front shin should be vertical to the floor and your front
foot flat with your back knee bent. The position of the bar should be directly over your ears, held at arm’s length with your back straight. Push up
with both legs and position your feet side by side to complete the movement (see figure 8.16c). To return the bar, lower it to your shoulders, bend
your knees and then lower the bar to the ground or drop it, as per the
return movement of the previous power clean exercise.
Figure 8.16 Clean and jerk.
Power Up
Exercise Focus
Total-body power
Lifting platform (or dedicated flat surface suitable for lifting), lifting bar
(Olympic bar preferable), weight discs (varyweight according to strength
and goal), and weights gloves (optional)
How To
Stand with your feet hip-width apart or slightly wider with the balls of your
feet positioned under the bar. Squat down and hold the bar with a wide
overhand grip. Arch your back, keep your chest up and arms straight (see
figure 8.17a).
To execute the movement, pull the bar up off the floor by extending your hips and knees. As the bar reaches your knees, keep your back
arched, maintaining the same angle to the floor as for your starting position. When the barbell passes your knees, vigorously raise your shoulders
whilst keeping the bar as close to your legs as possible and as the bar
passes your upper thighs, allow it to touch them. Continue to pull the bar
upwards, extending your body (see figure 8.17b).
Next, shrug your shoulders and pull the barbell upwards with your arms,
elbows out, and over the bar for as long as possible (see figure 8.17c). As
the bar reaches its highest point, aggressively pull your body underneath
the bar by dropping into a squat position and catchComplete the
ing it at arm’s length (see figure 8.17d). As soon
exercise as one
as you have caught the barbell with locked-out
arms in a squat position, stand up, keeping the
barbell overhead, to complete the movement
and then accelerating to
(see figure 8.17e). To return the bar, bend your
the top position.
knees slightly and lower the bar to rest on your
mid-thighs. Then, move it to the ground, keeping a
straight back. If the weight is heavy, and it is safe to do so, you can drop
the bar from the finish position. This can reduce the stress and fatigue involved in lowering the bar when performing multiple sets.
Figure 8.17 Snatch.
Power Up
Vibration training exerciSeS
Performing standard strength exercises on a vibration plate, such as
a Power Plate machine can simultaneously improve your power. This
is because of the Tonic Vibration Reflex (TVR) created by holding a
pre-tensed position (such as a squat position) combined with vibration. This TVR results in a much higher percentage of muscle fibre
recruitment and better muscular coordination compared to ground
based exercises without vibration. Furthermore, with vibration, your
muscles are stimulated to contract at an accelerated speed as a result
of a reflex response in your muscles. So although you are not jumping
or bounding on the machine, as you would for conventional power
training, your muscles still experience the stretch-shortening cycle, and
power adaptations take place. This makes vibration training a great
choice if you want to improve power but reduce the impact on your
joints, such as when recovering from injury or when your goal is to
maintain explosive power during a competitive sports season without
the risk of injury. Hundreds of conventional strength exercises can be
performed on a vibration platform and these include squats, lunges,
press-ups and triceps dips, to mention just a few. You can perform
these exercises either statically or dynamically.
sled sprint exercises
Sprinting is a classic example of power in action. You can perform your
sprints on an ergometer machine (treadmill, rower, stationary bike or elliptical), on the track, on grass, up hills and in the pool. The principle behind
a sprint is to perform each movement pattern maximally and repeatedly
for a short, set distance (short-term power). A strong core, good total-body
strength and good technique will improve your sprinting performance and
efficiency. For examples of power endurance sprint workouts, please see
chapter 6: Go Anaerobic. Sprinting typically involves your body weight
alone, but you can execute sprints with additional loads to further enhance
your power and force output. Remember, force equals mass times acceleration! You can perform sled sprints by either pulling a sled (or person)
so the load is behind you or pushing a sled (or car or person) so the load
is in front of you.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Sled pull Sprint
Exercise Focus
Total-body speed and power
Small sled and a harness (or simply loop a rope or harness directly through
a weighted disc with a hole where the weight bar typically inserts or around
the waist of a partner) and a flat, smooth surface.
How To
Place your arms in the shoulder harness or simply tie the attached ropes
around your waist and face away from the weighted sled, or your partner, in
a standing or three-point sprint start position. Assume a forward lean position, and then quickly accelerate, striking the
ground with your toes in short, fast moveYour body should
ments as you build up speed and knee
remain in a slight forward lean
drive. If using a partner they will need
position for the duration of the 30-metre
to lean backwards and apply a breaking sprint to avoid the weight of the sled pulling
you backwards. Keep your ankles, knees
force in the opposite direction in which
and hips strong and pump your
you are pulling them. To progress, you
arms to generate more power
can increase the sled weight, your partand momentum.
ner’s resistance or your sprint distance.
Sled or car push Sprint
Exercise Focus
Lower body speed and power
A metal frame sled device, small car (with handbrake off ) or partner. Preferably, you will have a partner to steer the car or to act as a moving sled,
pushing back to apply resistance as you push him or her along.
How To
Stand facing the sled, car, or partner. Hold the sled handles, place your
hands against the car or place your hands on the back of your partner.
Keep your arms straight. To initiate the movement, rapidly lean your body
weight into the sled/car/person by dropping your body downwards and
raising your heels off the ground. Drive your knees
forwards, contacting the ground with short
Although you are
rapid steps whilst keeping your weight low
eaning forwards, do not allow
your hips to drift too far backwards,
behind your sled. To progress, increase the
or you will reduce the force being
weight of your sled device or, if using a parttransferred through your body
ner, ask him or her to apply more resistance
to your sled.
back against you.
Additional Power Training
Exercise Suggestions
In addition to the preceding power training exercises, you might also
want to explore and try the following modes for power training.
Cable Machine Exercises
The cable machine is a great way to incorporate power exercises into
your gym-based workout. The exercises are performed in a small
space and the movement direction is determined by the machine, so
it is a safe and controlled environment. Cable power exercises include
wood chops, turn and punch, knee drives (using the ankle straps) and
side turn rotations. For each exercise, accelerate the cable from start
to finish position.
Kettlebell Exercises
The shape of a kettlebell and its custom-made handle makes it ideal
for acceleration movements through a swinging action. You can add a
power dimension to any circuit training workout by incorporating the
following kettlebell exercises: dead-lift swings, single-arm snatch and
pelvic bridge pull-overs.
Boxing Exercises
These exercises are fast and powerful and thus fantastic for all-round
conditioning and achieving a high calorie burn. They also specifically
help develop strength and power in the upper body, which is often
lacking in women. Exercises include the basic jab, cross and hook.
Perform these for a set period of time or number of repetitions and
experiment with exercise combinations.
Better Body Workouts for Women
At A glAnCe
• Power is defined as strength expressed at high speed. It is the body’s
preferred method for generating force. Both sport and everyday activities rely on the generation of power for optimal performance and efficiency, so training for power has numerous benefits.
• Power movements rely on the recruitment of a large number of muscle
fibres and the predominant use of your fast-twitch muscle fibres.
• The many benefits to increasing your power include increased fitness in
a short workout time; increased muscle tone and definition; increased
metabolism and fat burning; increased release of testosterone, human
growth hormone and serotonin for adaptation, repair and regeneration; fun and variety and improved sporting performance.
• The two main types of power include pure explosive power (the ability
to produce a single maximal explosive action) and power endurance
(the ability to produce repeated power movements with minimal loss
of force).
• Prior to attempting power training, condition your body for the impact
and intensity that is required with general strength conditioning and
joint stability work. Also, break down any complex power moves
into their component parts before performing them at full speed and
• Recommended power-training workouts include body-weight plyometrics, bounding, box jump plyometrics, medicine ball power exercises, Olympic lifts and sled sprints.
• The average fitness enthusiast can include a power endurance workout
one or two times every 7 to 10 days and a pure power workout once
per week. A competitive athlete should phase in and adapt power training according to her current training phase and competition schedule.
Get Agile
n its simplest form, agility describes the ability to change direction of body
movement, incorporating elements of both acceleration and deceleration.
At the highest levels of sporting performance, agility is a manifestation of
the strength of the mind–body relationship, resulting in the body moving
in total harmony with and at the limits of its own structural design. Mostly,
agility training is focused on speed work rather than conditioning. It teaches
motor skills with the aim of developing the ability to accommodate intense
neural work, even when approaching fatigue. In competition situations,
elite sportswomen may need to execute precise movement patterns in just
a couple of seconds. It’s not just exclusively for the sports domain, however. Agility training will place new demands on your body, helping you
not only increase your fitness, but also develop skills that you can transfer
to work, rest and play. If in your downtime you partake in activities such
as martial arts, tennis, netball, lacrosse and football, you can expect to see
your game improve.
Since agility training usually relies on short bouts of high-intensity
effort, it can be a truly effective route to both losing weight and improving
general fitness. Training can be very varied and, therefore, a lot more fun
than simply running in straight lines or repetitively lifting something up
and down in the gym. An additional by-product is decreased risk of injury
as you condition your body for changes in direction and stimuli. So, it’s got
to be worth adding to your routine.
CoMPonentS of AgilitY
Agility is a crucial performance component in most sports and is an expression of the combined forces of speed, power and skill. It encompasses many
demands, from the tennis player’s lateral movement to the high jumper’s
ability to transfer horizontal to vertical force as he or she approaches the
bar for takeoff, and from the tae kwon do player’s hand–foot co-ordination
Better Body Workouts for Women
to the fencer’s escape and riposte tactics. Regardless of the sport, practice
will improve this often underrated commodity.
Before getting into the mechanics of the workouts, let’s take a look at
what we actually mean when we talk about agility by breaking it down to
its constituent parts:
• Balance—The ability to maintain static and dynamic equilibrium of
both the limbs and the body as a whole.
• Co-ordination—The ability to perform a range of simple to complex
movements with precision timing, sequence and continuity.
• Reaction—The ability to recruit neuromuscular responses with minimal
time delay in response to visual, auditory or kinaesthetic stimulus.
• Spatial awareness—The degree of control one has over the body in space.
• Rhythm—The skill of matching movement to time.
• Kinaesthetic sense—The awareness of tension in the muscles during
movement that helps to adjust and improve execution.
• Movement selection—The ability to choose appropriate movement patterns to accommodate actual and perceived demands.
Multidirectional exercises require these components to work in harmony,
rather than isolation, as they are closely linked. In addition, although earlier we declared agility training to be speed work rather than conditioning,
a basic platform of strength (particularly in your legs) is a prerequisite for
performing the drills effectively. This is why elite sportswomen dedicate a
period of their preseason training purely to conditioning workouts.
Improving your agility is an incremental process beginning with the
development of locomotion skills, which starts during children’s play when
they try to avoid being caught by their friends in school playground games.
Initially, movement is inefficient, as arm motion is awkward, balance is
questionable and co-ordination is lacking. Learning basic motor skills is the
first stage, therefore, with variation in drills being the best way to learn a
good foundation of general movement patterns. If you’ve never attempted
agility training before, you may wish to begin with the following:
• Perform stationary arm movements, such as pumping the arms while
the feet are fixed.
• Practise the running motion with one leg while keeping the other in
contact with the floor.
• Jumping in place to a set rhythm is also a great way to get started, so
try this with different tunes playing on your MP3 to vary the tempo.
• Perform balance exercises such as simply standing on one leg or
Get Agile
• Practise direction change, starting with curved patterns such as running around cones in the studio or trees in the park in a figure-of-eight
pattern. Next, move on to sharp changes in direction that require a
stop-and-start pattern. The key concept to grasp here is to decelerate by
using multiple short steps rather than a long braking stride to reduce
shearing forces in your knees.
• There exist a number of protocols to measure agility, including the Illinois, T-drill, hexagonal and stork-stand tests. One of the most common
is the simple ladder run, in which you time the speed you need to
cover the 20-rung obstacle (one foot in each gap). A time of less than
3.4 seconds is rated as excellent. A good idea is to test yourself every
12 weeks to monitor your progress.
