Each of your workouts should include a warm-up that will activate your muscles, prepare your central nervous system for the workout, and increase your blood flow to your muscles. It's also a great idea to do foam rolling before each workout. For leg workouts, roll the quads, hamstrings, IT band, piriformis, and calves. For upper-body workouts, roll the shoulder, chest, triceps, and biceps.
My husband has just sent me this article, after listening to me bitch for years about wanting to be more “toned” but never wanting to join him at the weight bench for fear of getting manly muscles. The smugness on his face right now is nauseating, but I can admit the error of my judgement. (Not to him, obviously, but to myself, at least.) Thanks for the no-bullshit approach, I needed to hear it.
How: Stand with your feet shoulder-width distance apart and your toes turned out slightly. Extend your arms forward and keep them parallel to the floor throughout the movement. Bend your knees and reach your hips back as if to fully sit down on the chair. Lower your hips until you feel the chair underneath you, but don't fully sit. Touch the chair with your butt, then immediately press into your heels and stand back up to the starting position. That's one repetition. Aim to complete 10 to 15 reps.
Strength training is a key part of a healthy, active lifestyle. It tones muscles, burns calories, and builds stamina for a stronger, leaner body. But learning the proper form and technique can make or break your practice. This program provides straightforward instruction, practical tips, and an efficient, effective workout for all experience levels.
I just stumbled onto the Muscle and Strength website, and I'm really pleased with all of the information. I am 54 years old and frustrated with the 10-15 lbs gained since my full hysterectomy 4 years ago. I have always been active, have lifted weights for over 30 years, and have been an aerobic instructor for in past years. I am well educated in weight loss and weight lifting but can't seem to get back into shape after my hysterectomy. My doctor says that I should focus on programs that emphasize muscle growth as more muscle will burn more calories. In your opinion, would this program be the best fit for me? Thanks for your help!
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.
A personal trainer in NYC's Upper East Side, Pagano has dedicated the past 16 years of her life to passing her knowledge and passion for fitness on to other women in the hopes of helping them improve their lives and prevent common diseases like osteoporosis. Her first offering in the crowded self-help fitness genre succeeds impressively well as a resource for women of all ages looking to improve their overall health. Like a good personal trainer should, she begins with a three-part fitness test and questionnaire to assess whether the reader should consult a doctor before beginning her program. For true beginners, she provides an anatomy chart that depicts the major muscle groups and the exercises that are best suited to them. She dispels fitness myths like "lifting weights will bulk you up" and "you can spot reduce," and talks about the risk factors, exercise guidelines and restrictions of osteoporosis. Best of all for novices, many of Pagnano's beginner exercises require no special equipment, relying instead on everyday fixtures like chairs, walls and kitchen countertops. (More advanced exercises use free weights, stretch bands and stability balls.) The color photos, diagrams and clear explanations make the exercises easy to follow, and Pagano provides full training programs for improving posture and strengthening the lower, upper and core muscles of the body. This book may be one of the best substitutes for pricey gym memberships and personal trainers.

Also note, testosterone isn’t the only relevant sex difference here.  There are sex differences in gene expression, sex differences in other anabolic hormones like IGF-1 (which may play a bigger role in women than men), and, obviously, sex differences in estrogen (which, contrary to popular belief, exerts anabolic effects in muscle tissue).  Testosterone is only one piece of a much larger picture that only gets more confusing and convoluted the more you look at it.  At the end of the day, it’s best to just remember the messiness of physiology and understand that outcomes (similar relative muscle growth and strength gains, supported by heaps of research) trump mechanisms (differences in testosterone levels) every time.
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.
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

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.
Another limitation is that, in studies on untrained subjects, we can’t necessarily assume that their backgrounds are identical prior to the start of a study.  In other words, it’s possible that the “untrained” men in these studies had previously undertaken more activities outside the gym that required high levels of muscular exertion than the “untrained” women.  If that were the case, you’d expect women to have faster initial relative strength gains simply from catching up with the male baseline.
Coach Joshua Kozak is the trainer behind HASFit, which gets its name because “every Heart and Soul deserves to be Fit!” These are some of the best at-home workouts that are based primarily in bodyweight training, making them nice for at-home or when travelling. Coach Kozak has prepared some unique workouts such as one specifically for seniors and a series for teenage weight-loss.

