5 Tips for Building a Sexy Female Body


5 Tips for Building a Sexy Female Body

By: John Romaniello

A lot of trainers will tell you don’t need to differentiate between men and women when designing training programs; that the physiological needs are nearly identical and only the hormones are different.

Thankfully, I’m not most trainers.

While I agree that on some abstract level that there are a good deal of similarities in the way you can approach training, I don’t design programs for clients based on some arbitrary assessment of what they are theoretically capable of responding to.

Rather, I approach program design based only on the client’s goals.

Forgive me for generalizing, but men and women usually have very different goals.  Even when a man and a woman have the same goal-fat loss, for example-they will still have different micro-goals within the context of that macro-goal.  Keeping those micro goals in mind is of the utmost importance.

Having nearly a decade of experience training clients, and with a vast number of them being women, I have come up with the following list for helping women get better results and achieving that sexy look that’s the goal of most training.

1) Ditch the Lame Warm Up

In most cases, your warm up should bear a fair similarity to your actual training.  Given that we’ve pretty established that slow paced workouts-be they cardio or strength training-are essentially useless, why would you think to warm up that way?  And yet, more often than not, you see women getting ready for fast-paced, intense workouts warming up with a lame 10 minute walk on the treadmill.treadmill-walking

I implore you, do NOT do this!  It’s simply time wasted that could be spent getting you to your goals.

Instead, it is much more effective to warm up much in the same fashion you’ll workout: fast.  I always have my clients warm up with full body exercises and dynamic bodyweight circuits.

Skipping rope and performing calisthenic exercises like jumping jacks work the entire body
, and prepare you neurologically for the workout to come. This will allow you to get more out of each exercise because you body will be primed perform as a unit-this is especially true if you do a lot of full body movements in your training.

In addition to that, dynamic workouts also get your heart rate up over a shorter period of time, and allow you to burn more calories and get into the groove faster.

Whether your goal is to drop some fat or tone up your muscles, there is literally nothing that a lame slow-go workout can do for you that can’t be more effectively achieved with a fast one.

Plus, for the rest of us in the gym, women jumping rope gets our heart rate up.  It’s a win-win, you see.489393520400x300

2) Don’t Be Afraid to Lift Heavy

Given that I maintain that men and women should train differently for differing goals, it stands to reason that I assert there should be certain aspects of training that carry over when goals are similar.

One goal that men and women have in common is that we all want a firm, toned, sexy look.

One of the best ways to get that look, for men or women, is with heavy weight.

In the men’s version of this blog post, I stated that I think men should train heavy at least 4 days per month.

For most women, that might be a bit much, depending on their goal.  However, I insist that all my female clients spend at least 2 days per month dedicated to heavy lifting (75% of 1RM in certain cases).

Without rehashing overmuch, training which utilizes heavy loads is the fastest and most efficient way to increase both neurogenic and myogenic muscle tone; that is, it’s the best way to give you firm, toned look-even when you’re just standing there!

Whenever I present women with this information, the immediate reaction is concern.  “I don’t want to get bulky-won’t lifting heavy make me bigger?” I’ll assume the majority of TT readers know this isn’t the case, but since I like to cover my bases and be thorough, I’ll just lay it all out.

Gaining muscle is a result of a few factors: training methods, dietary considerations, and hormonal environment.

In terms of diet, it is exceedingly hard to gain significant muscle mass without purposefully eating a caloric excess.  This is why athletes and bodybuilders eat over their daily energy needs: so that excess will be used for the building of lean body mass.

For hormones, women will always have a harder time putting on mass than men because of certain sex hormones; mainly testosterone.  For building muscle, high levels of testosterone just can’t be beat. yelena

As a woman, your natural levels of testosterone are generally too low to make getting “too big” a concern in a short period of time.

If you do notice yourself putting on more muscle than you’d like, just tone down the training volume and lower your calories.

Speaking of training, that brings us back to my main point.  There are a lot of training variables we can manipulate if the goal is to accelerate muscle gain.  Right now, let’s talk about volume.

The total volume of your workout can be defined as “sets x reps” – and this number has a lot to do with gaining muscle.  You see, while lifting heavy loads IS a great way to put on mass, that ONLY works if you have high volume.