AgilitY trAining MethodS
Since the primary application for agility training is in preparation for many
sports, trainers usually analyse the basic game-time demands of specific
sports and then create challenges that mirror such. The aims of agility
training are to enhance body control, increase the ability to overcome
inertia, improve footwork and master directional change. These factors
can be improved simultaneously through multidirectional drills involving
stops and starts, often performed at speed. An important maxim to observe
dictates that you should be comfortable with the exercises before working
to fatigue, so incorporate agility exercises into your warm-ups and cooldowns for a short while in order to become familiar with them before
attempting an intense agility-training workout. Try some of the great drills
described in chapter 4 that specifically address movements for warming-up
and cooling-down.
linear pace change
Exercise Focus
How To
Add a random
Begin with a jog, and then alternate
element by reacting to a
the speed to run and then to sprint.
particular word in a song you’re listening
Shift up through your gears smoothto. For example, speed up to a run for 30
seconds if you hear the word ‘move’ or sprint for
ly and then go back down again.
10 seconds if you hear the word ‘fast’. Ideally,
choose a few common words so you
can guarantee they will come up
fairly regularly.
Better Body Workouts for Women
hula hooping
Exercise Focus
Co-ordination and rhythm
Hula hoop
How To
Stand inside the hoop with one foot in front of the other. Lift
Try to avoid
the hoop to just above waist level, holding it against your
circling your hips.
back. Push the hoop around your waist and shift your
Think more of rocking
weight forwards and backwards. Work in both directions,
or pumping.
although you may find you have a stronger side so ensure
your weaker side is tested too.
power hopping
Exercise Focus
Balance and kinaesthetic sense
How To
Start at a specific spot and then hop forwards,
The bend of the
backwards, side to side and on diagonals.
knee before the next hop is
Always keep your body facing in the same
known as a countermove (i.e., doing
direction. Try to focus on bouncing as opthe
opposite movement to prepare for
posed to jerking movements, landing on
exertion exercise), which helps
the ball of your foot and bending your
increase the natural elasticity of
knee. Learning to decelerate and accelerate
the muscle fascia.
leads to more efficient movement patterns
and control of force production.
Get Agile
adding agility training
to your Workout
You can easily tweak the strength training exercises that you learned
in chapter 7 to improve your kinaesthetic sense and spatial awareness:
• Perform standing exercises on just one leg for balance.
• Sit on a BOSU ball during upper body exercises to improve
balance and kinaesthetic sense.
• Put one foot on a core board for squats or lunges to improve
co-ordination and balance.
• Swap the chest press for press-ups with one or both hands on
a medicine ball for balance.
• Use free weights rather than fixed machines and dumbbells
rather than barbells to place a greater neuromuscular demand
on your body for improving spatial awareness.
• Include lots of rotation exercises (e.g., Russian twist).
• Think laterally: Squats and lunges should be performed to the
side and at diagonals rather than static, to the front and to the
ladder drill
Exercise Focus
Spatial awareness
Soft ladder
How To
The primary aim of ladder drills is to improve speed, so work at high intensity. Consequently, you should allow a short rest between repetitions
to allow yourself to perform the next one at full effort once again. You can
employ ladder drills as a component within a training session or as a standalone workout. In the latter case, for a good 30-minute session, begin with
a warm-up followed by 5 minutes on each of the preceding drills and then
do a cool down.
Better Body Workouts for Women
As mentioned in the testing procedures, a floor ladder is a very useful
tool, but don’t feel that you have to invest in an expensive prop. You can
easily make one at home if you have a bit of space and a roll of parcel
tape. Lay down two parallel lines about 30 centimetres apart and then add
the 20 rungs, spacing them 35 centimetres apart. Ladder exercises include
the following:
High Knee Lift
Drive your elbows backwards to help increase speed and concentrate on
getting your feet back on the ground as quickly as possible, picturing your
legs as pistons. Land on the balls of your feet and keep your head and
chest lifted.
Low Knee Lift
After running through the ladder, continue for 10 metres at full sprint,
gradually lengthening your stride. Observe the same technique tips as in
the previous exercise.
Lateral Step
Keep your hips low, stay on the balls of your feet, don’t lift the feet up,
and focus on sideways movement. Remember to work in both directions.
Lateral Shuffle
Face the length of the ladder and then shuffle across it by shifting your
position: Begin with both feet on one side of the ladder, move both feet
inside it, and then move again to place both feet on the other side. Make
your way back to the starting side, but move one rung up the ladder. Continue shuffling from side to side and working your way up the ladder.
In–Out Jump
With your feet together, travel the length of the ladder, jumping into the
space between the rungs then out to the sides again.
In–Out Hop
Travel the length of the ladder, jumping on one foot into the space between the rungs then out to the same side, remembering to work both left
and right legs. On your left leg you will work up the left side of the ladder
and vice-versa on the right leg. Focus on landing softly by bending your
knee as you touch down, using the thigh muscles to absorb the impact.
Ski Jumps
Start at the side of the ladder with your feet together and facing the ladder
at a 45-degree angle, your knees bent and your arms drawn back. Now
explode upwards, swinging your arms to help gain momentum, and jump
across the ladder. Turn your lower body as you cross to the other side and
land with your feet again facing slightly towards the ladder.
Get Agile
Exercise Focus
How To
You can perform these drills in any open space, using markers such as
cones, plastic cups, stones or even trees and lampposts. Perform them
at sprint speed, quickly recovering between each repetition for 10 to 15
seconds. Do 10 repetitions of each drill to get familiar with the movement
and then execute it with precision, efficiency and control as you begin to
fatigue. Cutting exercises include the following:
Linear Runs
Run forwards to touch the marker and then backwards to your start point.
These are sprints, so keep the distance to around 10 metres.
Lateral Runs
Cover the distance between two markers placed 20 metres apart by running sideways, alternately crossing the rear foot over the front one and
then behind it again.
Run along a line of markers set 5 metres apart, weaving between them
with smooth movements. Try not to lose speed as you encounter each
Place markers in two lines 5 metres apart and staggered at 5-metre intervals in a zigzag pattern. Run from one to the next, changing direction as
swiftly as possible. Remember to shorten your stride length in order to
decelerate and then accelerate away from the pivot point.
Place markers in roughly a 10-metre square formation, and then run around
them. Face the same way throughout the circuit so that you run forwards,
to the side, backwards and then to the other side.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Exercise Focus
Co-ordination and rhythm
Buy a quality rope (rather than a kids’ version) that will last through repeated workouts and help you achieve an even swing. The rope should
be long enough to reach your armpits when you stand in the middle of
the loop.
How To
Make sure you have enough space that you won’t hit anything (or anyone)
with the rope. Land softly after each jump. Make contact with the ball of
your foot first, and then roll through the lateral arch to your heels. This is
the reverse of the foot action used in jogging. Skipping exercises include
the following:
Basic Skip
Hold a handle in each hand and let the rope rest on the floor behind your
heels. Keep the hands at hip level and use the wrists, not the shoulders, to
swing the rope overhead and down to the feet. As the rope approaches,
keep your feet together and jump only a few centimetres off the ground
as it passes underneath you. Land on the balls of your feet as softly as
possible. Repeat this process slowly at first, and then try to find a steady
rhythm. If you struggle to time your jump, make the rope hit the ground a
foot or so in front of you before jumping. The noise of the rope hitting the
floor will help you time your jump.
Start with the basic skip. When the rope is directly above your head, cross
your arms at your waist. As the rope approaches the floor, hop over it.
Once it’s overhead again, uncross your arms so that they’re back in the
starting position. Keep your wrists firm at all times and your hands low and
pulled in close. The crossover works best if you cross and uncross the arms
every other jump (i.e., alternating crossed jumps with the basic skip).
Side to Side
Hop from side to side as the rope passes under your feet, covering about
15 centimetres to each side. Keep the knees and ankles soft to avoid injury.
As you jump up, twist at the waist, moving your legs and feet 45 degrees
to the side while keeping the torso facing forward. Concentrate on keeping your feet together throughout the movement. On the next swing, jump
and twist again, this time moving your legs and feet to a similar position
Get Agile
on the other side. To make this easier, you may wish to slow the pace and
jump a little higher. To avoid knee injuries, ensure that the whole length of
your leg (and not just the lower leg) turns with you.
Rest the rope on the floor behind your heels and lift your right foot a few
centimetres off the floor, resting your weight on the left foot. Begin as in
the basic skip, but hop on the left foot. Hop 8 times on the left, and then
change to the right foot. Once you’re comfortable, lower the number to 4
hops, then 2 and finally 1.
Skipping Jacks
Begin with your basic skip and then jump a little higher, landing with your
feet about hip-width apart. On the next jump, return your feet to the centre. Avoid landing with your feet too far apart, as they could get tangled
in the rope.
reaction ball
Exercise Focus
Reaction and movement selection
Reaction ball (irregularly shaped ball that has a knobbly surface to produce
a random bounce, even when thrown at flat surfaces)
How To
Stand a few metres from a wall, throw the ball at it and then try to catch it
as it bounces back. Don’t worry if you miss it; retrieving it and returning to
your start mark as quickly as possible is all part of the exercise. For additional challenge, throw the ball at an uneven surface, such as a tree trunk.
You can make your own reaction ball quite easily and cheaply. Purchase
a children’s bouncy ball, the solid rubber type. Using the sharp end of a potato peeler, carefully dig out a couple of chunks
Improving your
so that the surface is no longer spherical. The
reaction enables you
ball should now bounce at unpredictable
rst to an opportunity to
angles. For the simplest approach, howattack before it disappears and also to
ever, you could use a rugby ball, which
recognise the opponent’s manoeuvre so
will also produce random bounces that
you can defend before it’s too late.
force you to react.
When training, then, always work
at maximum speed.
Better Body Workouts for Women
At A glAnCe
• Agility is the ability to change the direction of body movement while
incorporating elements of both acceleration and deceleration.
• It incorporates balance, co-ordination, reaction, spatial awareness,
rhythm, kinaesthetic sense and movement selection.
• It is a vital component of skill-related fitness for most sportswomen.
• For the recreational exerciser, agility training can relieve the boredom
of regular workouts and reduce the risk of injury.
• A basic level of strength is required. Since most of the drills focus on
speed, they are usually performed at a high intensity.
Personalise Your
t times, individual circumstances and demands make life, particularly
working out, more of a challenge. This chapter aims to investigate
a few of those challenges and to pre-warn (and therefore pre-arm) you
to accommodate them. A number of genuine issues apply specifically to
women, but forethought and planning will ensure these do not throw your
workout programme off track. We firmly believe that fitness is for life. Here
is some vital advice for overcoming some of the challenges you might face
on your fitness journey.
trAining during MenStruAtion
Water retention is common during menstruation, and it can leave you
feeling bloated. Your energy levels may be low, and a general feeling of
discomfort can push exercise down your list of priorities. However, sometimes just getting to the start line can be enough. If you give it a try, you
will find that the instant buzz and endorphin release from exercise energises
you. You will be able to complete your workout, feeling all the better for
doing so. Furthermore, the increase in blood flow during exercise leads to
an increase in lymph flow, which in turn reduces water retention. It’s wise
to moderate your workout intensity a little bit if you’re feeling particularly
lethargic. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids. If you really are on a low, turn
this into a gentle exercise day by opting for a swim. The water will reduce
stress on your lower back, which might be suffering. Alternatively, try a
yoga class, as some poses have been reported to help relieve cramps. The
breathing exercises can also reduce tension, particularly in the neck and
shoulders, as well as help to calm the nervous system.
Refuelling at this time requires special attention, as blood loss can contribute to low iron levels. This causes the feelings of lethargy, since iron
transports oxygen around your body to power the muscle cells. Good sources
of this vital nutrient are spinach, beans, raisins, tofu, apricots and fortified
cereals. Fish contains linoleic acid, which can help ease cramping, and fresh
fruit and vegetables can also be of benefit as they are low in sodium, so
helping to reduce water retention.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Research shows that using an oral contraceptive can help to maintain
hormone levels and so counter the fluctuations at this time that reduce
the ability to train effectively. Certainly this is worth consideration for the
serious competitor, as is the obvious step of scheduling races around your
menstrual cycle if this is an option.
AVoiding the feMAle Athlete triAd
The female athlete triad describes the combination of three related aspects
that lead to an unhealthy situation, namely disordered eating, amenorrhea
and osteoporosis.
