As promised, let’s take a female scenario and break it down into a thorough, individualized plan.
“Hey Cody, my name is Cassie. I’m 31, 5’3”, and about 128lbs. I’ve always been real active, I’ve played sports throughout my life, and have almost always made it to the gym 3-4 times a week since my adult life. I mostly focus on cardio, and toning up my arms, belly, thighs, and butt. I generally start with cardio for 10-15 minutes, do a circuit or two, and head back into another 10-15 minutes of cardio afterwards. We’re a very active family, and we often hike, paddle board, or walk the city on weekends. I know how to weight lift, but I don’t necessarily understand how to go about it, I’m sure you’ll have input there, which I am open to. Diet wise I’m pretty inconsistent, but I eat very good quality of food. I’ve started tracking calories per your recommendations lately, and I’ve really noticed how much up and down there is within my intake. I have 2 kids, a boy and a girl (6 and 4) and have kept my calories at a reasonable intake since I stopped breastfeeding. Some days I’m at 2200 calories, some days I’m at 1400 calories, but all days I eat well. I can’t really seem to tell what the reason is for the fluctuation, but I’ve been trying to make shakes to level things out on low days. I would like to really firm up my body; I’m not obese, but I’m a little overweight, and not proud of how I look. I want to, and I know I can change. I feel like I’ve said it since my kids stopped breastfeeding, but it’s taken this long to double down.
First and foremost, Cassie’s incredibly understanding of herself, and has obviously spent some time analyzing her actions, habits, and goals. It’s clear she’s introspective, knows herself, and can understand that she’s been ramping up for a change, but isn’t upset about it – but rather; ready.
Find an area with good lighting, in a place we can duplicate the photos and videos, preferably on a windowsill or in front of adequate natural lighting, but a mirror will work just fine as long as we can recreate.
I say photos and videos because with ladies, sometimes it can be a bit trickier due to hormonal, menstrual, and water fluctuations potentially being more present. A video of your entire progress routine, going from front view, side view, and rear view will show your entire figure and you can make adequate comparisons from each.
Aim to retake every 2 weeks, but don’t fixate on them.
Take some measurements.
Once again, don’t become neurotic with the numbers, but they can be another great form of progress tracking.
Where to Measure:
- 2″ above navel
- 2″ below navel
Re-measure when you update progress photos/videos.
We want to look at the weekly trends of weight. Again, I want to hammer the educational aspect here because Cassie will notice the wild fluctuations from the day-to-day, but overall, week to week the trends tell all.
Aim for daily weigh-in’s so Cassie can really take notes on how prior days intakes, sleep, recovery overall, sodium, menstruation, and stress can impact the numbers.
*It’s not always recommended to weigh in so frequently if one has a negative relationship with weight and body image, so it’s not mandatory, but I do want to stress that this can educate a person past that point of negative fixation on weight.
She’s intaking 2200 calories, and sometimes down to 1400. With her food quality being high, it might lead me to believe she could have some food bulk she’s processing through, leading her to subconsciously eat less following those days. This could be from high fiber foods, dense veggies, beans, or other complex digesting foods, This isn’t a bad thing, but I’ll be sure to keep up with her logs to test my hypothesis.
2200 calorie intake is quite high for a 128lb female, which verifies her high activity level. I like Cassie.
We need consistency here. She’s got all the basics down: food quality, activity and exercise, mindset, personal understanding – it’s time to put everything to use and make it all consistent and find maintenance.
Maintenance won’t result in any metabolic adaptation like a deficit would, nor will it have any down regulatory effects on hormonal responses, energy levels, or NEAT activity. Once again, we’re striving for consistency, and maintenance has essentially no cons to prevent that, other than reaching the numbers.
I don’t necessarily need to provide macros in this situation, and I would only do so if Cassie really wants to learn, and follow structure to get her where she’s going. I will for the education, but it’s not vital for her (more on this in the training section).
It’s recommended both men and women adhere to the .8-1.2g/lb of bodyweight protein recommendation. With Cassie not being in a deficit, it’s not a necessity to be at the higher end of that number, so we’ll stick her at the 1g/lb sweet spot.
128×1=128g of protein daily – which we’ll round up to 130g, protein contains 4 calories per gram, which is 520 calories total (130×4=520)
Cassie mentioned in another comment she does eat quite a bit of avocado, coconut, nuts & seeds, some fattier cuts of meat (she mentioned steak, and salmon), as well as some dairy.
She does also eat plenty of carb sources, but knowing this is very important, because I don’t want to stick her on the low end of the fat intake range. She enjoys those foods, so we want to work them in to improve the appeal of this “diet” she’s embarking on.
