5x5 Loading Scheme for Women?

Hi All,

My girlfriend recently started coming to my home gym with me twice a week. She has been a dancer in the past but is becoming more interested in lifting. I’m aware that ideally she’d be going more often but this is what we’re working with for now.

In any case, I’m thinking that each day would start with a lower-body strength movement (squat one day, deadlift the other) followed by a press, a pull, and some core work.

I’m a relatively novice lifter with a decent knowledge (thanks to sites and forums like these) of loading/rep schemes for different training effects in men. However, I’m out of my depth as far as women go.

I’ve read that 5x5 is effective for women looking to build strength and muscle, and that it stays effective for a while. What I’m wondering is, what is a good loading scheme for women doing 5x5? I have read that women can perform a higher percentage of their 1rm for reps than men can due to muscular recruitment differences, so I was thinking 85% (the high end of what’s recommended for men using 5x5). Would this be a good starting point?

The basic routine would look something like
Day 1
5x5 squat
5x5 row
5x5 bench press

Day 2
5x5 trap bar dl (starting with high handle to teach her proper form)
5x5 ohp
5x5 chinup

And ideally, since she is more concerned about lower body development, some assistance higher rep work each day (like 2-3x8-12 rdls, bulgarian split squats or hip thrusts).

Thanks in advance for your help.

Using 85% at the start will ensure failed attempts within a few sessions. Need to start considerably lower and add weight weekly to ensure continued progress. Lower percentages also allow for practice with lighter loads. Full body, twice weekly, with adequate weight, sleep, and nutrition, can yield excellent results.
Last thing-Reg Park popularized 5x5 and he used sets 1 and 2 as ramping sets, with 3,4,5 being the worksets using the heaviest weight programmed for that day.

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She’s not just a woman. She’s your girlfriend. Training a significant other is a special kind of crazy because the potential for backfire is high. It’s adding general stress to a relationship, as well as a few hours a week where there’s a very blatant “do what I say” scenario, which can obviously be problematic for some/many couples.

Read this and understand all of the points raised, then stick to one of the program it lists at the end of the article: 3 Steps to Getting Your Girl to Train

I’d just add that a total of 5-10 minutes of free time to hit “toning/sculpting stuff” for arms/shoulders/abs/thighs/whatever could be tacked on to the end of any session without interfering in the big picture.

It’s not a good starting point, because “85%” means you’ve tested her 1-rep max. Don’t do that.

Whatever plan she’s following, she should be able to get all reps in a set without hitting muscular failure or technical breakdown. When form starts to get iffy, that’s as heavy as you go until next week or maybe even the week after.


If anything you think this is a solid exercise selection?

I have told my wife she is not to come to where I train lol But if I have a stroke and she comes along, my plan is to tell her to hunt out a training program from some chick she wants to look like and do that.

Best $50 you’ll ever spend. Tell her what a great choice she made as well, good bonus points.

@mattferrari you can’t go wrong doing fundamental movement patterns so that’s a good place to start. Don’t discount what @Chris_Colucci said. Remember, women and men differ in which muscles are aesthetically prioritized.

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A general equipment consideration for beginner women is the effect of a lower starting point and smaller jumps.

Many untrained women will struggle to strict OHP a 45lb bar. Even those that can may need fractional plates to progress the load in a way that is useful.

If you plan on doing deadlifts, you’ll want some full size plates lighter than 45s or else some blocks to get your smaller plates to standard height. Even if she can do 135 untrained (many untrained women will struggle with this), you’ll want to do some lighter sets for warmups and form practice.

Of course, another option is to do RDLs and push presses and things like that which work around these issues somewhat.

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