Disordered eating refers to the many, often unhealthy, eating routines that
people, particularly women, follow in an attempt to control weight. They
may have unrealistic goals that often result from perceived pressure from
friends, family, society or sports coaches. Sportswomen in certain disciplines
are more at risk, with dancing, swimming, gymnastics and running placing a
specific emphasis on lean aesthetics. Additional common contributory factors
include family issues, poor knowledge of nutrition and low self-esteem. A
combination of some, or even all, of these factors can lead to extreme calorie
restriction, forced vomiting and use of medication such as laxatives and diuretics. Sadly, disordered eating not only impairs your ability to work out, thus
slowing your progress towards your goals, but also hurts your health status
by affecting the cardiovascular, endocrine and thermoregulatory systems.
From a very basic viewpoint, insufficient calorie intake obviously leads to
reduced energy stores in the body, particularly muscle glycogen. So, your
ability to exercise at high intensities, a concept we’ve repeatedly recommended throughout this book, will be severely limited. You will also be less
likely to achieve the very results you train for. Sadly, lack of sufficient calorie
intake can be the precursor to the second component of the female athlete
triad, amenorrhea (cessation of menstruation). This is thought to happen in
two ways. First, exercise stress can potentially keep the hypothalamus from
secreting the gonadotrophin-releasing hormone that stimulates the beginning of the menstrual cycle. Second, with so few fuel stores available, the
body sacrifices reproduction in order to use the energy so the vital organs
can continue to perform. Fortunately, simply increasing food intake will
lead to a return to normal menstruation.
The final of the three components is osteoporosis, which is caused by
reduced oestrogen levels associated with amenorrhea. The condition warrants greater investigation due to its prevalence within the female population
worldwide. Bone growth begins in the foetus as calcium and magnesium
salts are deposited and built up, a process known as ossification. Remodelling
continues through life as osteoblast cells deposit mineral salts to promote
new bone growth and old bone tissue gets broken down and absorbed by
osteoclast cells, releasing calcium, potassium and phosphate compounds
into the blood stream. In childhood, bone formation outpaces reabsorption,
Personalise Your Programme
resulting in increased length and width of the bones, but the reverse is true
in later years. Peak bone mass is achieved at around 25 years of age.
The flow of calcium in and out of the bone tissue is controlled by calcitriol,
which is formed in the kidneys in a process where vitamin D (absorbed from
sunlight) is a key ingredient. The parathyroid gland controls the kidney secretions so that if calcium levels in the blood fall below a certain point, more
will automatically be released. This balancing act is assisted by the presence
of oestrogen. The drop in oestrogen levels associated with the female athlete
triad results in greater bone reabsorption and so the loss of bone density.
As no obvious outward signs of bone health exist, you may not know your
bones have lost density until you suffer a fracture following a relatively minor
trauma. The most common fracture sites are the wrist, hip and vertebrae.
The risk of osteoporosis is increased by a number of factors:
• Family history—Daughters of mothers who have suffered the disease
are likely to possess a lower bone density.
• Ethnic background—Afro-Caribbean and Hispanic people show less
likelihood of suffering than European and Asian individuals.
• Age—Bone mineral density generally declines with increasing years
due to the reduction in osteoblast activity.
• Medical history—Sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis, hyperthyroidism,
Crohn’s disease and coeliac disease all have an increased chance of
• Alcohol use—The diuretic effect of drinking removes vital supplies of
calcium in the urine, which slows the growth of new bone.
• Smoking habits—Smoking decreases oestrogen levels in the blood
stream, leading to a reduction in the amount of calcium absorbed by
the bones.
You can deploy two key strategies to reduce your chance of becoming
another osteoporosis statistic. The first is to manage your diet. Foods containing calcium positively influence bone mineral density. As established
earlier, low calcium intake will lead the body to reabsorb bone tissue in
order to maintain adequate blood calcium levels. Low-fat dairy and leafy
green vegetables provide a direct route to obtaining the calcium we need.
In addition, consuming fruit and vegetables, specifically those that are more
alkaline, reduces the amount of calcium lost in urine and therefore also has
a positive influence on bone density. The second strategy is getting plenty
of exercise. Since bone adapts to the mechanical stresses applied to it, then
loading of the bones through physical activity will lead to positive changes
in structure. Exercise has been shown to improve bone density at any age.
Of these two tactics, exercise carries the greatest potential to affect bone
mass, as it both produces gravitational force on the skeleton and loads muscles,
effects which have been proven to promote bone health. More specifically,
resistance training is a vital component that must be part of your training
Better Body Workouts for Women
routine. The reason strength training works is because the skeleton responds
adaptively to forces applied to it. If stress is beyond a certain threshold, cell
activity changes to stimulate an increase in strength of the bone. This occurs
through a phenomenon known as the piezoelectric principle, a term that comes
from the Greek translation of the word ‘squeeze’, which helps us understand
how it links to the performance of strength exercises. The tendon of a muscle
exerts mechanical stress on its point of attachment to the bone, causing a
charge to be released from within the collagen fibres. This voltage then attracts
the oppositely charged osteoblasts that we talked about earlier, which deposit
minerals at the site. The result, then, is a localised increase in bone density.
It is most important to understand that cardio training is not as effective as
strength training for preventing osteoporosis. So, if your programme is geared
toward improving your running, swimming or cycling performance, you
really need to add regular resistance sessions. Also, the bone-loading effect is
site specific, so it’s vital to follow a whole-body approach to strength training.
working out when PregnAnt
Exercise is important both before and after giving birth for helping to reduce
pregnancy symptoms, control weight gain and ease labour. It also tones the
stretched pelvic floor and abdominal muscles, plus realigns posture. Paula
Radcliffe, who won the New York Marathon only 10 months after her first
child was born, is rumoured to have run 14 miles (23 km) each day when
expecting her second child. The truth is that training is very much down
to the individual and even to the specific pregnancy, as symptoms can vary
for a woman from one to the next.
Workout Modifications During Pregnancy
As many of you know, pregnancy is made up of three phases of roughly
equal duration, characterized by the changes that occur in the body at these
times. Your training will need to be adapted for these periods, so let’s take
a moment to consider such.
General guidelines for exercise during pregnancy are as follows:
Aim for two or three workouts per week.
If you are not a regular exerciser already, work at low intensity.
Drink plenty of water.
Keep your movements smooth, never ballistic or bouncing.
After 20 weeks, avoid exercises where you lie flat on your back. This
is due to the risk of supine hypotensive syndrome, where the weight
of the baby rests on the main blood vessels, possibly restricting the
blood flow to both you and the baby.
• Focus on constant, relaxed breathing.
• Limit your range of motion.
Personalise Your Programme
Fatigue and nausea are common symptoms in the first trimester, but you
will likely be able to comfortably continue your level of exercise. Listen to
your body and rest if necessary, particularly as miscarriage is most common
towards the end of this phase. However, exercise is not thought to be a cause.
In the second trimester, the blood volume, body weight and levels of
the hormone relaxin increase. The first signs of the tummy expanding can
also be seen. Morning sickness usually subsides, although occasionally it
continues through the full term.
The third trimester can bring symptoms of breathlessness plus posture
and balance issues, depending on the amount of weight gained and where
the baby is being carried in the abdomen. The higher levels of relaxin can
also destabilise the joints.
This information enables us to appreciate how workouts during pregnancy should be modified.
Warm-Ups During Pregnancy
The extra load on the cardiovascular system caused by the increased blood
volume will increase your heart rate, so always begin gently. This will also
reduce risks associated with joint stability issues. The shift of your centre
of gravity may make changes in speed of movement and direction more
difficult, so build up gradually. Since your body temperature will already
be elevated, this section of your session can be shorter than normal.
Cardio Training During Pregnancy
As pregnancy can reduce proprioception and therefore agility, avoid agility exercises, particularly later in the pregnancy. Whilst you can maintain
your cardio training in the first trimester, reduce the impact starting in the
second trimester in light of changes in the pelvic floor and decreased joint
stability. Since your heart rate will already be higher than usual, you will
not need to work as hard to achieve a training effect. Your workload must
remain below the anaerobic threshold as lactic acid builds up, as this can
be an issue for the growing baby. Your working pulse shouldn’t exceed 70
percent maximum (calculated by subtracting your age from 220), and a
20-minute session is the ideal duration. Energy levels can be a problem, so
regularly consume small portions of complex carbohydrate.
Strength Training During Pregnancy
Concentrate on perfect technique during resistance exercises, as instability
within the joints may put you at greater risk of injury due to poor alignment
or movement patterns. Additionally, avoid static isometric exercises such as
the plank, as these may lead to an increase in blood pressure. Exercises where
you lie flat on your back are not recommended from around 20 weeks, as
mentioned earlier. Once the baby starts to show with an extended tummy,
avoid traditional abdominal exercises, which put stress on muscles that are
already being stretched and weakened. They may also exacerbate the diastasis,
or separation, of the fibrous tissue that runs down the middle of the abdomen.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Flexibility Training During Pregnancy
The increased level of the hormone relaxin means you need to take care
when performing stretching exercises. If you push the positions too far, your
ligaments may slacken and remain loose after the birth, leading to unstable
joints. Interestingly, this is more of an issue during repeated pregnancies.
A number of stretching exercises will be more difficult due to the size and
position of the developing baby and possibly due to increased body fat, so
experiment with different positions to find comfortable options.
Pregnancy is actually a great time to think about expanding your exercise
horizons and trying something different that you may not have considered
previously but is better suited to you at the moment. As the weight of the
growing baby increases, aqua workouts become more appealing. The water’s
buoyancy reduces stress in the pelvic floor and joints, particularly helping
the lower back, and makes reduced-impact jogging possible. An extra bonus
is that the resistance of the water against your moving limbs produces a
toning effect for your muscles. Regarding dry-land options, brisk walking
and yoga are good choices. The latter increases joint stability and provides
breathing techniques that could possibly be useful during labour. Most yoga
centres do specific pregnancy classes.
exercising safely During Pregnancy
Let’s now consider some specific exercises with tips to ensure you work out
safely and effectively at this important time:
• Control squats so that the heels always remain in firm contact with
the floor to provide stability. Also, concentrate on evenly spreading the
weight rather than favouring one leg, as this can stress the sacroiliac
joint where the bottom of the spine links to the pelvis.
• To reduce the risk of lower back issues, support yourself during side
bends, control trunk rotation and avoid hyperextension.
• Perform standing leg lifts with a focus on centring the pelvis, as shifting side to side can cause problems for the symphysis pubis joint at
the bottom of the pelvis.
• Restrict abdominal exercises to pelvic tilts and hip hitches.
• Pelvic floor muscles are vital, so contract them by visualizing pulling
front to back and vice-versa. Concentrate on relaxing the muscles in
the abdomen and thighs. Try holding contractions for around 8 seconds
to improve endurance and pulsing to improve control.
• Perform standing exercises and seated positions with the knees bent,
as straight legs can cause the hamstrings to pull the pelvis into a tilt
that stresses the lumbar spine.
Personalise Your Programme
SpeciFic ante-natal exerciSe
Various factors might affect your motivation to maintain an exercise
routine during pregnancy, so remember that the benefits of working
out can be more than purely physical:
• Confidence—Some women appear radiant during pregnancy,
whilst others can struggle with the extra responsibility and fears
of a negative effect on their lifestyle. The endorphin release
from exercise will give you that feel-good boost just when you
need it most.
• Clothing—Regular workout attire will not fit as well once weight
begins to creep up, so purchase loose items so you feel comfortable when exercising.
• Me time—Morning sickness, other children and work can all
get in the way of your workouts, so plan your me time regularly.
Postnatal exercise
Once your baby is born, you will probably be raring to get back into exercise,
but you can’t simply go full steam ahead; you will need to build up to your
previous level of fitness incrementally. Let’s take a moment to explain why.
Even if you did happen to have the energy to begin in the first months after
birth, you probably shouldn’t engage in exercise until after the standard
6-week examination, when the body has returned to its former status in
terms of many of the biological changes that occurred during pregnancy.
Relaxin levels have usually reduced considerably by this point, so working
on stability by using free weights exercises, rather than machines, is a good
idea. Be aware, however, that it will take months for the relaxin to totally
leave your system, so it’s even more important at this time to concentrate
on correct technique.
