5 Great Questions from The VU Strength Training for Women Workshops

A Recap from the Strength Training for Women workshops given at Veterans United on 12/4/18 and 12/11/18.

I had the pleasure of being welcomed to Veterans United to speak to women about strength training and how to get started.

Over the course of two workshops we reviewed:

  • Strength Training for Beginners
  • Some of the physical differences between men and women
  • The benefits of Strength Training
  • 4 Things that all sound programs have in common

Everyone also received a worksheet and instruction on how to plan a 12-week program.

I personally want to thank Emily Kamin for all her help! It was a joy to be able to share strength training with you all and Emily made the process seamless.

Also, Kimberly Earnest deserves a thank you for her mad photo skills.

Attendees had some follow up questions after each workshop including;

  • What resources would you recommend for alternate workouts/exercises?
  • Is soreness a good indicator of workout effectiveness?
  • If you're already working out, how do you know when to add weight? What can I do to get stronger?
  • If squatting bothers your lower back, is it better to lift heavy with a shorter range of motion or use a lighter weight?
  • What do you recommend as far as balancing cardio exercises with weight training? Is it more effective to stack them or space them out?

Below, I'm going to give (relatively) short takes on the answers to these questions. Thanks again for coming!

What Resources Would You Recommend for Alternate Workouts/Exercises?

There are several resources for alternate exercises. I have not developed one yet to this date (in the works). One that I recommend is a YouTube channel compiled by fitness author Kellie Davis.

I stumbled upon this channel after purchasing Strong Curves: A Woman's Guide to Building a Better Butt and Body. (found here on Amazon). Kellie and Bret Contreras co-authored this book to deliver Bret's glute training methods.

The channels original purpose was glute exercises. There are other useful exercise demos shown.

If you're interested in a program aimed at the glutes, Strong Curves is a solid start to doing things on your own.

Is Soreness a Good Indicator of Workout Effectiveness?

While some believe that feeling sore can mean you had a good workout, it’s not that simple. While not fully understood, soreness is more a novel indicator of muscle damage (which can be good).

It's currently believed that some degree of damage may play a role in muscle growth.

You should expect to be a little sore if you try a new exercise, lift a little more weight or do a couple extra sets.

The next time you're sore after working out, those two reasons are likely why. I've gone long periods of time without feeling sore. If that happens to you, don't worry-there are better ways to gauge progress.

Some common ways you can tell you're getting better include:

An effective training program won't make you excessively sore. You shouldn't feel tender to the touch the next day after training.

Beginners can avoid excessive soreness by taking things slowly at first.

If You're Already Working Out, How Do You Know When to Add Weight? What Can I do to Get Stronger?

The person who asked me this question was already strength training. She has some of what I might call, intermediate problems.

There are a few clues that you’re no longer a beginner:

  • Beginners might be able to continually add weight to a squat every week, intermediates might every few.
  • An intermediate has consistent form.
  • An intermediate has consistent technical breakdowns in their form.

There are several ways to try and get stronger over time. One way is to simply try and add 2.5-10 lbs every week to an exercise and try to maintain the same total number of reps.

Eventually, you may find some exercises require a more complicated strategy than that. Some coaches use 1-3 months at a time to focus specifically on strength in a program.

You might try this out for yourself, loading your big lifts and keeping your accessory lifts higher in volume (8-12 reps).

If Squatting Bothers Your Lower Back, Is it Better to Lift Heavy with a Shorter Range of Motion or Use a Lighter Weight?

This is a complicated question, it may be outside my scope. I would first try to rule out if there is some muscular or technical (form) limitation. Physical therapists are good at finding out muscle problems behind movement dysfunction.

My favorite therapist in Columbia, Missouri is Scott Graham at Peak Sport and Spine. Unfortunately in Missouri, therapy requires a referral first.

Hopefully the fix is that simple.

If there is a way for you to squat pain free, I would advocate for that. You might not be able to do some squat variations due to a weakness. There is also the possibility of technique being a limiting factor.

There are several parts to the squat:

• Setting up your hands and feet in the right position to start

• Keeping your head and neck in a neutral position

• Descending, maintaining good form, placing an even load over the foot

• Coming back up from the bottom of the lift

• Breathing correctly throughout

If you can squat a light weight without pain, I would start there and do that often. If you find that going below a certain point in the lift hurts you, avoid that place.

Over time, you may grow stronger in the squat and be able to use heavier weight.

If that does not solve the problem, there are plenty of leg exercises you can use to strengthen your legs.

There aren't perfect exercises. Try to find something that fits you and your weaknesses appropriately.

What do you recommend as far as balancing cardio exercises with weight training? Is it more effective to stack them or space them out?

The woman who asked me this question had a wedding coming up in 6 months. After finding out some more detail, I’ve given this answer more thought.

Initially, she told me that she had two hours a week to train, which is plenty.

I walked her through why it’s important to have a good aerobic base while strength training. Shortly, you can recover faster between sets.

I then talked to her about the potential for an “interference effect”. It may or may not be real but, cardio and weights seem to counteract some of the muscle growth response to training.

Muscle or lean mass is important because it makes up part of your metabolism.

Too much or the wrong type of cardio can (potentially) stop you from building significant lean mass.

This interference effect is one of the things we’re still unclear about in strength training.

Cyclists seem to have no problem building muscle in their legs. Distance runners do seem to have problems.

You may have noticed this yourself. It may have to do with the type of muscle actions that occur when running. They may be a greater stress to your body.

From what I've read, anecdotally, I might do cardio first for 20 minutes then lift. So long as your cardio doesn't wear you down too much of course.

I would change my line of thought upon review.

If the reason she is doing cardio is strictly to lose weight, she’s better off focusing on what she’s eating.

I would tell this woman to focus on strength training for the entirety of the two hours she has.

Outside of cycling, to my knowledge, cardio won’t do much to help her build lean muscle. Lean muscle is a major part of your metabolism and appearance in that dress.


Again, thank you for coming out! If anyone has any follow up questions, I have instructed Emily to share my contact information with you.

Phone: 1-573-443-1495

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