Why I Prefer Training Women

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I recognize the title of this post can be a bit misleading; as if to imply I don’t like training men. This is not the case.

 

I mean, I spent eight years of my career at Cressey Sports Performance training predominantly men (baseball players). They were all lovely, if not a bit overzealous with the Axe Body Spray at times.

What’s more, given half the population on Earth has a Y chromosome it should come as no surprise that 50% of my current clientele at CORE are the proud owners of a “boy down there part.” Although I’m sure if I crunched the numbers the percent breakdown of female/male clients would skew a little higher on the female side.

I’ve always enjoyed training women. Men, too. But looking back at my coaching career I’ve always gained a greater sense of satisfaction and enjoyment from working with and training women.

Back in 2002, at my first job in corporate fitness, it didn’t take long for me to “recruit” a few women and to introduce strength training to them. The guys, for the most part, didn’t need much egging from me to pick up a barbell. Like me, they had been indoctrinated and encouraged at an early age – mostly as a result of watching Predator 3,987 times – to lift weights.

Most were lifting weights to some capacity already.

Because that’s what guys are supposed to do.

For the women, though, not all of them of course, the story was a bit different. Most were never encouraged to lift weights, and if they were it was always directed towards machines or “girl exercises.”

Read: cardio.

37459682 - beautiful group of young women friends exercising on a treadmill at the bright modern gym

Copyright: dotshock / 123RF Stock Photo

A Quick Aside (WARNING: you may want to drop kick something after reading this it will make you that angry): This reminds me of a story a female colleague of mine once told me about a local high school here in Massachusetts. She had offered to help out in the school’s weight room during the summer months and had asked the Athletic Director (a woman, who also happened to be the varsity coach for several of the women’s teams) if she could “target” the young girls and attempt to set up a strength training program geared towards them.

The AD said something to the effect of:

“Oh, well, you can try but it won’t do much good. The girls here aren’t interested in weight training and tend to only use the cardio machines. Besides, there aren’t any “female friendly” machines available.”

Mind you, she said this with 10+ empty power rack stations behind here.

via GIPHY

Riiiiiiggggggggghhhhttttt.

This was the ATHLETIC DIRECTOR (Remember: a woman no less) saying something so egregious and asinine.

Is it any wonder then, after hearing that kind of bullshit, why so many young girls grow up thinking they’re not supposed to lift weights and that it’s just something guys do? And why many take the same mindset into adulthood?

Thanks for nothing worst athletic director ever.

So anyways, back to 2002, I started working with a lot of women and slowly but surly began to “de-program” them and helping them learn to debunk many of the common fitness myths they had fallen prey to:

  • Lifting weights will make you big and bulky.
  • Yoga/Pilates/etc will make your muscles longer, leaner, and more toned (<— again, feeding into the idea that guys do “that” (lift weights) and girls do “this” (yoga/pilates, etc).
  • Gazing at a barbell for longer than 15 seconds will make you grow an Adam’s apple, or turn you into this overnight:

This last point brings up a whole nother conversation of, 1) “Who gives a flying fuck if someone wants to look like this?” and 2) even if it is an admittedly extreme example, it implies the connotation that having any semblance of muscle is NON-feminine..

However, I hope most of you reading recognize the larger point I’m trying to make: that it’s not uncommon for women to think the above picture is the end result of performing a few sets of deadlifts over the course of a few weeks.

Spoiler Alert: It’s not.

It was very rewarding to start working with those women early in my career and to watch them make amazing progress in their strength – not to mention their confidence in themselves – and to finally see that switch turn on to where they wanted to work towards more performance based goals rather than worrying about aesthetics or looking a certain way to fulfill some BS societal norm.

Fast forward through a few girlfriends and questionable fashion choices on my end…to my time at Cressey Sports Performance. During my time there I worked with countless women, even started a “women’s only” training group (for beginners), and helped to procure an environment and culture where training was training regardless of gender.

Girls didn’t train any different than the guys.

We didn’t make it a “thing.” Girls just, you know, trained. And became badasses.

 

Fast forward, again, to today. I have my own studio in Boston (okay, technically, Brookline) and I still follow the same mantra as above: women, outside of a few circumstances, do not need to train differently then men.

I’m very fortunate in that I’ve been able to generate enough of a reputation (and following) that when women do reach out to me for coaching they tend to know what they’re getting themselves into.

