Why: "Due to gravitational pull, we are constantly fighting a battle to keep our body upright with good alignment," says Perkins. "This move strengthens all of the muscles in your back improving both bone density of the spine and proper integration of the spinal column. It also helps to fight off the decrease in bone that occurs over 50 and will keep your posture upright."
Lie with your belly and chest on an incline bench set to a 40-degree incline, holding dumbbells in both hands, arms hanging naturally. Squeeze your shoulder blades, then pull the dumbbells up toward your lower chest, aiming to drive your elbows as high as possible. Continue to hold the left dumbbell in this position as you lower the right dumbbell back to the start slowly. Then slowly lower the left dumbbell back to the start. Do another rep, this time lowering the left dumbbell back to the start first. Do 3 sets.
I have always loved lifting, but I only started doing it regularly about 9 months ago. I needed to lose a bit of weight (fat), and I had no desire to sacrifice essential body parts to do so. After talking with some guy friends, I decided that lifting might be the answer. It was. I have lost two sizes, and 28 inches over all. I haven’t lost tons of weight, but I look like I have, and I did it without going on an excruciating and unsustainable diet.
Hold a medium-weight kettlebell or dumbbell at your chest, core tight, feet about shoulder-width apart. Keeping your core tight and chest up, lower into a squat, going as deep as is comfortable. Stand back up, but pause when your thighs are parallel with the ground. Hold for one second, then stand all the way up, squeezing your glutes. That’s 1 rep; do 3 sets.

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.
Jessica Smith TV shares a unique collection of videos with 7-minute, 10-minute and 30-minute in-home exercise programs. She offers a really great variety of workout styles – Some focus on fat burning, others on cardio conditioning, workouts for beginners, kickboxing workouts and more. Jessica is an energetic instructor that will motivate you to join her.

I am a 47 year old woman that has been athletic all my life. I love to tinker with my own training – my training goals are somewhat contradictory – faster 1/2 marathon times and stronger lifts. I just discovered your content a few months ago (MASS subscriber as well) and have found it extremely helpful in trying to create plans that achieve both without over training. But I really appreciate the attention and info for female athletes – this article in particular. There is much more work to be done by the research community – but anything that continues to educate women about the value of resistance training is a needed step to a healthier community
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 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.
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.
"I've always hated running. I was the kid who would get a doctor's note saying I had 'bad knees' to excuse me from running in gym class. But then I heard about the program C25K (Couch to 5K) that is geared specifically for non-runners. The program is eight weeks, and you can do it all without a gym. The first time I ran eight minutes without stopping, I sobbed for joy. Soon enough I was running a full 5K without a problem. That was huge for me! At that point I added TurboJam DVDs to my workout routine on days that I couldn't run outside. I also started tracking my nutrition using the My Fitness Pal app. It helped me realize I actually wasn't eating enough calories! I upped my calories and kept working out at home and I ended up losing 20 pounds. My clothes fit so much better now. The funniest part is that all the running has actually helped strengthen my bad knees." —Mandy Powell, Mendon, UT
Most women have “trouble areas” or places on the body where the most fat is stored and it is difficult to get rid of. In most women these areas are primarily the thighs, glutes (butt), and in some women the triceps (back of the arms) and “love handles”. After dieting to lose weight and tone up these trouble areas the last thing you want to do is regain excess fat. If you don’t keep your diet clean and controlled you will gain fat, and it will most likely be in these trouble areas. We will go over why these trouble areas exist and then outline a plan to keep these trouble areas lean and sexy while adding lean mass.
The good news is that this doesn’t have to happen! The word “sedentary” is key. Strength training is important for everyone, but after 50 it becomes more crucial than ever. It ceases to be about big biceps or flat abs but rather takes on a tone of maintaining a strong, healthy body less prone to injury and illness. The important benefits of strength training after 50 include:

Some of my acquaintances at the gym were actually startled when I abandoned the cardio equipment in favor of the ugly dumbbells and weight plates. I have been asked the “aren’t you afraid of bulk” question more times than I care to think about. When I am standing right there, clearly not bulky, this question seems a bit disingenuous. I haven’t really figured out why people keep asking. Having to explain how it is physically impossible for me to ever build enough muscle to be bulky has gotten a bit old. I think from now on I will simply refer them to your article.


