Aesthetic-Based Training For Women: Progressive Resistance + Intensity Is What Matters Most

By JC Deen



This is part 1 of a 3-part series that will be unraveling over the next week.

In part 1, we’re covering resistance training. I’ll cover why it’s the fundamental key to changing your shape in the quickest manner possible and why I feel it’s superior to any other form of exercise.

In part 2, I’ll be covering why diet can/should be secondary to training, but only when the training it’s done correctly.

In part 3, I’ll be covering the mindset and motivation aspects of creating the physique changes you want. We’ll also cover how they might make or break your efforts.

Over the last month, I’ve been traveling, which means abbreviated training and unfamiliar conditions.

I had to reduce frequency, volume, and deal with equipment limitations as I didn’t have access to a full gym as I’m used to at home.

Traveling forces me to take a break from the ordinary and encourages creativity in my training. I always learn something.

Most hotel gyms and apartment gyms contain more cardio equipment than anything else.

This is because it’s a lot easier to figure out how to use a treadmill than attempting a full Olympic style high-bar squat.

As a result, many people never learn the basics of strength training, and stick to what’s easy. Yet, if the goal is a change in aesthetics, then resistance, and progressive overload is necessary.

So over the last few weeks, I saw my fair share of people on the treadmills, recumbent bikes, and elliptical machines.

Despite all my sessions (3-4 per week) this past month, I only once saw a lady doing squats and Romanian deadlifts.

I saw women (and some men, too) on the cardio machines, which is a bit ironic because the weather was sunny, warm, and low humidity.

Please know I’m not knocking the treadmill or the elliptical if that’s your preferred method of training.

If you enjoy it, awesome.

But if you want to change the way your body looks, add more muscle mass and be leaner, there are much better methods for achieving said goal.

Resistance training spans a multitude of disciplines and styles such as Olympic lifting, Crossfit, bodybuilding, pump classes, boot camps, athletic training (such as sprinting, and various high-intensity track and field sports), bouldering, powerlifting, and many more.

When you focus on progressive resistance training, you force adaptations to occur that elicit increases in muscle mass, and decreases in body fat.

Intense resistance training creates the microtrauma in the muscle tissue that grows back bigger and stronger over time.

This is why the those who focus on lifting weights as their preferred method of movement look much different than those who embark on marathon style training.

It’s just how it works.

The more intense and the greater the loads over time, the better the outcome in most situations (overtraining, and malnourishment aside).

In one of Scott Abel’s vacation updates, he mentioned the following about his girlfriend’s results from resistance-only training.

During my brief conversation with them they also pointed out how great my girlfriend, Christine looked. Christine is older than I am. What the ladies didn’t know is that Christine doesn’t do any cardio at all, and at the time she was doing a low reps strength program with total recovery between sets, meaning short workouts, very little oxygen debt, no metabolic work, and very little cardio-respiratory emphasis. These very nice ladies emphasized wanting to look better, but they were going about it in a way where they will never likely make that happen.

Cardio is not the bane of existence, and it definitely has its place. But it doesn’t have to, nor should it be, the main mode of exercise if your goal is to be stronger, and leaner.

Plus, building and maintaining your muscle mass over the long haul does a lot for keeping your metabolic rate healthy, and ensuring you maintain bone mass with age. Outside of a proper diet (plenty of calcium, vitamin D, and K), resistance training is one of the best methods to keep your bones strong.

Training Hard and Heavy Doesn’t Mean You’ll Grow A Beard And Be Less Feminine

One thing I want to point out is that while many of the meatheads at your local gym might be huge, and disproportionate in their appearance, this is impossible for women.

Training with lots of intensity, and heavy loads like those meatheads do will not make you look like them because women have far less testosterone than men.

The only way this is even possible is by the use of steroids (exogenous testosterone and other anabolic substances). And even then, you’d need to be in the genetic elite (less than 1% of the population) to get massive and disproportionate.

I don’t think women should train much differently than men do as I mention in this video. But, I do think certain ideas need to be in place depending on the goal. Pure strength goals require a different training method than training for aesthetics.

In the end, you will want to train hard, and with as much intensity as possible because no one got insanely jacked overnight.

Most men are trying to get as big as humanly possible when they first start training, and that’s typically still their goal 10 years later when they’re much bigger, but nothing near professional bodybuilder standards.

It’s hard for everyone, not just women, so my advice is to always train with the most intensity possible, and give it the best you can.

Intensity, proper programming and frequency are all important when creating the body you want long term. Next week, I’ll be releasing a women’s only program with a full year’s worth of training, complete dietary guides, and a whole section on mindset and motivation.

Update: HOTBOD is live.

2 thoughts on “Aesthetic-Based Training For Women: Progressive Resistance + Intensity Is What Matters Most”

  1. I “stumbled” on your website today and am so glad I did! I turned 50 this year and love to run on the treadmill (I have my favorite treadmill at the gym…under the a/c and in front of the tv where I can veg out for an hour). I need this run time. My family is happier when I get my run time.

    I’m completely stupid when it comes to strength training. I am a member of Lifetime Fitness so have access to lots of equipment. I even had a trainer for 2 months. But I quickly left my strength training and headed back to my beloved treadmill.

    I did download our weight lifting for women and am excited to try it. I do have a question. Is it better to use the strength machines of the free weights?

    So glad to read that I can have my no sugar margaritas and occasional oreos without judgement!

    • machines, like barbells and dumbbells are just tools. Use whatever is safest and most effective for you. Ideally, you’ll work with someone in person to help you get the movements down.

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JC Deen is a nationally published fitness coach and writer from Nashville, TN. Currently living in the blistering Northeast. Follow me on X/Twitter