There are a lot of misconceptions about strength training for women, and there are a lot of reasons for those misconceptions.  Women are less likely to be represented in exercise research, women are less likely to take part in strength training or compete in strength sports, and there are still a lot of societal biases against women lifting (heavy) weights.
Get in pushup position with a light dumbbell outside your left arm. Tighten your core and squeeze your glutes. Doing everything to keep your torso steady, grab the dumbbell with your left hand, lift it an inch off the ground, and move it so it’s now on the outside of your right arm. Return to plank position, then repeat the process with your right arm. Work for 40 seconds, then rest for 20 seconds each set in Week 9. In Week 10, Work for 50 seconds, and rest for 10 seconds each set. Do 3 sets.
I’m so tired of watching friends do endless cardio and Zumba classes holding one-pound weighted sticks to ‘tone’ their arms. I’m also tired of hearing “aren’t you scared of getting bulky?” when I tell them about how I love squats and deadlifts and bench presses. I’ve been lifting heavy for about 8 months and my body hasn’t looked this good in years. Thanks for writing this article.
This cardio could be done on the treadmill, elliptical, bike, running track, etc. We usually recommend the elliptical machine as it is low impact and easy to change speeds. We also recommend doing the Stubborn Fat Cardio Protocol separate from weight training, either first thing in the morning (if training in the evening) or on off days from the gym. To start, we recommend doing the Stubborn Fat Cardio Protocol 2-4 times per week.
A more manageable way to track your eating habits is to identify reasonable portion sizes. Most restaurants in America shove heaping piles of food in your face to appeal to your economical compass. More food means more value for your money, right? Getting more Bang Bang Chicken and Shrimp for your buck merely means you pay for it elsewhere, like your waistline. And it's not just at restaurants. People pile their plates high with Grandma's spaghetti even when they're at home.
How her body has reacted: I generally carry weight around my hips and thighs; I seem to be predisposed this way, and the weightlifting is literally cutting through the fat. I am being trained by Kenneth Rippetoe of One with the Water. This is all foreign to me and I have tremendous resistance. My attitude doing it is not very good. But afterward, I feel really good.
Start standing, then bend at the waist, working to keep your knees as straight as possible (it’s OK if they bend though), and place your hands on the ground ear your feet. Keeping your core tight, walk your hands forward until you’re in pushup position. Pause for 1 second once you’re in good pushup position, then walk your hands back toward your feet, again trying to keep your knees as straight as possible. That’s 1 rep.
Start in pushup position with your feet wide, and each hand gripping a light-weight dumbbell. Your hands should be directly beneath your shoulders. Keeping your core and glutes tight, lift the right dumbbell off the ground and toward your right ribcage, driving your right elbow up high. Squeeze for a moment, then lower it back to the start. Repeat with the left arm. On all reps, focus on doing everything possible to keep your hips and core square to the ground. They will shift a little bit (that’s OK!), but fight for good form. Alternate reps until time’s up. Do 3 sets.
How her body has reacted: Besides losing 8 pounds (which I couldn’t do before for the life of me with just jogging) in just three weeks, I’ve noticed I am starting to look cut again. There is definition in my abs and arms, which I’ve not seen in a long time. I feel tight, and my skin feels better all over, has better texture. I’ve also increased my normal running speed on the treadmill from 4.2 to 5.5 miles per hour in just three weeks. I feel stronger all over, and can run up and down the stairs in my house just doing chores!
"As a busy mom, the Beachbody programs have been a godsend. The 21 Day Fix Extreme by Beachbody is my absolute favorite. I started with the original 21 Day Fix in April 2014 and have worked up from there. I love that it's an at-home workout (and eating plan) because I can get the workout done in 30 minutes. These sweat sessions include an upper-body workout, a lower-body workout, cardio exercises, yoga, and Pilates.
But when I started college, I had to give up gymnastics to focus on my studies. That's when I quickly learned you can’t eat the same way when you’re training eight hours per week as you can if you’re doing almost no physical activity. Long story short: I gained roughly 20 pounds and just felt horrible in my own skin. So after the stress of getting into university was behind me, I decided it was time to “get in shape" (an expression I now hate, but more on that later).

When you engage in strength training, the exercises don’t just affect your muscles. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), it can also have major effects on your physical health, such as reducing blood pressure, improving cholesterol, and reducing your risk of diabetes. Better yet, it can also improve your ability to perform daily activities, such as lifting boxes or moving household items – all because it improves your strength, coordination, and flexibility.