20-35% of calories is about the common window for calculating fat intake, for maintenance, and since her fat sources are super healthy and dense, I’ll have her start off at 35%.
2000x.35=700 calories from fat, /9 because fats have 9 calories per gram=77.8, which we’ll round up to 80g (720cals).
The finale; the carbs.
The remainder of calories will be passed to carbohydrates.
720 fat cals+512 protein cals=1232
2000-1232=768cals for carbs/4 because carbs have 4 calories per gram=192, which we’ll round up to 195g.
*Cassie has been cleared by her doctor, has gotten her blood panels, and hormonal profiles checked recently, and receives annual physicals and is in perfect health, these are just general recommendations based on literature, and available information 🙂
Protein – 130g
Fats – 80g
Carbs – 195g
Calories – 2020 (not an even 2000 is just fine)
No restricting, no limiting, just aiming for consistency. She can track just calories and protein if she’s getting thrown off, but I think Cassie will do great. She has a high nutritional intake, so we just want to keep it constant, find maintenance, and let the training work it’s magic…
Since Cassie’s very active, and has been doing essentially full body circuits, I’m going to have her dive into this with upper/lower splits.
Why? she’s already doing full body workouts, why change her plan if she’s doing well?
She wants change.
Not only that, she’s active, eats right, knows how to train, and how to not be a pringle-eatin’ couch potato.
She needs to build some muscle.
The training she’ll be doing will supplement her nutrition perfectly. She won’t be burning to the point she’s in a deficit, but she won’t be having a lazy-sunday session by any means. She won’t have to focus as hard on the macros as someone who has the training down, but for her we want to focus the training quality for her physique change.
I enjoy full body training for building muscle, and it’s great for keeping caloric expenditure up as well, but Cassie will keep her daily expenditure high regardless. Upper/lower split training will allow her to get a good “mind to muscle” training stimulus. We want her to contract, activate, and recruit more muscle fibers, because that’s how she’ll add some lean muscle, get stronger, oh – and change her physique.
|Movement||Prepare for Training!||Notes/Description|
|Cardio @ 55-65% max heart rate||5 mins|
Increase your core temp (warmup, duh) walk, bike, row, elliptical, move!
Movement should be CONTROLLED. If needed, you can hold onto a rack at first to help stabilty. Draw the navel in, contract the glutes, and breath as your coming up into extension. These HELP!
|Arm swings – cross-body, forward and back||10 each|
Simple – get some blood flowing, increase your body temp, bring the shoulders through full ROM, open up the chest.
|Leg swings forward and back, and side to side||10 each direction|
Grab onto a rack, bench, or something sturdy. Swing your leg out in front of you opening up your glute, hamstring, and calf, and then swing and kick it back behind you opening up your hip and quad.
|Band Pull Aparts||2×15||Arms locked, pull band apart and squeeze shoulder blade – second round switch to palms up|
|Banded Hip Thrust+Abductions||2×15||Chin stays tucked, drop hips, extend hips and knees should be at 90 degrees, hold, bring knees apart, down and repeat. Gluuuutes|
Once again, we’re keeping the warmups simple. It covers all bases of basic mobility, heart rate increase, joint/muscle prep for exercise, and overall movement preparation.
Is it oversimplified? Maybe. But, Cassie was also not warming up other than with some cardio prior to training. This is already going to be quite a change, so instead of bombarding her with new everything and excess anxiety, let’s start light. Since she’ll be lifting, I’d likely add in a thoracic mobility/rotation exercise, ankle mobilizations, and maybe a bottoms up press. For now, this is tremendous.
|1. Squat Variation||4×6||8||Front, Back, KB, Goblet, Jump|
|2. DB RDL’s||4×8||8||Control down, power up – focus drawing navel in and “bracing” core with glute squeeze|
|3. Split Squats||3×10||9-10||Keep a rhythm – control down power up|
|4a. Lateral Band Walks||3×10||9-10||Half squatted position, feet parallel and flat|
|4b. Cable Crunches||3×15||8||Don’t let your low back round – inhale up, exhale as you crunch|
|5.* (optional) KB Swings||20-15-10-5||9||30 sec rest in between, modify weight if needed|
Very simple, but simple does not mean easy. No need to superset until the technical difficulty of exercises have dropped, and the last metabolic finisher is optional if time doesn’t permit, or fatigue has set in. I don’t always prefer cable crunches, but Cassie mentioned belly toning to me a few times, and I know that cable crunches are a great “mind to muscle” connection core movement that will really make her feel accomplished. KB swing finisher for that metabolic effect she enjoys from circuits.