Heavy lifting requires low reps; if you don’t do a greater number of sets, the total workout volume drops dramatically, and you are left without much stimulus for muscle gain.

And THAT is exactly what we want: to keep the weight and volume in the right balance to allow us to reap the benefits of heavy training without putting on mass.

To that end, I recommend that women spend 2 days per month doing a heavy full body circuit:

3 sets of 5 reps for each of the following:

Dumbbell squat
DB Push Press (or overhead press)
Inverted Row (add weight if necessary-or do pull-ups if you can!)
Alternating Reverse Lunges
Plank (hold for as long as possible instead of counting reps)

To determine the correct weight, just pick a weight you can lift roughly 5-6 times. If you can get all 3 sets for 5 reps, increase the weight next workout.

With the above addition to your already kickass TT workouts, you’ll be able to get that toned, firm look-and get stronger, which is never a bad thing.

3) Fight Hormones with Hormones

As I mentioned in the men’s version of this blog post, fat storage patterns are largely hormonal. Over the years, men have evolved to hold fat in the midsection. And as I certainly don’t have to tell the ladies, women have evolved to store fat in the lower body-the hips and thighs.  This is due in large part to high levels of estrogen.

As frustrating as that is, we’ve also got a pretty well established belief in the fitness industry that you can’t “spot” reduce fat, so if you are trying to reduce the size of your thighs and hips, your fat loss will come from all over and you just have to let your body determine how much visible reduction occurs.

What if that assessment is only partially true? I contend it very well might be.

A few years back, I attended a seminar led by Dr. John Berardi, who is an expert in the field of sports nutrition. He is also a world-renowned trainer who works with some of the most elite athletes around.

During the seminar, Berardi made a remark about some Olympic athletes he was training; he had an interesting finding regarding fat loss.

As it turned out, when he had these athletes (all women) do their high intensity sprint workouts on a recumbent bicycle, there was a “disproportionately high” amount of fat loss in the lower body.

John and I discussed this, and although he had a lot of data to back this up, no studies had been done.  Instead, we just had an interesting factoid.recum

That was about 6 years ago, and in that time I have had a lot of opportunity to work recumbent bike sprints into a good number of my programs; generally for women who found that losing lower body fat was a hardship.  And you know what?


But why?

It all comes down to hormones.  Like any other exercise modality, riding a recumbent cycle produces a substance called lactic acid.

Edited update from John:

Lactic acid is a substance created as a by product of the chemial processes
that occur during physical exercise.  Through a number of pathways, lactic
acid has profound physiological effects, including a dramatic increase in GH
production.  This has incredible benefit for fat loss.  When applied
corretly, training methods which employ strategic production of latic
acid/GH have been used to elicit a certain degree of site-specific fat loss

End of edited update

Similarly, high intensity exercise produced quite a bit of lactic acid, and as we know, high intensity sprints are great for fat loss for other reasons. And yet, once again, intervals themselves don’t do anything magical hip and thigh fat.

So what makes the recumbent so special?

My theory is this: it all comes down to positioning.

You see, the recumbent cycle is one of the only exercises where your legs remain in a horizontal position for the duration of the set.  Lactic acid will be heavily produced but because of the horizontal position of the legs and the upright positioning of the torso, it does not circulate as quickly as it does with other exercises.

Instead, this highly catabolic hormone sort of “pools” in the legs, allowing it to do its catabolic magic on the hip and thigh region.  Of course, you run the risk of eating away at a bit of muscle tissue as well.

Since when is it a good idea to get rid of metabolically friendly muscle tissue?  Well, it’s not. But there’s a trade-off here, and its worth the risk.

After all, I have had the preponderance of my female clients say, “I have too much fat in my lower body.”

I have never had one say, “Gee, Roman, I wish I had a lot more muscle in my legs, and I don’t want to do anything that runs this risk of compromising my lower body development, even if it’ll help me lose a lot of fat on my thighs.” Just doesn’t happen.

If anything, I have had a number of female former athletes ask how they can reduce leg muscle mass-and this works for that, as well.

Again, I don’t have a study to back me up on the exact way it works, but I have 6 years of my own experience with clients to back up the fact that it DOES work.  If are struggling with this area of your body, you MUST give this a try. 