Perform one circuit training session each week. My circuit training program combines dumbbell weights with rapid movement between each exercise. Use my circuit program and modify it if you need to, by slowing it down, so that you can complete at least three circuits. This is designed to get you working somewhat hard, so give it your best shot. You will breathe heavier and you should break a sweat.


Finally, women also have to deal with the menstrual cycle (women taking hormonal contraceptives can probably ignore this paragraph).  There’s some evidence that women’s response to training varies based on menstrual cycle phase.  For starters, it takes women longer to recover from training during the luteal phase (last half) of the menstrual cycle.  Building on that, several studies (one, two, three) show that concentrating your training during the follicular phase (first half of the cycle) can lead to larger strength gains and more muscle growth than concentrating your training during the luteal phase or evenly dispersing it across the entire month.  On a more practical level, it’s probably not wise to use an extreme program like the ones used in those studies (for example, training 3-5 times per week during the follicular phase, and only once per week during the luteal phase), but it’s possible that you can increase your progress in the gym while minimizing overtraining risk by adding an extra workout or two per week during the follicular phase.  For example, if you normally train three times per week, every week, you could probably keep training three times per week during the luteal phase, but increase your frequency to four or five times per week during the follicular phase. This would help you take advantage of faster recovery rates and reap the benefits of the larger strength gains and enhanced muscle growth that occur during the follicular phase.

 WomenStrength and GirlStrength are happy to set up booths or tables at events so that we can spread the word about the fantastic services the programs have to offer. Our booths provide program information, information and resources on violence against women, facts and myths about violence and sexual assault, as well as information and tips for personal safety.


This comment made me think about my husband pointing out to me that my upper traps are getting too big. He doesn’t like it. In fact, he doesn’t like me building muscle at all, and insists I need to be doing low weights and high reps to only “tone”. “You don’t need to be struggling on those heavy lists, you get more range of motion on the low weight, high reps”. “That’s all you need” he says. I feel so discouraged by not having the support, but I won’t stop my lifting (and heavy at that). I love lifting weights, and I love challenging myself with the heavier lifts.
I have a question that I’m pretty embarrassed to ask in person so I’d like your opinion on it. I am a woman who prefers wearing men’s clothing. My current measurements make me fit a men’s XS. Even though I am a woman and it’s harder to build muscle, is it realistic for me to expect to bulk up at least to reach a size S or will results never be that big? I guess my question is, how much can a woman bulk up naturally by doing weight training? Thanks so much.
Lie with your belly and chest on an incline bench set to a 40-degree incline, holding dumbbells in both hands, arms hanging naturally. Squeeze your shoulder blades, then pull the dumbbells up toward your lower chest, aiming to drive your elbows as high as possible. Continue to hold the left dumbbell in this position as you lower the right dumbbell back to the start slowly. Then slowly lower the left dumbbell back to the start. Do another rep, this time lowering the left dumbbell back to the start first. Do 3 sets.
Hold light-to-medium-weight dumbbells at your sides, then brace your core and hinge at your hips until your torso is at about a 45-degree angle with the ground. Let your arms hang naturally with the weights. Squeeze your shoulder blades and continue bracing your core. This is the start. Keeping your shoulder blades squeezed, row the right dumbbell upwards, driving your elbow up high and pulling the dumbbell to your ribcage. Pause then return to the start. Repeat on the other side. Alternate reps on both sides until time is up. Do 3 sets.

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
Great article. I’ve been in the weight room now for almost two months and I love it. Im 5’8 130 and I’m already seeing results. I have biceps! I went from the tiny weights to 35 lbs bicep concentration curls. My husband is my acting trainer. It was very intimidating at first but I actually get the head nods from the guys at the gym so I feel accepted. I think they are just trying to see if I keep coming back. I cant wait to see how far I can go.
This DVD is focused on strength training, and you can choose whether you want to do an upper or lower body workout, an abs and back routine, or a quickie 10-minute total body session. But don't think you have to be super buff to jump in: This DVD is designed for people of any fitness level, and you'll need minimal equipment — only a stretch band and exercise ball — to get started.

One of the beautiful things about yoga is that you can do it anywhere, anytime. (Even in the middle of a desert, as this video proves.) But sometimes you need some instruction to get through an entire sequence. That’s where Tara Stiles comes in. The New York City-based yogi teaches a full flow class in this excellent 50-minute video (one of the best YouTube workouts, in our opinion). Her detailed, easy-to-follow instructions make it seem as though you’re working one-on-one with her, and by the end of it, you’ve had a super solid yoga experience.

