If you got something out of this article, I’d really appreciate it if you’d share it with your friends, your gym buddies, and anyone else who you think might benefit.  Since women are so underrepresented in strength training research, I find that this is a topic with so much misinformation swirling around.  I hope this article can serve as a small beacon of sanity.
Tbh, I think bias assessment is a bit different here vs. topics where the hypothesis is that there are differences between two things (you generally wouldn’t state a hypothesis in a meta-analysis, but there’s generally one there implicitly). The primary bias in research is publication bias – you slice and dice data to get significant findings, and significant findings are way more likely to get published than non-significant findings. So, if there’s high risk of bias and significant differences, you should probably assume the actual mean effect is smaller than the one you came up with.
Instructor Leah Sarago offers moms-to-be six 15-minute workouts in Fit + Sleek Prenatal Physique. Choose from cardio (think lunge variations with leg and arm lifts), bump-friendly core sessions and upper-body mat exercises. String a few together for a longer workout, or "pick just one if you want to ease up as your pregnancy progresses," our due-any-day tester suggested.
Now that we’ve given you an idea of how good strength training is for women, let’s talk about what strength training is. Strength training is any type of movement or exercise that imposes an increasing demand on your muscles and/or central nervous system, causing an adaptation. Contrary to what many people believe, lifting heavy weights is not even necessary in the beginning.
Workout  Routines For Women – 4 Week Training Plan: This program from SHAPE encourages you to cut back on the cardio and push the weights to increase metabolism and build more muscle. This plan doesn’t give you a specific list of workouts and leaves the flexibility to adjust as you go. The plan changes to circuit halfway through switching up the plan of just lifting.
Strength training will bring out definition and get you stronger but will not increase bulk. The key is the correct exercises combined with a sensible diet and a serving of aerobics. The exercises that women most commonly do to bring out definition don't really work. They do hundreds and hundreds of repetitions, spend hours and hours on the treadmill and wonder why their bodies don't change. So it's time to try strength training.
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.
I am a 47 year old woman that has been athletic all my life. I love to tinker with my own training – my training goals are somewhat contradictory – faster 1/2 marathon times and stronger lifts. I just discovered your content a few months ago (MASS subscriber as well) and have found it extremely helpful in trying to create plans that achieve both without over training. But I really appreciate the attention and info for female athletes – this article in particular. There is much more work to be done by the research community – but anything that continues to educate women about the value of resistance training is a needed step to a healthier community

If there’s one travel-friendly workout tool, it’s the resistance band. Not only does it weigh next to nothing and take up little room in your bag, it’s also super versatile. And if you’re a fan of our full-body resistance band workout, you’ll definitely dig this free workout video. It combines strength movements, like rear lunges with a rotation, with heart rate-boosting exercises for a routine that’ll challenge your entire body.
This is true and this should be the focus. Not ‘you can’t get bulky so lift’. I’m a dancer and heavy weight training ruined my lines (which I need to work). I’m fit and strong either way but I need to be more careful with how I train because looks matter to me professionally. It would be nice to hear trainers talk more about how they tailor workouts to clients needs and wishes than to make sweeping statements about women’s bodies.

Tracking lifestyle markers improve can also be really motivating. They also give you valuable information about your progress.  For example, if you’ve been losing fat at a steady pace for six weeks, and suddenly, during the past two weeks, you’ve hit a plateau, take a look at your sleep and stress levels.  If your sleep has been poor for the last two weeks, there’s a good chance you’ve found the culprit.
Jillian Michaels, the star trainer on "The Biggest Loser" TV series, has a series of workout videos that feature her boot camp style of motivation. "No More Trouble Zones" is a DVD that highlights classic exercises such as squats, triceps kickbacks and lunges with bicep curls. Cathe Friedrich is known for her challenging workouts using an ultra-high step and heavy weights. Her "Butts and Guts," "Muscle Max" and "Core Max" workout videos will challenge even advanced exercisers. Kathy Smith's "Lift Weights to Lose Weight Double" offers seven 26-minute workouts targeting every muscle using a Swiss ball and dumbbells. Master instructor Karen Voight's "Firm Arms and Abs" and "Lean Legs and Buns" are two separate 40-minute videos that will define your entire body. "Maximum Body Shaping" includes 46 minutes of classic dumbbell toning exercises and intense plyometrics to accelerate muscle fatigue.

