You may learn proper exercise form and increase your strength rapidly. Or this strength training thing may be intimidating and mentally and physically uncomfortable at first. Move at your own pace. Don’t force yourself to do too much too soon, but don’t hold yourself back too much either. Strength training isn’t about reaching the finish line as quickly as possible only to burn out halfway there — it’s about moving at a consistent, challenging pace to ensure you get there, and go beyond.

This: But, there is still no difference whatsoever in terms of the approach. The same things still have to be done. The only difference is, when someone only looking to build a smaller amount of muscle reaches that goal, they stop right there and just maintain from that point on. The person looking to get “bigger and bulkier” would just keep on going.
Cardio history: In college, I gained more than the typical “freshman 15.” Once I graduated, I was fed up with being insecure about my body. I decided to try Zumba since I liked dancing and wasn’t a big fan of other fitness activities. I fell in love! I went two to three times a week at first. Once I started to feel better about working out, I started doing cycle classes, too. I’d say at that time, I was doing about four to five cardio classes a week. Eventually, I decided to get licensed in both Zumba and cycle and started teaching a few classes a week. I was still intimidated by weightlifting, so I kept to cardio because I was seeing weight loss.
Want to look good — and feel even better? Try strength training. Strength training, combined with regular aerobic exercise, can greatly impact your health. You may build strength, improve your muscle tone and boost your self-esteem. But you can also injure yourself if you use poor technique with your exercises. This collection of how-to videos can help you get started with strength training using the best technique.
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.
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."
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.
If you've ever tried to ditch the saddlebags and ended up a bra size smaller instead, you know that where you lose is as important as how much. As great as it might be to see the numbers on the scale go down, when you're on a strict cardio-only program your victory is likely to be empty. A recent study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham compared dieters who lifted three times a week with those who did aerobic exercise for the same amount of time. Both groups ate the same number of calories, and both lost the same amount—26 pounds—but the lifters lost pure chub, while about 8 percent of the aerobicizers' drop came from valuable muscle. Researchers have also found that lifting weights is better than cardio at whittling intra-abdominal fat—the Buddha-belly kind that's associated with diseases from diabetes to cancer.
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's a longer-term benefit to all that lifting, too: Muscle accounts for about a third of the average woman's weight, so it has a profound effect on her metabolism, says Kenneth Walsh, director of Boston University School of Medicine's Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute. Specifically, that effect is to burn extra calories, because muscle, unlike fat, is metabolically active. In English: Muscle chews up calories even when you're not in the gym. Replace 10 pounds of fat with 10 pounds of lean muscle and you'll burn an additional 25 to 50 calories a day without even trying.

© 2019 Condé Nast. All rights reserved. Use of and/or registration on any portion of this site constitutes acceptance of our User Agreement (updated 5/25/18) and  Privacy Policy and Cookie Statement  (updated 5/25/18). SELF may earn a portion of sales from products that are purchased through our site as part of our Affiliate Partnerships with retailers. Your California Privacy Rights. SELF does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.   The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Condé Nast. Ad Choices 


You see, we all build muscle the same way. We all require the same muscle building fundamentals to be in place in order for muscle growth to occur. We all need and benefit from similar amounts of weight training volume, frequency and intensity. We all need to force progressive overload to happen and lift heavy weights that are truly challenging for us. We all need to ensure certain dietary requirements are in place.
I’m sure there are some people in a state of mild disbelief as this point.  After all, men have more testosterone, and testosterone is anabolic; therefore, men should be at a huge advantage when it comes to building muscle and gaining strength, right?  An implication of this analysis is that, assuming a given woman and a given man start with similar amounts of muscle mass and strength, they’d be likely to gain the same amount of muscle and strength if they both started lifting.  That just doesn’t sit right with some people.
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.
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.
That’s unfortunate: On average, a woman over 25 years old who doesn’t do strength-training exercises loses about one-half pound of muscle each year, or roughly 5 pounds in a decade, research has found. That makes you feel weaker and look flabbier, and results in about a 3% decrease in resting metabolic rate (RMR). Over time, this slowing metabolism can lead to an increase in body fat.

