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.
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.
Thank you for this article, it was great to read one that explained so well the myths surrounding women lifting like men. I’ve been lifting heavy for a few years now and the only time I felt that I was bigger than I would’ve liked was when I had a layer of fat covering my muscle! (often women seem to mistake this for lots of muscle bulk) Once that was lost though, with a small deficit and while continuing to lift, I loved the results! Muscle tone, looking strong, looking healthy. I wish more women would realise the benefits – next time I have a female friend complain about how they’re not getting “toned”, I’ll be sending them a link to this! 😀
This video is proof positive that you don’t need to hit the gym—or have a ton of time or space—for a truly killer workout. Speed through this routine when your schedule is packed, and don’t worry: With exercises like one-legged squats and moving planks (and only 10 seconds of rest between each), you won’t be missing out on any muscle-building benefits.
Thank you so much for explaining this in such a clear manner. I am also sick to death of most women’s negativity towards weight lifting created by their stupid beliefs which you have discussed here; The ingrained fear that lifting weights will make you bulky/manly! Lifting weights it the best thing I have ever done for my body and I could not be happier with the results I have achieved. The internet can be an excellent tool for research and source of information about training and nutrition. Sites such as yours are truly valuable and ones I turn to very often for guidance! So thanks again, it’s appreciated.
As such, we basically have no good research telling us about rates of muscle growth in trained men and women.  My hunch is that relative rates of muscle growth will continue to be similar, but we’ll have to wait on further research to say for sure.As you can see, only one of these studies (Alway et al.) reported a direct measure of hypertrophy, and only one (Garthe et al.) reported an indirect measure of hypertrophy.  Alway et al. is hampered by a very small sample, while Garthe et al. has a couple other confounding factors – 1) the main purpose of the study was to compare different rates of weight loss, so while the groups with differing rates of weight loss had similar numbers of men and women, it’s possible that group allocation affected results and 2) the study included athletes from many different sporting backgrounds, so while all of them did have prior training experience, it’s possible that the women were somewhat less trained than the men.

While seasoned lifters may choose to do different exercises every day during a week-long period (and repeat the same moves the following week), there's no need to follow this type of program when you're just getting comfortable, says Davis. "Stick to the same basic moves two to three times a week to build a basic level of fitness and strength," says Davis. "Why complicate things if you don’t have to? Great results can be made by repeating the same workout but increasing weights as you become stronger." Switching things up can help you avoid a training plateau, explains Davis, but so can increasing weights while doing the same exercises.

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.
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.
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.
Keeping your right arm fully straight and your core tight, lift your left hand from the ground and touch your right shoulder. Return to pushup position, then repeat the motion on the other side. Focus on keeping your hips square with the ground as you do each tap. Do 4 sets. Work for 40 seconds then rest for 20 seconds during each set for Week 1. During Week 2, work for 50 seconds, the rest for 10 seconds.
Don’t worry about what everyone else is wearing around you – this isn’t a fashion show. For shoes, look for a minimalist shoe with a hard, non-compressible sole.  Chuck Taylors are my personal favorite, but Steve wears Vibrams or Merrills. While there are some great shoe options specifically for weight lifting, as a beginner, the above multipurpose shoe will serve you just fine!
I’m a woman and I totally agree with what you’ve said. Guys at my gym look at me as an outsider, giving me what-the-hell-are-u-doing-in-the-mens-territory looks. I never leave the gym unless my shirt is SOAKED in sweat. I lost so far around 50 lbs (I weight around 170 lbs now). I do challenge myself.. A LOT and I AM noticing changes. The problem is, I feel like my trapezious muscles (is that what they’re called?) are getting bigger and I hate that. I do shoulder press and that seems to bulk up my trapezious muscles. I don’t know what I should do. Maybe women can only bulk up in that area? I’m thinking maybe I should stop the shoulder press workout? But I do want my arms to be toned and my deltoids to show.

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.


What is the most common thing you see women do in the gym? Cardio. And if they do lift weights the pick up a 5 pound dumbbell and do endless reps. As we have discussed, women need to lift heavy, challenging weights just like men in order to gain muscle. While machines do provide sufficient stimulation to gain muscle, nothing can beat free-weight/compound exercises.
While many people advocate eating a low-carb diet for weight loss, it's not always ideal. Weight loss may come easily at first, but chronically low amounts of carbohydrates could have negative downstream effects in the long run. A woman's delicately balanced hormone system can be disrupted by low carb availability, which could bring about unwanted side effects like loss of bone density and chronic sleep deprivation. On a low-carb diet, some women may experience stopped or irregular periods because the body perceives chronically low energy levels as starvation and stress.
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.
How her body has reacted: Since making the switch, my body composition has changed drastically. It is something I didn’t notice right away and I truly still don’t understand how drastically it has changed until I look at pictures and see how much leaner my body is and how much stronger I am. I have more energy outside of training, which leaves me in a good mental space to focus on eating healthfully to fuel my body properly.
Leslie of Fightmaster Yoga teaches hatha yoga for beginners, yoga for energy, yoga for reducing stress, meditation yoga, yoga workouts for strength, yoga for office workers…in other words, she offers a BIG selection of yoga classes! She is a knowledgeable instructor and is an excellent communicator, which makes her classes especially easy for beginners to follow.

Of course, cardio is an important part of fitness too, but the benefits of strength training are major. Strength training helps build muscle, and lean muscle is better at burning calories when the body is at rest, which is important whether you're trying to lose weight or maintain it. It also helps strengthens joints and bones, avoid injury, improve your muscular endurance, and will help you give it your all during your other workouts, whether that means setting a new PR if you're a runner or pushing (and pulling) a little harder with your legs during your favorite indoor cycling class.
Mix-and-match interval training works magic in Natalie Jill's Rev4 Rev It Up. The four 10-minute routines hit different trouble zones so you can do them as stand-alones—"I definitely felt I got a good workout after each," one tester said—or combine them for a total-body session. Testers loved that they could "switch things up for time-pressed mornings" and gave props to instructor Jill's "nice energy." Expect a variety of planks and booty-shaping moves.
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.
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