Deadlifts, EDM, and plenty of Star Wars references.

But that doesn’t mean I still don’t have my work cut out for me at times. Just the other day I came across this article while I was in the waiting room at the dentist’s office:

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The article implies that foam rolling leads to “lengthening” of muscles and a leaner look (because, you know, it’s foam rolling, not calories in vs. calories out that gets rid of fat).

It was all I could do not to want to run through the pane glass window to my left when I saw this.

This. This is why I prefer working with women.1

So I can help serve as a counterpoint or antithesis to the garbage that’s directed their way in much of (not all) of the mainstream media.

Awful.

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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  1. Well that, and because they tend to (not always) be more coachable, and don’t see it as a strike against their ego if I tell them to take some weight off the bar.

Comments for This Entry

  • Kowshik Chandra Chanda

    Indeed, Strong Women Lift Each Other Up. personally, i have seen a lot women helping each other to be confident and to be strong. Also, It's really a good experience of your has written here. http://www.ellipticallab.com/

    October 25, 2016 at 2:06 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      I think much of the "culture" at a gym is on the coaching staff. Every gym is different; some are more serious, while others not so much. Either way, if members (women AND men) are there helping each other out, rooting for each other, being encouraging, etc........I think it speaks a lot towards the staff and what they do to set the precedent.

      October 26, 2016 at 9:40 am | Reply to this comment

  • Sue Galeone

    When I first started lifting 6 years ago, I was typically the only woman in the free weight section. The amount of women lifting with me now has steadily increased as more information and more role models have established themselves. Love it!

    October 25, 2016 at 2:19 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Sue Galeone

    When I first started lifting 6 years ago, I was typically the only woman in the free weight section. The amount of women lifting with me now has steadily increased as more information and more role models have established themselves. Love it!

    October 25, 2016 at 3:19 pm | Reply to this comment

  • The best goddam fitness articles of the week w/c 24th of Oct '16 - Edinburgh PT

    […] Tony Gentilcore with a great article on why he prefers training women […]

    October 26, 2016 at 1:20 am | Reply to this comment

  • Richard Myles

    Ha..ha I really got confused when I saw the title. Yeah, It's true that women help and interact with each other more deliberately than we men do. And that's help them keep motivated for regular work-outs. http://exercisebikelab.com/

    October 26, 2016 at 2:41 am | Reply to this comment

  • Kyle J

    I agree that working with women is very rewarding. Breaking down the barriers you spoke of and seeing them transform into a more confident and STRONG is a pretty cool process to be a part of.

    October 26, 2016 at 6:30 am | Reply to this comment

  • Kyle J

    I agree that working with women is very rewarding. Breaking down the barriers you spoke of and seeing them transform into a more confident and STRONG is a pretty cool process to be a part of.

    October 26, 2016 at 7:30 am | Reply to this comment

  • TonyGentilcore

    I think much of the "culture" at a gym is on the coaching staff. Every gym is different; some are more serious, while others not so much. Either way, if members (women AND men) are there helping each other out, rooting for each other, being encouraging, etc........I think it speaks a lot towards the staff and what they do to set the precedent.

    October 26, 2016 at 8:40 am | Reply to this comment

  • Cavakia Therlonge

    Early on in my career as a personal trainer I preferred training women just like you. But now as I become more business minded I find I enjoy training men more so than women for intellectual reasons. http://alternative-fitness.com/self-resistance-curls/

    October 26, 2016 at 1:26 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Cavakia Therlonge

    Early on in my career as a personal trainer I preferred training women just like you. But now as I become more business minded I find I enjoy training men more so than women for intellectual reasons. http://alternative-fitness.com/self-resistance-curls/

    October 26, 2016 at 2:26 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Alexandra Patterson

    Hi Tony! I LOVED this article. I am working to get comfortable lifting weights and not just do machines. Getting out of my comfort zone can be difficult but this article has definitely inspired me. I actually gravitated towards your blog because I am looking for a new clientele for a local gym. I think strength training classes would be a great addition to this gym, especially for women! Have you found that there is a certain age group that you have targeted for women? Do you think people aging from 30-50 would be interested/committed to a strength training routine?