Use the power of lactic acid to locally attack stubborn estrogen-based fat storage patterns.

4) Less is More. Or is it More is Less? Or Maybe its be More IN Less. Oh Whatever, Just Go Faster

As I’ve touched on so far, there are a lot of factors we can make alterations to in order to meet the goal of sculpting a sexy female form.

Variables such as training frequency, set and rep schemes, and the aforementioned volume and load (weight) are the most commonly manipulated facets of training. However, one of the variables you don’t hear much about is also lends itself to making some of the best progress.

I’m talking about training density. With regard to training, density can be described as the amount of work you do in a given time period.  Density is actually one of the easiest variables to manipulate for progress: simply do more in less time.body-weight-squats-300x274

Doing more work in less time has a number of incredible benefits: increasing the rate of fat loss, aerobic and anaerobic training, and an increase in work capacity.

Over time, increasing density will make you stronger, leaner, fitter, and MORE capable of performing.

That has carryover to nearly every other type of training and will have implications for accelerated progress down the line.

One of simplest ways to increase density is to shorten your rest periods. If you normally rest 45 seconds between sets, try cutting it down to 35 or less.

Over the course of a 45 minute workout, that adds up and you’ll notice you are feeling a completely different stimulus.

Personally, my favorite way to increase density for women is to add in dynamic drills in the middle of a workout.  Between sets of squats, presses, and other exercises, we’ll literally take a 60 second ‘break’ and dedicate that time to mountain climbers, squat jumps, or agility drills for the time you’d normally rest.

Another great way to manipulate density is to structure your sets for TIME rather than REPS. If you are going to squat, rather than just do 15 reps, perform squats for 30 seconds and see how many reps you get.

On your next set, try to beat your previous number of reps.

Maintain good form, but try in increase speed.  Of course, eventually you’ll max out, and can improve by either increasing the time, or the weight.

These methods are great for fat loss, but because of the increased work capacity, often it also helps to increase neurogenic and myogenic muscle tone: so, increasing your workout density can increase your body density.

You’ll get leaner, firmer, and sexier-faster.

5) Focus on your Assetsimage002

Well, we made it this far without me getting too graphic.  Ooops. Look, I’m a butt guy, I like butts. That’s my thing.

I like when a girl has a nice, well-formed, athletic booty.  I’m not sure if that’s me objectifying women, or just being honest (or both).

Either way, this is an article intended to help women build sexy bodies,and to me, nothing is sexier than a good backside.

Don’t agree?

Well, write your own article then.  This is my show, so I say we’re talking about butts.

Or training them, at least.

You already know two of the best exercises for your glutes: the squat and the lunge.  Here is a quick way to make them more effective (at least for your butt).

When it comes to squatting for your booty, go wide. Wide stance squats with your toes pointed out place a greater emphasis on the glutes; make sure to focus on flexing and squeezing as you perform the movement.  I’m not going to bother writing a joke here-it’s too easy.

For lunges, go deep.

One of the important things to note is that glute activation and recruitment is amplified as lunge depth increases.  To that end, it is also a great idea to perform lunges with one foot on a step to allow for greater depth.

There you go, TTers!

I’ve given you 5 Tips for a Sexy Female Body that you can apply to your training immediately, and see results that will have you looking sexy enough to take pictures of yourself on your upcoming vacation, and post them on Facebook immediately after friend requesting me.  Enjoy!


John Romaniello is a trainer and strength coach who runs Roman Fitness Systems LLC, a company through which he runs online and  in-person coaching. Roman is known for his vanity, kickass training programs, and pretending to text during awkward moments. He maintains a site where he writes about fitness, pop-culture, lifestyle and himself in the third person.

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  • John, that was awesome bruddah, love the talk of sprints, nutrition, high intensity training and nice butts…..

    Thanks for the tips, looking forward to tearing up the stage in Florida with you BEAST!

    CB, see U there!!!


  • Great article. Thanks for sharing!

  • Awesome post bro, I think women also respond faster to stimulants like green tea.

  • Thanks! Great article!

