Women's Standard Intermediate Program (WSIP)


My novice Linear Progression stalled much earlier than it should have and after that I continued to struggle to add weight to the bar. As a young intermediate, I tried HLM and variations of HLM with minimal success. I liked the idea, but I felt as though something was off.

That “something” was my eating, by the way. Ladies, take notes. Stop being weird about food and just eat it.

Anyway, I had been interning for a while at Black Iron Training at this point and coach Chris encouraged me to begin writing programs. Since I’m a woman and I was mostly training other women I decided it would be fun to write a simple program that women could jump onto after they finished their Linear Progression. And using my creative genius-ness I named it… “Women’s Standard Intermediate Program”.

I read Mark Rippetoe’s “Training Female Lifters: Neuromuscular Efficiency” and decided to make a 5x3, HLM-inspired program. However, I didn’t like having specific days for lifting heavy. Part of the reason behind that was that I was in school, so I preferred having my workouts be similar, predictable lengths. The other part was that I felt as though I perform better if I focused all my energy on one heavy lift each session than try to do multiple heavy lifts once a week.

Maybe it’s somehow related to women being less neuromuscularly efficient, or it might have been a purely mental obstacle for me, but spreading the heavy lifts out helped nonetheless.

I was also frustrated with my overhead press, as many women are, so I prioritized it over the bench press slightly by omitting a heavy bench triple. Honestly, if I had to alter anything with this program… I would overhead press on Day 2 as well. (Sorry not sorry, bench.)

This was one of the most enjoyable programs I have used. I have yet to train a woman who

doesn’t feel similarly. I was even training a woman recently who was in dire need of a new program but flat out told me that she wanted to stay on this one because she liked it so much. I hope you find this program as useful as I did, whether for your own performance or that of a woman that you’re training.

*You will find noted in the program that we will occasionally substitute chin ups for barbell curls. This is not preferred. We find that many women want to do a chin up on their own at some point and have found that Niki Sims work on the Starting Strength site about How to do a Chin Up Part 1 and Part 2 is very helpful in reaching this goal, but there are some cases where we still find it better to add in curls, barbell rows, or cable pulldowns instead.

“Women can train heavier more frequently than men because they get less sore, they recover faster, and they can deal with more frequent exposures to a training stress, since the stress is lower relative to a male’s capacity to beat himself up. Heavy 3s for 4-5 sets 3 days per week, with no light days may be necessary to drive a strength increase in more advanced females. Such a schedule would kill most men, and is necessary for most women.”

-Mark Rippetoe Training Female Lifters: Neuromuscular Efficiency

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