What she does now: I signed up with a personal trainer to help me learn more about weightlifting and strength training. Sometimes I think people don’t realize the value of having someone holding you accountable and helping you with form, education and motivation. I was determined enough to make the change that I went and purchased several months’ worth of sessions and committed to it. Little did I know that I would fall in love with how lifting made me feel.
Lie with your back on a bench, glutes squeezed and feet flat on the floor. Hold medium-weight dumbbells directly over your shoulders. Squeeze your shoulder blades. Keeping your left arm straight, lower the right dumbbell to your chest; pause when it’s an inch from your chest then drive it back up. Repeat on the other side. Alternate reps on both sides until time is up. Do 3 sets.
I just finished with the 12th week and I feel amazing. For the first time (IN MY LIFE) I feel muscle on my arms and can see my legs getting more defined. I lost around an inch on the narrowest part of my waist and lost 4 pounds! I'm not sure what I gained in muscle.... but either way, I'm pretty happy! It's not a "dramatic result" that lots of people notice, but it's enough to make me proud of myself!
Some of my acquaintances at the gym were actually startled when I abandoned the cardio equipment in favor of the ugly dumbbells and weight plates. I have been asked the “aren’t you afraid of bulk” question more times than I care to think about. When I am standing right there, clearly not bulky, this question seems a bit disingenuous. I haven’t really figured out why people keep asking. Having to explain how it is physically impossible for me to ever build enough muscle to be bulky has gotten a bit old. I think from now on I will simply refer them to your article.
Vasocharge is formulated to allow you to increase the intensity of your workouts while delaying fatigue, which results in greater progress being made. VasoCharge increases energy production and power output, decreases H+ accumulation and fatigue, and increases blood flow and the delivery of amino acids to skeletal muscle, making it an all-in-one pre-workout powerhouse.
Because “every Heart and Soul deserves to be fit,” HASfit has pledged to provide all of its programming at zero cost. This doesn’t seem like that big of a big deal, until you realize that the company is providing not only over 1,000 full length workout routines via YouTube, but also 30-90 day fitness and meal plans. Even better, these schedules accommodate a wide range of activity levels and dietary restrictions. While the full programs are only available on the HASfit website, all of the separate routines can be found on the company’s channel as well as an estimated calorie burn for each. For a beginner’s workout, check out the video linked above; to really get your heart rate up, try one of the longer Tabata HIIT practices.

If there’s one travel-friendly workout tool, it’s the resistance band. Not only does it weigh next to nothing and take up little room in your bag, it’s also super versatile. And if you’re a fan of our full-body resistance band workout, you’ll definitely dig this free workout video. It combines strength movements, like rear lunges with a rotation, with heart rate-boosting exercises for a routine that’ll challenge your entire body.
This is the best article I have read in YEARS!!!! I have wanted more muscle for 25 years & the stupid trainers give me these dumb “woman’s training programs” to do, which from a woman’s point of view have NO EFFECT at all – I just got skinny and floppy – YUK YUK YUK so I stated doing the “manly stuff” a while ago & have been looking for a way to do a whole body workout over 2 separate days – I have found them!! Thank you for a “no pink pom-pom” option – I’m off to the gym!!

Stand with your feet about two times shoulder-width apart, holding light-to-medium-weight dumbbells in your hands. Shift your weight to one leg and push your hips back as you lower your torso as far as you can. Keep your other leg straight and your foot flat on the floor. Press back to standing, then repeat on the other side. Alternate reps on both sides until time is up. Do 3 sets.
Some of my acquaintances at the gym were actually startled when I abandoned the cardio equipment in favor of the ugly dumbbells and weight plates. I have been asked the “aren’t you afraid of bulk” question more times than I care to think about. When I am standing right there, clearly not bulky, this question seems a bit disingenuous. I haven’t really figured out why people keep asking. Having to explain how it is physically impossible for me to ever build enough muscle to be bulky has gotten a bit old. I think from now on I will simply refer them to your article.
During weeks 9-12, you will be lifting in the 4-6 rep range. What this means is that you want to complete at least 4 reps but no more than 6 reps for each set. If you cannot complete 4 reps, then the weight is too heavy and you should decrease the load. If you can complete more than 6 reps, then the weight is too light and you should increase the load.

