We cannot stress enough how important it is to maintain strict form on all movements. This means stabilizing your body and contracting your abs so you isolate the primary intended muscles. For example, when doing a standing barbell curl, tighten your abs and do not rock or swing the weight. By tightening your abs, you stabilize your body and prevent momentum. This will also help condition your abs and save your lower back from injury.
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).
Hold a light-to-medium-weight kettlebell in your right hand and stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder width. Perform a kettlebell swing, hold the weight only in your right hand. As you complete the swing, when the kettlebell is out in front of you, shift it into your left hand for the next rep. Alternate reps back and forth until time’s up. (If you’re not comfortable shifting the kettlebell between arms on every rep, do 5 single-arm kettlebell swings with your right arm, then place the kettlebell on the ground and do 5 single-arm swings with the left; alternate those two moves until time’s up.) Do 3 sets.
Paying attention to your form is definitely important when you’re doing bodyweight workouts, but the risk of injury goes up when you add more weight. Be sure you’re stretching regularly, and whenever you have the opportunity, work with a trainer, physical therapist, chiropractor or structural integrationist who can help keep your bones and muscles working together and lined up.
Why: "The chest muscles (pectorals) for all women are particularly weak and underdeveloped," says Perkins. "By increasing the mass in this muscle group you are adding a substantial percentage of lean mass towards your overall health. Additionally, the chest muscles are responsible for supporting breast tissue. This move will bring a bit more lift to your chest."
Bodyrock.tv is one of the forerunners in online exercise videos. This popular health and exercise blog is dedicated to weight loss, fitness, beauty, food, love and relationships. “Bodyrockers” find daily at-home workouts that are either laid out with descriptions and pictures, or that are instructed in video format. All of the online workouts can be done with minimal equipment.
Why: "The muscles of your upper arms are very small from a volume perspective. Due to the muscle loss that has occurred since your 30s (sarcopenia), these muscles are atrophied," says Perkins. "It's critical to keep your biceps muscles strong so that you are able to carry objects safely and easily. It'll also make your arms look great." (For more moves for sculpted arms, try this at-home workout.)
Now you may be saying, “I have seen some female bodybuilders who are very muscular and look similar to men in their build.” The real reason they look like that is they are most-likely using exogenous testosterone injections and/or other anabolic steroids. When women use exogenous testosterone/steroids they may show signs of hair growth on the face and chest, increased muscle mass, a redistribution of body fat from a female pattern of storage to a male pattern of storage, deepening of the voice, and other effects. The point of saying this is that unless you are on exogenous testosterone or other anabolic steroids, you will not become big and bulky from lifting weights.
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.
Perform three dumbbell weights sessions. You have easy access to weight training gear at the gym, where free weights and machines are at the ready. But dumbbell lifting can be done easily at the gym or at home. Try having dumbbells conveniently placed in the house so that it's easy to pump out a few dozen repetitions in between other activities or even while watching TV, videos, or listening to music. Check out the beginner resources to get familiar with how weight training works.
Hold two dumbbells with an overhand grip and let them hang at arm’s length in front of your thighs. Lift your left leg a few inches off the floor behind you; this is the starting position. Keeping your lower back naturally arched, hinge at your hips and lower your torso until it's almost parallel to the floor. Let your left leg stretch out behind you with your toes pointed down to the floor the entire time. The dumbbells should travel straight down toward the floor. Return to the starting position without letting the toes of your left foot touch the floor. That’s 1 rep. Do 2 sets per leg.
I like this article; it’s great to see someone talking about how women should work out the same way men do, and I love all your BS calling. Please, please know, though, that there are lots of women who WANT to get big. We don’t all want to be skinny and little. I want big f**king muscles. I know I won’t bulk up like most men will. But we’ve all got different goals, and the “3lb pink dumbbells” comes off as condescending.
But frankly I don’t dare to do them in the gym, I get weird looks and/or regular comments on how manly I will be soon, likee you said, overnight. 🙂 So I do them on my doorway pull-up bar. Short-term goal is chins for reps with a 20kg kettlebell… long term goal is the same with an overhand grip. And no, I’m not huge/bulky/manly. 🙂 Maybe by tomorrow morning! :))
Great notes! However, since people reading this might be forwarding to their girlfriend, wives, fiancees, etc, you might want to include a small section that identifies what 1 pound of muscle means. It would be a guess but most women reading this will go, “What is 10 lbs of muscle? I don’t want that!” It might say how many pounds of muscle she might need to look “toned.”
Each program is 12 weeks in length. When you've completed your first 12 weeks (Beginner), you can go on to the next 12-week program (Intermediate), and on to (advanced), and so on; or develop your own program by following the principles and guidelines in the Strength Training Contents (on-line "how-to" manual) and the exercise instructions and the demonstrations. And feel assured, our fitness experts will personally help you every step of the way!
As for yoga, it is a wonderful form of exercise. But it is not the best way to change your body. I practice yoga for the relaxation benefits of it and the breath control. Everyone in my yoga class asks me how to get cuts in their arms. Yoga is an excellent complement to strength training but it does not change your body the way strength training does.
It’s for those reasons that I champion these diet and fitness strategies. These are the same techniques that we’re building our foundation around in our flagship course, The Nerd Fitness Academy: we understand that all women are different, which is why we present multiple training options for multiple environments, and diet advice that allows for flexibility based on one’s situation.