After birth, your centre of gravity will shift back towards normal. Take
time to refamiliarise yourself with your neutral spine position, as this
should be fixed when doing resistance exercises to protect your lower spine.
Weight loss will occur naturally, usually taking anywhere between 3 and 12
months, but cardio workouts will definitely speed this process. Low impact
should still be the choice for cardio, so get in the pool or try brisk walking
and low-intensity aerobics.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Your abdominal wall could stretch as much as 8 inches (20 cm) in
length and an incredible 20 inches (50 cm) in width, so start engaging the
area as soon as possible. If you experienced abdominal diastasis, you will
need time for it to repair. This could take place within days, but it is more
likely to take weeks, hence the 6-week threshold mentioned earlier. Start
with isometric, or static, contractions whilst lying on your back and also
whilst on all fours, such as Klapps crawls (see following section). Once
you begin to notice the return of strength and definition to the abdominal
muscles and reduced separation, you can move on to sit-ups and similar
exercises. Following a caesarean birth, however, avoid exercise until after
the 12-week check-up.
klapps crawls
Exercise Focus
Abdominal and lower back muscles
How To
Assume an all-fours position, with the hands shoulder-width apart and
knees hip-width apart. Place the hands directly under the shoulders and
the knees directly under the hips. Aim for 5 repetitions (to each side as
necessary), focusing on smooth, controlled movement and working to
your full range of comfortable motion on each of the following exercises:
1. Pull your navel in tightly, rounding your lower back. At the same
time, look down at the floor (see figure 10.1a).
2. Next, actively press your tummy towards the floor and lift your head
to look up to the ceiling (see figure 10.1b).
3. Keeping your hips fixed in position and resisting the temptation
to sit back on your heels, walk your hands around to one side (see
figure 10.1c) and then back to the starting position. Repeat to the
other side.
4. Reach one hand as far under your body as you can (see figure
10.1d), then bring it back and continue the movement to lift your
hand towards the ceiling (see figure 10.1e). Fix your gaze on the
moving hand throughout the exercise.
5. Draw one knee towards the elbow of the opposite arm (see figure
10.1f), and then lift that arm and reach it forward, simultaneously
lifting and stretching the moving leg out behind, in a Superman
position (see figure 10.1g).
6. Return both your arm and leg to the ground, keep your upper body
fixed and your abdominal muscles engaged, and shift your hips
from side to side in a swinging motion (see figure 10.1h).
Figure 10.1 Klapps crawls.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Strengthening to reduCe inJurieS
Having read this far, you are aware that your fitness level improves when
adaptive physiological changes follow a training session, a principle known
as supercompensation. As an example, your muscles absorb more protein,
so enabling you to generate greater force. To keep moving towards your
goals, you need to keep increasing the workload as your cardiorespiratory
capacity improves and your muscles strengthen. However, you can risk a
number of injuries if you constantly push your body to the limits, so equip
yourself with tactics to help reduce the risk of being sidelined.
Unfortunately, a gender difference exists when it comes to training
injuries, specifically to the knee, as a result of the variation in structure of
the male and female skeletons. Women’s hips are proportionally wider for
childbirth purposes. As a result, the angle the thigh makes with the shin,
known as the Q-angle, is greater for women than for men. This is suggested
as the reason that relatively more females record injury to the anterior
cruciate ligament, the band of connective tissue that crosses the knee joint,
giving it stability. Another concern is the fact that women usually have a
greater degree of anterior pelvis tilt than men. Therefore, women should
strengthen the glutes and stretch the hip flexors to help to realign the pelvis,
as well as strengthen the quadriceps to stabilise the knee joint. The following exercises are proposed for dealing with this issue:
• Rear lunge with upper body rotation (see figure 10.2a)
• Front lunge with overhead lift (see figure 10.2b)
• Side lunge with low reach (see figure 10.2c)
Figure 10.2
Lunges with an added component to strengthen the glutes and stretch the hip flexors.
Personalise Your Programme
Now let’s consider specific injuries associated with common workout
If you notice pain below your knee when walking down stairs, you could be
suffering from patellar tendonitis, inflammation usually caused by repeated
stretching of the tendon through excessive straightening of the leg. You can
find relief by strengthening the vastus medialis muscle: Practise just the last
portion of the movement on a seated leg-extension machine, raising your
bike seat and working at a lower resistance but with a higher cadence to
maintain the intensity.
Soreness around the shoulder can be a sign of rotator cuff impingement
due to regular stress on the small tendons around the shoulder blade that
help to stabilise the joint. There is little room to move in this area, so even
a small degree of inflammation can lead to trapping and therefore pain.
To reduce the problem, stretch the affected area by taking your arm across
your chest and pulling in with the other hand. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30
seconds. In addition, try strengthening the area with the dumb waiter exercise as follows, using either a resistance band or cable machine in the gym.
dumb Waiter
Exercise Focus
Shoulder girdle
How To
Start in either a standing or sitting position with
your elbows tucked in to your sides and your
shoulder blades drawn back and down. Keeping
your elbows in contact with your ribs and your
palms up, take your hands out to the side as far
as is comfortable (see figure 10.3). You may not
be able to move far at first, but with practice, you
will increase the range. Once you can achieve a
good range of movement,
Keep your
add a resistance band in
shoulders down and
your hands to further imyour abdominal muscles
prove the strength in the
lightly pulled in.
rotator cuff muscles.
Figure 10.3
Dumb waiter.
Better Body Workouts for Women
Sadly for you pavement pounders, running poses a greater risk of injury than
cycling and swimming. Runners commonly present plantar fasciitis and iliotibial
band (ITB) syndrome. The first condition refers to a strain on the connective
tissue in the sole of the foot that is stretched on every foot strike, causing a
dull ache when you are at rest. To counter this, reduce your mileage and head
for the pool, where you can run with reduced impact on the foot. ITB syndrome is caused by friction between the fibrous band that attaches down the
outside of the leg and the bottom end of the thigh bone. It can present itself
as a sharp pain on the outside of your knee. Working the area with a foam
roller is a great way to help reduce tightness in the area and so bring relief (see
the cooling-down section of chapter 4 for foam rolling exercise descriptions).
In the worst-case scenario, should you find you are suffering from an
acute injury (a traumatic incident) or a chronic injury (a minor irritation
that builds up over time), remember the RICE regimen:
• Rest—No awards exist for trying to die like a hero during your workouts,
so listen to your body and take a day off if you need to.
• Ice—Use for around 15 minutes every hour to help reduce inflammation.
• Compression—An elastic bandage can help to restrict swelling, preventing loss of function.
• Elevation—Resting the affected limb in a lifted position will assist your
circulatory system as it gradually removes the excess fluid.
At A glAnCe
• When menstruating, lower the intensity of your workout and modify
your diet slightly to ensure you take in adequate supplies of iron and
lower your sodium intake.
• Avoid aiming for unrealistically low levels of body fat, as this can be
the catalyst for a serious threat to your health known as the female
athlete triad—disordered eating, amenorrhea and osteoporosis.
• To counter the risk of osteoporosis, include whole-body resistance
training sessions in your routine, as weight training increases bone
density only in the area exercised.
• Pregnancy is not a red light. It’s usually possible to exercise as normal
for the first 3 months. Modifying your programme will allow you to
continue throughout pregnancy, possibly right up to delivery. Resist
the temptation to rush back after giving birth.
• Don’t ignore minor niggles, as they may become major injuries. Address
them with specific stretches and strengthening exercises. If you do end
up in pain, remember the RICE protocol.
sample Workouts
and Programmes
t’s time to put all the theory and newfound training principles into practice and dive into a wide selection of workouts to find ones that meet
your training and body-shape goals. If it’s improved sporting performance
you require, then explore our specific conditioning workouts for increasing
power, speed endurance, aerobic capacity or agility. If you want to further
shape and sculpt your body and generally look and feel great then feast on
our interval workouts and total-body conditioning circuits for ultimate fat
burning and lean-muscle development.
This chapter provides a selection of our sample workouts with tips, progressions and a workout protocol for each method. We have also set out a
sample weekly programme guide to help you put it all together. But before
you start, don’t forget to warm up correctly with a selection of exercises
from chapter 4: Warming Up and Cooling Down and then revisit after your
workout for your cool-down. Enjoy!
AeroBiC workoutS
Improve fitness and endurance ability with these aerobic training workouts. There are a number to try and all will bring benefits in terms of sport
performance, general fitness and weight loss so try to mix and match them
rather than repeating one format, which can lead to the boredom factor.
In particular, experiment with different cardio modes and outdoor versus
indoor environments.
Better Body Workouts for Women
continuous training Workout
This workout, as shown in table 11.1, improves your ability to remove lactic acid and to become accustomed to long distances. Use a treadmill or
outdoor terrain.
This workout consists of treadmill or outdoor running and continues
from start to finish with no rest. The duration is 30 to 60 minutes for a
moderate pace and 60 to 90 minutes for a gentle pace.
Take care with this type of workout, as it can lead to overuse injury. The
best way to follow this route is to mix different cardio modes to avoid too
much of the same repetitive movement. You can easily apply this method
to the bike or pool.
table 11.1
Continuous training Workout
Treadmill or outdoor running
Moderate or gentle
30–60 min (moderate) or
60–90 min (gentle)
Fartlek training
This method (see table 11.2) adds variety to your workouts and challenges
different energy systems and muscles fibres. Again, you can easily transfer
it to the pool and bike. Use a treadmill or outdoor terrain. Cardio machines
usually incorporate a fartlek option, referred to as the random programme.
If yours does not, select the manual setting and then change the speed,
incline or resistance at irregular intervals.
This workout consists of running outdoors or on a treadmill for 30 minutes,
varying from a jog up to a sprint. During the 30 minutes, include five fastpace runs for 60 seconds each and five sprints for 30 seconds each, at random intervals and in any order. The incline should vary in ad hoc fashion, so
just go with the environment for outdoor running or change the incline after
each faster period on the treadmill. To recover, run at a slower pace; again,
vary the times before your next burst of speed rather than resting at set times.
table 11.2
Fartlek training Workout
30 min
Varying from
jog through
to sprint
Working from
a slow jog, add
5 × 60 sec fast
pace and 5 × 30
sec sprinting at
random intervals
and in any order.
Varying in ad hoc
fashion, not fixed.
Just go with the
environment or try
changing the incline
on the treadmill after
each faster section.
Sample Workouts and Programmes
interval training Workout
This routine (see table 11.3) enables you to work out at higher intensities,
as efforts are followed by a rest period. It is ideal for guaranteeing that you
continue to progress your fitness, as you can simply tweak the work-to-rest
ratio to either work longer or rest for a shorter duration. Use a treadmill,
outdoor terrain, pool or rower. Most cardio machines include an interval
feature, but if yours does not, select the manual setting and change the
speed or resistance at the appropriate times.
In this routine, you’ll work at a fast pace for 3 minutes, followed by a
slow pace for 30 seconds for recovery. Repeat the intervals until you until
you reach 45 minutes. You can run, cycle, swim or row.
table 11.3
Interval training Workout
effort time
rest time
Running, cycling,
swimming or rowing
45 min
3 min
30 sec
cross-training Workout
This routine (see table 11.4) gets you accustomed to switching between
different cardio modes, as would be the case in a triathlon. Since the different cardio exercises offer slightly different challenges, this method can
lead to better balance in muscle development and better overall fitness
gains. Use a rower, treadmill and cycle.
This workout consists of using a rowing machine for 10 minutes, running
on a treadmill for 20 minutes and cycling on a stationary bike for 30 minutes, all at a moderate pace. This is a start-to-finish workout with no rest
and as little time as possible spent moving between stations. To get the
most from this format, change the order of equipment used from session
to session.
table 11.4
Cross-training Workout
10 min
20 min
30 min
Better Body Workouts for Women
negative Splits Workout
This routine (see table 11.5) develops your ability to accommodate higher
speeds at the end of the session, mimicking a race scenario. Use a treadmill or a running track.