How to do it: "Every woman should do a full-body strength-training routine—such as this one—two days a week," says Perkins. "Then, on top of that, you may add the other components of fitness like yoga, dance, walking, or swimming." (Add one of these 3 new walking workouts that blast fat to your exercise routine.) You can complete all of these moves in one workout, or you can split them up if you're short on time. The key is consistency. Aim to complete 3 sets for each move, and choose a weight that makes it challenging to complete the final rep of each set.


Protein is a key component to building lean muscle and transforming your body. No, eating more protein won't suddenly make your muscles huge. Building lean muscle though, is essential to that "toned" look everybody's going for. Protein is made up of amino acids, which are the body's building blocks for a number of functions, including making muscle protein.


A proper warm-up is an important part of an effective strength workout. Start by foam rolling your muscles to wake 'em up. "Foam rolling loosens up tight muscles so that they work the way they're designed to," says Davis. A dynamic warm-up is another important part of your pre-workout routine, it preps your muscles for the work they're about to do and helps increase your range of motion. Increasing your range of motion allows you to go deeper into those squats and fully extend those bicep curls, which means more muscle recruitment and better results. "These two combined reduce your risk of injury and allow you to push harder during your workout," says Davis. Get started with this five-minute warm-up.

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


How to Get Rid of Loose Skin After Weight Loss The Ultimate Shoulder Workout: The Best Shoulder Exercises for Big Delts The Ultimate Arms Workout: The Best Arm Exercises for Big Guns The Best Chest Workouts for Building Awesome Pecs (According to Science) How to Build Muscle and Lose Fat…at the Same Time The Ultimate Back Workout: The Best Back Exercises for a Thick, Wide Back
Instructor Leah Sarago offers moms-to-be six 15-minute workouts in Fit + Sleek Prenatal Physique. Choose from cardio (think lunge variations with leg and arm lifts), bump-friendly core sessions and upper-body mat exercises. String a few together for a longer workout, or "pick just one if you want to ease up as your pregnancy progresses," our due-any-day tester suggested.

Many women miss out on the benefits of strength training out of fear of developing bulging muscles. This is a misconception. According to the Women’s Heart Foundation, high levels of estrogen make it very difficult for women to become overly muscular. When women lift weights, the changes to their muscles are generally related to tone, strength, and endurance rather than size. The resulting look is firm, feminine toning, not bulky masculine muscles.
Slowly, bend your arms to a 90-degree angle, lowering your entire body. Once you reach this angle, hold it for a second before straightening your arms again and resuming the starting position. This is one repetition. Aim for at least five repetitions to start, but do not exceed a dozen. To increase difficulty, place a heavy textbook or gym bag in your lap.
Cardio history: I started long-distance running in 2008, half and full marathons, which led to half and full Ironmans from 2011 to 2013. That moved to ultramarathons — 50 km, 50-miler, 100 km, etc. — for the past three years. During these periods, I was basically doing cardio in the form of biking, running or swimming for 15 to 20-plus hours a week, with maybe five of those hours as light circuit-style, high-rep weight training — so more cardio than lifting.
Second, women may recover from training a bit faster than men (one, two, three).  When I’ve mentioned this in the past, the counterargument I typically hear is that women don’t create as much force, so of course their muscles won’t sustain as much damage, and will therefore recover faster.  However, that doesn’t make much sense when you think about it. For starters, I’m not aware of any evidence showing that people who are stronger or more muscular at baseline experience more muscle damage, more soreness, or larger/longer performance decrements than people who are weaker or less muscular, all else being equal.  More importantly, what each of your muscle fibers “feel” is the tension on that specific fiber; the contractile force of the entire muscle shouldn’t matter, as long as each fiber is being recruited to a similar degree and experiencing a similar amount of tension. I think the more likely explanation is that estrogen may exert a protective effect on muscle, limiting damage and potentially accelerating repair.
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.
When you finally muster the courage to try some resistance training, you'll likely head over to the machines. You'll choose an open one, read the directions, and then try to copy whatever the model is doing in the pictures. "WTF am I doing?" you may ask yourself as you go through the motions. "Is this even right? I swear those directions don't make any sense. Good God, I hope no one is watching me!"