  • Lactate is a metabolic by-product of anaerobic glycolysis not a hormone. Furthermore, lactate inhibits lipolysis in adipose tissue and it doesn’t “eat” muscle tissue. The positioning theory is just plain nonsense. High-intensity intervals work for sure, just not for the reasons the author cites.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Yeah, I don’t buy the positioning theory either. With the huge increase in circulation, positioning would have no impact, in my opinion.

      Good to have a different point of view on the site sometime…

  • Dan Duchaine

    Lactic acid is a hormone? What is wrong with you?

  • lol, oops. Regarding lactic acid being a hormone: obviously, that is anunintentional typo, and should have proofread. I would have said, “substance.” Thanks for pointing it out. Unfortunately for all of us, I typed much of this blog post on my iPhone between clients, and sadly, bereft of the opportunity to proofread, I was evidently a bit careless with my word choice. i’m also typing this on my iPhone, so please forgive any unintentional spelling or grammar errors.

    TO continue, as with anything, this is written for the audience it is intended to help the most: in this case, the women reading TTFatLoss trying to get lean.

    While perhaps it’s over simplifying to say “lactic acid eats away at tissue,” I have enough trouble making concise points and reigning in my prolixity without getting into long winded explanations of glycolisis, pyruvate, the Krebs cycle, etc. Had I written this for the TMuscle crowd, I’d have gone into further detail scientifically, and also a bit more touched increases in GH production and all of the implications that has for fat loss.

    Having said that, I wrote the post (typo notwithstanding) knowing that fitness professionals were probably going to pick it apart–which is fine.

    Again, it was written to help the target audience and give a bit of basic information, even in an oversimplified way.

    Regarding positioning: Again, it’s simply a “theory” that I posit. My argument regarding positioning is an interesting explanation that gives the reader a visual that might help convince them to try the protocol. Which, again, is the entire reason for the post.

    As I said in the above post, Berardi and I batted his findings around all day in person, and then through e-mail. Again, we really couldn’t come to any specific conclusion as to why this was more effective than any other modality–the fact remains that it was. Given that it IS the most effective cardio protocol I’ve found to reduce lower body fat, I’m okay taking a bit of license in the name of getting people the results they want.

    In any event, we’ve edited to satisfy the more scientifically minded of you.

    I hope that clears things up a bit!

    Anyway, thanks for the correction and the comments =) Hope you guys enjoyed the rest of the post, though.


    • Ali

      Yeah, us women would have trouble understanding science 🙂 Great Post though!! I really appreciate having some info directed just for us females who can’t knock out the chin ups and dips so easily and don’t have enough muscle mass to burn thru the calories like the guys can. The specifics of reps and resting, etc. are super helpful. I also appreciate that the pictures were appropriate AND sexy unlike that last set which were just T&A. Thanks Craig for the topic, it would be great to have more like it!!

  • lululemon

    hey great post!thank you for helping women reach their goals! i was wondering if sprinting on a bike is better then on a treadmill for women to get lean legs?

    • From everything I’ve seen with my clients and athletes, it seems to be A LOT better. Even if we don’t know the reasoning.

      Only one way to find out, though: give it a shot! Let us know how you do.

    • waiwerag

      i gota get me a recumbent bike. thanks heapz.

  • wow…What an AWESOME post! Thanks for all the great info!

  • Ebony

    Thanks for the tips. I definately agree going heavy is great for women, and low testosterone makes it difficult for us to bulk up the way alot of my girlfriends think. Just a side note, why doesn’t Serena Williams get any love? Talk about a sexy, athletic body with a great booty… and unlike alot of these fitness models she has no silicone or saline to give these wonderful assets. No pun intended -) She’s my body inspiration!

  • Hey John some really great, straight to the point tips here for women trying to gain muscle which is often hard to come by.

  • Glad you guys are enjoying the post =) Anything for the ladies, that’s my motto. Well, that’s what I tell the ladies my motto is, at any rate.

  • zoe taylor

    Hi John and Craig, i really enjoyed reading this and found it very interesting. Im going to take this up and spend 10-20 mins doing some bike exercise before i start my KB sessions and grab some sprints in between too.

    Im one of those unfortunates who does naturally bulk up with weights but i think i need to reduce my calories too, well i know i do. The maths just dont work. less calories has to equal weight loss and i aint losing so im doing something wrong.

