Personal trainer Rachel Cosgrove, owner of Results Fitness in Santa Clarita, California, created a built-to-burn strength-training routine exclusively for Women's Health readers that you can tap into online. Each move works multiple muscle groups, so you'll burn a ton of calories and rev your metabolism into high gear for 24 to 48 hours afterward. For best results, do 10 to 12 reps of each move, breaking just long enough to catch your breath in between; repeat for two to three sets. Get the workout.
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.
Since creating the channel in 2014, Caleb Marshall has provided a steady stream of entertaining, heart-pumping and user friendly dance videos that are perfect for a quick cardio session. The videos feature dancers of all levels, and that combined with Marshall’s near-constant comical interjections (not to mention his facial expressions) eradicate any fears of looking silly during the “Cardio Concert.” Further, as each showcases a different Top 40 track, the exercise aspect is quickly forgotten as infectious rhythms take over. Though the videos are short, you can compile a few into a playlist for a longer workout.
You may have heard hardcore lifters talk about things like "leg day," but when it comes to a beginner strength workout that's only a few days a week, a full-body workout is often the way to go (rather than splitting your days up by body part). "Full-body workouts maximize your caloric burn and the muscles worked each session," says Davis. The best way to do this is to pair one upper body exercise with one lower body exercise. "This way, the lower body has time to recover while the upper body works and vice-versa," says Davis. You should also aim for a balance between movements that feel like pulling and ones that feel like pushing. For example, Davis suggests pairing these exercises together:
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.
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.
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.
"I tried many home workouts but I always end up going back to ShaunT. Insanity Max30 is my current favorite. At 30 minutes it feels like the perfect length and it's a very well-rounded workout. It's crazy intense and easily the hardest workout I've ever done! I did three, 60-day rounds of it last year and lost some weight. I'm down a clothing size and have been able to maintain my weight loss. I've also gained muscle. But perhaps my favorite benefit is that all the interval training has really boosted my cardiovascular fitness. My resting heart rate has dropped by 10 beats per minute!" —Katie Stumpf, Milledgeville, GA
In a 2011 opinion poll reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), less than 20 percent of women contacted said they accomplished the CDC’s recommendations for 2 1/2 hours of aerobic exercise and two periods of strength training weekly. Yet the benefits speak for themselves. Inactive adults experience a 3 to 8 percent loss of muscle mass per decade. Resistance training may increase resting metabolism by about 7 percent and help minimize muscle loss.
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.
We learned that NE/E activate the receptors that stimulate lipolysis (fat breakdown). Research shows that NE/E secretion increases with exercise intensity. In addition, as cardio duration increases fat utilization increases while carbohydrate utilization decreases. So we need to perform high-intensity cardio for a long duration of time to maximize fat burning. The only problem is one cannot maintain high-intensity cardio for a long duration.
Keep pushing your butt back as you lift your right arm off the ground; thread it under your left armpit, reaching to the left as far as possible. Pause and feel the stretch, then, continuing to push your butt back and keep your left hand on the ground, reach your right hand toward the ceiling. Pause, then return your right hand to the start position. Repeat on the other side. That’s 1 rep.
Hold a light-to-medium-weight kettlebell in your right hand and stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder width. Perform a kettlebell swing, hold the weight only in your right hand. As you complete the swing, when the kettlebell is out in front of you, shift it into your left hand for the next rep. Alternate reps back and forth until time’s up. (If you’re not comfortable shifting the kettlebell between arms on every rep, do 5 single-arm kettlebell swings with your right arm, then place the kettlebell on the ground and do 5 single-arm swings with the left; alternate those two moves until time’s up.) Do 3 sets.
But frankly I don’t dare to do them in the gym, I get weird looks and/or regular comments on how manly I will be soon, likee you said, overnight. 🙂 So I do them on my doorway pull-up bar. Short-term goal is chins for reps with a 20kg kettlebell… long term goal is the same with an overhand grip. And no, I’m not huge/bulky/manly. 🙂 Maybe by tomorrow morning! :))
I hope you can take something away from this article.  If you’re a woman, I hope it was illuminating and empowering.  If you train women, I hope it was informative. Men and women are more alike than different when it comes to training responses, but similar doesn’t mean identical.  Women are not just smaller versions of men, though they should expect the same relative rate of progress a man would.