|1.Incline DB Press||4×6||8||Neutral (palms parallel) at the bottom, rotate knuckles up as you press like a punch|
|2. Seated Cable Row||4×8||8||2 part row: shoulder blade retraction, and then row elbows back|
|3. Overhead Press||3×10||8-9||Machine, DB, KB, Bar – preference; just focus not arching low back, and bracing core|
|4a. Chest Supported Wide Rows||3×10||8-9||Position yourself to comfort, row elbows out wide and focus lat activation – go light enough to do perfectly|
|4b. Bent Over Reverse Flyes||3×15||8||Perfect hip hinge position – light db’s – fly weight back and squeeze scape|
|5a. Curl Variation||2×15||9-10||Hammer, Rotating, Preacher, Machine|
|5b. Tricep Extension||2×15||9-10||Rope, Overhead, Seated Dips, Bent Bar|
Focusing on more pulling than pushing, always. Strong backside, paired with constant cueing for core control. Simple, not easy.
|1. BB Hip Thrust||4×8||9||Keep chin tucked, feel the glutes extend the hips – knees should be at 90 degrees when hips are extended|
|2. Elevated Reverse Lunges||4×8||8-9||Stand on box or weights, step back and sink, stand back up – alternate – keep posture with a slight hip hinge, and focus on keeping the front foot flat – add weights if applicable|
|3. Machine Leg Curls||3×12||8-9||Point the toes – go light enough that you’re in control, and low back isn’t arching|
|4a. RKC Plank||3×4-6 breathes||9-10||Tuck hips, squeeze glutes, clinch fists, tighten quads, breathe|
|4b. KB Front Rack Carry||3×30-40 steps||9||2 KB’s in front rack, stand up tall and walk, don’t let the weight control you, you control the weight|
|5a. Close Stance Squats||20-15-10-5||9-10||Rhythm!|
|5b. Calf Raises||25-20-15-10||9-10||Elevate on box to get the stretch at the bottom|
Working the glutes is always a huge focus, as well as core. Elevating that front leg with reverse lunges takes some strain of the knee itself, and forces the quads and glutes to work. Women sometimes can struggle with more knee issues due to hip width (not a bad thing), so simple adjustments can make a huge difference. Front rack carries and RKC planks make today a big core focus, just a bit non-traditional.
|1. DB Arnold Press||4×6||8||Start with palms facing you, press and rotate to palms facing outward|
|2. Pull-up Assist||4×8||8||Form focus* – Pull up with posture, don’t round shoulders to bar|
|3. Push-ups||3×10||8-9||Form focus* – Down with control, power up – keep posture and keep body a straight line, no hip dipping|
|4a. Band Face Pull-Apart||3×10||8-9||Pull band towards face, pull it apart as you do so|
|4b. Star Side Plank||3×15||8||Side plank, top leg hold up, top arm pointed up making yourself a star – quads tight, hips up, breathe|
|5a. Curl Variation||2×15||9-10||*Different variation from day 2|
|5b. Tricep Extension||2×15||9-10||*Different variation from day 2|
Cassie will not be getting “bulky” but she’ll definitely be tightening her body up, getting stronger, and learning what her body can do. Today’s puts some finishing touches on improving her bodyweight capabilities, and rounds everything out to focus on her arms.
At first, I won’t have Cassie do any programmed cardio, meaning she can do some if she actually would like to jog, bike, hike, kayak, paddle-board, or box, but for now I want her to focus these workouts and minimize cardio.
I added the KB swings, and squats/calf raises burnouts in to satisfy that metabolic finisher type of mentality, and we will likely build on those as time moves forward.
Since Cassie will be relatively new to this style of training (consistently at least), she’ll progress very quickly.
I’ll likely have to follow 3 week mini-cycles, which would entail:
- Week 1: Learn the movements
- Week 2: Perfect the movements
- Week 3: Improve the movements (add weight, or reps)
- Week 4: Deload slightly, and reassess (maintain, or slightly lower volume and intensity, modify certain isolation and accessory exercises to keep the fun factor)
This will still allow a bit of flexibility within training, keeping it from being too rigid to be enjoyable, but will also give her tons of satisfaction from watching improvements.
We will make no changes until she’s had 2 consistent weeks of 0 progress, at which point we reassess, and modify.
Thanks for reading, I hope Timmy and Cassie have provided you with some valuable methods, principles, ideas, or foundations to implement yourself.
Feel free to reach out with any questions!