Though BeFit is another company that provides the majority of it’s content via paid downloads, subscription services and DVDs, it can still be a great resource for free, at-home workouts. It boasts a plethora of videos in the 10 to 20-minute range, done by top fitness trainers like Denise Austin, Jane Fonda and Scott Herman, to name a few. While this channel is perfect for those who want to raise their heart rate in a shorter amount of time, there are a handful of longer videos sprinkled throughout the lineup for those with more time available. Unlike a few in this list, this channel is definitely not aimed specifically at women and has many workouts that would be suitable for men looking for a challenge.
You're right about one thing, though: training with weights will increase your lean muscle mass. That's a good thing! The more muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn. The more calories you burn, the leaner you'll get. Increased muscle mass will also add shape to your arms, take inches from your tummy, and even add some roundness to your booty! When women's magazines talk about "tone," they're really talking about strong muscles.

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.
Ha cruising around your website and thought I would read this one for fun. Thankfully you didn’t state anything I have already come to terms with in order to get results (btw love your beginner routine, yay!). It’s crazy the amount of weird looks you get from people when you tell them what you do at the gym, including my own husband. Poor guy cringes when he asks what I’ve done at the gym that day, so now I just let him beleive Ive been running on the treadmill or some zumba thing, and thats where my results are coming from lol. Little does he know my butt sits a little higher everyday because of squats <3 <3 Thanks!!!
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.
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.
Why she switched: One day, I overheard another instructor say, “If you’re trying to lose weight, you need to incorporate weights into your workout routine, not just cardio.” That was the first time I’d really heard that. After a while of just cardio, I hit a plateau and didn’t really see any changes in my body, so I decided to start lifting. The biggest motivator for me was having a lifting buddy who was also just starting out, so we could keep each other accountable.
I’m so tired of watching friends do endless cardio and Zumba classes holding one-pound weighted sticks to ‘tone’ their arms. I’m also tired of hearing “aren’t you scared of getting bulky?” when I tell them about how I love squats and deadlifts and bench presses. I’ve been lifting heavy for about 8 months and my body hasn’t looked this good in years. Thanks for writing this article.
Start standing, then bend at the waist, working to keep your knees as straight as possible (it’s OK if they bend though), and place your hands on the ground ear your feet. Keeping your core engaged, walk your hands forward until you’re in pushup position. Pause for 1 second once you’re in good pushup position, then walk your hands back toward your feet, again trying to keep your knees as straight as possible. That’s 1 rep.
Why: "One of the weakest movements for all women of all ages is pressing upward overhead," says Perkins. "Because of the reduced muscle mass at 50, this critical movement pattern is further handicapped. This move increases the lean muscle mass around your shoulders, reducing your risk for neck, shoulder, and lower back injuries when pressing something heavy overhead." (Try these 3 moves to sculpt strong shoulders.)
Thank you so much for this article, what a breathe of fresh air!!! I have been an athlete all of my life and have done very intense training with weights and have never looked like a man! When I was training my hardest back in the old high school days, I could lift 400 pounds on the leg press machine and never had man legs. I would bench press 80 or so pounds and didn’t have a man’s upper body. As a matter of fact, with a mix of heavy lifting days, with lighter lifting days (high intensity super sets, keeping the heart rate up, essentially cardio/strengthening rolled into one) I dropped my body fat percentage from 25% to 21% looked super lean yet with lots of muscle. I was 5’4 and 121 pounds. I was lifting as much as I could at the time, and I looked perfectly feminine. I was a sporty, fit, lean & ripped girl. I just cannot believe how pervasive this myth is among women. I have had to to tell women exactly what you are saying in this article, because they are so afraid that one single day of heavy weight lifting in the gym will cause them to balloon into Arnold Schwarzenegger over night! I want to see more attractive sporty and muscular women on magazines instead of these waifs who are unhealthy and provide the wrong image for women to strive for. They are only endorsing the best way to suffer from osteoporosis and getting blown away by a strong gust of wind. Keep up the good work on all of your articles that shatter the most prevalent training myths and give people the real info straight up.
But women in particular are neglecting strength training at their own peril. It’s the only kind of exercise that makes muscles bigger, which lets them generate more strength and force, faster. “Muscle mass allows us to move,” Tucker says. Young people tend to take for granted the day-to-day parts of life that require strength, like walking up stairs or picking up a baby. “But a sedentary lifestyle means that people are gradually becoming weaker over time,” he says. Building muscle can fight back against that process.
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.
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.

