The Bare Essentials Produce Extraordinary Results – all too often most people complicate health and fitness. But it’s not that complicated and this articles explain why (and how!) the bare essentials will allow you to achieve (and maintain) extraordinary results. You’ve save yourself a lot of time and frustration too when you harness the power of the essentials.
I find it hilarious that women are afraid of getting too big or bulky. I just watched a video of Jennifer Thompson benching over twice her body weight. She is a completely normal-looking woman. Yes, she’s “toned”, but even with her arms and legs exposed, if I’d seen her out of context — say, wearing a t-shirt and shorts at the beach, or walking down the street — she wouldn’t have stood out from anyone else wearing the same amount of clothing. Maybe if she’d been wearing a bikini she would’ve stood out a bit just because of how muscular her upper arms, shoulders, pecs, and abs probably are; but she certainly wasn’t “big” or “bulky” compared to an average woman.

If you’ll harken back to the beginning of this article, you’ll recall the two camps I mentioned:  1) people who claim that the process and outcomes of strength training for men and women are really dissimilar, and 2) people who claim that the process and outcomes of strength training for men and women are basically identical.  As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, I think that the people in the second camp are closer to the truth than the people in the first camp. However, I think they miss the mark to some degree as well, since there are sex differences that extend beyond average results.

Sit with both feet about hip-width apart on the ground, feet flat on the floor. Your shoulder blades should be against a bench, arms wide for stability. Lift your right foot off the ground, raising it as high as you can and bending your knee. This is the start. Now brace your core, and use your left glute to press your entire torso off the ground, driving your torso and left thigh so they’re parallel to the ground. Pause here, then return to the start. 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.
Most people dread the word "diet" because it dredges up images of celery stick buffets and long lists of no-no foods. While it's hard to shake this negative association, it's important to learn that "diet" isn't a bad word. Before the media beat its true definition to a bloody pulp, a diet was simply any and all foods consumed by a person. Your diet, or the food you eat, is a crucial aspect to supporting your fitness goals.
The nutrition section of most weight training guides will try to shove a boilerplate nutrition plan in your face, but that's not how we roll. We want to instill the idea that—metabolically and physiologically—your body is unique. What works for someone else may not work for you. Understanding how your own body works and discovering your dietary needs are important concepts to remember as you form your own nutritional strategy.
LINGUVIC: It is pretty impossible to look like Arnold. Unfortunately, that fear holds a lot of women back from improving their bodies. The program in Lean, Long & Strong offers exercises you can do at home to get you stronger and bring out the definition in your body. Women don't have the testosterone to get big muscles. Even if they lifted heavy weights, it's pretty hard to look like Arnold. Actually, it's pretty hard for most guys to look like Arnold.
Unfortunately, for all of us late to the gym game (those that didn’t quite follow through on those New Year’s Resolutions but have big plans to crush them next year), that coveted summer body might not be a reality just yet. So what do you do? Do you get a gym membership and promise that you’ll go every morning right before overspending on a picture-worthy acai bowl?
Stand with feet slightly wider than hips, turned slightly outwards. Pull shoulder blades down and back. Keep chest lifted and chin parallel to ground. Tighten core and abdominal muscles, then shift weight to heels. Push hips back as if you’re about to sit on a chair and lower yourself until thighs are parallel or almost parallel to ground. Feet should be firm on ground and knees aligned with second toe, without going past toes. Extend forearms forwards to stabilise yourself [shown]. Avoid tucking tailbone or arching lower back. Return to starting position by pushing through heels.
Your cardio will come in a couple different forms. On each day you train with weights, you'll do 20 minutes of high-intensity intervals. Choose an interval scheme that's challenging, but not impossible. Thirty seconds of all-out work, followed by 1 minute of recovery is usually a good place to start. One day per week, you'll do 30-45 minutes of low-intensity cardio. On these days, you can jump on your favorite cardio machine for some extra fat-burning.

Perform one circuit training session each week. My circuit training program combines dumbbell weights with rapid movement between each exercise. Use my circuit program and modify it if you need to, by slowing it down, so that you can complete at least three circuits. This is designed to get you working somewhat hard, so give it your best shot. You will breathe heavier and you should break a sweat.