This workout consists of 3 sets of running, in which you run 1,600 metres
(1 mile) at a slow pace, 800 metres at a moderate pace and 400 metres at a
fast pace. Rest for 3 to 5 minutes between each set. The 400-metre section
will be tough but results will be better if you can maintain good running
form. Check out chapter 5: All In Aerobics for running technique tips.
table 11.5 negative splits Workout
1,600 m (1 mile)
800 m
400 m
turnaround Session Workout
This workout (see table 11.6) improves your speed of recovery. You can
adapt it to how you feel the day you work out, and you can easily transfer
it to the pool and bike. You’ll need a treadmill, outdoor terrain, swimming
pool or a cycle.
This workout consists of running 800 metres for 5 to 8 reps. Set a timer
for 5 minutes and, once you complete the distance, rest until the time is
up. This means that if you run faster, you get to rest for longer. To achieve
optimum gain from this format, vary the way you use it. On some workouts, focus on a fast run and a long rest; other times, opt for a slower run
and a shorter rest.
table 11.6 turnaround session Workout
rest time
5 min
800 m
On completing the
distance, rest until the
5 min are up. If you run
faster, you get to rest
for longer.
Sample Workouts and Programmes
AnAeroBiC workoutS
The following anaerobic workouts use the interval training method with
a selection of different exercise modalities. You can choose between those
sessions focused on short speed work and those favouring speed endurance,
depending on your sporting or fitness requirements.
back-to-back running Sprints Workout
This workout (see table 11.7) develops speed and fast recovery. It is suitable for athletes, games players and those wanting a short, effective fatburning workout. Use a synthetic athletics track or an area of flat grass.
Mark out 60 metres on a running track or area of grass. Sprint from one
mark to the next, slowing down only when you cross your finish line or
marker. Turn around immediately and walk back to your finish marker, preparing to sprint back in the other direction after 10 to 20 seconds. Drive
hard with both arms and legs to get up to speed as quickly as possible
from your starting mark. Work for good range and leg speed.
table 11.7
Back-to-Back running sprints Workout
rest interval
Running sprint
60 m
10–20 sec
incline treadmill Sprint Workout
This workout (see table 11.8) is the ultimate hill-sprint challenge to push
your limits, as well as your speed and power following short recoveries. It
is suitable for sprint and games athletes and those wanting to strengthen
and shape their legs and bum whilst blasting calories. Use a treadmill.
Straddle the belt of the treadmill, placing your feet on the outer edges
of the machine so you are not touching the treadmill belt. Use the controls
to bring the treadmill up to your starting speed and gradient. Supporting
yourself with the handlebars, step onto the moving treadmill and begin
your first sprint. After 30 seconds (watch the console timer and keep it running throughout), grip the handlebars again and step off the belt onto the
table 11.8
Incline treadmill sprint Workout
rest interval
Treadmill running sprint
30 sec
13–17 km/h
30 sec
Better Body Workouts for Women
outer edges of the treadmill to rest between efforts. Repeat. It is a good
idea to practice stepping onto a moving treadmill before you begin your
session and to learn to do this quickly without holding on to the handlebars for too long. Aim to increase the treadmill speed every 2 or 3 sprints
and to increase the number of sprints you perform as you become fitter.
bike Sprint effort Session Workout
This workout (see table 11.9) exercises your lower body and improves your
lactate tolerance. It is suitable for track and road cyclists who need to
be efficient at clearing lactic acid and for anyone who wants to develop
strong, shapely, powerful legs. Use a stationary bike.
Perform a series of sprint efforts as indicated in table 11.9. Using either
a rolling or stationary start, begin your first effort and get up to speed
fast. Aim for 100 to 140 revolutions per minute (rpm) for each sprint, using resistance as required to maintain this rpm. On completion of each
effort, reduce the bike resistance and turn your legs over slowly, or simply
stop pedalling and press the pause button. If your bike is slow to restart,
maintain an active recovery during this time. Repeat the series of sprints,
moving continuously through your sets. Stay in the saddle for this session
to isolate the use of your legs, avoiding any body rocking that can occur
when you get out of the saddle.
table 11.9
Bike sprint effort session Workout
rest interval
Bike sprint 1
60 sec
100–140 rpm
45 sec
Bike sprint 2
45 sec
100–140 rpm
30 sec
Bike sprint 3
30 sec
100–140 rpm
15 sec
Bike sprint 4
15 sec
100–140 rpm
60 sec
track Sprint pyramid Session Workout
This workout (see table 11.10) is all about speed endurance training. It is
suitable for track athletes who race distances between 100 and 400 metres
and ladies wanting a challenging and prescriptive running session that will
shape and tone their legs to perfection. Use a synthetic or grass running
track or mark out distances on a field.
Sprint the designated distances, as shown in table 11.10, at close to
maximum speed to complete a pyramid of efforts. Walk slowly between
sprints for an active recovery. This movement helps flush the lactate from
Sample Workouts and Programmes
your muscles, aiding the speed of your recovery. Aim to improve and
maintain your speed across the sprints whilst reducing your rest interval
with every 3 or 4 sessions completed. Maintain good sprint technique during the latter part of each run and session.
Time and record each sprint so you can monitor your improvements in
speed over the coming weeks. You are aiming to complete the last sprint
effort in a time no less than 1 second slower than the first sprint. The longer recovery time will allow for greater lactate removal and thus better
maintenance of speed, but work to maintain and improve speed and use
shorter recovery times as the weeks progress.
table 11.10
track sprint Pyramid session Workout
rest interval
Sprint 1
200 m
80–90% max
3–5 min
Sprint 2
250 m
80–90% max
3–5 min
Sprint 3
300 m
80–90% max
3–5 min
Sprint 4
250 m
80–90% max
3–5 min
Sprint 5
200 m
80–90% max
3–5 min
Spinning Session Workout
This general fitness workout (see table 11.11) provides fun and versatility
whilst generating speed and leg strength and improving lactate tolerance.
It is also suitable for those new to interval training, since it allows you to
attempt the intervals at your own level. Use a spin-style bike, preferably, or
any stationary bike ergometer.
Start your timer and begin to cycle at a steady pace. Cycle for 20 to 30
minutes, performing periodic efforts for 10 to 60 seconds, such as sprints,
seated climbs, out-of-seat climbs and hovers (elevate the bottom slightly
above your seat). Perform 10 to 20 efforts during the session, incorporating a mix of different efforts described. For example, you may incorporate
table 11.11
spinning session Workout
total time
Interval time
Interval type
rest interval
20–30 min
10–60 sec
Seated climbs
Out-of-seat climbs
10–120 sec
Better Body Workouts for Women
5 × 20-second sprints, 5 × 30-second steady hovers and 5 × 60-second hill
climbs within your workout. Ride light between efforts, adjust the resistance throughout and vary the interval times. Perform a greater number
of efforts as you become fitter and stronger. Determine your effort speed,
time and type as you see fit, and have fun!
Stair climb Workout
This workout (see table 11.12) is perfect for developing general quickness
and foot speed whilst getting a great workout. It’s suitable for games players, track athletes and those wanting to work and shape a pert bottom!
Use a set of 30 to 50 stairs or steps. Look out for stairs at a stadium, local
outdoor stairway or a stairwell in a building.
Stand at the foot of the stairs and sprint to the top, covering one, two
or three steps with each stride. Assist the movement with your arms and
extend at your foot, ankle, knees and hips with every stride. Taking single-step strides develops leg speed, whilst taking double- and triple-step
strides develops leg power and strength so choose which is desirable for
you. On reaching the top of the stairs, immediately turn around and jog
slowly to the bottom for an active recovery. Repeat for all reps.
table 11.12
stair Climb Workout
rest interval
Stair climb
1 or 2
30 sec between reps;
2 min between sets
Swim Sprint Workout
This routine (see table 11.13) is for swimming speed work. It is suitable
for swimmers who want to improve their race times, but it’s also great for
anyone wanting a non-weight-bearing anaerobic workout. This may be of
interest if you are recovering from or managing an impact-related injury.
Use a 25-metre or 50-metre swimming pool.
Swim your chosen stroke over a set interval distance at 95 percent of
your maximum speed. Rest and repeat. Aim to swim the same stroke for
the entire session. You may repeat the session with other strokes on an
alternative day requiring a swim sprint session. Begin with the lowest number of repetitions advised and increase by 1 or 2 repetitions each time you
do the session or as your fitness dictates.
Sample Workouts and Programmes
Rather than compromise your speed to complete more repetitions during this workout, maintain your speed and stop further repetitions when
you can no longer sustain the speed. You’ll find that with regular training,
you can maintain your speed for more reps rather than slipping into a submaximal training protocol and associated adaptation.
table 11.13
swim sprint Workout
rest interval
Swim sprint
25–50 m
5–7 min
Strength workoutS
The following offering of strength workouts includes routines that work
both the total body and specific body parts. They utilise a mix of different
equipment as well as your body weight. Pick out those that suit your needs
and progress as you see yourself adapt. In other words, when the workout
starts to feel easy and you stop experiencing muscle soreness the following
day, it’s time to push a little harder!
gym conditioning Workout
This workout, as shown in table 11.14, provides strength development in
all the major muscle groups. It uses a fully equipped gym that features
traditional body-part stations, a squat rack and a mat (for the abdominal
work). Its uses a peripheral heart action circuit, which refers to how the
heart alternates between pumping blood to the upper and lower body on
consecutive exercises. This results in a greater calorie burn, so stick to the
order of the exercises listed.
This workout is a circuit of 2 or 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps for each exercise,
with 60 seconds of rest between each set. Since consecutive exercises
target different muscle groups, there is no need to rest between exercises.
Simply grab a few deep breaths as you move to the next station. In order to guarantee results by using the correct load, you first need to know
your one-repetition maximum (1RM) lift for each exercise. After thoroughly
warming up, set aside a whole session to assess and record the highest
weight you can lift just once with perfect form. Do this through trial and
error for all the exercises in the workout.
Better Body Workouts for Women
table 11.14
Gym Conditioning Workout
rest interval
Chest press
70–85% 1RM
60 sec
Leg press
70–85% 1RM
60 sec
Seated row
70–85% 1RM
60 sec
70–85% 1RM
60 sec
Shoulder press
70–85% 1RM
60 sec
Leg press
70–85% 1RM
60 sec
Cable curl
70–85% 1RM
60 sec
70–85% 1RM
60 sec
Triceps push-down
70–85% 1RM
60 sec
Leg press
70–85% 1RM
60 sec
Abdominal crunch
70–85% 1RM
60 sec
70–85% 1RM
60 sec
core conditioning Workout
This workout, as shown in table 11.15, improves strength in the deeper
postural muscles, leading to the potential for greater force development in
the arms and legs. You’ll need dumbbells, a medicine ball and a kettlebell.
This workout is a circuit of the greatest number of possible reps in a
specific amount of time. Perform as many of each exercise, with correct
form, as you can manage in the time available, and then move to the next.
Aim for 3 circuits with 2 to 3 minutes of rest between each set. On the first
set, rest for 15 seconds after each exercise. On the second, rest for 30 seconds; on the third, rest for 45 seconds between each exercise.
Sample Workouts and Programmes
table 11.15
Core Conditioning Workout
rest interval
Squat laterals
45 sec
As many as
15 sec
30 sec
45 sec
Lunge swing
45 sec
As many as
15 sec
30 sec
45 sec
Dumbbell walkout
As many as
15 sec
30 sec
45 sec
45 sec
As many as
Medicine ball
15 sec
30 sec
45 sec
45 sec
As many as
Medicine ball
15 sec
30 sec
45 sec
Alternate swing
45 sec
As many as
15 sec
30 sec
45 sec
Turkish stand-up
45 sec
As many as
15 sec
30 sec
45 sec
Russian twist
45 sec
As many as
15 sec
30 sec
45 sec
Single-leg bridge
45 sec
As many as
15 sec
30 sec
45 sec
Plank lift
45 sec
As many as
15 sec
30 sec
45 sec
upper body blast Workout
This workout, as shown in table 11.16, tones the arms and shoulders for
aesthetic purposes and also improves strength, which can be translated
into better performance in a wide range of sporting pursuits. You’ll need
dumbbells, a medicine ball and a kettlebell. A blast workout is of short duration but high intensity, so if you’re short of time, try fitting in this session
during your lunch break or before work. If running is your thing, this is an
Better Body Workouts for Women
ideal workout for balancing the lower body conditioning you’ll be gaining
in your cardio sessions.