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.”
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.
Start with 5 reps for each exercise and use the same weight until you can perform 8 reps for every set. Once you can perform 4-5 sets of 8 reps with the same weight/variation for all sets, it’s time to add weight (to free weight exercises) or use a more challenging variation (for bodyweight exercises). Then return to 5 reps with the heavier weight/harder variation, and repeat.
It's OK to be a little sore. Your muscles might feel achy or tired the day after a tough training session thanks to DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness. When you strength train you're causing microscopic damage to the tissue that will be repaired, that's how you build stronger lean muscle. Speaking of repair and recovery, though, rest days are important. "If you constantly break down muscle without a recovery period, you won’t give the muscle fibers a chance to repair and build back stronger,” explains Davis.
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.
Poor fat: so misunderstood and neglected. Dietary fats got a bad rap due to a major landmark study from the 80s that—very erroneously—concluded dietary fats promote incidences of heart attacks and other illnesses. As a result of this, the government promoted eating as little fat as possible and corporations rolled out their fat-free and reduced fat foods to save everyone from their exploding hearts.
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.

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.

And this is where my fitness journey truly began. That said, I didn’t go from Cardio Fit Bunny to Girl Who Lifts in a week. I eased in by alternating between my HIIT and cardio-focused program a few days a week and weightlifting the others. After a few weeks, loving the way I felt lifting heavier, I gave my up the fat-burn routines and switched to weightlifting exclusively.
Poor fat: so misunderstood and neglected. Dietary fats got a bad rap due to a major landmark study from the 80s that—very erroneously—concluded dietary fats promote incidences of heart attacks and other illnesses. As a result of this, the government promoted eating as little fat as possible and corporations rolled out their fat-free and reduced fat foods to save everyone from their exploding hearts.

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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.

