Primarily, your diet should consist of whole foods. Sometimes, though, you can't get all the necessary nutrients from eating whole foods—even if you think your diet is perfect. That's where supplements swoop in. Supplements should complement your diet of whole foods; they should never be a replacement for something you intentionally leave out of your diet.
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.
I just finished with the 12th week and I feel amazing. For the first time (IN MY LIFE) I feel muscle on my arms and can see my legs getting more defined. I lost around an inch on the narrowest part of my waist and lost 4 pounds! I'm not sure what I gained in muscle.... but either way, I'm pretty happy! It's not a "dramatic result" that lots of people notice, but it's enough to make me proud of myself!
Why: "This move is one of the number-one strengthening exercises that physical therapists use for back health," says Perkins. "It strengthens your ‘posterior chain' muscles that guide nearly every move you make, including your core, glutes, back, and shoulder muscles all at once, while helping to open the hips and shoulders." (Try these 12 hip-opening yoga poses for even more strength and flexibility.)
Hi Jay.Your site is a breath of fresh air.I’m 67 and have loved working out with weights for years.Started with library physique books as they were called when I was a boy.Common sense books that taught progressive weight training.Thank you for bringing back that common sense for today’s people.I will send this information about training to my daughter. She will appreciate your advice. Best regards
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!
How her body has reacted: Besides losing 8 pounds (which I couldn’t do before for the life of me with just jogging) in just three weeks, I’ve noticed I am starting to look cut again. There is definition in my abs and arms, which I’ve not seen in a long time. I feel tight, and my skin feels better all over, has better texture. I’ve also increased my normal running speed on the treadmill from 4.2 to 5.5 miles per hour in just three weeks. I feel stronger all over, and can run up and down the stairs in my house just doing chores!
I also like that you mentioned the menstrual cycle differences. Many women and coaches aren’t aware of this (although intuitively they should have been), but it does make a difference. I did a write up on this a few months back, and a big key I see here as well is the impact on appetite (more research on this) and perceived exertion (more anecdotal). Useful for dieting phases to work that in as well. Or for a little recomp
Alistair went through the most horrific experiences in the 2nd world war. If you think of one of the awful things that happened back then in our world, Alistair went through at least 3 of them! Asked afterwards how did you cope? He talked about how whatever they did to his body, no matter how they starved, tortured, threatened or mocked him, they couldn’t have his mind. In his mind he was free.
Loved this weight training video! I am 70 years old and have been working with your videos and DVDs for about 5 years. Although I have always worked out, I really like the consistency of your workouts. I do everything from yoga to weight training to aerobic workouts 6 days a week. I had open heart surgery to remove a benign tumor from the ventricle of my heart a couple of years ago and know that your workouts before and after surgery helped me to a quick recovery. Many thanks!!
Change up your workouts. Making even small changes to your strength workout can go a long way. Try altering the order of your exercises, or incorporate new pieces of equipment for the exercises you’re already doing, such as using free weights instead of a machine. You can also replace some or all of the exercises you’re doing with moves that work the same muscle groups. For example, instead of the chest press on a weight machine, switch to push-ups.
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!
However, since most women use workout routines comprised of little “girly” weights and super high reps, and are only interested in workouts that avoid big compound exercises, using lower reps, using free weights, and absolutely never attempt to make progressive overload happen or lift anything heavier today than they lifted 100 workouts ago… most women will never build any muscle.
Tracking what you do in the gym is critical because if you don’t, it’s unlikely that you will push yourself and the weights that you’re using.  This will slow down not only gym progress, but aesthetic progress as well. Keep track of what you’re doing in the gym, workout to workout, week to week, month to month. Write down your sets, reps, and the weight you used. Make notes about each workout (for example, “weight felt easy, can go up next week” or “feeling a little sluggish today, didn’t push it.”)  This will allow you to know when to push, and know when to take it easy.
Hello, I made comments before about your program and how I really enjoyed it. Long story short, I recently found out that I have a leaky valve in my heart at 46 :( possibly from a car accident several years ago. I’m in good shape otherwise, and have been weight training for 10 yrs. I am in shock and upset that I was told not to lift heavy weight anymore. I refuse to not lift anymore, and I was wondering if you had any suggestions. Low weight, more reps? Perhaps continue this workout with less weight which is what I am doing, but I don’t feel I will get results without lifting heavier, thanks...
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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.
There are a lot of misconceptions about strength training for women, and there are a lot of reasons for those misconceptions.  Women are less likely to be represented in exercise research, women are less likely to take part in strength training or compete in strength sports, and there are still a lot of societal biases against women lifting (heavy) weights.