Strength training is an area that is geared predominantly toward men. As a woman interested in strength training, I really appreciate that this article address the differences between men and women and helps me to understand what I can do to get the most out of my strength training. I love that there was a study done about strength gains specifically in women, it’s so interesting that women’s strength increased 27% faster than men’s.
And remember to fuel your workout properly. Too many dieters make the fatal error of cutting back on crucial muscle-maintaining protein when they want to slash their overall calorie intake. The counterproductive result: They lose muscle along with any fat that might have melted away. Sports nutritionist Cassandra Forsythe, Ph.D., co-author of The New Rules of Lifting for Women, recommends that you eat one gram of protein for every pound of your body weight that does not come from fat. For instance, a 140-pound woman whose body fat is 25 percent would need 105 grams of high-quality protein. That's roughly four servings a day; the best sources are chicken or other lean meats, soy products, and eggs.
Why: "This move is one of the number-one strengthening exercises that physical therapists use for back health," says Perkins. "It strengthens your ‘posterior chain' muscles that guide nearly every move you make, including your core, glutes, back, and shoulder muscles all at once, while helping to open the hips and shoulders." (Try these 12 hip-opening yoga poses for even more strength and flexibility.)
It’s also one of the very few ways to make bones denser, a perk that is especially important for women. Lifting something heavy, like a dumbbell, makes bones bear more weight, and in exercise, stressing your bones is a good thing (to a point of course). Bones are constantly remodeling, explains Anthony Hackney, an exercise physiologist at the University of North Carolina. “Your body is always adding calcium to your bones and taking calcium away from your bones,” he says.
Though BeFit is another company that provides the majority of it’s content via paid downloads, subscription services and DVDs, it can still be a great resource for free, at-home workouts. It boasts a plethora of videos in the 10 to 20-minute range, done by top fitness trainers like Denise Austin, Jane Fonda and Scott Herman, to name a few. While this channel is perfect for those who want to raise their heart rate in a shorter amount of time, there are a handful of longer videos sprinkled throughout the lineup for those with more time available. Unlike a few in this list, this channel is definitely not aimed specifically at women and has many workouts that would be suitable for men looking for a challenge.
For starters, women tend to be less acutely fatigable than men, meaning they can generally do more reps per set at a given percentage of 1RM, do more sets with a fixed number of reps at a given percentage of 1RM, or both.  There are several factors underpinning this difference, but the two most important seem to be a) women tend to have a higher proportion of type I muscle fibers, which are more fatigue-resistant and b) women tend to have less muscle mass, so they don’t occlude blood vessels quite as quickly when lifting, meaning they can more efficiently deliver oxygen and clear metabolic waste products from their muscles.  (However, I’ll note that this isn’t a unanimous finding).

When you engage in strength training, the exercises don’t just affect your muscles. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), it can also have major effects on your physical health, such as reducing blood pressure, improving cholesterol, and reducing your risk of diabetes. Better yet, it can also improve your ability to perform daily activities, such as lifting boxes or moving household items – all because it improves your strength, coordination, and flexibility.

Now, using a lot of force, quickly squat back up into a standing position while thrusting the pelvis forward.  Keep your arms straight, but don’t use your arms to lift it up. This action acts like a spring for the water jug, propelling the water jug forward. You want your thrust to propel the water jug to chest level. Do not use your arm strength to lift the water jug – your legs and pelvis should only initiate the water jug to move.
How: Stand with your feet under your hips and hold 8- to 10-pound dumbbells at your sides with your palms facing inward. Stand with a long, tall spine. Bend your elbows and bring the dumbbells upward toward your chest, keeping your palms facing each other. Pull the dumbbells up until they touch the front of your shoulders. Pause here for 2 seconds and contract the muscles in your upper arms. Slowly lower back down to the starting position. That's one repetition. Aim to complete 10 to 15 reps.
I also like that you mentioned the menstrual cycle differences. Many women and coaches aren’t aware of this (although intuitively they should have been), but it does make a difference. I did a write up on this a few months back, and a big key I see here as well is the impact on appetite (more research on this) and perceived exertion (more anecdotal). Useful for dieting phases to work that in as well. Or for a little recomp
Start in pushup position, with your hands directly beneath your shoulders. Tighten your core and glutes and perform a pushup, lowering your torso to an inch from the ground. Press back to the start, and as you do this, remove your right arm from the ground and touch your right hand to your left shoulder. Pause for one second in this position tightening your core and trying to keep your hips level, then return to the starting pushup position. Repeat the process on the other side. This move will challenge you, but you’re continuing to build core stability. Alternate reps on each side for 3 sets. During Week 5, do the move for 40 seconds during each set, then rest for 20. During Week 6, work for 50 seconds, then rest for 10.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is generally defined as an activity performed with very intense periods of work followed by periods of rest, performed for multiple sets or rounds. Hill sprints would be a good example of high-intensity interval training. On a perceived effort scale of 1 to 10, 1 being sleeping or watching TV, and 10 being maximum physical effort, your perceived effort should be an 8 to 10 during work periods (depending on how experienced you are), and a 4 to 6 during rest periods.
Why she switched: I made the switch to more heavy lifting and dedicated powerlifting because I was always injured. I would get at least two injuries a year that would knock me out for two months, many of them stress fractures. So I knew I needed to build stronger bones, hips and glutes to support my endurance activities, and the light weightlifting wasn’t cutting it. A CrossFit gym near my house was starting an eight-week powerlifting class that was going to provide a program and culminate in a competition. It was great to have the support and coaching for the proper form. I ended up adapting quickly and falling in love with the heavy lifts and the powerlifting program. I broke six Illinois state records at the competition and was hooked. I also did not get injured that year.