    I have issues with hormones and at 39 have just found myself placed on HRT after a hysterectomy. Im still trying to get the HRT right for me with my doc and im due to reduce my dose which im hoping will help with the weight issues too. Any advice on HRT and menopausal wome and training would be great too, but please remember not all menopause is natural some is medically induced on e way or another so ages can vary.

    Thanks anyway, im really going to try my hardest and will incorporate all these tips and let you know how i get on. Thanks guys x Zoe, UK, salisbury

    • Hey Zoe,

      I think a post about training for post-menopausal women is a great idea. Hormone issues are really hard to manage, but it can be done. So far, though, it sounds like you’re doing everything right – just keep up with the training, and get your dosage as low as you can while still gaining the positive effects of the HRT.

      You make a great point about natural menopause vs medically induced: they are indeed very different, but often manifest in the same way – having worked with both populations, I can say that either way, it’s a struggle. Keep at it!

  • Hi John & Craig,

    This is a fantastic post. I’ve kept reading and re-reading it. I’m fairly lean already (18% body fat). I’d like to try the recumbent bike experiment out for you and see if it works on someone who is not wanting to lose overall weight, but wants to remove very small amounts of strategically placed (!) adipose tissue.

    How long would you recommend on the recumbent bike? How many times per week? Could I use it the TT Interval Training pattern (i.e. 4 min warm up, then 6 splits of 30 sec sprint, 2 min @30 %?

    • Hi Amanda,

      The recumbent bike protocol would be great for you–as someone who is already lean but just holding some lower body fat, you’ll be able to see the results very clearly.

      You can definitely use the TT Interval Training pattern as a template, but for a bike sprint I like intervals of 45-60 seconds rather than 30 seconds. You can keep the ratio of work:rest the same, though.

  • Tiffany

    Great post! I can’t wait to try the recumbent bike. I always stayed away from it because I burn less calories on it vs. the treadmill. What would a workout on it look like? How long? what kind of goal should I have while doing it?
    Thanks for all your help! I’d love to send some pictures! LOL Right after I loose some of this lower body. My leg muscles are bulky too so hopefully this will be the ticket to tone it all down.
    Thanks again!

  • Dhanashree

    Great article!

    Thanks for the tips!

  • Helena

    Great article but I would love to read more in depth science about the effect of hormones.

    I read something of Craigs recently about interval training doing 8sec sprint and 12 sec rest.
    I’ve started doing this on the bike with a five min warmup and 5min cool down so efectively 10 min
    of intervals. Is this effective?
    I would also like to know about what hormones influence release of belly fat and how to ramp that up. Since having my second baby I have thickened in the middle although thankfully still in proportion with bust and hips – but I really need to slim back down again and I know my hormones are hampering my efforts. So any insight and in depth info would be greatly appreciated.
    I have started TT workouts this year on my own because I couldn’t afford to contnue with my personal trainer ( I lost 10kg over 5 months with the trainer).
    Again any further info about hormones and how to turbo charge my weigt loss would be very very appreciated.

    • Hey Helena,

      Sorry for the long delay, I didn’t initially see this!

      Congrats on you progress so far, and I’m definitely happy to help you. Craig’s suggestion of 12 seconds rest with 8 second sprints is a great one.

      Basically, you’re using a 2:3 work:rest ratio. There are a lot of different ratios you can use, but 2:3 is excellent because you probably won’t experience too much in the way of performance dropoff.

      In terms of your hormones, belly fat is largely the result of high cortisol. One of the ways we try to manage cortisol through training is to produce a lot of lactic acid.

      As mentioned above, lactic acid is a waste by product of some of the metabolic stuff that happens when you train. Now, there is no direct relationship between cortisol and lactic acid per se. However, when you create a lot of lactic acid via training, your body increases production of Growth Hormone correspondingly.

      Growth hormone is phenomenal in general for losing fat, but it also has the added benefit of working against the effects of cortisol.

      This means that the more GH you produce, the more likely you are to lose fat from the midsection.

      To produce GH you work to create lactic acid.

      I did a post about this for Joel Marion’s blog,

      check it out:


  • lora

    hey, there!

    very useful article.

    however, how about women who gain fat in the mid-section (waist and abdomen)?

