To begin, hold a water jug in each hand and keep your arms straight by the sides of your body. Face away from the coffee table or chair. Prop one of your feet on a coffee table or chair so that your toes are resting comfortably on the surface. This is the starting position. One leg should be propped backward onto the coffee table or chair; the other leg should be straight.

Slowly, bend the straight leg down into a squat, making sure the knee doesn’t go past your toes on the chair. The leg propped up on the chair or coffee table should also bend and lower. Continue squatting down until the knee portion of the leg on the chair or coffee table almost touches the floor. Hold it for a second. Return back to the starting position by straightening your front leg. This is one repetition. Do this for at least five repetitions.
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.

That’s unfortunate: On average, a woman over 25 years old who doesn’t do strength-training exercises loses about one-half pound of muscle each year, or roughly 5 pounds in a decade, research has found. That makes you feel weaker and look flabbier, and results in about a 3% decrease in resting metabolic rate (RMR). Over time, this slowing metabolism can lead to an increase in body fat.


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.
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.

If you’re unable to bring your hips parallel to your knee joints, start with wall squats to build up strength. Otherwise, not going fully parallel can place stress on your joints and injure your knees. I didn’t go parallel when I first started weightlifting and seriously injured my knee. In fact, I had to lay off lifting for two months to allow it to heal.


Sitting up straight on your hands and knees, knees wide and big toes touching. Exhale then lean forward, draping your torso between your thighs and extending your arms forward, palms down. Push your butt back as you reach your arms forward as far as possible. This is your starting position. Keep pushing your butt back as you lift your right arm off the ground; thread it under your left armpit, reaching to the left as far as possible. Pause and feel the stretch, then, continuing to push your butt back and keep your left hand on the ground, reach your right hand toward the ceiling. Pause, then return your right hand to the start position. Repeat on the other side. That’s 1 rep.


Start standing, holding light-to-medium-weight dumbbells at your shoulders, chest up, core braced. Step your right foot back, then bend at both knees, lowering your torso until your left thigh is parallel to the ground. Press back up to standing, then press the dumbbells straight overhead. Lower them back to your shoulders and do a lunge rep with your left leg. Alternate legs on every rep until time’s up. Do 3 sets.
Get on all fours with feet and knees hip-width apart. Place hands shoulder-width apart and spread fingers wide. Pressing firmly through hands, lift knees off mat and straighten legs. Walk hands forward and feet backwards to adjust position. (If you have tight hamstrings, bend knees gently.) Squeeze thighs and imagine pressing them against a flat plane. Press heels down onto mat as much as possible [shown]. Keep neck relaxed and breathe deeply.
How: Using 8- to 15-pound dumbbells, stand behind a chair. Place your feet under your hips and fold forward so that your head can rest comfortably on the chair or surface. Keep your knees slightly bent and your neck relaxed. Begin with your palms facing each other directly under your shoulders. Bend your elbows and pull the dumbbells towards you until your palms are next to your ribs. Draw the shoulder blades together at the top. Pause for two seconds, then slowly release back to the starting position. That's one repetition. Aim for 12 to 15 reps.
Now bring yourself into a standing position by simultaneously straightening your back and legs. Remember to keep your back straight – do not let it slouch, as this can cause injury. Once assuming the straight stance, stick your chest out and contract your shoulder blades. This is one repetition. Do at least five repetitions to build strength and muscle. Once you can do these repetitions easily, add weight to the bag.

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.
Do Yoga with Me is one of my personal favourite sources for good home workouts, obviously of the yoga variety! Many of their classes are filmed outdoors in beautiful British Columbia, Canada. The level of instruction is top-notch and there are videos that focus on pretty much every part of the body (e.g. hips, hamstrings, back, etc.), so you can target the area that you need to work on most.
What's more, increasing that afterburn is as easy as upping the weight on your bar. In a study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, women burned nearly twice as many calories in the two hours after their workout when they lifted 85 percent of their max load for eight reps than when they did more reps (15) at a lower weight (45 percent of their max).
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.
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.
As for food, I’m a huge foodie. I can’t eat the same thing every day, but some staples I always come back to include: avocado toast with poached egg and smoked salmon; chickpeas pastas with parmesan; and crispy tempeh and sweet potatoes. And I have one huge non-negotiable indulgence: Once a week, I disconnect and watch a totally goofy movie, while eating a big bowl of oats, peanut butter, and granola. (Where are my Mean Girls lovers at?)
While I was training for endurance events ... at times I felt run down, and it would be hard to eat properly and I would end up bingeing. I also was in the constant mindset of needing to be thinner to excel in endurance events, which would lead me to eat too few calories and again I would end up bingeing. So although my calorie burn was much higher while training for marathons and Ironmans, my nutrition was not nearly as good. The other thing that has changed is my confidence. I was always self-conscious of having big thighs, now I embrace them because they are strong thighs. These thighs let me squat a lot of weight! It is funny, I am even more confident in my running (short distances, of course!) and have run a lifetime mile personal record this year. I am so much more confident in my own skin, which transfers to all aspects of my life.

Proper strength training also improves posture and alignment, and can help with pelvic floor and incontinence issues.  Historically, these were thought to be issues only “older women” have to deal with, but recently, these issues have been popping up for younger women, as well.  Whether that’s because more women are engaging in more strenuous activity (like box jumps, double-unders, heavy deadlifts), or women are simply more comfortable talking about it, it’s definitely affecting women of all ages.
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.

Get in position for a kettlebell swing, except this time, as you hike the weight back, take a small step to the right with your right leg. Shift your left leg as well. As soon as the left leg lands, forcefully drive your hips forward, initiating the kettlebell swing. Repeat the pattern, this time taking a step with your left leg. Alternate reps on both sides. Do 3 sets.
Strangely, however, I couldn’t find a meta-analysis comparing strength gains and muscle growth in men and women.  I say “strangely” because there are meta-analyses covering damn near every facet of strength training under the sun.  Typically, once there are around a dozen studies on a given topic, someone’s going to do a meta-analysis. However, there have been 70+ studies comparing strength gains and muscle growth in men and women over the past 44 years, and no meta-analyses.
If you’re new to weight training, don’t worry. Perkins created this four-week program to help you to build a solid foundation of strength training and shift your body into a new place after all that cardio. The really great news? You only have to do this routine twice a week. Each week, the moves will stay the same, but we'll make the routine harder by changing the program variables (like rest, sets, reps, or load).
×