However, the role of testosterone may be overstated.  My friend James Kreiger recently published a super thorough analysis (note: paywall, but totally worth it) on all things testosterone and muscle growth, including analyses of cross-sectional research on people with different testosterone levels, studies comparing men and women, studies where people are given exogenous testosterone, and even studies where people were put on drugs to totally suppress testosterone production.  The main takeaway was that testosterone levels can dramatically affect the amount of muscle you start with, but they don’t really impact relative rates of muscle growth.
Start lying on your back, arms and legs extended. Tighten your abs, pressing your lower back into the floor as you do so. This should lift your legs off the floor; work to keep them straight. Lift your shoulder blades off the floor as well; keep extending your arms back as you do this. Do 4 reps. During Week 7, try to maintain the hollow hold for 40 seconds, then rest for 20. During Week 8, aim for 50-second holds, then rest for 10 seconds between reps. Can’t hold that long? Hold for as long as you can, then come out of the hold and get right back into it until time’s up.
When best friends and trainers Karena Dawn and Katrina Scott created Tone It Up, no one could have predicted the success of the company’s long-distance coaching methods just a few years later. Unfortunately, a few key factors are not free, such as the highly-praised nutrition plan and yearly workout DVDs. However, it is still possible to be incredibly successful with the shorter—but still dense—workout videos and recipes posted on YouTube. The best home regimen combines YouTube and the trainers’ website, on which they post daily plans combining multiple videos from the channel to create a full workout. To take it a step further, connect with the TIU community on Instagram for daily check-ins and challenges—such as the yearly Bikini Challenge.
I started training when I was about 17 years old.I’ve always loved weight training! And despite all the warnings my friends, family and “MOM” gave me about bulking up & looking like a man, I never listened to them – not because I knew all the amazing effects of progressive overload back then. But lifting weights (and increasing them over a period of time) gave me a sense of euphoria. The 5 lb dumbbell that was so hard to lift in the beginning seemed like cotton – 2 months into it! I guess I’m trying to say is – I’m so glad I did not be “girly” and lift pink dumbbells! 🙂
How: Using 8- to 15-pound dumbbells, stand behind a chair. Place your feet under your hips and fold forward so that your head can rest comfortably on the chair or surface. Keep your knees slightly bent and your neck relaxed. Begin with your palms facing each other directly under your shoulders. Bend your elbows and pull the dumbbells towards you until your palms are next to your ribs. Draw the shoulder blades together at the top. Pause for two seconds, then slowly release back to the starting position. That's one repetition. Aim for 12 to 15 reps.