    I’m 117 lbs, 5 ft 5 in but still with the fat mostly concentrated at the mid-section, grosss :S

  • Thanks for this post! I can’t believe there are women out there who think they are gonna get bulky lifting heavy weights. Every time they see me train with a 20kg kettlebell they go mad. I am not bulky, but i am strong and lean!
    I also swear by Poliquin’s Estrodetox supplement to get extra lean for the summer.


  • Wendy

    Thanks for this post, John! I also enjoyed all the back and forth input even with other fitness experts who don’t agree. That’s what the right of free speech is all about – we all get an opinion. I love the old proverb that may or may not apply here as well: “A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still.” Hope you get my drift.

    I too am one of those ladies who bulks up when I use heavier weights or even do too much spin bike. My upper body bulks up too much and I can’t even get into my blouses. Also, the spin bike gives me huge quads. After trying different exercise regimens, I now know what works for me – lots of strength training and moderate weights. So I just go with that. Heck, it works for me and my body and that’s the bottom line.

    And Craig Ballantyne has long since convinced me to stop doing useless crunches because he has posted numerous exercise videos of better exercises that strengthen your core and are far superior. They also don’t bulk up your waist. I have a small waist and I’m not looking to add inches to it either.

  • Thanks Craig and John for this awesome post. I will definitely give the recumbent bike the good ol’ college try and adding in a couple of heavier days each month. That full-body circuit you provided should do just the trick.

    Great information as always guys….and always fun to read. Keep em’ coming.

  • laurel-manette

    love the article! question for cb: actually, this is about a blog posted a week or so ago when you reccomended limiting animal protein to 2 servings a day. what should be the main source of protein besides eggs/meat? i’m a big fan of raw nuts, but don’t they have too much fat to count as a pure protein? also, i really want to focus on time vs. reps….where do i find a good interval timer/clock? thanks!!!

  • Cindy

    Women like BUTTS also- Where is our pic?

  • Dorie

    Wow, that was incredibly exciting and interesting to read. Thanks for the insight!

  • Deanna

    This is a GREAT post! I’m already lean, but there’s always room for improvement. This targets pretty much everything I am interested in for a workout program. Especially the emphasis on butts. 🙂

  • arkgymgurl

    Loved reading this! I workout around 630 am at the gym, and after my weight trainings, I have been doing about 25-30 min on one of their new bikes. Can’t remember the brand of it, but I can push a button that says..”chest press” or “leg press”, (it has handles on it as well…for arms). I push “leg press” and every minute or so, the resistance gets REALLY hard, for about 15 seconds. I go as fast as I can at that time, and the lactic acid burns BAD afterwards. I sometimes up the resistance level, and keep it going hard for 30-45 sec, for a type of HIIT. I have been doing this for 2 weeks now, and will keep you posted on my lower body measurement loss. I’m glad to know that what I’m doing..is “spot-on!”…lol..no pun intended! thanks for the great article! Will find you on facebook.

  • Hey guys (or rather, gals), I’m glad you’re enjoying the post and getting a lot out of it.

    If you have any questions or if there is anything else you’d like me to touch on, let me know!


    • Helena

      Yes – I had some questions in my comment above. Are you able to answer them?

  • Cathy

    Thanks for the post, as well as the follow-ups. I have a few questions, though. I weight-train 3 days a week, and do cardio on my off days. However, just in the last couple of weeks I’ve started doing HIIT (on the recumbent bike, 4 min. W/U, 8 sec. sprint, 12 sec. slower – for 20 min., then 4-5 min. C/D). Should I be doing HIIT for all the cardio? Should I do HIIT on my weight training days, or on my off days? If I don’t do HIIT on my off days, what do you recommend? Thanks so much!

  • Diana

    Thanks for this post!!

    I still can´t believe how differente all wommen bodies are!!! some women gain weight on their lower body or all around it!!! for me it’s totally diferent!!! I have thin limbs (not super thin) and I gain weight in the mid section of my body and also in my butt!!! it drives me crazy!!!

    I actually go to the gym hoping to gaing a little bit of mass in my legs!!! tone my arms, flatten my belly and reduce my butt a little and tone it up!!! I actually envy woman that have a pear figuare!!! I have no waist what so ever!!!!

    I´ll try to put all of this in practice!!! I want to have a hot body for my hubbie!!!