"I find I have so much more success when I work out at home. You don't have to worry about what you're wearing, what your hair looks like, or what anyone will think of you. It's also my only alone time during the day. I do high-intensity interval training workouts from FitnessBlender.com. For my strength-training workouts I use Body Pump from Les Mills on demand. And sometimes I just make up my own lifting workouts based on things I've read online and podcasts I listen to. After I started working out at home, I also switched to a Paleo diet. The changes have been slow, but I've lost more than 20 pounds and put on some serious muscles. I can actually feel the muscle in my arms now." —Ami Paulsen, Denver, CO


There is no reason why you cannot hit your protein needs DAILY! With quality, low carb and fat protein powders like Whey Sensible from PGN, it is delicious and easy to whip up a fast shake and satisfy that sweet tooth at the same time. Dietary protein is very important in a woman’s diet. Women need the same amount of protein as men (adjusted for bodyweight). It is recommended that active women eat about 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.

Ideally, your workout should be quick, fuss-free and well-rounded. In reality however, most of us play favourites, choosing to do only what we enjoy. But when you do the same thing day in and out, you’re likely to neglect certain muscle groups. That’s why we asked various fitness, yoga and pilates instructors for these non-negotiable exercises that every woman should do. Whether you’re a regular runner or weightlifting fanatic, these moves deserve a place in your regular workouts.
If you've ever tried to ditch the saddlebags and ended up a bra size smaller instead, you know that where you lose is as important as how much. As great as it might be to see the numbers on the scale go down, when you're on a strict cardio-only program your victory is likely to be empty. A recent study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham compared dieters who lifted three times a week with those who did aerobic exercise for the same amount of time. Both groups ate the same number of calories, and both lost the same amount—26 pounds—but the lifters lost pure chub, while about 8 percent of the aerobicizers' drop came from valuable muscle. Researchers have also found that lifting weights is better than cardio at whittling intra-abdominal fat—the Buddha-belly kind that's associated with diseases from diabetes to cancer.
Lie on your back on the floor, feet flat on the floor and knees bent. Hold medium-weight dumbbells directly over your shoulders, arms straight. This is the start position. Squeeze your shoulder blades, then bend at the elbows and shoulders, lowering the dumbbells until your upper arms are on the ground. Pause, then press back up to the start. That’s 1 rep. Do 3 sets.

What she does now: I’m really new to the weightlifting, and I love/hate it. I hate it because it is so foreign to me, and I have all sorts of preconceived ideas about who should really be doing weightlifting. Since it’s new to me, and I’m already experiencing a significant shift in the body in terms of inches, I have cut back on my other workouts. I’m doing hot yoga to stretch out and continuing with the swimming.