This workout is a circuit of 1 set of 15 reps for each exercise. Rest for
just 30 to 60 seconds between each exercise to achieve an intense, getin-and-get-out style workout. As mentioned previously, this workout is of
short duration but high intensity, so choose a weight heavy enough to
ensure you reach fatigue at the end of each set. You have only one chance
to achieve overload (the prerequisite to making improvements).
table 11.16
Upper Body Blast Workout
rest interval
30–60 sec
Arm blast
30–60 sec
Bent-over row
30–60 sec
Medicine ball
30–60 sec
Chest press
Medicine ball
30–60 sec
V sit-up
Medicine ball
30–60 sec
Prone row
30–60 sec
Single-shoulder press
30–60 sec
Russian twist
30–60 sec
Hindu press-up
30–60 sec
Triceps press
30–60 sec
below-the-belt blast Workout
This workout, as shown in table 11.17, is all about strengthening and
sculpting the hips and thighs. Whether you want strong glutes to give you
extra running and jumping power or simply to look good in your summer
wardrobe, this workout will take you closer to your goals. Beyond the obvious appeal of a firm bum and shapely legs, just about every sport relies
on a solid base and the ability to generate force from the large muscles in
the lower body to power up a serve, spike or punch, so this is an incredibly
valuable workout. You’ll need dumbbells, a medicine ball and a kettlebell.
As with the upper body blast, this workout is intended to be of short duration but high intensity, so use this workout if you’re short of time. Even
with work and family pressures, you can still get in a great workout that will
move you closer to your goals.
Sample Workouts and Programmes
Table 11.17 Below-the-Belt Blast Workout
Rest interval
Lunge swing
30–60 sec
Squat throw
Medicine ball
30–60 sec
Sprint pass
Medicine ball
30–60 sec
Medicine ball
30–60 sec
Single-leg dead lift
30–60 sec
Lunge twist
30–60 sec
One-hand plié lift
30–60 sec
Split lunge
30–60 sec
Single-leg calf raise
30–60 sec
Side lunge
30–60 sec
This workout is a circuit of 1 set of 15 reps for each exercise, with just 30
to 60 seconds of rest between each exercise, for an intense, get-in-andget-out style workout. As mentioned previously, a blast workout is short
duration but high intensity. Choose a weight heavy enough to ensure you
reach fatigue at the end of each set, as you’ll have only one chance to
achieve overload (the prerequisite to making improvements).
Power Workouts
The following workouts each use different power training methods. If you
are new to power training, you will require more rest. We also prescribe
longer recovery times when working for pure power or trying the more
technical exercises, such as Olympic lifts.
Body-Weight Plyometric Workout
This workout, as shown in table 11.18, is a total-body conditioning workout for any athlete wanting an overall power conditioning workout and for
those looking for a short, efficient fat-burning workout.
In this circuit workout, you’ll perform a series of exercises in succession
to complete one set before repeating the same series for further sets. Aim
to land on the balls of your feet, and work as explosively as possible.
Better Body Workouts for Women
table 11.18
Body-Weight Plyometric Workout
rest interval
30 sec
Wide-to-narrow squat jumps
30 sec
Mountain climbers
30 sec
Double-leg calf bounces
30 sec
Alternating split-squat jumps
30 sec
bounding Workout
This workout, as shown in table 11.19, is a lower body plyometric workout
for those who have a good strength base and are already conditioned to
plyometric training.
Perform each exercise in this workout over a set distance and complete
all efforts (reps) for each exercise before moving on to the next one. Rest
for 2 to 3 minutes between reps of the same exercise (as indicated in table
11.19) and for 5 minutes between different exercises. Remember to use
your arms to assist all the exercises in this workout. Increase the distance
you cover (from 30 to 50 metres) as strength and technique improve.
table 11.19
Bounding Workout
rest interval
Alternating bounds
30–50 m
2–3 min
Double-leg bunny hops
30–50 m
2–3 min
box Jump Workout
This workout, as shown in table 11.20, develops lower body, pure explosive power. It is suited to athletes required to sprint, throw or jump at any
point in their training or event and those wanting strong, shapely legs.
You’ll need a box or step.
Perform each exercise in this workout over a set distance and complete all
sets for each exercise before moving on to the next one. Rest for 2 to 3 minutes between sets of the same exercise and for 5 minutes between different
exercises. Aim for short contact times with the ground and the box to encourage reactivity in your muscles, and work for increased height with each jump.
To progress, you can increase your box heights. For safety, ensure that any
box or step is securely fixed and the surrounding area is clear of implements.
Sample Workouts and Programmes
table 11.20
Box Jump Workout
rest interval
Depth jump
2–3 min
Vertical depth jump
2–3 min
medicine ball power
endurance Workout
This workout, as shown in table 11.21, is a total-body power endurance
workout. It is suitable for anyone wanting a short and effective workout
that will blast calories.
Perform this circuit of exercises in succession before repeating further
sets. Move continuously from one exercise to the next without resting. Imagine that the medicine ball is smoking hot to encourage short contact time
and maximise your throwing distance. Rest between sets for 2 to 3 minutes.
Select a medicine ball between 2 and 5 kilograms in weight, according to
your strength, and progress as required. You can throw at a wall or a partner.
Figure 11.21 Medicine Ball Power endurance Workout
rest interval
Seated overhead throw
Tantrum throws
Seated side twist and throw
Reverse overhead throw
Seated vertical throw
olympic lift Workout
This workout, as shown in table 11.22, can be for total-body pure power
(PP) or power endurance (PE), depending on reps and rest times. A prerequisite to this workout is to correctly learn the technique by breaking
the exercises down into their component parts. Use an Olympic bar (20
kilograms) plus weight discs or a lighter gym bar if required.
This workout involves performing several sets of one or more Olympic
lifts as detailed in table 11.22. The rest time between each exercise differs
for pure power and power endurance as indicated, but the recovery time
between both sets is 5 minutes. You do not need to perform all the Olympic lifts in one session. You may simply perform one of the lifts and follow it
Better Body Workouts for Women
with a general conditioning workout from the strength section of this chapter. Select a weight light enough to enable you to complete all lifts with
good technique but heavy enough to challenge you so you would not be
able to do one more lift than specified. This may require some testing and
a little trial and error to begin with. Aim to increase the weight you can lift
every 2 or 3 sessions. Always perform these Olympic lifts at the beginning
of a training session to prevent any neural and muscular fatigue, which can
compromise your technique and safety.
table 11.22
olympic lift Workout
rest interval
Power clean
1–3 (PP)
5–15 (PE)
1–3 min (PP)
3–5 min (PE)
Clean and jerk
1–3 (PP)
5–15 (PE)
1–3 min (PP)
3–5 min (PE)
1–3 (PP)
5–15 (PE)
1–3 min (PP)
3–5 min (PE)
Sled Sprint Workout
This workout, as shown in table 11.23, is for short-term power production
and suits athletes and games players who need to make short, fast sprints
and move loads quickly. Two different types of sled exercises are offered
here. Alternate your chosen sled exercise each week or perform both on
different days of the same week. Don’t exceed more than two sled sprint
workouts per week, and allow adequate recovery between these workouts. You can use a sled with harness, weights disc with a rope attached,
small car for the sled pushes or a partner as your human resistance.
These workouts involve pulling or pushing a sled a predetermined distance for a set number of efforts (reps), and then repeating additional sets.
Select a sled weight or load with weight that allows you to complete the
session with nothing to spare. Maintain a forward lean position throughout
the exercise, avoiding bending at the hip, for maximum transfer of power.
table 11.23
sled sprint Workout
rest interval
Sled pull sprint or sled/car push
30–50 m
2–3 min
between reps;
5–10 min
between sets.
Sample Workouts and Programmes
AgilitY workoutS
These workouts are fun and effective, and they are suited to games players
as well as fitness enthusiasts wanting to add some variety whilst improving
fitness. Perform alone or in combination with other workouts from this
section and see your co-ordination, reactions and fitness soar.
linear pace change Workout
This workout (see table 11.24) develops the ability to accelerate in response
to an external stimulus. Use a treadmill, outdoor terrain, cycle or pool.
This workout consists of running, cycling, swimming or rowing for 30 to
60 minutes. When you pass a marker (i.e., physical markers such as trees
and lampposts) or hear a cue (specific words on your MP3), sprint for 10
seconds, then return to your continuous comfortable pace. Try to respond
as quickly as you can to your cue, aiming for terminal velocity in as short a
time as possible. Strive for smooth acceleration and deceleration.
table 11.24
linear Pace Change Workout
rest interval
Running, cycling,
swimming, rowing
30–60 min
Since the fast bursts
will be in response to a
random cue, recovery
periods will vary.
hula hooping Workout
This workout (see table 11.25) improves co-ordination skills and ability to
move with rhythm. Use a weighted hula hoop if available.
This workout consists of hula hooping for 20 to 30 minutes using different tempos of music to work at varying speeds. Take a rest as needed,
usually when you drop the hoop! Pick it up and crack on immediately. Note
that using a weighted hoop will help you develop core strength.
table 11.25
hula hooping Workout
Hula hooping
20–30 min
Use different tempo music
tracks to prompt you to work
at varying speeds.
Better Body Workouts for Women
power hopping Workout
This workout (see table 11.26) enhances dynamic balance, enabling you
to control multidirectional movement, thus improving your sports performance and reducing injury risk.
It consists of power hopping for 12 reps and then switching to the other
leg. Since one leg will rest while the other is working, there is no assigned
rest time. Progression can be provided with a weighted vest. Don’t get
stuck in a routine—vary directional challenges by going around the clock
or the points of a compass, returning to the centre between each point.
table 11.26
Power hopping Workout
rest interval
Power hopping
12, then swap to
the other leg for 12
None, as 1 leg will rest
while the other is working.
ladder drill Workout
For this workout (see table 11.27), use a soft ladder (or homemade version). The focus differs based on the exercise being performed:
• High knee lift—improves foot speed and co-ordination.
• Low knee lift—helps increase leg speed.
• Lateral step—develops kinaesthetic awareness and improves
strength in the knees and ankles, so helping to reduce risk of injury.
• Lateral shuffle—improves lateral speed transitions.
• In–out jump—strengthens the legs, improves balance and speeds
up reactions.
• In–out hop—develops explosive movement in a lateral plane.
• Ski jumps—teach you to land efficiently, so reducing risk of impact
injury to the lower limbs.
Work the length of the ladder and perform the series of exercises for 10
reps. To recover, walk back around the side of the ladder to start from the
same entry point on the next rep or exercise. Use imagery to get the most
from these exercises (e.g., picture a feather when you land and think of a
spring being released when you take off). On the lateral step and lateral
shuffle, remember to face the opposite way on alternate repetitions.
Sample Workouts and Programmes
table 11.27
ladder Drill Workout
rest interval
High knee lift
Walk around
Low knee lift
Walk around
Lateral step
Walk around
Lateral shuffle
Walk around
In–out jump
Walk around
In–out hop
Walk around
Ski jumps
Walk around
cutting Workout
This workout (see table 11.28) develops the ability to change direction
without losing speed. Use cones or homemade markers.
Perform 10 reps of each exercise for 10 to 20 metres, resting for 30 seconds of rest between set. Be precise; don’t overrun the markers and aim
for smooth transitions.
table 11.28
Cutting Workout
rest interval
Linear runs
10–20 m
30 sec
Lateral runs
10–20 m
30 sec
10–20 m
30 sec
10–20 m
30 sec
10–20 m
30 sec
Better Body Workouts for Women
Reaction Ball Workout
This workout (see table 11.29) sharpens your reflexes. Use a reaction ball
or rugby ball.
Bounce a reaction ball in several different ways for 10 minutes each. This
is a continuous drill, so aim to keep a high pace throughout the 10 minutes. If the ball gets loose, retrieve the ball as quickly as you can.
Table 11.29 Reaction Ball Workout
Rest between
Bounce against a flat surface (e.g., a wall)
10 min
2 min
Bounce against an uneven surface (e.g., a tree)
10 min
2 min
Bounce to a partner (5–10 m apart)
10 min
2 min
Skipping Workout
This workout (see table 11.30) improves co-ordination skills. You’ll need a
skipping rope.