    October 27, 2016 at 7:45 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Alexandra Patterson

    Hi Tony! I LOVED this article. I am working to get comfortable lifting weights and not just do machines. Getting out of my comfort zone can be difficult but this article has definitely inspired me. I actually gravitated towards your blog because I am looking for a new clientele for a local gym. I think strength training classes would be a great addition to this gym, especially for women! Have you found that there is a certain age group that you have targeted for women? Do you think people aging from 30-50 would be interested/committed to a strength training routine?

    October 27, 2016 at 8:45 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Steven Boley

    Tony, I too find training women more rewarding than training men, but for additional reasons. Most men I train come into the gym expecting to be able to move weight, and feel comfortable in the free weight area of the gym, most women do not on either score. Most men I train initially feel like they pretty much already know what they're doing, i.e. form. Most women do not feel this way. In fact, it would be fair to say that most of the women I work with enter the free weight area of the gym feeling like they are walking naked into the men's locker room. It's freaking intimidating for them, AND, they don't think they can handle the weight. The real joy for me as a trainer comes when the realize just how truely powerful they can be and when they become aware, that when it comes to form and movement, they realize that a lot of the guys on the floor dont have a clue, but they now do. That sense of confidence in knowing what they are doing means they can stand between two bros and lift like nobody's business. In addition, watching a woman squat, deadlift, or bench a pr is a much different experience than watching a guy do it. Women tend to be truly amazed that they could lift that much, guy's egos tell themselves that of course they can.

    October 30, 2016 at 7:14 am | Reply to this comment

  • Steven Boley

    Tony, I too find training women more rewarding than training men, but for additional reasons. Most men I train come into the gym expecting to be able to move weight, and feel comfortable in the free weight area of the gym, most women do not on either score. Most men I train initially feel like they pretty much already know what they're doing, i.e. form. Most women do not feel this way. In fact, it would be fair to say that most of the women I work with enter the free weight area of the gym feeling like they are walking naked into the men's locker room. It's freaking intimidating for them, AND, they don't think they can handle the weight. The real joy for me as a trainer comes when the realize just how truely powerful they can be and when they become aware, that when it comes to form and movement, they realize that a lot of the guys on the floor dont have a clue, but they now do. That sense of confidence in knowing what they are doing means they can stand between two bros and lift like nobody's business. In addition, watching a woman squat, deadlift, or bench a pr is a much different experience than watching a guy do it. Women tend to be truly amazed that they could lift that much, guy's egos tell themselves that of course they can.

    October 30, 2016 at 8:14 am | Reply to this comment

  • Shane Mclean

    All I'm going to do is foam roll from now on :) Nice work as always Tony.

    October 30, 2016 at 2:03 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Shane Mclean

    All I'm going to do is foam roll from now on :) Nice work as always Tony.

    October 30, 2016 at 3:03 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Paige Mead

    I think a lot of the women who read and believe articles like the one you posted above about foam rolling are the ones who are just looking for the easiest and quickest fix. Men can fall into the same trap when it comes to buying anything/everything that supplement companies try to sell them, as long as they think it will make them bigger. The difference is that most of the time if something doesn't work (like a mass gaining supplement, for example), a man will just try something different, while a woman who doesn't see results from foam rolling after a few weeks is more likely to just quit (in my personal opinion). I also have found that women often feel too uncomfortable in certain gym settings and therefore refuse to lift weights. I worked at a gym recently in Las Vegas that had a small female only room, this room contained mostly cardio equipment (of course), with only a few dumbbells and machines. The rest of the gym was extremely large, and had every piece of equipment in it anyone could ever want, but many of the women refused to even walk into the main gym due to the fact that they felt uncomfortable around the men. I even had one women yell at me because the air wasn't working in the woman's gym, and this meant that she "couldn't work out" that day, because she absolutely refused to go into the other parts of the gym, she said, "I can't workout out there, that's where the men are." This completely blew my mind. I understand some guys can be a little much, but if you ask me, 9 times out of 10 the guys in the gym are looking at themselves in the mirror... not you. I've had experience training women who had an interest in learning how to lift weights, but were nervous about going into the weight room. The most rewarding part of training a women in my opinion was to be able to help them gain the confidence to enter the weight room with mostly men and pick up dumbbells or start loading up the squat rack. It is very important to me that any woman/girl who enters a facility that I work in, or even one I am just training it, feels comfortable enough to use the same machines and do the same exercises that the men are doing.

