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.
Everybody requires a minimum number of calories to, well, live. This minimum number is called the basal metabolic rate (BMR) and can be influenced by the amount of lean muscle mass a person has. The overall number of calories your body uses on a daily basis is the sum of your BMR and additional calories you use walking, standing, sleeping, exercising, driving, and even laughing. Altogether they comprise the total energy expenditure (TEE), or your daily caloric needs.
As for muscle growth, there are certainly women who are genetically better at building muscle than other women… just like some men have better genetics for it than other men. But even then, the worst case scenario is that she builds whatever amount of muscle she’d like to build faster than the average woman can (which, by the way, is still fairly slow) and then just stops trying to build additional muscle beyond that point by simply training to maintain rather than progress.
Start in pushup position with your feet wide, and each hand gripping a light-weight dumbbell. Your hands should be directly beneath your shoulders. Keeping your core and glutes tight, lift the right dumbbell off the ground and toward your right ribcage, driving your right elbow up high. Squeeze for a moment, then lower it back to the start. Repeat with the left arm. On all reps, focus on doing everything possible to keep your hips and core square to the ground. They will shift a little bit (that’s OK!), but fight for good form. Alternate reps until time’s up. Do 3 sets.
Certified personal trainer Jessica Smith is showcasing her 15 years of experience in the form of weekly, full-length videos in an organized fashion. From meditation and walking practices to HIIT and barre, the channel is cleanly divided into 13 playlists that are actually maintained (a rare occurrence in the internet fitness industry). These videos have options for those with physical limitations, whether it’s chair-bound status, joint fragility or prenatal/postnatal body changes. And her adorable dog that frequently makes an appearance is an added bonus (is it just us, or is he much easier to identify with?). For those just getting started on a weight loss journey, we recommend the HIIT for Beginners series and accompanying free four-week plan.

During weeks 5-8, you will be lifting in the 6-8 rep range. What this means is that you want to complete at least 6 reps but no more than 8 reps for each set. If you cannot complete 6 reps, then the weight is too heavy and you should decrease the load. If you can complete more than 8 reps, then the weight is too light and you should increase the load.
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.
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!!

Great notes! However, since people reading this might be forwarding to their girlfriend, wives, fiancees, etc, you might want to include a small section that identifies what 1 pound of muscle means. It would be a guess but most women reading this will go, “What is 10 lbs of muscle? I don’t want that!” It might say how many pounds of muscle she might need to look “toned.”


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.

How: Stand next to a chair or sturdy object to use for balance. Hold a 5 to 10 pound dumbbell in your right hand and place your left hand on the chair. Focus your effort on your left leg and take a large step backward with your right leg. Use the strength of your left leg to lower down until your right knee nearly touches the floor. Press into your left heel to push upward, and step forward returning to the starting position. That's one repetition. Aim to complete 10 to 12 reps on this side and then complete the same on the other.

This: But, there is still no difference whatsoever in terms of the approach. The same things still have to be done. The only difference is, when someone only looking to build a smaller amount of muscle reaches that goal, they stop right there and just maintain from that point on. The person looking to get “bigger and bulkier” would just keep on going.

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.


How: Stand with your feet under your hips and hold 8- to 10-pound dumbbells at your sides with your palms facing inward. Stand with a long, tall spine. Bend your elbows and bring the dumbbells upward toward your chest, keeping your palms facing each other. Pull the dumbbells up until they touch the front of your shoulders. Pause here for 2 seconds and contract the muscles in your upper arms. Slowly lower back down to the starting position. That's one repetition. Aim to complete 10 to 15 reps.
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.
There were 32 comparisons of strength gains in young people, encompassing 1,745 subjects.  In these studies, men got 30.87% stronger, on average, while women got 45.71% stronger. The average difference was 14.84%, with a 95% confidence interval from 10.26-19.42%.  This was a significant difference (p<0.0001) and would be considered a medium effect (d=0.56; 95% CI: 0.39-0.74).  On average, strength increased about 48% faster in young women.
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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