Progression is the secret ingredient for every successful training program. It's the reason your body changes over time. You can't do the exact same movements using the exact same weight for weeks and weeks and weeks and expect new results. You have to constantly push yourself. Once you develop a solid base, increase the weights, increase the reps, or decrease the rest periods.

Why she switched: I decided to truly switch my focus after the summer of 2016 due to a hip injury while training for a marathon. I could perform most lifts without pain, yet couldn’t run a mile. This is when I saw a shift in my body, energy and success lifting. I entered my first powerlifting competition the winter of 2016. After the second time I competed, I ran a personal-record half-marathon the next weekend.
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.
Of course, to Perkins—who is on a mission to get women weight lifting—the benefits go even deeper. "Something magical happens when you reach for a heavy object and are surprised by your own strength," she says. "It's an incredible feeling to climb a flight of stairs and feel powerful, or when you find that you no longer need the help of a man to move boxes. It's time for women to find their power."
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.
Tired of sweating all over every piece of cardio equipment at the gym and still getting zero love from the scale? You need more iron. Not in your diet—in your hands. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, a mere 21 percent of women strength train two or more times a week. What you don't know: When you skip the weight room, you lose out on the ultimate flab melter. Those two sessions a week can reduce overall body fat by about 3 percentage points in just 10 weeks, even if you don't cut a single calorie. That translates to as much as three inches total off your waist and hips. Even better, all that new muscle pays off in a long-term boost to your metabolism, which helps keep your body lean and sculpted. Suddenly, dumbbells sound like a smart idea. Need more convincing? Read on for more solid reasons why you should build flex time into your day.
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.
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.

Lowers the risk of chronic disease: Not only will strength training help save off many chronic diseases, but it also helps lessen the symptoms of issues you may currently have. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) recommends strength training for most older adults to help lessen the symptoms of the following chronic conditions: arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes, obesity, back pain, depression.


There are a lot of misconceptions about strength training for women, and there are a lot of reasons for those misconceptions.  Women are less likely to be represented in exercise research, women are less likely to take part in strength training or compete in strength sports, and there are still a lot of societal biases against women lifting (heavy) weights.
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:
Both BCAA and Glutamine oxidation/demand is increased during exercise. In order to meet this increased demand for BCAA and Glutamine, the body breaks down muscle protein. The goal of weight training is to increase protein synthesis. In order to gain muscle mass, protein turnover (protein turnover = protein synthesis – protein breakdown) must be positive. An increase in protein synthesis from weight training can lead to an increase in muscle mass. If we are increasing protein breakdown during training, we are decreasing the training session’s overall anabolic effect and limiting muscle growth.
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 in plank position, shoulders directly over elbows, forearms and hands on the ground, core and glutes squeezed tight. Now lift your right arm off the ground and reach your hand forward. Pause for 1 second then return to the plank position. Repeat on the other side. Work to keep your hips as square as possible as you do this. Alternate reps on each side for 4 sets. Work for 40 seconds, then rest for 20 on each set during Week 3. During Week 4, work for 50 seconds, then rest for 10.
In medical school, she’d counsel patients on the importance of exercise and feel like a hypocrite, she says, since she did little but shuttle from home to the hospital, spending her rare free time catching up on sleep. “My body didn’t feel good, and my mind didn’t feel very good either,” she says. But once she started taking her own advice, as a resident at Loyola University Medical Center, Dena quickly became a hard-core strength-training fanatic. Within a month of learning how to lift weights, she noticed she had more energy without needing as much sleep, she felt far less stressed out, and she saw her body tone up fast.
There were 28 comparisons of indirect measures of muscle growth (i.e. lean body mass), encompassing 1,607 subjects.  In these studies, men increased measures of lean mass by 2.03%, on average, while women increased measures of lean mass by 1.92%.  The average difference was -0.11%, with a 95% confidence interval from -0.40-0.19%. This was not a significant difference (p=0.47).
Why: "This move is one of the number-one strengthening exercises that physical therapists use for back health," says Perkins. "It strengthens your ‘posterior chain' muscles that guide nearly every move you make, including your core, glutes, back, and shoulder muscles all at once, while helping to open the hips and shoulders." (Try these 12 hip-opening yoga poses for even more strength and flexibility.)
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.

