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Fitness, General Health

How Women Should Maximize Their Time in the Gym

By Joe Talarico on Mar 4, 2021 10:15:00 AM
5 Minutes Reading Time


When most women think of going to the gym they think of going straight to cardio. They’ve been conditioned by the media that lifting weights for women is a bad thing. It will make them look too bulky, and lose their womanly figure. They also see bodybuilder women and think they will turn into that.

Firstly, just realize those bodybuilder women are on anabolics. They are taking substances to enhance the rate of progress of their physique. You don’t just wake up with big muscles one day and realize you’ve gone too far. When I used to sell personal training and women told me they were scared about getting too big I used to tell them to take a look at the gym floor. Most of these guys will spend their ENTIRE lives trying to get “too big” and most of them will achieve it. 

The reality is, if a guy or girl tells me they feel they look too bulky, whether they realize it or not, what they’re actually saying is that they have too much body fat on them. Let’s say you are a female at 25% body fat. If you did nothing else but add 10lbs of pure, lean muscle tissue but kept the same body fat then yes. You are going to “look bulkier” because you added more to your frame but didn’t get rid of the fat. Once you decrease your body fat you will find that “toned” look starts coming in because now that the fat is decreasing, the muscle is appearing through giving you the shape you want. Shape comes from muscle growth, not reshaping fat. 

Maximize Your Time In The Gym

Do Less Cardio

Now that we understand the importance of adding muscle to get that toned look, that needs to become our focus. If you’ve already been doing more than 1.5 hours of total cardio during the week, you need to peel back. We need to focus our energies speeding your metabolism back up so that you can add that muscle which will eventually shape your frame. Doing too much cardio, believe it or not, over time, will lower the speed of your metabolism, forcing you to eat way less than you should just to maintain, and hindering recovery.  

Try to bring your cardio to 10,000 steps, or no more than 2-3 days of cardio at 30 minutes.

Do MORE Resistance Training

You don’t need much to get the results you want. Most ladies only need 2-3 days tops of training to achieve their ideal physique. The real trick comes with proper programming on those days.

Full Body vs Split Body Part - Go for a full body routine 2-3 times a week. You don’t need to be doing those typical bodybuilding bro splits. Those are for advanced lifters, on steroids, who can handle the excess volume. We want a full body, because every time you train a body part, it sends a signal to THAT body part to grow. That signal goes back to baseline after 48 hours. So if we can do a full body 2-3 times a week, we are ideally sending that signal 2-3 times a week to grow our full body (versus only ONCE a week on a split routine).

Don’t Train to Failure - You also don’t need to be training to failure. Your body over time will not be able to recover from it. Instead take whatever rep range you are working in (let say 8-10 reps), and choose a weight that’s heavy enough for you to get all 10 reps with maybe 2-3 reps left in the tank. This allows for proper stimulation, without overtaxing the body.

Phase Your Routine - Different rep ranges stimulate the muscle differently. Stick with 3-5 (for bigger compound lifts), and 6-8, and 10-15 rep ranges for smaller body parts. Stick with that rep range for 4-6 weeks, deload, and then move onto the next rep range.

Compound Movements - maximize your time in the gym with bigger compound movements like squat, deadlift, overhead press, row, and bench press. These will stimulate the most muscles at the same time (including your triceps, shoulders, and biceps), so you don’t have to spend all day in the gym. Train smarter, not harder. Only add more direct isolation work if you feel you want to bring up a lagging body part.

You might find at first when you lower the cardio, increase the calories, and increase the resistance training, that the scale doesn’t move. That’s okay. In fact, that’s perfect. If you followed the advice above and are lifting heavier weight each week, that means we’ve revved the metabolism up, and have your body building muscle while dropping a little bit of fat. The composition is changing in your favor!

I hope you found this guide helpful towards making sure you maximize your time in the gym. If you follow these steps it will allow you to get the best results in the quickest time. It’s not about fancy new techniques, or intense circuits. Having your ideal body just involves sticking to the fundamentals, consistently, over time.

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Joe Talarico

Joe is a certified Precision Nutrition and strength & conditioning coach. He assisted the UCLA Women’s Tennis team in winning their 2014 NCAA Championship Title, as well as study under the great strength coaches at Pepperdine University. He was a collegiate rower at the University of Rhode Island (where he got his Kinesiology degree) as well as an amateur physique competitor. He is currently the master trainer at Upgrade Labs in Santa Monica where he is combining his years of training clients in the gym with newer technology to optimize their performance and recovery. He also cohosts The RelationSH*T Show Podcast with his fiancée where they discuss all relationship topics unfiltered from who pays on dates, to open relationships.

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