What I’ve learnt from training with the lads … By Laura Baker

This offseason I’ve been lucky enough to train with coaches Dan Meek & Stephen Box.

Training with the lads has led me to make a few observations in the way their training differs to that of females. These observations have vastly improved my sessions & I’m sure will assist me in building a better physique this offseason. Here are the biggest differences I’ve noticed since having male training partners.

THEY LIFT | This might sound obvious but the biggest difference is the amount of weight the boys are shifting each session. Now load isn’t everything & the amount you lift doesn’t matter when you’re stood on a bodybuilding stage, but it does matter if you’re trying to create progressive overload. Training with the boys has certainly made me realise I’ve been playing with the same baby weights for far too long, seeing them push themselves harder and harder has enabled me to quietly do the same. 

THEY’RE NOT AFRAID TO FAIL | Increasing the load sometimes means you’ll fail. From training with the guys I’ve learnt that if you don’t try you’ll never know what you’re capable of. Failing on a squat was the best thing that happened to my training as I’m now no longer afraid to try. The worst thing that happens is a bit of a bang & a bruised ego (Provided you set the squat rack up correctly). In my opinion, someone who goes in the gym & never progresses looks much sillier than someone who went for a lift & couldn’t complete it.

THEY’RE NOT AFRAID OF PAIN | The best thing Stephen ever said to me was “training hurts”. It’s true. Watching the guys train has made me realise that I usually stop at that burning feeling when what I should be doing is gritting my teeth & pushing through it. Those are the reps that make the difference. Ladies, we know we’re tougher than guys (we bear children & are tougher than “man flu” right?) so let’s put that ability to tolerate pain to good use. 

THEY MOTIVATE | When you are lifting a heavy load there’s nothing more encouraging than a bellowing voice shouting “come on”. Guys tend to be a little more vocal than us ladies in the gym & thanks to the boys I’m starting to see some crazy progress on my lifts & am taking the intensity of my training to a level I didn’t realise was possible. I used to turn my nose up at the sweaty guy grunting next to me, I now understand that when you’re training hard the odd one just slips out.

THEY EAT | The guys always prioritise food around their work outs & by following suit I’ve seen huge improvements in my energy levels & strength in the gym. From time to time I have to remind myself that I’m not on the same amount of calories as them but by joining them in a high carb meal pre workout I not only get a good lunch but I feel like Wonder Woman in the gym too.

THEY SPOT | I hate to generalise but when you glance around the gym (unless they’re experienced lifters) you very rarely see girls spotting each other. When going for a heavier load a good spotter is a true asset. If you’re serious about progressing your training, it’s well worth spending a little time learning how to spot & assist correctly. Even having someone there just to help you get the load up (for example in a dumbbell shoulder press) not only increases your confidence, but saves your energy so you can just focus on completing your reps with good form. 

THEY TRACK | To ensure progression the guys make sure they enter the gym with a plan & track execution of it throughout the session. By track I mean record not only the weight they’re lifting but also sets & reps too. In the car on the way to the gym we chat through the plan. The session has purpose & focus rather than just heading into the gym & seeing what we feel like. 

THEY SET UP | Every lift the guys go for they approach the bar as if it’s loaded to the max, even on warm up sets. Setting up correctly gets you into really good habits & means less “faffing” & a smoother set when you come to the heaviest portion of your session.

THEY SAVE THE CHIT CHAT FOR LATER | If I start getting a bit “chatty” between sets I either get ignored or told to “shut up”. At first I found this offensive but I now realise it’s because when we’re in the gym it’s game time. By switching off from the outside world I can really focus on what I’m doing. 

Should guys & girls train differently? In my opinion, no. Ladies, if you’re training to change body composition by building some muscle, there’s no reason you shouldn’t take note & start training like one of the lads too.