One of the questions I always get asked is this: “What’s the best women’s workout program?”
At times with a smirk, I’ve responded by saying that there’s no such thing, and I’m always met with the same glazed look. Nonetheless, I’m quick to point them towards some women’s workout options.
The truth is, though, the best women’s workout program isn’t the one you see on Youtube, nor is it the program you’ve seen an elite-level athlete performing to get in shape for the next Nationals or Olympic qualifiers.
The perfect program is the one you’ll stick with, and it’s the one that’s right for you and nobody else. How do you know if a program is right for you? What should your standards be in choosing the best women’s workout program?
Read on as I answer these questions and more!
One of the first things I always tell my clients is that no program out there will give them everything they’re after.
In truth, workout programs are designed based on the goals a trainer might assume their clients will have. For example, when we think of the average HIIT (High-intensity interval training) program, it has the following characteristics:
- Short bursts of movements performed at a high intensity
- Rest periods occur between movements
- Workouts last no more than 20 minutes
With these characteristics, the trainer may have put together the program recognizing that the potential client is:
- Bored with long steady-state exercise
- Short on time
We can then see that HIIT is a program for people looking to get in shape with more time crunches than time for crunches. It does have its benefits like torching fat after the workout and providing you with better endurance. Fat-burning and aerobic endurance are great and all, but they’re hardly the end-all-be-all for everyone.
Other exercisers may have other goals like strength and muscle training. HIIT is hardly resourceful for these fitness goals. For such trainees, traditional strength training programs like barbell and kettlebell programs may be better.
In short, when choosing a program, ask yourself this: “What do I want?”
Your answer will narrow your choices down in a world full of fads. You’ll be a step closer to the right workout program.
Now that we’ve cleared things up about tying your workouts to your goals, let’s address one other thing — nutrition.
Many exercisers and fitness enthusiasts have fallen into the trap of seeing exercise as the single solution for fitness. Granted, I think exercise is amazing for so many reasons, and many will agree with me. However, if fitness is a project, exercise is one tool. There are others to get you a step closer to a body that moves tires or fits in a bikini.
One other tool that’s worth remembering is diet. Nutrition is not just crucial to being fit but also for enjoying a high quality of life. Despite its importance, nutrition often plays second string to exercise — which I think is sad.
I often encounter people eating candy bars and rationalizing their consumption because the last workout “crushed” them. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with the occasional treat, especially for “that” time of the month. It’s when occasional indulgence turns into binging that people start seeing problems. No, a tough workout session isn’t a good reason to scoff down a box of muffins.
What you eat is just as important as what you do. When it comes to food, there’s no need to complicate things. Just consume whole foods within your calorie budget, and you’re good to go.
Another fitness tool that’s often overlooked is recovery. Granted, I don’t think much thought is necessary for the first-time trainee. However, for the more seasoned of us, physical activity becomes our new bestie — one we can’t live without. Exercise is great. However, without recovering, you’re sabotaging your overall fitness and health.
What you do outside the gym is as important as what you do in it.
It makes sense, too. After all, how long does a training session last? Most likely, a session lasts an hour or so. There’s a reason for this. The rest of the day should be spent recovering. According to the National Institute for Fitness and Sport, recovery is a must to adapt to the stress of exercise.
With recovery, you’ll meet your fitness goals in one piece — whatever your program. When you come across a program that doesn’t allow you to recover, steer clear of it.
In my fitness journey, I’ve found that it’s all about quality over quantity. Workout programs should also be judged based on this principle. There are two ways to get the most (quality) out of your workouts.
You can either exercise frequently at a light to moderate intensity, or you can turn it up a notch and exercise intensely just three to four times a week. The choice is yours. All that’s needed is that you put in the work and exercise at the right volume and intensity.
How do you know if you’re exercising at the right volume and frequency? While there are no hard-and-fast rules, Healthline gives some ideas. According to Healthline, strength training two to three times a week is the sweet spot. For cardio, try to shoot for about 30 minutes of light to moderate intensity cardio for three to five days during the week.
Based on what we’ve covered in the earlier paragraphs, how do you choose the best women’s workout program? Over the years, I’ve found the following questions to be resourceful in guiding the decision-making process:
Whatever your answer is, make sure that it’s not along the lines of “everything.”
What your goal is will determine the perfect program for you. For example, if aerobic capacity is your goal, then you need a program that allows you to train just that.
On the other hand, if you’re making a return to exercise, you’ll need a program geared towards getting women back into shape.
Looking to add a bit more muscle tone to your frame? For more definition and musculature, programs like P90x or Insanity are for you.
The point is to select your program based on what you want to get done. It’s not all about what most are doing.
I get it. It’s important to make time. However, this is easier said than done, especially for those getting into fitness. Life gets in the way, and that’s part of living in the 21st century. While making time for a workout is always possible, finding one that fits your daily schedule is key.
For instance, if you’re a nurse working graveyard shifts, choosing a class or program you can fit into an hour of the next morning will make sense. A ten-mile run that can take you hours to finish won’t.
A program that fits your schedule is one you’ll love sticking to. Sticking to a program is more important than the actual program itself, assuming that you’ve chosen it based on your goals.
After all, according to the always-informative Dan John: “…there are two keys to success: One is to show up. The other is to keep showing up.”
Every program requires certain movements to be performed. In some programs, you’ll need certain pieces of equipment to perform some of the movements. You can’t perform a kettlebell swing without a kettlebell, and you won’t be performing a box jump if you lack a surface to jump on.
One of the elephants in the room in any fitness discussion is logistics. One of the sad truths behind certain programs is that you can’t do away with equipment. Hence, if you decide on a program, invest in the necessary equipment.
However, if you don’t have any exercise equipment, don’t worry. Many of the best workout programs consist of bodyweight movements. If you need ideas, check out my blog post on the best programs for women.
If you’re planning to buy equipment, it’s best to think long-term. The following are excellent initial investments that’ll bring the most bang for your buck:
- Yoga mat for floor exercises
- Dumbbells or a kettlebell
- Jump rope
- Resistance bands
- Ab wheel
Over time, you can add other items like a chin-up bar or parallettes. Another important piece of equipment to have is your phone.
Everything is on mobile these days. Fitness programs are now available as apps. These app-based workout programs are excellent if you have problems remembering the order of exercises.
The apps that go with the program are also useful for tracking your progress over time. Some apps like MyFitnessPal and Noom also provide recipe guides to address the nutritional part of your fitness journey.
I personally recommend my clients to sign up for app-based programs. App-based workout programs make workouts available even if my clients can’t physically meet me. Moreover, the apps that go with these programs add the necessary tools for accountability like fitness and food tracking.
Overall, the best women’s workout program is the one that:
- You can stick to
- Fits your schedule
- You have the tools for
- Allows you to track progress (physical and nutritional)
- Won’t run you to the ground
Any program that fits the above description to a tee is one worth trying out for a couple of weeks. By the end of two weeks, you might find that the best women’s workout program isn’t just a program. You might be surprised to discover that it’s now a part of your daily life.
Go ahead, pick a program, and crush those fitness goals you’ve been putting off.