This workout consists of 5 sets of several different skipping exercises.
Perform each exercise for 1 minute, resting for 10 seconds in between. Try
not to think too much about jumping; focus on the foot pattern, and your
body will naturally begin to synchronise to a rhythm.
Table 11.30 Skipping Workout
Rest interval
Basic skip
1 min
10 sec
1 min
10 sec
Side to side
1 min
10 sec
1 min
10 sec
1 min
10 sec
Skipping jacks
1 min
10 sec
Sample Workouts and Programmes
Now that you’re armed with a wide selection of sample workouts, you can
create a training programme to include those workouts best suited to you
and schedule them on appropriate days to achieve the best results. Different
training goals will require a different mix of workouts across any given week,
so we’ve set out a programme guide for the goals of (a) improving endurance,
(b) building strength and power, (c) improving games playing fitness and skills
and (d) focusing on general fitness and weight loss. The sample programmes
provided in tables 11.31-11.34 utilise a selection of our sample workouts.
table 11.31
sample endurance training Programme
medicine ball
Rest or
table 11.32
sample Programme for strength and Power training
bike sprint
effort session
upper body
box jump
ball power
lifts +
stair climbs
table 11.33
sample Games Player Programme
ladder drills
below-thebelt blast
linear pace
workout: stair
reaction ball
Better Body Workouts for Women
table 11.34
sample Programme for General Fitness and Weight loss
upper body
workout: core
below-thebelt blast
Please adapt these sample programmes according to your training level
and choose your preferred or required exercise modality where necessary.
Remember to take at least one day each week for rest, which is essential for
adaptation and progression. We hope you enjoy our workouts and experience the improvements in fitness, performance and body shape you desire.
training Diary
ou have probably heard the saying that the difference between ordinary and extraordinary is just that little ‘extra’. Elite sportswomen
often talk of comparatively tiny details that are the deciding factor between
good and great performances on the track, pitch or court. In fact, you may
recall the recent successful marketing campaign by a very well-known
energy drink manufacturer that focused on images of events being won by
just inches (or, as they went to great pains to point out, the length of one
of their drink’s bottles!). Since we found a lot of the information in this
book from delving into the armoury of professional sportswomen to borrow
principles from their training for sport, why stop at the purely physical?
Competing at a decent level in any sport requires a good mental approach
as well. This is mirrored in training programmes. One tool commonly used
to ensure a positive mindset, particularly when training becomes tough or
when blips occur, is a training diary.
Often simple by design and easy to use, a training diary is powerful
enough to give you that little ‘extra’, whether it’s measured in terms of a
faster personal best, more power on your serve or fewer pounds when you
stand on your bathroom scales.
BenefitS of A trAining diArY
So, what are the purpose and benefits of keeping a training diary? Let’s
take a look.
encourages Progressive overload
As earlier chapters note, whether the fitness component is cardiorespiratory
capacity, strength capability, local muscular endurance or flexibility around
the joints, you can only progress through effort and fatigue. In other words,
you need to overload your systems in order to bring about the adaptive
responses at the cellular level that result in positive change. However, over
Better Body Workouts for Women
time, these changes will help you become fitter and stronger so you can
accommodate a greater training volume before fatigue hits you; therefore,
you’ll need to regularly raise the bar if you want to continue to improve.
This training principle of progressive overload must be strictly adhered to,
otherwise your journey towards your goals might stall, something elite
coaches refer to as the plateau effect. Keeping a log of your workouts will
enable you to establish a definite start point and to then check that you are
regularly making incremental increases in your workouts to reach your goals.
Identifies Problems
At some time you may have noticed that you find a particular exercise
within a workout, or maybe even the whole workout itself, a little tougher
than you had previously. This could be due to the order of exercises in your
routine. Perhaps working your biceps before instead of after your triceps in
the gym will help you to lift a greater amount of weight or perform more
repetitions. What happens if you do cardio after your resistance exercises?
Can you handle a greater volume of work? The only way you can analyse
variables and then tweak them to perform better in your workouts is by
keeping a record of what you usually do. Often simply looking back at your
past workouts can enable you to identify what you did differently in order
to work at a higher level on a particular exercise or drill. With a constant log
of your workouts, you will easily be able to identify whether small changes
make the positive impact you hope for.
Provides a reality Check
It’s not uncommon for novices and regular exercisers alike to perceive they
have achieved a greater volume of work in a particular workout than was
actually the case. Maybe it’s possible to confuse environmental heat with
that generated by hard work. Then, of course, there’s the debate of quantity versus quality. A training diary removes any uncertainty, as you can
quickly review previous workouts and compare like for like, which gives
you a realistic view of your performance. Nobody ever reached their goals
just by thinking about them; you need to match your thoughts with actions.
Writing down an accurate record will guarantee that you keep it real.
enables Muscle Confusion
The plateau effect means that, despite regularly working out, you don’t
seem to be making any progress. This is because, quite simply, your body
has become accustomed to your workout routine. The truth is, you need
to do something different. Mixing it up a little will stimulate the body and
its physiological systems to respond by improving performance. This is
the basis of the muscle confusion phenomenon. If you have an historical
Training Diary
record, it will be easy for you to look back in your diary to find a period
where your workouts became stagnant and the same. From there you can
note the changes you made to overcome the particular plateau. Chances
are, similar shock tactics might again prove to be the remedy you need.
keeps You on the right track
Let’s be honest, we all lack motivation occasionally. Hopefully it’s just fleeting, not leading to a significant backward slide. The important thing is to
nip it in the bud and to quickly regain a positive mental attitude. Reviewing your training diary can be invaluable in this process, letting you review
just how far you’ve come already. Clearly, then, if you were able to make
this much measurable progress, there’s no reason you can’t continue the
successful journey to a fitter, faster, stronger or slimmer you. In addition, if
you keep a detailed diary, you will find past periods where your self-drive
also began to wane, together with a record of what action you took to
counter those negative feelings. A similar approach should help to return
the fire to your belly.
Gives You a Global View
Going to the trouble of keeping a detailed log, including the many factors
that may affect (or could be affected by) your workout, will help you to assess
how well your exercise routine sits within your complete lifestyle. Being
able to relate what you ate and when you ate it to how you felt during your
workout could be highly useful when plotting future sweaty endeavours.
More laterally, a record of your sleep patterns may lead you to change the
time of your evening workout. Brief notes on your daytime productivity
could help you to decide whether to train before or after your working
day. Importantly, how does your exercise affect your mood? Understanding
exercise types and timings that lead you to harbour a more positive mindset
and enjoy better relationships will be a significant step on your road to a
happier self. After all, exercise is supposed to lead to a better quality of life.
lets You rant
Your diary is the perfect avenue to vent any frustrations, anxieties and
disappointments related to your exercise journey, enabling you to view
them objectively and to establish solutions. However, your workout diary
is only of use if you complete it religiously. Since one of its prime assets is
that it helps you identify patterns that may have led to improvements in
the past so you can again make use of such tactics, gaps in the chronology
will render the log almost useless. A useful psychological tool is to put a
cross in your diary on the days you miss a training session, as this has been
shown to prompt better adherence thereafter.
Tips for Maximising the Benefits
of a Training Diary
Now that you know the many benefits that can be derived from keeping
a training diary, how can you make sure you use yours to full effect?
Certainly, making a training diary is a personal endeavour, but these
guidelines provide a framework that will assist you in constructing and
utilising one.
•Keeping a training diary will help you make decisions about how
to improve your workouts and will allow you to exercise and
assess your emotions. It will also help you create an action plan
to improve not just your fitness, but your whole quality of life.
•Reviewing your training diary will afford an opportunity to assess
your strengths and weaknesses, ensuring you can construct a plan
B to overcome the inevitable obstacles that the vagaries of life in
the high-adrenaline, caffeine-fuelled 21st century throw at you.
•In addition to our proposed entries, record whatever you feel
you really want to know and ensure you complete it after every
•A melee of thoughts tumbling from your head onto the page of
your diary might not prove too useful when searching for a solution to an issue that seems to be halting your progress towards
your goal, such as, hitting a plateau in your workout performance.
Try to find a quiet moment to assemble your reactions and emotions so you can write them in a considered manner.
•Although this is your training diary, you’re allowed to note
relationship issues. Confrontations with loved ones or your
work colleagues can negatively affect your workouts, just as a
particularly inspirational instructor or a little extra motivation
from your training buddy can produce a positive influence.
•For most of us, our primary sensory filter is visual, so feel free to
include photos within your journal (for example, a celeb whom
you aspire to emulate or maybe regular shots of yourself in the
mirror to chart your progress).
•To reduce your administration and make you feel more inclined
to keep your training diary constantly up to date, develop your
own shorthand. For example, C-S might indicate a cardio session featuring swimming as the mode, GX-Z could be a group
exercise class (in this case, Zumba), and G-F might be a gym
workout made up of functional resistance exercises.
Training Diary
deSigning Your trAining diArY
From an inexpensive notebook and printed tables found in the bookshop
to downloadable Excel spreadsheets, the choice is yours. The best advice
we can give you is the simplest—choose the one you’ll use. If you’re likely
to forget stuff and you need an instant information dump, clearly a pad
and pen are most appropriate. Of course, you can always transfer this to an
electronic format later. The example in figure 12.1 is just that, an example,
so feel free to adopt and adapt as you wish. It’s probably better to start with
a very basic version and to then add columns that go a little deeper into
the detail of your workouts and your frame of mind once you get used to
the discipline of keeping a log.
In this log, you are free to note anything relevant to your session, for
example, any particular fatigue or muscle soreness, exercises you particularly enjoyed or disliked, indigestion or thirst, and whether you worked
out alone or with a partner. This can be your section for anything that does
not fit into a specific category. Or, as another example, you may choose to
focus on a specific body part and note whether you completed a wholebody workout, legs workout, upper body workout and so forth, to avoid
overloading the same muscle groups on subsequent days.
figure 12.1
sample training Diary
Week Number:_____________________
type of
sets &
workout Duration reps
Intensity fuel
Performance fuel
From D. Hodgkin and C. Pearce, 2014, Better body workouts for women, (Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics).
Better Body Workouts for Women
Training Diary Key
Workout type: cardio, resistance,
combined, indoor, outdoor, and
so on
Duration: time taken, ideally segmented into warm-up, workout
and cool-down
sets and reps: record of the actual
volume of work in the session
Intensity: Rate how difficult the
workout felt from 1 (easy) to 10
Preworkout fuel: What did you eat
or drink in the preceding 2 hours?
Performance: rating from 1 (poor) to
5 (excellent) revealing if you did
more or less than usual
Postworkout fuel: What did you eat
or drink in the ensuing 2 hours?
recovery: How long did muscle
soreness last, how was your sleep,
and so on after your exercise?
Possible additions or end goals:
You may wish to add a column
that tracks your progress towards
your goal (e.g., weight, circumference measurements, time,
distance, and so on).
At A glAnCe
• Even the most simple training log can mean the difference between
achieving your goals or not.
• Read past entries at regular intervals and use the information therein
to make decisions regarding your workouts, diet and rest periods.
• Complete it daily, be totally honest, use shorthand to make it a quick
job and try to record as much detail as possible.
• Use photographs of yourself or your inspirations to keep you motivated.
• Keep track of how your exercise schedule affects your work and relationships. This is a tool not just for improving your fitness but, rather,
your whole quality of life.
Choosing Your Workout Clothing and Style
You already have workout clothing and shoes and possibly one or two
pieces of home exercise equipment. You might even have a membership to
a health club. However, a fresh approach to one or more of these elements
could be something you’re considering in your attempts to improve your
training efforts. The following guidelines will help you to find the right
clothing and workout style.
Workout Clothing
Workout attire is not just about fashion! If you don’t buy functional clothing, you and your chafed skin might regret it. The way to look at it is not
that the right clothing will make you feel more comfortable, but it most
certainly will prevent you from feeling uncomfortable and may even allow
you to exercise more efficiently and for longer.