Stand holding medium-weight dumbbells at your shoulders, elbows pointing forward, core engaged. Keeping your core tight and your chest up, lunge backwards with your right knee, stepping backwards then lowering that knee until it touches the ground or until your left thigh is parallel with the ground. Pause, then drive back up and repeat the process on the other leg. Alternate legs until time expires. Do 3 sets.
Alistair went through the most horrific experiences in the 2nd world war. If you think of one of the awful things that happened back then in our world, Alistair went through at least 3 of them! Asked afterwards how did you cope? He talked about how whatever they did to his body, no matter how they starved, tortured, threatened or mocked him, they couldn’t have his mind. In his mind he was free.
Next, squeeze your glutes – this helps stabilize you – and push the bag up in a straight line. You may have to move your head back while pressing it up to ensure it goes up in a straight line. Hold the gym bag above your head with your arms straight for a couple of seconds before lowering the bag back to your shoulders. This is one repetition. Continue for up to 12 repetitions.
However, the role of testosterone may be overstated.  My friend James Kreiger recently published a super thorough analysis (note: paywall, but totally worth it) on all things testosterone and muscle growth, including analyses of cross-sectional research on people with different testosterone levels, studies comparing men and women, studies where people are given exogenous testosterone, and even studies where people were put on drugs to totally suppress testosterone production.  The main takeaway was that testosterone levels can dramatically affect the amount of muscle you start with, but they don’t really impact relative rates of muscle growth.
If someone is offering to spot you on an exercise (like the bench press), don’t assume they think you are a newb. Probably the opposite – they just want to help. If someone asks you to spot them and you’ve never spotted someone before, tell them that you would love to help but haven’t done it before so you could use some pointers. They will tell you what they want you to do.
Finally, women also have to deal with the menstrual cycle (women taking hormonal contraceptives can probably ignore this paragraph).  There’s some evidence that women’s response to training varies based on menstrual cycle phase.  For starters, it takes women longer to recover from training during the luteal phase (last half) of the menstrual cycle.  Building on that, several studies (one, two, three) show that concentrating your training during the follicular phase (first half of the cycle) can lead to larger strength gains and more muscle growth than concentrating your training during the luteal phase or evenly dispersing it across the entire month.  On a more practical level, it’s probably not wise to use an extreme program like the ones used in those studies (for example, training 3-5 times per week during the follicular phase, and only once per week during the luteal phase), but it’s possible that you can increase your progress in the gym while minimizing overtraining risk by adding an extra workout or two per week during the follicular phase.  For example, if you normally train three times per week, every week, you could probably keep training three times per week during the luteal phase, but increase your frequency to four or five times per week during the follicular phase. This would help you take advantage of faster recovery rates and reap the benefits of the larger strength gains and enhanced muscle growth that occur during the follicular phase.
If you work out in a crowded gym, venturing to the free weight area may be intimidating. To make this easier you can recruit a friend to work out with you and you two can support and encourage each other. If you work out solo, load your favorite music onto your phone and listen to it while you train so you can focus on why you’re there and what you’re doing, and drown out everything else around you. You’ll still have to deal with the stench of stale sweat and cheap cologne, but at least you won’t have to hear men grunting as they flex in the mirror.
These simple weight exercises are an effective method of strength training for women that have proven results. How do we know? Just take a look at the toned body of TV and radio presenter Caroline Flack, who, in addition to practising yoga, is a fan of free weight exercises. When WH found out that the Love Island presenter enlisted the help of PT Sarah Lindsay of Roar Fitness, to devise free weight workouts for her to follow, we were keen to find out exactly what free weight exercises for women she recommends. And we did.
"You will never get bored," said one tester, with the push-yourself workouts in the 21 Day Fix—seven 30-minute sessions ranging from high-intensity cardio-strength circuits to Pilates. Each routine "amps up familiar moves" to crank your calorie burn. Another tester was wowed that "so many different modifications and options were shown to help me switch up my workout." There's an included diet plan for those on a mission to trim.
This entire site is awesome. I have very little fat on my body besides my boobs and butt, and I’ve been wondering whether I “need” cardio or not to help build muscle/tone since losing weight is not something I need or am interested in. It sounds like I do NOT, which is what I wanted to hear. I’m down with dancing around and walking around the block and doing cardio “naturally”, but treadmills and other machines bore me to death and always made me feel like a quitter. I’m so glad to know I can basically skip that crap and just focus on weight training. I’m going to send this article to every chick I know.

Sit on the ground, with your right leg directly in front of you, bent 90 degrees at the knee, knee flat on the ground. Your left leg should be behind you, also bent 90 degrees at the knee, knee flat on the ground Your thighs should also form a 90-degree angle with each other. Now place your hands on the floor on each side of your right leg; slowly lower your chest toward your knee. Go only as low as you can while keeping your shoulders square. Pause and feel the stretch. Return to the start position, then swivel your hips so your left leg is now directly in front of you and repeat the process.
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are vital to the proper functioning on your body. Dietary fats got a bad rap due to the diet fads of the 80’s and 90’s, which promoted eating as little fat as possible, but in reality EFAs are needed by the body and are part of a healthy diet. Eating fats does not equate to getting fat. In fact, most EFAs help support the fat burning process and maintaining a lean body. Do not be scared to eat good fats. EFAs are not the enemy. Also, be sure to supplement with a QUALITY EFA product, such as Scivation Essential FA.
These simple weight exercises are an effective method of strength training for women that have proven results. How do we know? Just take a look at the toned body of TV and radio presenter Caroline Flack, who, in addition to practising yoga, is a fan of free weight exercises. When WH found out that the Love Island presenter enlisted the help of PT Sarah Lindsay of Roar Fitness, to devise free weight workouts for her to follow, we were keen to find out exactly what free weight exercises for women she recommends. And we did.
We're going to mix it up this week! Instead of Straight Sets, you're going to complete your workout in a circuit style. This week, you'll complete 1 set of each exercise for 15 reps, then you'll immediately move on to the next movement with no rest in between. For example, on the Day 1 workout, you'll perform your first set of leg presses for 15 reps, then you'll immediately go to the goblet squat and perform 15 reps and then continue on to the next exercise with no rest in between movements. At the end of these four movements, you'll rest for one minute, then complete the circuit two more times.
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