    October 31, 2016 at 11:23 am | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Thanks for sharing this Paige. It's a MAJOR mental hurdle for a lot of women to walk into the free weight area of a gym. I get it. Guys are weird. But it IS getting better. I see more and more women lifting weights - deadlifting, squatting, performing chin-ups, and it's awesome. But you're right: especially with beginners it's still a mental challenge to help them understand there's little to worry about. But that's why we have to meet them where they're at. We can't just say "oh, that's silly" and disregard their feelings. But I TOTALLY get what you're saying: it's a mentality that's only perpetuated by a lot of the mainstream media.

      November 3, 2016 at 8:39 am | Reply to this comment

  • Paige Mead

    I think a lot of the women who read and believe articles like the one you posted above about foam rolling are the ones who are just looking for the easiest and quickest fix. Men can fall into the same trap when it comes to buying anything/everything that supplement companies try to sell them, as long as they think it will make them bigger. The difference is that most of the time if something doesn't work (like a mass gaining supplement, for example), a man will just try something different, while a woman who doesn't see results from foam rolling after a few weeks is more likely to just quit (in my personal opinion). I also have found that women often feel too uncomfortable in certain gym settings and therefore refuse to lift weights. I worked at a gym recently in Las Vegas that had a small female only room, this room contained mostly cardio equipment (of course), with only a few dumbbells and machines. The rest of the gym was extremely large, and had every piece of equipment in it anyone could ever want, but many of the women refused to even walk into the main gym due to the fact that they felt uncomfortable around the men. I even had one women yell at me because the air wasn't working in the woman's gym, and this meant that she "couldn't work out" that day, because she absolutely refused to go into the other parts of the gym, she said, "I can't workout out there, that's where the men are." This completely blew my mind. I understand some guys can be a little much, but if you ask me, 9 times out of 10 the guys in the gym are looking at themselves in the mirror... not you. I've had experience training women who had an interest in learning how to lift weights, but were nervous about going into the weight room. The most rewarding part of training a women in my opinion was to be able to help them gain the confidence to enter the weight room with mostly men and pick up dumbbells or start loading up the squat rack. It is very important to me that any woman/girl who enters a facility that I work in, or even one I am just training it, feels comfortable enough to use the same machines and do the same exercises that the men are doing.

    October 31, 2016 at 12:23 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Thanks for sharing this Paige. It's a MAJOR mental hurdle for a lot of women to walk into the free weight area of a gym. I get it. Guys are weird. But it IS getting better. I see more and more women lifting weights - deadlifting, squatting, performing chin-ups, and it's awesome. But you're right: especially with beginners it's still a mental challenge to help them understand there's little to worry about. But that's why we have to meet them where they're at. We can't just say "oh, that's silly" and disregard their feelings. But I TOTALLY get what you're saying: it's a mentality that's only perpetuated by a lot of the mainstream media.

      November 3, 2016 at 9:39 am | Reply to this comment

  • suzp

    While I've always been very physical - gymnastics as a kid; running, hiking, yoga and dance as an adult - I only started doing boot camps and boxing workouts about 7 years ago, and just started working with an S&C coach a little over a year ago. Now, at age 53, I'm deadlifting 160 lbs. x 4 reps and back squatting my bodyweight (115 lbs.) - and I have further to go. Love it!

    April 12, 2017 at 12:51 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Olivia esddms

    I started my journey with free weights about 4 years ago, with a kickass female personal trainer that explained to me the holy trinity of squats, dedalifts, and bench presses to me, along with a slew of kettlebell exercises (I love you, swing), and the magic of the trx. Then I changed countries, and had a three year break. Then I decided to quit dancing around the issue and went to a local gym. Yeah, it was hard. Yeah, I first made sure my squat form was up to snuff with those 5 and 10kg pinkie bars in what I call "the women's section." Then I knew I had to move on, to where the barbells were. The squat rack. The 99% menpire. Some tears later I womaned up and grabbed that bar and squatted like no tomorrow. The rest is history. Now I pass the women slogging on treadmills and ellipticals, and recently watched a lady squat- actually, quarter squat- those stick-like not-barbells with 10kg of tiny baby plates. I don't get that, because there is a pre-set bar with 10kg... More comfortable, and doesn't look like a toy. And she didn't even look sweaty, and stared at her phone between sets. :/. Next time I see that I'll be tempted to bring an actual barbell and do some real front squats right there.

    May 22, 2017 at 5:45 am | Reply to this comment

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