When the FFAs reach muscle tissue, they are transported into a muscle cell. Once in the muscle cell, the FFAs can re-esterfy (rebind) with glycerol to form triglycerides to be stored in the muscle or bind with intramuscular proteins to be used for energy production in the mitochondria. In the mitochondria, the fatty acids undergo beta-oxidation, meaning they are burned for energy.
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.
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.
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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.
For each exercise you do, try to perform three sets of 10 to 12 reps with a weight heavy enough that by your last rep you can't eke out another one without compromising your form. To spark further muscle building, William Kraemer, Ph.D., a professor of kinesiology at the University of Connecticut, suggests alternating moderate-intensity workouts of 8 to 10 reps with lighter-weight 12- to 15-rep sets and super-hard 3- to 5-rep sets. (For a more detailed fat-blasting workout, check out "Do This at Home," below.)
The right type and amount will be different for every woman (and man, for that matter), but a little bit every day will do wonders. Just ask Dena, who is planning to enter her first bodybuilding competition a year after picking up her first weight. “Not only do I look better than when I first started, but I also feel really confident,” she says. “Strength training opens up your thoughts for more positive thinking.”
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.
“There are so many misconceptions about strength and resistance training,” says Larry Tucker, a professor in exercise sciences at Brigham Young University. “One is that you’ll become muscle-bound”—so bulked up that your body becomes rigid. That myth was somewhat dispelled when athletes who started strength-training saw that they could hit a ball farther, jump higher and run faster, Tucker says. “Gradually we started realizing there are benefits beyond sports.”
That’s why I included the analysis of studies lasting 20+ weeks, to specifically look at studies where that sort of effect wouldn’t influence the results as much.  That’s also why I separated upper body and lower body strength gains, as I’d expect this type of effect would be more prevalent for upper body strength than lower body strength.  In support of the hypothesis that “untrained” women may be more untrained than “untrained” men – especially when it comes to upper body strength – women gained strength faster than men in shorter studies but not longer studies, and in measures of upper body strength but not lower body strength.
Begin with three weight-training sessions each week, recommends Joe Dowdell, founder and co-owner of the New York City gym Peak Performance. For the greatest calorie burn, aim for total-body workouts that target your arms, abs, legs, and back, and go for moves that will zap several different muscle groups at a time—for example, squats, which call on muscles in both the front and back of your legs, as opposed to leg extensions, which isolate the quads.
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).
How: Begin seated with your back supported and 5- to 8-pound dumbbells resting at your shoulders. Sit up tall and ensure that your elbows are below your wrists. Press upward so that your elbows are in front of your body, and not out to the sides. End with the dumbbells directly over your head, palms forward, with elbows fully extended, but not locked. Slowly release down following the same pattern of movement, ending at the start position. That's one repetition. Aim for 10 to 12 reps.
I just want to let you know that this article is absolute gold. You’re the real MVP for conducting a meta-analysis on this topic, especially when it’s so hard to find much research out there. More importantly, you’ve paved a way to explain more fully why strength training is so great for women to women and the benefits of it in comparison to men. Research is not only assuring and affirming, but it’s convincing for people who dabble with the idea of something, so thank you! Anyways, very well done and please keep doing what you’re doing!
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 3 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.
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.
Unfortunately, protein is a nutrient often downplayed when it comes to women’s diets. For some reason, many people seem to think women don’t need to emphasize protein in their diets, but I am here to tell you that we DO. Protein is made up of amino acids, the building blocks of many tissues in the body, including muscle. Certain amino acids are “essential”, which means the body cannot make them and they must be obtained through your diet. When you workout, you breakdown muscle tissue. In order to repair that muscle tissue and gain lean mass and become stronger, you must give the body protein to supply the amino acids needed for recovery. If you do not get enough protein in your diet your body will not have enough amino acids, specifically essential amino acids, to work properly and recovery from workouts. Where will it get these amino acids you are lacking?
Thank you for this article – it confirms what I’ve read a few times, though sadly not often enough. I had this discussion with my sister that was at an all-girls gym – they ONLY have crappo machines, and you’re only allowed to use the free-weights if you’re working with a PT!! I shit you not… ANYWAY, I digress. I did have a question to ask – with regards to progression training, at what point do you decide to maintain, rather than constantly upping the intensity, or is that a really noob-y question??? =)
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.
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.
Hold two light-to-medium-weight 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.
If you're one of those busy folks who thinks you simply don't have time to exercise, let this DVD prove you wrong. You'll get two 30-minute cardio-strength workouts: The first is a boxing workout, and the second is focused on strength training with weights. Meant to be quick, effective, and empowering, these routines will be over before you know it!
Just shy of an hour long, this video is a killer aerobic kickboxing workout. You’ll throw punches and kicks in supercharged sequences as you follow along with the ebullient Billy Blanks. Don’t be surprised if you start talking back to the screen, especially when Blanks looks straight into the camera and declares, “I see you at home! Keep going!” Talk about motivation.
The general guideline for an active individual's intake of protein is about one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. If you weigh 135 pounds, you would aim to eat approximately 135 grams of protein. Since it's difficult to consume that much protein in two or three meals, people tend to spread it out over multiple meals and ensure that some form of protein accompanies every meal.
What she does now: My routine now consists of higher-intensity weight training, no more than 12 reps. I split it up into upper body and lower body, and use the maximum amount of weight I can lift. I do exercises that have big, compound movements and involve the biggest muscles — like your quads, hamstrings and glutes. My cardio I do at a higher intensity and not longer than 25 minutes, and only on the days I do my upper body. After squats and dead lifts, I can barely walk out of the gym, so no cardio.
Getting comfortable with a steady running routine is definitely something to be proud of, but when you're on that cardio grind day-in and day-out, you might be ready to change things up and take on a new challenge. Time to throw some strength training into the mix. It can be a little intimidating at first if you don't know where the hell to start, but understanding the basics can help you feel confident in your refreshed fitness routine.
And this is where my fitness journey truly began. That said, I didn’t go from Cardio Fit Bunny to Girl Who Lifts in a week. I eased in by alternating between my HIIT and cardio-focused program a few days a week and weightlifting the others. After a few weeks, loving the way I felt lifting heavier, I gave my up the fat-burn routines and switched to weightlifting exclusively.
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