When guys say to each other, You hit like a girl, it's a big insult. But what do they really mean?
It's not so much about not hitting hard, as about the punch being ineffective, unskilled, and without power and focus.
I see a lot of women in the gym working out that way.
Hopefully by now we've all reached a level of comfort with the idea that weight training is not going to make us big, bulky hulks. We dont have enough testosterone, and were not using steroids, so thats just not in the picture. Fine.
I'm also assuming that youve been working out for a while. This discussion only applies once you've gotten comfortable with the mechanics of the exercises, and your ligaments and connective tissues have had a chance to strengthen so that you don't injure yourself.
As a baseline for discussion, let me say unequivocally that I love a number of exercise / fitness programs out there, especially Bill Phillips' Body for Life program (BFL). It's what I used to completely reshape my body and my life, and its a lifestyle I still follow and love 4 years later.
Theres a danger, though, of using a formula in a way that limits you rather than challenges you. A common example: A program says to do 3 sets of 12 reps, so you pick a weight at which you are sure you can do 3 sets of 12. Hooray, you did it! Right?
Another factor programs often measure is your perceived exertion. You gauge how much work youre doing by rating the effort on a scale of 1 to 10, with plans for when and how often to hit your 10s.
Ive read lots of posts on women's fitness message boards along the lines of, "I dont think I'm hitting my 10 on my upper-body workout, or how can I change my workout to push me up to a 10?" and my favorite "How do I know if it's a 10"?
It's simple, but not easy: Don't work out like a girl!
If you stop after completing the number of reps you set out to do, I can't imagine how that could ever be a 10.
How can you say you pushed yourself to absolutely the maximum you were capable of? What, it was just coincidence that your ultimate limit was neatly at the end of a rep, at the end of the specified number in your set? I doubt it. I mean, what are the odds?
Train to failure. Don't stop until you give it your all AND FAIL to move the weight one more time. Then rest a little and do it again.
Counting reps is for tracking, not for an excuse to quit at some pre-specified point. (You ARE keeping a workout log, arent you?).
My sets ALWAYS end with that 1/4 to 1/2 rep that my shaking arm/legs/whatever simply CANNOT move another inch. (Allowing for warm up sets, which are not under discussion since you're not TRYING to hit a 10 with them).
Dont make the mistake of succumbing to psychological failure those limits that our brain tells us we have, which may be far from the truth, or the failure that comes because we are not truly focused on the task at hand with all our mental might.
My good friend Tracy Hawthorne from the Yahoo BFL Womens Group describes it this way:
"It isn't about feeling that you can't do one more rep... It's about NOT BEING ABLE TO DO ONE MORE REP.
"I've spent 6-7 seconds at some point with my arms halfway flexed in a dumbbell curl... desperate to get that baby up. Sometimes you surprise yourself and it creaks past that point and WHOA! Other times no way Jose... and it goes back down. But that's a 10! You end up with your face all scrunched up and sometimes making weird noises... but you are in no way aware of anything else around you. If I'm peeved at not getting it up that last time...I'll just crank that baby up with bad form and then SLOWLY LOWER IT DOWN. They call this negatives... 'Course you have to be careful not to hurt yourself.
"There is a very different sort of failure - psychological failure. If your mind is thinking of anything other than that muscle and that bloody weight - it's likely psychological failure.
"It's hard to keep yourself focused to that degree... but it's something to aim for and you won't hit it every time."
Dont get me wrong, a good program is a good guideline. It helps give you an idea how to train, and get you set up with some effective habits. Have a plan -- shoot for 12 reps, whatever.
But if you finish #12, you'd darned sure better try for #13.
Even Bill Phillips, the author of the master plan many of us follow, talks regularly talks about intensity, giving it your all mentally and physically, and even training to failure.
I love being female. I am woman hear me roar!
But Don't work out like a girl!