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Women & Exercise: The “5 Rs” Principle

By Muscle Media


Remember back to January?  The gym was flooded with new faces (beginners). It’s that post-New Year’s craze that sends everyone to the gyms to try and fulfill that elusive but often attempted goal of the New Year: lose weight and get into shape.  Watch as new members make their way around through the jungle of strength training equipment. See men and women move from machine to machine doing one set here, two sets there, five repetitions here, twenty there. No rhyme or reason to it.  It just appears to be another random attempt at working out. What if there were a simple, straightforward way of making a workout by figuring out exactly what should be in it? There is a way, and it’s what we call the “5 Rs Principle”.

The “5 Rs Principle” can help beginning exercisers understand exactly what goes into an effective workout.  Each “R” focuses on important elements of an exercise routine that forces beginners to look at their workouts in a more holistic fashion.


Range of motion refers to the capability of a joint to move through a prescribed span of movements. For a beginner to see results, each exercise should be performed from a fully stretched position of the muscle to a fully contracted position.  Beginners, as well as people who have been around the gym long enough to know better, tend to load up an EZ-curl bar for preacher curls.  However, they only lower the bar halfway down on the eccentric portion of the exercise. Not only can this cause injury to the bicep muscle, it doesn’t work the muscle correctly and limits any results from the exercise.

You’ll hear the term “range of motion” often in reference to joint health and mobility. This also applies in the gym. Large and small muscles support your joints. To optimize your joint health, all the muscles surrounding the joints must be worked.


When you’re just starting to lift weights, determining how much weight to use is a big issue. It’s unfortunate that many personal trainers will tell women to use a lighter weight so that they will “tone up” and not get bulky. This is probably the biggest myth in all of weightlifting.  Women who lift heavy weights will not get bulky. Don’t believe anyone who tells you this! Choose a weight that allows you to complete the exercise without sacrificing proper form.  But, make sure that it is heavy enough that you cannot possibly perform another repetition at the end of your prescribed set.


Another variable for beginning exercisers is how many repetitions to perform. Performing certain repetitions will produce highly specific results. In general, low repetitions (3-8) produce greater absolute strength. Medium repetitions (10-20) produce anaerobic strength endurance. And high repetitions (20-40) produce aerobic strength endurance.

An ideal beginner routine will probably include sets of medium repetitions to learn how to perform the exercise correctly.  With proper form and technique it will allow her to experience muscle fatigue at 12-15 repetitions. As she progresses, she can experiment with different set/rep combinations customized to her individual goals.

In order to achieve the desired results from performing a prescribed number of repetitions is that muscular failure must be achieved. Muscular failure means that you can’t possibly push out one more repetition no matter how hard you try.

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Generally, your body needs from two to four minutes of rest between sets to prepare for another set at maximum capacity. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and phosphocreatine (PC) are used by your muscle cells to contract during resistance exercise. Your body needs time to regenerate these two compounds before it is ready to go again.

Unless you’re trying to develop all-out absolute strength by performing low repetitions with very heavy weight, you don’t need to wait very long between sets. Most beginners will be working within a medium repetition range.  Therefore, they don’t need to wait that long between sets. One to two minutes is fine.


You will not see faster or better results by working the same muscle groups day after day. While hard work is important, recovery between workouts is just as important. Beginners should work the same muscle groups no more than two times per week, with at least forty- eight hours between sessions. As women become more advanced, they’ll probably cut back to working each muscle group once every seven days or so.

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