Sarah is a well-known health and fitness blogger has made “enabling your passion for healthy living” her mission. She will help you learn how to exercise at home with her quick and simple core workouts, cardio routines, flexibility workouts, and more on her blog. Sarah is fun, energetic, and really likeable, which makes following along with her workouts quite easy.
He’s trained hundreds of athletes and regular folks, both online and in-person. He’s written for many of the major magazines and websites in the fitness industry, including Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Muscle & Fitness, Bodybuilding.com, T-Nation, and Schwarzenegger.com. Furthermore, he’s had the opportunity to work with and learn from numerous record holders, champion athletes, and collegiate and professional strength and conditioning coaches through his previous job as Chief Content Director for Juggernaut Training Systems and current full-time work here on Stronger By Science.
Though cardio burns more calories than strength training during those 30 sweaty minutes, pumping iron slashes more overall. A study in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that women who completed an hour-long strength-training workout burned an average of 100 more calories in the 24 hours afterward than they did when they hadn't lifted weights. At three sessions a week, that's 15,600 calories a year, or about four and a half pounds of fat—without having to move a muscle.
Please pay attention to the way you walk, the way you stand. For instance, when you're waiting in line at the bank, are you leaning your body weight on one hip only, jutting your hip out to the side? How do you carry your shoulder bag? If you play a sport, such as tennis or golf, are you always leading with your strong side? Try and always do things evenly and notice your posture. Eventually it will be second nature to be even and balanced.
In this case, most of the comparisons were nonsignificant, so if there are more unpublished null results floating around out there, they’d just reinforce the main finding here (and, in point of fact, there were; I also came across about a dozen studies stating that there were no significant differences between men and women in either strength or hypertrophy, but they didn’t report enough number or have figures to actually make a quantitative comparison). And for the significant differences, I don’t mind too much if they’re potentially overestimates because a) I’m very confident they’re true differences (I calculated how large of a true null would be needed to get below the significance threshold – it would take a study with anywhere from 3,000-11,000 subjects, depending on the comparison) and I’m not too hung up on the actual magnitude and b) I think the differences are probably only applicable for short-term training responses anyways (no differences in studies lasting 20+ weeks) so a misestimation of magnitude for short-term differences wouldn’t impact long-term implications to any real degree anyways.
The majority of your carbohydrates should come from these complex carbs because they take a little longer to digest, making you feel fuller for longer, and don't raise blood sugar as quickly as simple sugars. The added bonus is that complex carbs pack a whole lot of nutritional love in the form of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Both simple and complex carbs have a place in your diet, but long-term success in managing blood sugar levels and weight can depend on limiting your intake of simple sugars.
I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t mention my own workouts that are available here at Make Your Body Work. Every single workout will challenge your entire body and will include elements of cardio, strength, and core conditioning. The uniqueness of these workouts are the “difficulty levels” that provide up to 4 distinct options for every single move. This makes each workout very accessible for newbies, yet challenging for super-fit users.

Insulin is the “storage” hormone. When it is secreted fat burning is blunted. By controlling insulin secretion by choosing low GI carbs you can decrease fat gain/increase fat loss. Stable blood sugar levels also improve energy levels and ones mood. All of our diets as based around insulin control, leading to leaner muscle gains with little to no fat gain.
In this case, most of the comparisons were nonsignificant, so if there are more unpublished null results floating around out there, they’d just reinforce the main finding here (and, in point of fact, there were; I also came across about a dozen studies stating that there were no significant differences between men and women in either strength or hypertrophy, but they didn’t report enough number or have figures to actually make a quantitative comparison). And for the significant differences, I don’t mind too much if they’re potentially overestimates because a) I’m very confident they’re true differences (I calculated how large of a true null would be needed to get below the significance threshold – it would take a study with anywhere from 3,000-11,000 subjects, depending on the comparison) and I’m not too hung up on the actual magnitude and b) I think the differences are probably only applicable for short-term training responses anyways (no differences in studies lasting 20+ weeks) so a misestimation of magnitude for short-term differences wouldn’t impact long-term implications to any real degree anyways.
Strength training is a good idea for everybody. For the best results, try intermixing the strength training exercises with bodyweight exercises, and do them three times a week at most. More isn’t necessarily better when it comes to strength training – in fact, too much training can damage your strengthening process. If you also want to improve your cardiovascular health or lose weight, consider adding cardiovascular exercise, such as walking or running, which helps you burn fat.
Men and women do not need to train differently to see results, but what about diet? Should women eat differently than men? Not really. Men’s and women’s metabolisms are very similar except that women burn a greater ratio of fat to carbs than men. This may be one of the reasons women do well on lower carb diets. The main thing that needs to be adjusted is one’s total caloric intake. Women need fewer calories than men because men have more muscle mass and less fat (relative to total bodyweight) than women. The amount of protein, carbs, and fat will be dictated by the amount of calories one eats.
Now, I’m a student at Berkeley, so I can only fit three or four workouts into my schedule. But if you do it right, four days is enough. I do two upper-body sessions, one focused on shoulders and chest, the other on back, biceps, and triceps. The two lower-body sessions are both focused on legs and glutes. And overall, I mainly focus on compound lifts, like deadlifts, squats, hip thrusters, bench press, and military press.
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