While some women, especially those facing illnesses or injuries that impede their ability to perform load-bearing exercise, do best with cardio only, most would benefit from adding some kind of weight training to their workout routine. Ko says it’s never too late to start, and adds that the “bro culture” of the weight room is changing and becoming more welcoming to people of all genders.
How: Lie on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Hold a 10- to 15-pound dumbbell by one end so that the other end is on the floor when you extend your arms overhead. Begin with your core engaged, and draw your shoulders down away from your ears and toward your hips. From there, lift the dumbbell off the floor, keeping your arms long, and make a big arc over your body until the dumbbell is over your chest. Slowly lower the dumbbell back to the floor making the same arc. That's one repetition. Without fully releasing the dumbbell to the floor, immediately lift it again and complete 12 to 15 repetitions.
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.
Now bring yourself into a standing position by simultaneously straightening your back and legs. Remember to keep your back straight – do not let it slouch, as this can cause injury. Once assuming the straight stance, stick your chest out and contract your shoulder blades. This is one repetition. Do at least five repetitions to build strength and muscle. Once you can do these repetitions easily, add weight to the bag.
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.

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.
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.

Stand holding medium-weight dumbbells at your sides, feet hip-width apart, core braced, knees slightly bent. This is the start. Hinge at your hips and push your butt backward, lowering your torso. Hinge until you feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings; focus on keeping your core braced as you do this. From this position, squeeze your shoulder blades and row the dumbbells to your ribcage. Pause, then lower the dumbbells and stand up, squeezing your glutes. That’s 1 rep. Do 3 sets.
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.
HIIT cardio is the most effective for fat-burning, and it's actually really easy to do. Choose a cardio machine, a piece of equipment like a Kettlebell, or just use your bodyweight. The point is to do intervals of movement as intensely as you can. At first, go for something like 30 seconds of work followed by one minute of rest. Do these intervals for 20 minutes. As you get better, you can increase the work time and decrease the rest time.
Strength training is a good idea for everybody. For the best results, try intermixing the strength training exercises with bodyweight exercises, and do them three times a week at most. More isn’t necessarily better when it comes to strength training – in fact, too much training can damage your strengthening process. If you also want to improve your cardiovascular health or lose weight, consider adding cardiovascular exercise, such as walking or running, which helps you burn fat.
What’s more, when you strength train, you get more calorie-torching bang for your buck. Working with weights keeps your body working long after you’ve stopped lifting. This is the process commonly called “after-burn.” There is much talk in exercise circles about the body’s ability to continue burning calories after exercise, called “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption,” or EPOC. A study reported by the University of New Mexico (UNM) reports that the body takes between 15 minutes and 48 hours to return to a resting state after exercise. This means you can continue burning calories after you exercise. The UNM study reports that the intensity of the workout has the most effect on how long the after-burn effect lasts.
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.
Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, holding a light-to-medium-weight dumbbell at your right shoulder, core braced and chest up. Keeping your chest up, bend at the knees and push your hips back, lowering into a squat; squat down as low as is comfortable or until your thighs are parallel with the ground, whichever comes first. Work to keep your shoulders square and balanced as you do this. Pause for a moment, then stand back up. As you stand, straighten your right arm upwards, pressing the dumbbell overhead. That’s 1 rep. Repeat reps until time’s up. Do 2 sets per arm.

If you’ve ever skipped a workout because you’re just too sore from a previous one (hey, these videos are tough!), you’re definitely not alone. That’s why we love this easy-to-follow routine. It features exercises that stretch and strengthen your muscles simultaneously so you give your body the chance to recover—without skipping a workout altogether. That’s what we consider a win-win.


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.
For the ladies out there who want a nice gym routine, this post is for you! Before having my son, I went to the gym 5 days per week and I used a simple 12 week style lifting program from www.simplyshredded.com. In addition to my gym workouts, I would do the home workouts listed in my bundle that I mentioned above. I had never been so ripped or fit in my life-the hard work totally paid off! The site has a ton of cool workouts and interviews, but the workout itself had been a staple in my routine for the longest time-prior to pregnancy.
LINGUVIC: Yes. If you are under five feet tall, use a 45-centimeter exercise ball. If you are under five foot six, 55 centimeter, and if you are between 5 foot 7 and 6 foot 1, use a 65-centimeter ball. A good way to test it, if there's a couple of balls in the gym or you are trying it out at a store, you should be able to sit comfortably on it at a 90-degree angle.

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."


