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Train Like a Man - Especially if You’re a Woman

May 25, 2010 11:06 AM

When I went through the RKC in October 2009, Pavel said something that really stuck with me; "We are turning you into better men, even the ladies."

As a female athlete who also trains females from all walks of life, this was very empowering to me. I have always valued strength, power and athleticism, and have always strived to perform my absolute best with the body I have inherited. I grew up playing sports, so this sort of mentality was ingrained in me as a child. I was bred to "enjoy the pain", and I am intrinsically motivated by the desire to accomplish feats of strength. I take immense pride in my body's ability to move efficiently, and with considerable strength in relation to my small frame.

I experienced this mentality en masse while at the Philly RKC. It was pretty incredible to be surrounded by strong women who value sweat and hard work, and do so without whining and complaining. You were hard pressed to hear someone say, "I can't do it." Female RKCs are a tough group of ladies who take it as a compliment when someone calls them a "beast"!

These are women who don't believe that serious strength and conditioning is limited to men. These are women who believe in their ability to use their bodies in exceptional ways, who exceed limits imposed by society and harbor a mental toughness that propels them and motivates them. I am in incredibly proud to stand beside these strong, empowered females.

That being said, it still seems as though women who train hard and find value in real strength are by far the minority. It seems that the vast majority of women prefer to spend COUNTLESS hours on elliptical machines and Pilates classes, or choose to avoid exercise altogether. Moreover, those who do exercise usually do so for purely aesthetic reasons, rather than to achieve optimum strength and power. They are adverse to sweating, working hard or gaining muscle. Even during my time in the military, I encountered some of the weakest, unmotivated, out of shape women you could imagine. At six months pregnant I recall lapping most of the women in my unit during morning runs. They joked that I was making them look bad! The reality was, they were making themselves look bad for lacking any internal motivation to push harder, run faster, and just plain be better.

From my ten years experience as a fitness professional, I can tell you that there is a significant lack of work ethic when it comes to female clients. There is an intolerable amount of whining and excuses, as well as a profound disparity between actual and perceived potential. We don't think we should lift heavy weights. We don't want to lift heavy weights. But what that really comes down to, is that WE DON'T BELIEVE WE CAN LIFT HEAVY WEIGHTS.

It's understood that hormones have a great deal to do with this phenomenon. Men are more likely to let the "angry man" come out, due to higher levels of testosterone. But that is only a small hurdle that we can easily mount. Why does estrogen have to equal wimpiness? Why is my angry man so dominant? I'm sure I don't have more testosterone than the average female. I enjoy shoe shopping just as much as swinging kettlebells!

The issue is not purely physical or biological; it originates in our psychology. It is not our physical strength that is lacking, rather our mental strength that holds us down. Despite how far we have come in this society with regards to women's rights, our media still fervently contributes to the stereotypical gender roles that convince women to be mentally weak and void of any competitive nature.

If you don't believe me, just pick up any mainstream women's fitness magazine on the market and you'll learn how to "melt away the fat without sweating" and "tone your trouble zones." You'd be hard pressed to find an article encouraging women to seek out physical and mental strength for the sake of empowerment. Telling women to suck it up and quit whining wouldn't exactly sell magazines, would it? Not to mention, ordering our female clients to "man up" isn't very good for business.

But we do need to man up. We need to put a ban on whining and complaining, and take serious steps towards developing an intrinsic desire to be powerful in mind and body. Athleticism is not just about physical feats, or aesthetic goals. It's about creating a strong inner self and gaining a sense of satisfaction and empowerment from our bodies' capabilities.

The human body is a magnificent machine, capable of incredible feats that go far beyond what most women attempt to achieve. We can achieve greatness, only if we realize how relevant this is to our sense of self. I have trained many women who lacked confidence and a strong sense of commitment prior to their training. However, if at some point during their journey I am able to empower them even slightly, there is something to be gained from that. I am continuously amazed at the amount of worth that they gain from even the simplest physical achievement. Once the mental barrier has been crossed, confidence and self worth tends to flood in. Because once you start to achieve incredible things-such as bodyweight pull-ups, heavy dead lifts and flawless get ups, you start to realize that you can do just about anything.

There is something to be said about a strong, efficient female. We move with grace and confidence, and we carry our strength with humility. Strength and confidence in the gym directly translates to the same virtues in other aspects of life.

I am incredibly humbled to find myself in a position in which I can motivate and empower other females to find that ever-important sense of self worth through physical accomplishment. I encourage every woman to find their inner beast, and help bring out the same in others. So let's get tough girls-not for the sake of our muscles, but the sake of our minds. Let's train like men-especially because we're women.

Training day 1:

-Joint Mobility/Movement Prep
-Glute bridges and planks
-Barbell Snatch

-Front Squats
?Horizontal Rows

-Single leg squats
?Single leg dumbbell rows

-Heavy KB snatches (24/20kg)
?Heavy KB swings (20kg-36kg)

Training Day 2:

-Joint Mobility/Movement Prep
-Side planks

-Dumbbell snatch

-Get ups, heavy and light

-Romanian Dead lifts
?Dumbbell flat bench?

-Single leg dead lifts
?weighted pushups

-Airdyne sprints w/ medicine ball power circuit

Training Day 3:

Joint Mobility/Movement Prep
-Hip flexor activation
?Ab wheel rollouts

-KB Jerks

-Dead lifts (conventional)

?KB clean and press

-Double KB complexes and chains (snatches, swings, jerks, viking push press)

Training Day 4:

-Joint Mobility/Movement Prep

-Anti rotation pressing
?Chop/Lift progressions

-Bent Press
-Rotational Med Ball throws

-Plyometric progressions

-Agility ladder drills

Typical 12 week cycle:

Weeks 1-3: 8-10 repsx3 sets (5-6 for top sets of squats and DLs)

Weeks 4-6: 4-6 repsx3-4 sets

Weeks 7-9: 6-8 repsx3 sets

Weeks 10-12: 3-5 repsx3-6 sets (1-3 for top sets of squats and DLs)

Then I take a week of active recovery. This is just a template, sometimes I will venture off the template depending on what is going on with my body and my goals at the moment.?

Neghar Fonooni, RKC, FMS, NASM, ACE, is a performance training specialist and the general manager of OPTIMUM PERFORMANCE TRAINING INSTITUTE. For more information go to, or email You can also visit OPTI on facebook.