As for yoga, it is a wonderful form of exercise. But it is not the best way to change your body. I practice yoga for the relaxation benefits of it and the breath control. Everyone in my yoga class asks me how to get cuts in their arms. Yoga is an excellent complement to strength training but it does not change your body the way strength training does.


Why she switched: I switched because I started seeing and reading a lot more about women doing squats and dead-lifting, and they weren’t huge or extremely bulky, and I became very interested in trying this. Then I found Instagrammer Jen Selter (queen of squats) and admired her figure, so I followed her and began doing squats and absolutely loved the results I was seeing. As I get older, or any woman in their 40s, we will start losing muscle and I want to prevent this as much as possible. Squatting and dead-lifting have given my legs and butt a lot of shape and muscle definition.
“Absolutely ridiculous!” This is what I thought aloud while reading a popular diet book for women. It was appalling. Yogurt, cereal, coffee and a glass of juice for breakfast. Where the heck is the protein!? Sure, yogurt has some, but not enough to sustain the energy, satiation and nutrition that an active woman needs. It is time to set the record straight. We need to take these old school, fairy tale diets and trash them! Just as we burned our bras in the 60’s for equal rights, let’s burn our old diet books and get with the program—Women NEED protein!
You don’t have to lift hundreds of pounds on every exercise like a guy might, but you do have to lift weights that are equally challenging for YOU and continue to push yourself to progress and gradually lift heavier and heavier weights over time. This is progressive overload, and it’s a requirement for any amount of muscle to be built or any amount of progress to be made.
The difference between strength training for women and weight training for women is mostly semantics. Some people might even refer to it as “weight lifting for women.”. However, “strength training” may sound less intimidating to someone who has never lifted weights before, and it can be a relief to know that you can strength train (especially in the beginning) using just your body weight. 
So you think you can't dance? Now you can—and get "a good cardio workout," one reviewer said, to boot. You'll quickly love the hip-hop mix that makes up the 45-minute sesh in Groov3's Dance Sweat Live. The easy-to-learn choreography is broken down step-by-step for newbies before each sequence, "which allows you to gain confidence in your dancing as if nobody's watching" but hustles along so that "you're sweating" by the time you get into the rhythm.
Why: "The muscles of your upper arms are very small from a volume perspective. Due to the muscle loss that has occurred since your 30s (sarcopenia), these muscles are atrophied," says Perkins. "It's critical to keep your biceps muscles strong so that you are able to carry objects safely and easily. It'll also make your arms look great." (For more moves for sculpted arms, try this at-home workout.)
This cardio could be done on the treadmill, elliptical, bike, running track, etc. We usually recommend the elliptical machine as it is low impact and easy to change speeds. We also recommend doing the Stubborn Fat Cardio Protocol separate from weight training, either first thing in the morning (if training in the evening) or on off days from the gym. To start, we recommend doing the Stubborn Fat Cardio Protocol 2-4 times per week.
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.
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).
Third, men and women may respond differently to low-load training.  At this point, there’s a tremendous amount of evidence showing that low-load training (i.e. sets of 20+ reps) can build muscle just as effectively as heavier training (though just because you can build muscle effectively with low-load training, that doesn’t mean you should).  However, only one of the studies comparing high-load and low-load training was done with women.  It found that women training with higher loads (6-10RM loads) gained way more muscle than women training with lower loads (20-30RM loads).  This stands in stark contrast to similar studies performed on men, suggesting that women may respond to normal, heavy-ish training the same way men do (mostly doing sets of 5-15 reps), but may not respond as well to low-load training.

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.
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.
“I think the most important thing about any athletic pursuit for women ... is the general sense of competence you get from knowing that your body can do whatever you need it to,” says Karen Ko, a Toronto-based strength coach and personal trainer. “This is huge for women. We’re socialized to defer to men in areas of physical activity — they are the experts, they are inherently stronger than us. Strength training challenges this narrative and is extremely empowering.”
Ask 100 women this year what their New Year’s resolution will be and a third will likely answer “weight loss” in to look fitter and more toned. Many of these women will join a gym (or actually start using their membership) and center their workout around high-intensity sessions on the treadmill, elliptical, or any other cardio machine.  Running on the treadmill 4 days a week may help you lose body fat, but without adding on muscle, it won’t give you that tight, toned look.
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