Strength training will bring out definition and get you stronger but will not increase bulk. The key is the correct exercises combined with a sensible diet and a serving of aerobics. The exercises that women most commonly do to bring out definition don't really work. They do hundreds and hundreds of repetitions, spend hours and hours on the treadmill and wonder why their bodies don't change. So it's time to try strength training.
Hi, this program looks like a great intro to weightlifting! I do have a few questions though. I'm trying to get back into strength training after a 3+ month break. My main goals revolve around building muscle rather than losing fat. I definitely wouldn't mind shedding excess fat but I mainly want to focus on creating a more hourglass illusion with a more defined upper body and bigger, rounder glutes - would this be a good program to get started on? If so, is it better to start off eating at maintenance or a surplus? And if I want to build muscle, should I skip the optional cardio? Thanks!

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.
If someone else wants to use the equipment too, you can offer to let them “work in with you” – which means they do their sets while you rest, and vice versa. If you’re not comfortable with this (and chances are for your first few workouts you won’t be), it’s okay to say no or not offer. If you say no, be nice about it. Say something like “I’m almost done, just one more set and it’s all yours!” If you are comfortable with it, usually you and the other person will work together to change the weights in between each set.
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.
Fast forward to now and I’m incredibly proud of where I’ve gotten in the past few years. I’m a personal trainer and group fitness instructor in NYC. I went from zero strength to being able to dead-lift over 200 pounds, doing several pullups in a row, and can clean and jerk almost my body weight. [Editor’s note: “Clean and jerk” refers to a weightlifting movement in which the barbell is pulled up to chest and shoulder height and then hoisted above the head.] I tell every woman I meet to stop being shy and get in that weight room! If you don’t know where to begin, hire someone. You will never realize what your body is truly capable of until you start picking up real weights.
How: Lie on your back with your feet on the floor and your knees bent so that there's a 90-degree angle at the back of your knees. Place your hands on your thighs with your upper body relaxed. On an exhale, slowly roll your chin towards your chest and lift up until your shoulders lift off the floor. Your hands will slide upward toward your knees. Continue lifting up until your shoulders are completely off the floor or your fingertips reach your knees. Pause at the top for 2 seconds, then slowly lower back down to the starting position. That's one repetition. Aim for 20 to 30 reps.
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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.
Hi! Thank you so much for this plan, it has helped me so so much. I used to just stick to cardio, but after a year of no weights, I realized that the volume in my body was depleting as my weight dropped. I even started to gain as time went on, so I decided to go to the gym and lift, but I had NO IDEA how to use wights or what to do. Then, I found this program!
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.
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.
One strength training tip: Don't forget to breathe freely when you're lifting the weight. Most people think that they're breathing when they're doing strength training exercises, but they may be holding their breath. It's important to inhale and exhale fully between each repetition. The key is to keep from straining when holding your breath. You may find it helpful to exhale during the more strenuous phase of the exercise and inhale during the less strenuous phase.
Overall, I'm really happy with my results. That being said, I will say that I didn't follow through with a few things that I think would have benefited from! First, I didn't count calories. I used to do this all the time, but I found, for me, counting calories, was not good for my mental health. I intuitively eat, but I would recommend others try to count calories as much as they can! It probably could have helped me see even more results if I did. Also, I didn't do the abs on the weekends and that was a bad idea. My whole body is getting more toned accept my stomach, which is mostly just annoying.
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.
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.
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.)
I wish I’d found this 15 or so years ago when I was a dance student! Back then I had a “dancer’s physique” because I spent 3-4 hours in the studio daily either in dance technqique classes, barre/floor barre exercises or Pilates based body conditioning classes and I ate a vegan diet. However, I was also tired from over-training and plagued with repetitive strain injuries (not helped by my low protein, low fat diet).
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.
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.
First, thank you SO MUCH for posting such amazing information! Second, I’m looking to start this 12 week beginner program and just wondering if the weight should be slightly increased between sets, or just week to week? I have previous lifting experience and we would up the weight in between each set, but haven’t lifted consistently in a few years so just curious what you recommend. Thank you!!
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