Fast forward to myself as a 30 something “skinnyfat” office worker/couch potato, I got into beginner level workouts with weights (body pump classes and kettlebell workouts). I worked out 3 times a week for 30 minutes, barely even that, did NO cardio and didn’t really diet (just upped my protein a bit and watched the carbs). The result after 7 weeks – the best body I ever had in my life, exactly the kind of dancer’s physique “girly workouts” claim to create. Better than on my dancer’s regimen.
Spark People shares short videos for all different types of home workouts, no equipment required. There are several categories – Abs, Cardio, Yoga and Pilates, as well as others that diver into healthy cooking and eating ideas. These workouts are great when you are pinched for time. Choose a 10-12 minute routine and squeeze in some activity where you normally would have skipped it altogether.
Former ballet dancer and Ballet Beautiful founder Mary Helen Bowers has serious fitness cred thanks to training Natalie Portman for her role in Black Swan. With this free workout video, she takes her expertise outside the dance studio. The 15-minute mat workout will help tone your lower body with graceful ballet-inspired movements like bridge variations.
We cannot stress enough how important it is to maintain strict form on all movements. This means stabilizing your body and contracting your abs so you isolate the primary intended muscles. For example, when doing a standing barbell curl, tighten your abs and do not rock or swing the weight. By tightening your abs, you stabilize your body and prevent momentum. This will also help condition your abs and save your lower back from injury.
Stand with feet slightly wider than hips, turned slightly outwards. Pull shoulder blades down and back. Keep chest lifted and chin parallel to ground. Tighten core and abdominal muscles, then shift weight to heels. Push hips back as if you’re about to sit on a chair and lower yourself until thighs are parallel or almost parallel to ground. Feet should be firm on ground and knees aligned with second toe, without going past toes. Extend forearms forwards to stabilise yourself [shown]. Avoid tucking tailbone or arching lower back. Return to starting position by pushing through heels.
To hammer this point home: Staci wrote the majority of our free guide, Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to Know. The videos we mention and link to within the guide are generally of her demonstrating them. And we know that women often have to face additional challenges when training in the weight section of a gym (usually it’s idiot dudes who think they need help, ugh).
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.
Most people dread the word "diet" because it dredges up images of celery stick buffets and long lists of no-no foods. While it's hard to shake this negative association, it's important to learn that "diet" isn't a bad word. Before the media beat its true definition to a bloody pulp, a diet was simply any and all foods consumed by a person. Your diet, or the food you eat, is a crucial aspect to supporting your fitness goals.
If you are in reasonably good physical condition and need to lose a few pounds, you can check out our high-power fat-loss program. But if you’re starting from scratch with a lot of weight to lose and not much experience with exercise programs, then this program is for you. It’s based around walking and weights, and also includes one weekly session of what's called a "circuit program."
With that being said, it’s certainly possible that there were differences in real-world training status that are basically impossible for a study to account for.  For example, if the men tended to train like hardcore powerlifters or bodybuilders, and the women tended to do the sort of lighter, higher-rep “toning” workouts that are often recommended to women, it would make sense that the women would gain strength faster.  In other words, “research tends to indicate that trained women still gain strength quicker than trained men, but I’m concerned those studies are hampered by methodological limitations, so I’ll continue to assume the null (similar relative rates of strength gains) until research on a more representative population is conducted” is also a very defensible position.
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.
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.
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.
Ok, so all fears gone! I will give it a try, and the cool part is that since my husband and I are trying to do something together, without kids, and look better, we could do this! But I am confused as to the ‘losing fat’ and ‘building muscle’ separate dietary reqs. I want both?! And how long to do the beginners workout before moving onto intermediate… Other than that, I’m very excited to start! I’m going to do before and after pics, and document progress. Awesome!
Grab a medium-heavy looped resistance band and set it up around a post of some sort so it’s at shoulder-height. Kneel facing the band, thighs perpendicular to the ground, and grab an end of the band in each hands. Move away from the band enough that there’s tension on both ends. Squeeze your shoulder blades, then bend at the elbows and shoulders, pulling the band toward the bottom of your chest. Pause when you thumbs touch the bottom of your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades. That’s 1 rep. Do 3 sets.
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."
Cardio history: Before I started lifting, I did many endurance events. Once I stopped playing soccer in college, I began to run and completed 10 marathons, including qualifying for and running the Boston Marathon. Running eventually led to triathlons, including three full Ironmans. During this time, I was running five days a week, anywhere from 5 to 20 miles, biking three to five days between 60 minutes and three hours, and swimming three days for about an hour.
There are some things on here that you can do from home if you own the equipment, such as I do, but there are some things you cannot do without going to a gym… because who really owns a Leg press in their home? That is why there are alternatives to almost ANY exercises such as using resistance bands instead of cables for the cable curls, etc. Tweak the program to best suit your needs!

How much weight should you use? I can’t answer that, specifically. The first thing you must do is learn how to correctly perform each exercise. Once you’re confident with the movement, use a challenging weight for every exercise, and get stronger every time you repeat the workout (more on this below). What does a “challenging weight” mean? You should have to focus and work fairly hard using an appropriate weight for the provided rep range. Stated another way: If you can easily perform 10 or more reps with a weight or variation when the goal is to perform challenging sets of 5-8 reps, it’s too easy. Use warm-up sets to find the correct weight.
Few would argue that some form of resistance training should not be part of a complete exercise program; however, the bulk of literature on the cardio-protective effects of aerobic exercise has continued to make this form of exercise preeminent and the central focus of many physical activity guidelines in Canada, the United States, and many other countries.
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