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.


Lie on your back on the floor, feet flat on the floor and knees bent. Hold medium-weight dumbbells directly over your shoulders, arms straight. This is the start position. Squeeze your shoulder blades, then bend at the elbows and shoulders, lowering the dumbbells until your upper arms are on the ground. Pause, then press back up to the start. That’s 1 rep. Do 3 sets.
How: Hold a 5-10 pound dumbbell in your right hand, and place your left hand on a chair or sturdy object for balance. Shift your weight onto your left foot and lift your right foot off the floor. Stand with a long, tall spine and allow the dumbbell to hang at your side. Press into the ball of your left foot so that you move upwards onto your toes. Keep your left knee fully opened without locking it. Press upward as high as possible, then slowly lower back to the starting position. That's one repetition. Aim to complete 15 reps on this leg, then switch and perform the same on the other.
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.
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 criticism: in most post the “correct form” is spoken about. I have never done weight training, let alone stepped in to the weight room at gym. Could you perhaps include an introductory post about the items one may find in the weights room and which ones are commonly used and how to use them (how do you know how to grip a dumbell? How do you grip a bar? Where? Why? When should you use gloves/chalk?) If possible, I would suggest a post about what “good form” is – when lifting where should you look, how far down should you bend, if lifting a dumbell am I allowed to swing, and for the excercises which muscles should you feel working?) I know this is a lot, but I suspect it will help clear up uncertainties about working out in the gym and at home. Plus it will be helpful to me to know which end of the bar/dumbell/thing to use! 😛

Finally, women also have to deal with the menstrual cycle (women taking hormonal contraceptives can probably ignore this paragraph).  There’s some evidence that women’s response to training varies based on menstrual cycle phase.  For starters, it takes women longer to recover from training during the luteal phase (last half) of the menstrual cycle.  Building on that, several studies (one, two, three) show that concentrating your training during the follicular phase (first half of the cycle) can lead to larger strength gains and more muscle growth than concentrating your training during the luteal phase or evenly dispersing it across the entire month.  On a more practical level, it’s probably not wise to use an extreme program like the ones used in those studies (for example, training 3-5 times per week during the follicular phase, and only once per week during the luteal phase), but it’s possible that you can increase your progress in the gym while minimizing overtraining risk by adding an extra workout or two per week during the follicular phase.  For example, if you normally train three times per week, every week, you could probably keep training three times per week during the luteal phase, but increase your frequency to four or five times per week during the follicular phase. This would help you take advantage of faster recovery rates and reap the benefits of the larger strength gains and enhanced muscle growth that occur during the follicular phase.
I recommend exercises that simulate what you do in real life, exercises standing up using your body weight, for example. These exercises not only use the muscles you're targeting, for instance when doing a lunge you're working your legs, they also challenge your core muscles, which are the muscles of your abdominals and lower back. And they challenge your coordination, which you need in real life.
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.
If you work out in a crowded gym, venturing to the free weight area may be intimidating. To make this easier you can recruit a friend to work out with you and you two can support and encourage each other. If you work out solo, load your favorite music onto your phone and listen to it while you train so you can focus on why you’re there and what you’re doing, and drown out everything else around you. You’ll still have to deal with the stench of stale sweat and cheap cologne, but at least you won’t have to hear men grunting as they flex in the mirror.
However, I am not stupid and I know that most moms just do not have that extra time to make it to the gym everyday-this is why I created my very own and affordable 12 week home workout program that uses barely ANY equipment! Instead, the program uses your bodyweight and one pair of dumbbells. It is absolutely perfect for busy mommies who want to workout when baby is asleep, for when it is super cold or super hot ouside, or just want to workout in the comfort of their own home.

Strength training by utilizing some form of resistance is a much better approach than focusing only on cardio if your goal is to achieve a toned, healthy physique, and there’s a lot of science to support it. Research shows that adding resistance training as part of your workout routine is a proven method for increasing Lean Body Mass and reducing body fat for women.
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