To go a little deeper, we can look at powerlifting meet results to see how the gap between men and women shifts when comparing less competitive lifters to more competitive lifters.  As mentioned in a previous article, women lift about 67% as much as men in the squat, 56% in the bench, and 71% in the deadlift, on average (using allometric scaling to correct for differences in body mass).  However, those gaps are larger when looking at less successful lifters (those in the 10th percentile of relative strength) and smaller when looking at more successful lifters (those in the 90th percentile of relative strength).  A 5th percentile woman has about 62% as much relative strength as a 5th percentile man in the squat, 53% in the bench, and 67% in the deadlift. On the other hand, a 95th percentile woman has about 71% as much relative strength as a 95th percentile man in the squat, 60% in the bench, and 75% in the deadlift.  An analysis of weightlifting results in CrossFitters had similar findings (though they didn’t correct for differences in body mass):  larger sex gaps in snatch and clean & jerk performance in lower-level lifters and smaller gaps in higher-level lifters.
Lowers the risk of chronic disease: Not only will strength training help save off many chronic diseases, but it also helps lessen the symptoms of issues you may currently have. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) recommends strength training for most older adults to help lessen the symptoms of the following chronic conditions: arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes, obesity, back pain, depression.
Want to be strong, healthy, and happy, and feel 10 years younger? Then it's time to pick up the weights. "Strength training is no longer about being buff or skinny," says trainer Holly Perkins, founder of Women's Strength Nation. "It's as critical to your health as mammograms and annual doctor visits, and it can alleviate nearly all of the health and emotional frustrations that women face today. And it becomes even more critical once you hit 50."
That's because women lose up to 5% of their lean muscle tissue per decade, starting in their 30s—and that number increases after 65. "I cannot stress enough how important muscle mass is to your life," says Perkins. "There is a direct correlation between your health and the amount of muscle mass that you have. The more you build, the faster your metabolism hums, the tighter and firmer you get, and the easier it is to lose weight and keep it off." It also decreases your risk for diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and makes you less likely to fall or become injured.

2) I think how often you go to failure should primarily depend on a) how frequently you train a muscle/exercise and b) how much fatigue/soreness an exercise causes. If you’re just doing an exercise/training a muscle once per week, you can probably go to failure a bunch and be just fine. If you’re training the same muscle again 48 hours later, it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to go to failure very often. If you’re doing an exercise that causes a lot of soreness and fatigue (like DLs), you probably shouldn’t go to failure very often. If you’re doing an exercise (like biceps curls) that doesn’t cause much soreness/fatigue, you can probably go to failure more often.


Of course, to Perkins—who is on a mission to get women weight lifting—the benefits go even deeper. "Something magical happens when you reach for a heavy object and are surprised by your own strength," she says. "It's an incredible feeling to climb a flight of stairs and feel powerful, or when you find that you no longer need the help of a man to move boxes. It's time for women to find their power."
“I think the most important thing about any athletic pursuit for women ... is the general sense of competence you get from knowing that your body can do whatever you need it to,” says Karen Ko, a Toronto-based strength coach and personal trainer. “This is huge for women. We’re socialized to defer to men in areas of physical activity — they are the experts, they are inherently stronger than us. Strength training challenges this narrative and is extremely empowering.”
The narrowing of the gap as competitiveness increases suggests that women may truly continue gaining strength at a slightly faster relative rate across their training careers.  Similarly, a 2014 study of elite athletes in a variety of sports found that the women had about 85% as much lean body mass as men; before training, women tend to have ~60-70% as much lean body mass as men, suggesting that women may actually gain relatively more muscle than men long-term (though, for all of these comparisons, you can’t assume causation from cross-sectional analyses).  
Start in plank position, shoulders directly over elbows, forearms and hands on the ground, core and glutes squeezed tight. Now lift your right arm off the ground and reach your hand forward. Pause for 1 second then return to the plank position. Repeat on the other side. Work to keep your hips as square as possible as you do this. Alternate reps on each side for 4 sets. Work for 40 seconds, then rest for 20 on each set during Week 3. During Week 4, work for 50 seconds, then rest for 10.
LINGUVIC: No. A resistance band is better than no band, and for some exercises it can be very effective, such as adductor and abductor work (your inner thighs), when you need to move your legs laterally. If you were on the road and all you had was a resistance band, that would be fine, but ideally you want to be able to increase the amount of weight you're using as you get stronger and there's no way to do that with one single band. If that's all you have, though, that's better than not using anything at all.
Natalie Jill is a very popular fitness trainer who you will see guest starring on some of the other sites and channels found in this list. Her best home exercise videos can be found on her personal fitness blog which shares workouts for weight loss, exercise ball routines, jump rope workouts, booty belt workouts, body weight exercises and more. Natalie also shares great healthy recipes and useful nutrition tips on her site.
Johanna, I agree with you on the general importance of checking SRs and MAs for these points. But have you thought how these biases would represent themselves specifically *in this very topic*? You sound as if this was an SR on a drug or surgical procedure with a clear risk and direction and means of accomplishing a biased result . Greg subtlely pointed out that this topic is a lot different.