Different exercises will require different weights, but there are some markers that can help guide you towards the right resistance, whether you're using dumbbells, kettlebells, or a barbell. Go for a weight that feel heavy enough to challenge you, but not so heavy that you sacrifice your form. For example, if you're doing 15 reps, you should feel pretty fatigued by the time you hit rep 15. If you can breeze through all your reps, though, that's a sign you should up the weight.
Cardio history: I’ve been a runner/jogger/walker the majority of my life. In my early 30s, I did a lot of running races but stopped after I became a mom at 35. Then, my cardio routine depended on what I could get done while tending to a little kid. As my daughter got older, I returned to the gym sporadically and sometimes had trainers help me (but that could never last because of the expense factor). My very recent routine, before I began lifting, was jogging on the treadmill at the recommended “fat burn” rate about two times a week, and walking briskly outdoors about five times a week for about 4 miles each time.
The unfortunate problem with injury prevention is that no one seems to worry about it until they’re already injured or in pain.  On the surface, some women appear to be exceptionally strong, but upon closer inspection, they’re actually ticking time bombs for an injury because they never built a solid foundation of good movement before piling on the heavy weights.
Keep your body fueled. Proper nutrition is also critical to lean muscle development, and fueling before and after a workout helps maximize the benefits of strength-training exercises, research has found. Before your strength workout, a light snack with carbohydrates and protein in a 4:1 ratio has been shown to be most beneficial. Examples include low-fat yogurt and a banana, or low-fat string cheese with whole-grain crackers. Within 45 minutes after a workout, eat some carbs and protein in a 3:1 ratio – such as stir-fried chicken and vegetables over brown rice.
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.
"I tried many home workouts but I always end up going back to ShaunT. Insanity Max30 is my current favorite. At 30 minutes it feels like the perfect length and it's a very well-rounded workout. It's crazy intense and easily the hardest workout I've ever done! I did three, 60-day rounds of it last year and lost some weight. I'm down a clothing size and have been able to maintain my weight loss. I've also gained muscle. But perhaps my favorite benefit is that all the interval training has really boosted my cardiovascular fitness. My resting heart rate has dropped by 10 beats per minute!" —Katie Stumpf, Milledgeville, GA
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! 🙂
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.
How her body has reacted: The strength and confidence I’ve gained through powerlifting has changed my life and my perspective on fitness. There’s a stigma about women and powerlifting — the fear of gaining bulk. No, you will not bulk unless you have a strict meal plan that purposefully makes you bulk. You will gain definition and curves, which is what I believe many women who work out strive for. In addition, I’ve revisited running. I’ve noticed that I’m not tired as quickly. I also run faster and can run a longer distance without stopping. The fat I’ve lost and the muscle and strength I’ve gained through powerlifting have helped support my running milestones. If there was a zombie apocalypse, I think I’d be able to survive!
Why? Well, one, those gyms are just too damn hot for a mid-July workout. And second, regardless of what many popular gym chains may want members to believe, “gymtimidation” is very real and very miserable. No one wants to enter a gym after a long winter of avoiding doing just that, only to glue themselves to the closest cardio machine and hope for the best.
The exact duration, frequency and intensity depends on each person’s individual needs and preferences. And even more importantly, their goals. Someone interested only in muscle growth has no true need for cardio and may not do any. Someone looking to lose fat on the other hand may need cardio to create their deficit. Then again, that same person could have created their deficit through diet alone and therefore no longer needs cardio.
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.
Start in pushup position, hands directly under your shoulders, feet slightly wider than shoulder-width. Raise your hips high, bending at the waist. (Shift your feet forward if you need to.) Keep your legs straight as you do this, stretching your hamstrings, and try to form a straight line with your arms and torso. Return to pushup position. That’s 1 rep.
Powerlifting isn’t the only way to get results. Strength training comes in far more accessible forms as well—many of which do not even require a gym membership and certainly don’t require a personal trainer. Resistance bands, cheap strips of elastic that loop around arms or legs, are one good way to build strength without weights, for instance. A 2017 study showed that when frail women over 60 who were obese worked out with resistance bands for three months, they dropped body fat and increased bone density. Another option that involves even less equipment is to use your own body weight. Sitting up and down in a chair many times builds strength, as does jumping, which uses many of the legs’ major muscles. Even walking can count as strength training, depending on the intensity.
Bodyrock.tv is one of the forerunners in online exercise videos. This popular health and exercise blog is dedicated to weight loss, fitness, beauty, food, love and relationships. “Bodyrockers” find daily at-home workouts that are either laid out with descriptions and pictures, or that are instructed in video format. All of the online workouts can be done with minimal equipment.
There were 53 comparisons of lower body strength gains, encompassing 2,287 subjects.  In these studies, men got 28.47% stronger, on average, while women got 30.64% stronger.  The average difference was 2.17%, with a 95% confidence interval from -0.92-5.26%. This was nearly a significant difference (p=0.087), but probably isn’t practically relevant and would be considered a trivial effect (d=0.08; 95% CI: -0.03-0.19).
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