"I used to find lots of excuses to avoid the gym—the drive, not knowing how to use the machines, and classes that were at least an hour. But with Beachbody I just change clothes, push play, and I'm done. I can get on with my day. Since 2014, I've lost close to 40 pounds and 20 inches. I went from a size 14 to a comfortable size six. Even better, I know I'm stronger than I've ever been. In the last race I ran, I came in third in my age group!" —Kristen Morgan, Knoxville, TN


Calorie counting should not be a life-long endeavor. It just doesn't effectively work in the long term. Studies show that calorie counting is prone to inaccuracy by upward of 25 percent—even if you triple-check your calculations and sources! The discrepancy arises from measurement errors on food labels, serving sizes and measurements which are impossible to reproduce consistently, different food quality, and a whole lot of guesswork.

If you don’t have a ball you can perform the exercises on the floor or a bench. For each exercise below perform 8-12 repetitions and rest for 30-60 seconds in between exercises. Move slowly through each exercise concentrating on proper form and continued breathing. And don’t forget, it’s always helpful to have guidance. If you have the ability to reach out to a fitness professional — even if it is just for one session — he or she can help take you through proper form and teach you how to move properly for your body. Enjoy your new fountain of youth.


Many people think of running or putting in 30 minutes on the elliptical as an example of moderate intensity cardio.  While this is technically true, you can do any activity that keeps your heart rate in that 120 to 140 range. Of course, if you love running, who are we to make you stop?  Just keep in mind that as “simple” as running seems, it’s an extremely advanced exercise that’s repetitive and high-impact.  If it’s not done with great form, your likelihood of injury increases significantly (just like with lifting weights).

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.
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.
Not all strength training videos require steps, dumbbells and barbells. One such video is Jennifer Galardi's "Ballet Body Workout," which blends elegant strength-training moves with dynamic stretching for body conditioning that emphasizes the lower body. The "New York City Ballet" workout, geared toward advanced exercisers, features two workouts performed by NYC Ballet dancers, 114 minutes total. If you want to be free of equipment but you're not interested in dance, then try Kelly Coffey's "30 Minutes to Fitness: Body Training" video. Two 30-minute workouts sculpt your body without any equipment, just your own body weight. Or, for a great lower body challenge, try Ilaria's "BodyStrikes."
As we said before, women need to lift heavy, challenging weights in order to gain muscle. Lifting heavy weights will not cause women to get big and bulky like men because women produce a fraction of the testosterone that men do. When women begin working out, their goals are to tone up and gain shape/curves and following this program will accomplish just that! In this 12-week program, you will decrease the number of reps you complete and increase the load you lift as you progress. The number of sets per exercise stays the same, but the rep range changes.
The Nerd Fitness Beginner Bodyweight workout is a great (free) place to start if you’re looking for a super basic, easy to follow bodyweight routine. This workout from my buddy/fellow Nerd Roman takes you through some very basic movements. Beast Skills and Gymnastics WOD also both offer great tutorials and progressions on how to master bodyweight movements, both basic and advanced.
This is most-likely due to not being informed, or even misinformed (by the media), about how women should train. What about diet? One of the most common breakfast meals recommended to women is yogurt and a banana. Now there is nothing wrong with eating a yogurt and banana, but where is the protein and essential fatty acids? If you are a woman trying to gain lean muscle, you will need to eat adequate protein and good fats (essential fatty acids). It is time to stop listening to the media and misinformed individuals and time to become educated and get results. In this article, we will go over some basic diet and training information and then direct you to where YOU can get diet and training help and direction!

Strength training exercises apply stress to your muscles and your central nervous system.  In response to this stress, your body increases motor unit recruitment and efficiency.  In layman’s terms, this means that your body figures out how to make the task you just performed easier, just in case you have to perform it again in the future.  After a few weeks of increased neural efficiency, depending on the type of strength training you’re doing, your body responds to the strength training stress by tearing down muscle tissue and rebuilding it bigger and stronger than before.


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.
One of the reasons why I love this specific routine so much is that is it easy for beginners. It does not have you doing a thousand reps and burning you out! Instead, you might notice the reps being a little lower than what you are probably used to and that is because the goal is to gain muscle-not worrying about endurance much. Also, you train 4 days per week-that screams “DO-ABLE” to me! You have two designated days where you work your upper body and the same goes for lower body.

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.
×