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 4 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.
Lowers the risk of chronic disease: Not only will strength training help save off many chronic diseases, but it also helps lessen the symptoms of issues you may currently have. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) recommends strength training for most older adults to help lessen the symptoms of the following chronic conditions: arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes, obesity, back pain, depression.
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.
With four different 16-week programs—that’s 64 weeks of training—you get over a year’s worth of workouts, including progressions to ensure that you continue making progress. You’ll also get a training manual, exercise glossary, progress tracker, a bonus conditioning manual, plus a video library with over 70 high-definition videos breaking down each exercise, step by step.
If someone else wants to use the equipment too, you can offer to let them “work in with you” – which means they do their sets while you rest, and vice versa. If you’re not comfortable with this (and chances are for your first few workouts you won’t be), it’s okay to say no or not offer. If you say no, be nice about it. Say something like “I’m almost done, just one more set and it’s all yours!” If you are comfortable with it, usually you and the other person will work together to change the weights in between each set.
Grab a medium-heavy looped resistance band and set it up around a post of some sort so it’s at shoulder-height. Kneel facing the band, thighs perpendicular to the ground, and grab an end of the band in each hands. Move away from the band enough that there’s tension on both ends. Squeeze your shoulder blades, then bend at the elbows and shoulders, pulling the band toward the bottom of your chest. Pause when you thumbs touch the bottom of your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades. That’s 1 rep. Do 3 sets.
LINGUVIC: Your weight training session could last anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes, depending on what you're doing. More is not necessarily better. You want to have a good program that hits your muscles without overdoing it. Your workout should not be more than 45 minutes -- tops. You can have a great workout in 15 minutes if you have the right routine to do.

With that being said, it’s certainly possible that there were differences in real-world training status that are basically impossible for a study to account for.  For example, if the men tended to train like hardcore powerlifters or bodybuilders, and the women tended to do the sort of lighter, higher-rep “toning” workouts that are often recommended to women, it would make sense that the women would gain strength faster.  In other words, “research tends to indicate that trained women still gain strength quicker than trained men, but I’m concerned those studies are hampered by methodological limitations, so I’ll continue to assume the null (similar relative rates of strength gains) until research on a more representative population is conducted” is also a very defensible position.
With that out of the way, this article is going to start with a review of the research comparing strength and muscle growth in men and women.  After that, I’ll focus just on the research using participants with prior training experience, and then I’ll review the inferences we can draw from sex differences in strength sports.  At the end, I’ll discuss some other sex differences and female-specific considerations beyond rates of strength gains and muscle growth.

Question: Can you get a solid abs workout from yoga? Answer: Hell yeah! Kathryn Budig, author of THe Women’s Health Big Book of Yoga, teaches a core-blasting yoga series in this 20-minute video. She directs you through strengthening poses all while giving tips on form with the type of encouragement and reassurance you’d get if you were actually in class. (Bonus: The serene backdrop helps put you in a yoga mindset.)