You’re going to sweat when you work out. The ideal garment will not
leave sweat sitting on your skin but will draw it away from you; this moisture management is referred to as wicking. Not only will this be of value
in terms of comfort in warmer environments, but wet skin loses body heat
around 20 times faster than dry skin, so this is particularly important when
training in colder outdoor conditions. Look for fabrics such as DriFit or
Coolmax that are designed especially for this purpose.
When temperatures are high, profuse sweating leads to considerable water
loss. This reduces the amount of blood returning to the heart, which could
result in cardiovascular stress as indicated by very high heart rates. When high
humidity (over 60 percent) is present with high air temperature, the body’s
ability to dissipate internal heat produced during exercise is impaired, and
continued participation in a workout during these extreme conditions could
result in heat exhaustion or heatstroke. On warm days, choose light, loose
clothing that will allow air to circulate around the body; this will improve
the body’s ability to stay cool. If it is very sunny (that is, if there’s no cloud
cover and particularly if you are at high altitude), wear a hat or visor and
a smear of petroleum jelly across the forehead just above the eyebrows to
prevent sweat from dripping into the eyes. Petroleum jelly is also useful for
lubricating the top inside of the legs or under the arms to prevent chafing.
During cold weather, do not allow the core body temperature to drop too
low. In more extreme temperatures, beware of frostbite and hypothermia.
In extremely cold conditions with a high wind-chill factor, avoid frostbite by
covering normally exposed areas of the body. Layer clothing so that, as the
body becomes warm, outer layers can be removed before the underlayers
become wet from perspiration. If clothing becomes wet, change it as soon
as possible. Start with a thin layer of thermal fabric (one that traps warm
air but releases moisture) next to the skin, followed by a warm synthetic
layer such as a sweatshirt or fleece. All these layers should allow perspiration to escape, so they need to be non-absorbent and quick to dry. Wear
gloves and a hat during very cold weather because a lot of heat gets lost
through the hands and head.
In wet weather, you will chill very quickly unless you protect yourself
from the rain. A waterproof outer layer is the answer, but try to avoid
plastic garments because they do not allow perspiration to escape, which
can cause you to overheat and most certainly to become very wet and
vulnerable to chilling.
Always wear socks to prevent blisters and to remove perspiration. They
should be seamless and should fit well; a cotton and wool mix is usually more
comfortable, and a little padding will be a bonus during impact activities.
Around 75 percent of women do not wear correctly sized bras, a statistic
that causes concern when you consider it’s one of the most important items
of fitness equipment you’ll purchase. A sports bra can provide support in
two ways: via compression to hold your breasts against your chest and limit
motion and via encapsulation, closely surrounding and supporting the soft
tissues. Movement should be minimal, even during vigorous exercise, and
the ideal fabric should be a soft, wicking material.
An important element here is to know your own feet, which will help
you determine what you should look for in a shoe. If you’re flat-footed,
you need shoes to control motion. They should feature denser midsoles,
especially around the inner edges, and firm heel braces to prevent rear
foot movement. Feet with high arches are not great for shock absorption,
so look for extra cushioning plus flexibility in the soles to allow weight to
be transferred through the feet. If you don’t exhibit either of these, then
simply choose your shoes based on comfort and fit. If you’re not sure, a
good retailer will have a specialist to check your gait, but you could instead
try our DIY option. Pour a dusting of talc on a hard floor surface, carefully
step on it with slightly damp feet, then lift your feet as you step off. Your
footprints will reveal either a flattened or a high arch, enabling you to
determine in which category you fall.
Our recipe for fitness involves trying different activities to ensure you
achieve well-rounded fitness gains, to reduce the risk of overuse injuries
and to avoid the boredom factor, so gym, classes and running will all be on
the menu. The ideal choice of footwear, therefore, is the aptly named crosstrainer, featuring a multi-purpose outsole to give versatility while breathable
uppers lend comfort. Cross-trainers tend to be wider than running shoes,
giving extra stability, but they are often heavier than running shoes too.
When shopping for training shoes, do it late in the day. As the day progresses, your feet tend to expand to about the size and width they will be
when you exercise. Also, take your old shoes to the store with you so that
shop staff can see how they’ve worn. Try various pairs and ensure you can
wiggle your toes. If the trainers are too snug, the constant friction of your
toenails against the shoes can be uncomfortable.
workout StYle
There are several different types of workout styles—in your home, at a gym
or club, or outdoors. Following is more detail about each.
home Workouts
Simply having a fitness kit in your home is a valuable way to avoid the most
common excuse (no time)! You’ll find it hard to justify not having enough
time if your rower is in the spare room. The best equipment for you will
depend on your budget and your home space, but it’s also worth considering whether to opt for strength training items or cardio stations depending
on your goals and preferences. Following are the key decisions to be made.
If you don’t have a spare room to designate as your gym, then portable
items and stations that fold down are a must. Ensure you can store whatever you buy under your bed, under or in a desk or in a wardrobe. If you
were to select just one item, consider the rower because it’s the perfect
mode for improving the functional capacity of your heart and lungs whilst
simultaneously toning both the upper body and lower body. Unfortunately,
the best models do not fold away very easily, so you’ll ideally need some
dedicated space for equipment.
Never compromise on quality to save money, because it will likely prove
to be a false economy when the item breaks. Also, poorly made products
could increase your risk of injury. Rather than cost, think value, because
some items are multi-functional and so represent more value. A fitness ball,
for example, lends itself to a range of upper-body, lower-body, and abdominal exercises, allowing for gains in both strength and endurance. You can
research home workout products through your search engine, watch the
fitness shows on TV shopping channels and even get great items on Ebay.
Although many people have purchased equipment with the intention of
getting into it, this has often resulted in items gathering dust in the garage
or being used as clothes racks in spare rooms. If you really enjoy kettlebell
training, then your choice is obvious: Simply buy what you know you’ll use.
Gym or Club Workouts
Some clubs consist of a single workout studio, while others may offer three
climate-controlled studios, fully equipped gym, pools, spa, indoor and outdoor tennis courts and squash courts. You may not need a fully equipped
centre if you only want to use the gym, so ask about whether the club offers
a partial membership that you can upgrade later if you wish.
The club should have various types of equipment in adequate numbers.
If you enjoy cardio workouts on the treadmills, bikes, steppers and rowers,
make sure there are enough of them for the high volume of members at peak
times. The last thing you want is to have to queue for use of equipment. A
good sign is a club imposing a time limit on cardio equipment during busy
periods. On the conditioning side, look for clean gym stations, and feel
free to ask if these are serviced regularly, because you want to be sure they
are safe to use. In addition, there should be a functional area for core and
whole-body exercises with the latest pieces available, such as ViPR, FlexiBar, powerbags, kettlebells, Power Plate and the TRX suspension system.
If you like taking classes, make sure a good range of cutting-edge sessions are available. You should check to see that distinctions are made
between beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. Does the club have
a social events calendar, and is it the sort of thing you might be interested
in? Whether it’s themed cuisine nights or activity holidays, there might be
clubs within the club that will enable you to really get the most from the
investment you have made in your membership. Will you really feel a part
of the club and valued by its staff? Perhaps you’ll receive regular newsletters so you will not miss out on anything new. They might even send you
birthday and holiday cards. All of these could make you feel more comfortable and so more willing to stick to your fitness routine at the gym.
Staff should be happy, cheerful and knowledgeable. Most important, they
need to be able to talk to members. A good club has staff who give customers the motivation to stick to routines and achieve their goals. When you
visit a club for the first time, investigate it thoroughly by walking around
on your own and asking members if they would recommend it. (The best
place to get these reports is in the sauna or steam room!) On your first tour
of the club, watch for out-of-order signs; a club committed to high levels
of service will not allow equipment to be out of service for very long. Are
the staff motivated to serve you? Member comment and feedback forms
and fliers displaying employees of the month are good signs indicating the
club cares about what you think.
There are varying price scales and ranges of facilities and services, so shop
around to suit your budget. Often you can get off-peak prices when the club
is less busy. Recent UK government intervention has prevented clubs from
tying you into long periods of payment, but it’s worth checking details, such
as whether they defer your membership if you are on long-term disability
or have to work away from your city for a period. Look out for the recent
market addition of budget gyms that offer little service but have the bonus
of being low cost with no contractual commitment.
Club operating hours should fit in with your schedule. If you join a club
close to home, make sure you can go in the early morning or evening. If it
closes at 9:30 p.m. on weekday evenings, does this give you adequate time
to travel from work, exercise and then shower afterwards?
Do you feel comfortable in the club environment? Can you picture yourself
working out in the gym? Some clubs have separate gyms for women and
men; is this important to you? Most people join clubs within easy reach
of the home or workplace because when it’s cold, dark and late, people
more likely to opt out of sessions if it takes too much effort to get there. If
you need parking space, is there enough? If you have children, are they
welcome at the club? If so, at what times? Is there a child care facility or
perhaps children’s activity programmes in place?
outdoor Workouts
Taking your workouts into your garden or the park instead of staying
indoors can liven up your senses and improve your state of mind. Beyond
the usual endorphin rush that is known as the ‘runner’s high’, a workout in
the great outdoors can leave you truly looking and feeling great. Here are a
few things to consider to help you optimise the benefits of outdoor training:
• Ensure the surface you choose, be that grass, tarmac, paving stones or
whatever, is as flat as possible, and be aware of any potential hazards
such as potholes, wet patches and loose surfaces.
• If using outdoor exercise stations, often found in parks and playgrounds, check that the apparatus is safe and sturdy before subjecting
it to your full body weight.
• As mentioned earlier, wrap up with layers if it’s cold but, just as important, apply sunscreen to any exposed body parts if you’re heading out
on a sunny day.
• Always be alert, wear bright clothing, stay in well-lit areas after dark,
work out with a friend, take your phone, tell someone your likely route
and expected return time, and vary the days and times of your sessions.
About the Authors
Dean Hodgkin was the resident fitness writer for Bodyfit magazine, contributing editor at Zest and a regular contributor to various other publications,
including Health & Fitness, Women’s Fitness, Cosmopolitan, Weight Watchers,
Company and She. His writing has also been featured in the Times, Daily
Express, News of the World, FHM, Men’s Health and GQ.
Hodgkin is an experienced presenter, having appeared on various television and radio shows internationally and in more than 20 fitness videos and
DVDs. In addition, Hodgkin regularly presents master classes and seminars
at trade and consumer events in 36 countries, including the United Kingdom and United States. The recipient of the International Fitness Showcase
2012 Lifetime Achievement Award for services to the fitness industry, he
was also voted Best International Fitness Presenter at the One Body One
World awards in New York. He is a three-time world and two-time European champion in karate.
Hodgkin recently released Physiology & Fitness, a new approach to teaching
fitness in the form of a combined lecture/workout DVD package for The
Great Courses that provides an understanding of how the body works and
so how to exercise correctly, safely and efficiently to guarantee health and
fitness results. Hodgkin lives in the United Kingdom.
About the Authors
Caroline Pearce is a former international athlete and a current nutritionist,
fitness consultant, model and TV presenter. She holds a first class honors
degree in sports science and master's degree in nutrition and exercise physiology from Loughborough University. She has contributed to and has been
featured in and on the cover of numerous fitness and health magazines,
including Bodyfit, Women's Health & Fitness, Women's Fitness, Zest, Ultra Fit,
WorkOut Magazine and Muscle & Fitness.
Pearce’s athletic career started when she represented Great Britain at
the age of 15 in the pentathlon and progressed to senior honors and a
place in the European Cup heptathlon team at the age of 24, where she
helped the team secure their place in the Super League. She is a two-time
national AAA heptathlon champion and a silver medalist in the long
jump. She transferred her speed and power to ice and made her debut on
the Great Britain bobsleigh team at the World Bobsleigh Championships in
Calgary. Her athletic success led her to become the face of the Adidas/Polar
clothing line and model for sporting brands Nike, Reebok and Speedo. She
is also the official spokesperson for Performance Health Systems, delivering
accredited Power Plate courses to trainers, professional sports teams and
healthcare officials around the world. In 2008 Pearce took a role as ‘Ice’
on the television show Gladiators, the UK franchise of the popular American
Gladiators programme. She is now a regular TV sport and fitness presenter
and has released her fitness DVD Total Cardio Burn. Pearce lives in the
United Kingdom.
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