The Psychology Of Fitness

Mindsets, Body Types and Everything In Between
Monday Workout ~ Woman’s Beginner Workout

Monday Workout ~ Woman’s Beginner Workout

There are 8 basic exercises every woman who’s going to begin strength training should start with.  These exercises allow you to activate the correct musculature that you’ll need for the bigger, more advanced exercises while helping to point out any weaknesses.  Below are the 8 exercises along with a quick description (I’ll be putting up a video of the routine on Thursday).

1 – The Goblet Squat ~ With this exercise, you’re going to grab a weight (12 -15 pounds for most women is a good starting weight).  Standing slightly wider than shoulder width apart and holding the dumbbell in the palms of your hand (so they look like you’re holding a goblet), you’re going to squat down.  Your hips should go back more than your knees go forward and you should keep your back as high as you can.

2 – Smith Machine Push-ups ~ The smith machine – the most abhorred piece of equipment for those that like squatting.  With that said, this is one of the best exercises you can do with a Smith Machine.  Start about the 4th or 5th rung up, standing in front of the bar.  Place your hands a little wider than shoulder width and go down into a push-up, so that the middle of your chest hits the bar.  Push-up and repeat.

The best part of this exercise is that as you get stronger, you can lower the bar’s setting and make the exercise harder.

3 – Single-Armed Cable Rows – Most beginners don’t have a strong enough neuro-muscular connection to do either 2-armed cable rows or single-armed dumbbell rows without butchering the movement.  With this movement, you can groove the pattern, while building up a long time under tension, by switching between hands before hitting failure.  For example, you would do 8 reps on one side, switch hands and do 8 reps, switch to the original hand, do another 6 reps, repeat on the other side, and then drop down to 4 reps with both hands.  You get a lot of work in, a lot of time under tension, while grooving a much better pattern than trying to do 12 reps all at once on one side.

Anyways, with this exercise, set up as you would with a 2-arm seated cable row.  Knees slightly bent, back nice and straight.  You can place your opposite hand on your slightly bent knee to help keep your lower back straight.  Pull back, trying to focus on squeezing your shoulder blade back.  You want to pull back so that your thumb is pointing up and the attachment hits the top part of your stomach.  Control the movement back to the starting point and repeat.

4 – Dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts – These are great for women, not only because they work the glutes and hamstrings (the back of your legs and your butt), but most women know how to keep their back straight and hinge at the hip for this movement.  Men, not so much – at least not the beginners.  The other benefit of this movement is that you can tailor this movement to your range of motion.  Since you’re starting standing up, there’s no need to drop all the way down to the ground and if you’re not as flexible in this movement, as long as you keep your back straight, you can start to groove the deadlift movement into your program.

With this movement, grab two dumbbells (12’s -15’s for beginners are a good place to start).  Hold the dumbbells in front of you, keep your shoulder blades pinched back and moving mainly from your hips (your knees should bend slightly), you’re going to bend down like you want to put the weights down.  Go down controlled and concentrate on keeping your back in as much of a neutral spine as possible (imagine sitting up in a chair – slight curve in your back).

I like to say keep your back straight, most women tell me though, “You should just tell me to stick my butt out.”  So stick your butt out and go down as you lean back.  If you can get your back parallel to the ground, that’s ideal.  If you can’t without your back rounding, stop earlier and go back to the starting position, making sure to squeeze your butt at the top – this obviously also requires locking your knees at the top.  Make sure, to not jerk the weights up – just make sure you’re squeezing your butt.  Oh, and in case I didn’t mention it, don’t bend your arms.

5 – Bridges – With this exercise, you’re going to start by lying on your back, with your knees bent up, feet flat on the ground.  Bring your hips in the air, squeezing your butt until you can’t go any further – hold 2 seconds.  Drop back down.

If these get too easy, simply do the movement, at the top of the movement, bring one leg up in the air.  With the leg that you’ve just brought up, straighten it out and go up and down with that leg (not too high or too low).  There are more progressions for there, but that’s good for most beginners.

6 – Shoulder Press – For this movement, simply grab two dumbbells (8’s) are a good place for most women, although for most beginners this will feel “heavy.”  You’re going to start with your hands bent about 90 degrees so the weights start up by your ears.  Extend your arms up so that the weights are overhead.  For beginners, you can go up as high as you can, while keeping a slight bend in your elbows.  Bring the weights back down to about the middle of your ear.

7 – Floor Press – This is a good movement for beginners because the floor acts as a natural place to stop.  With this movement, grab a pair of dumbbells and lay on your back with your knees bent up and your arms at your side in an L-position.  Press up so the weights come together and are over the top part of your chest.  Bring the weights back down to the starting position and when your arms hit the ground, go back up.

8 – Reverse-grip Lat Pulldown – With this exercise, simply find a lat pulldown machine and bring your hands up, so that your arms are about shoulder-width apart, with your palms facing you.  Grab the bar, sit down and bring the bar down to the top of your chest.

After writing all of this out, I realize, I just need to make a video of these exercises.  It would be so much easier.  Most likely, Wednesday or Thursday’s post will be the video of these movements.  Anyways, if you have any questions about these movements or for personal training in Hoboken, please email me at

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