Progression is the secret ingredient for every successful training program. It's the reason your body changes over time. You can't do the exact same movements using the exact same weight for weeks and weeks and weeks and expect new results. You have to constantly push yourself. Once you develop a solid base, increase the weights, increase the reps, or decrease the rest periods.
Thank you so much for this article, what a breathe of fresh air!!! I have been an athlete all of my life and have done very intense training with weights and have never looked like a man! When I was training my hardest back in the old high school days, I could lift 400 pounds on the leg press machine and never had man legs. I would bench press 80 or so pounds and didn’t have a man’s upper body. As a matter of fact, with a mix of heavy lifting days, with lighter lifting days (high intensity super sets, keeping the heart rate up, essentially cardio/strengthening rolled into one) I dropped my body fat percentage from 25% to 21% looked super lean yet with lots of muscle. I was 5’4 and 121 pounds. I was lifting as much as I could at the time, and I looked perfectly feminine. I was a sporty, fit, lean & ripped girl. I just cannot believe how pervasive this myth is among women. I have had to to tell women exactly what you are saying in this article, because they are so afraid that one single day of heavy weight lifting in the gym will cause them to balloon into Arnold Schwarzenegger over night! I want to see more attractive sporty and muscular women on magazines instead of these waifs who are unhealthy and provide the wrong image for women to strive for. They are only endorsing the best way to suffer from osteoporosis and getting blown away by a strong gust of wind. Keep up the good work on all of your articles that shatter the most prevalent training myths and give people the real info straight up.
The difference between strength training for women and weight training for women is mostly semantics. Some people might even refer to it as “weight lifting for women.”. However, “strength training” may sound less intimidating to someone who has never lifted weights before, and it can be a relief to know that you can strength train (especially in the beginning) using just your body weight. 
With over four million subscribers, Fitness Blender has become the ultimate resource for at-home fitness videos. With 500+ full-length (from 10 minutes to over an hour long) practices and 25 years of experience between the husband and wife training duo, the channel can easily be used as the only resource to create a full fitness routine. They advertise “no gimmicks,” which is true as you always know what you’re in for—from the titles detailing if equipment is needed to the on-screen timer keeping track of seconds until an exercise is complete. While the videos are completely free, the trainers do offer scheduled programs at a price that is low compared to many in the industry. For a challenge, pick any of the videos with “Brutal” in the title—it will be exactly that.
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.
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).
I have a few amazing clients I’m working with right now who would describe themselves as life long worriers, or pessimists. In the past that has served them well, enabling them to keep safe, steer clear of risks and even develop strategies in the event of disasters. However, now they find it’s becoming hard to break the cycle and they really want to because it’s holding them back.

One strength training tip: Don't forget to breathe freely when you're lifting the weight. Most people think that they're breathing when they're doing strength training exercises, but they may be holding their breath. It's important to inhale and exhale fully between each repetition. The key is to keep from straining when holding your breath. You may find it helpful to exhale during the more strenuous phase of the exercise and inhale during the less strenuous phase.


You're right about one thing, though: training with weights will increase your lean muscle mass. That's a good thing! The more muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn. The more calories you burn, the leaner you'll get. Increased muscle mass will also add shape to your arms, take inches from your tummy, and even add some roundness to your booty! When women's magazines talk about "tone," they're really talking about strong muscles.
Thank you for covering women for a change! As an older women I am always looking for information on both groups. I have found that I do better with higher reps simply because heavier weights end up causing me injuries. I think it may be because we start so much weaker (especially me!) that we are more likely to have imbalances if we miss a muscle. Does that make sense? I also get into situations often where I can do one weight many times but can’t really do a higher weight at all. (ie 10# 16 times but 12# not at all with decent form.) So I am now using weight gloves to achieve in between weights. I usually use weights I can lift 12-15 times to (or almost to) failure, doing 3 sets total but in rotation so I have some time to recover. Is that a reasonable approach?
Cayenne peppers have been used for centuries as a folk medicine for stimulating circulation, aiding digestion and relieving pain (topically). Cayenne increases thermogenesis by dilating blood vessels and increasing blood circulation. Blood flow to adipose tissue is very important for the transportation of fatty acids to be burned. Increasing blood flow allows more fatty acids to be delivered to tissues where they can be burned. In order to lose body fat you must burn fat!
Muscle is denser than fat, meaning it takes up less space on your body. By losing fat and gaining muscle, you can stay the same weight – or even gain some – but actually be slimmer than you were before. Think of weight training as an investment that pays serious dividends down the road. The more muscle you have, the more calories (and fat) your body can burn over time.
×