So your lady wants to start going to the gym—and she wants you to show her what to do. It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. This is your chance to spend time together—in your element (rather than at the mall). To help you get started, we’ve developed a checklist for leading her through the weight room from Day One.
1.) Forget your own training.
“If you’re trying to show off by demonstrating how much you can lift, you’re going to have problems,” says Rachel Cosgrove, a strength and conditioning coach and co-owner of Results Fitness in Santa Clarita, Calif. “She wants you to pay attention to her.” This means concentrating on moves that she can do and enjoy (unless you want a dumbbell dropped on your foot).
2.) Say the right things.
Feed her compliments—and try to ensure that she processes them as such. “Don’t say, ‘Wow, your arms are getting so big,’ or, ‘You’re looking really buff!'” says Cosgrove. “If a woman hears that, she might never come back with you to the gym.” Instead, reinforce her work by telling her that her arms are really “toned,” or that her legs are “defined.”
3.) Know what she wants.
Her goals are to burn calories and fat, and get more “shapely.” So take it easy on the isolation exercises, use lighter weights and higher reps, and keep her moving. “Women are multitaskers,” says Cosgrove. “They want combination exercises, compound movements, and circuit sets.” In terms of body parts, she’s concerned with her legs, glutes, and—most of all—abs. “As much as guys love the bench press, that’s how much women love ab work,” says Joe Stankowski, a trainer of pageant contestants in Wilmington, Del. So grab a Swiss ball and crunch!
4.) Disguise the workout.
Women often fear weights, so hide weight training in moves like medicine-ball squats and med-ball overhead presses. You can also use those colored, plastic kettlebells for figure eights and swings. And here are always cable moves like wood chops. She will find these exercises more fun and less intimidating, and she won’t feel like she’s turning into the Incredible Hulkette.
5.) Think outside the gym.
Stankowski has his female clients drag weighted sleds and flip tractor tires. “They love it, because it’s so different that it’s interesting,” he says. “And it gives them confidence because they feel like they’re doing something no other woman is doing.”
6.) Play the metabolism card.
“Girls tend to gravitate toward inner-thigh machines, leg extensions, and other machines and exercises that aren’t so useful, ” says Brian Grasso, a strength coach in Chicago. Rather, women should be doing squats and deadlifts because they involve a great deal of muscle recruitment, “which leads to a more aesthetically pleasing physique and increases their metabolic rate significantly,” says Grasso. Tactfully point out these facts to leverage your girlfriend away from the inefficient machines and toward the free-weight movements. As much as she dislikes iron, she hates cellulite even more.
7.) Challenge her.
See who can do the most jump squats in a minute. Or who can lift the most proportionally, says Grasso, who regularly works out with his ex-figure-skater girlfriend. Start with Romanian deadlifts at 50% of your body weight and work your way up. The winner is the one who can lift the higher percentage. Grasso says battles like this push him, because he hates losing to a girl. “If you have a competitive girl and work body percentage into a friendly dare, you’re both going to see massive gains.”
To get you both in better shape for summer, we teamed up with our sister magazine, Shape, to design a FREE 12-week regimen called the Better 2gether couples’ workout, sponsored by Sensa.
(Please consult your physician prior to beginning any exercise regimen)