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 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!
While your total caloric intake is the most important diet factor, the ratio of protein to carbs to fat can dictate whether the weight you gain/lose is muscle or fat. A diet that contains 80% of calories from carbs, 10% from protein, and 10% from fat will produce different results than a diet containing 40% of calories from carbs, 40% from protein, and 20% from fat.
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.
When you finally muster the courage to try some resistance training, you'll likely head over to the machines. You'll choose an open one, read the directions, and then try to copy whatever the model is doing in the pictures. "WTF am I doing?" you may ask yourself as you go through the motions. "Is this even right? I swear those directions don't make any sense. Good God, I hope no one is watching me!"
Get in pushup position with a light dumbbell outside your left arm. Tighten your core and squeeze your glutes. Doing everything to keep your torso steady, grab the dumbbell with your left hand, lift it an inch off the ground, and move it so it’s now on the outside of your right arm. Return to plank position, then repeat the process with your right arm. Work for 40 seconds, then rest for 20 seconds each set in Week 9. In Week 10, Work for 50 seconds, and rest for 10 seconds each set. Do 3 sets.

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.
Over time, I started to see all those benefits people rave about beyond weight loss, like feeling clearer and cleaner. I also started losing weight, and way more than I expected. I lost 27 pounds in four months, going from 128 lbs to 101 lbs. And while some might think “Great! She nailed her diet,” keep in mind I’m only 5’5” and the truth was, I was getting into a very unhealthy place. I felt like if I wasn’t 110 percent committed, all my efforts would be vain. I became obsessed. In retrospect, I had became orthorexic, the condition of becoming unhealthily obsessed with a healthy diet.
It's OK to be a little sore. Your muscles might feel achy or tired the day after a tough training session thanks to DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness. When you strength train you're causing microscopic damage to the tissue that will be repaired, that's how you build stronger lean muscle. Speaking of repair and recovery, though, rest days are important. "If you constantly break down muscle without a recovery period, you won’t give the muscle fibers a chance to repair and build back stronger,” explains Davis.

I’m sure there are some people in a state of mild disbelief as this point.  After all, men have more testosterone, and testosterone is anabolic; therefore, men should be at a huge advantage when it comes to building muscle and gaining strength, right?  An implication of this analysis is that, assuming a given woman and a given man start with similar amounts of muscle mass and strength, they’d be likely to gain the same amount of muscle and strength if they both started lifting.  That just doesn’t sit right with some people.


How her body has reacted: The strength and confidence I’ve gained through powerlifting has changed my life and my perspective on fitness. There’s a stigma about women and powerlifting — the fear of gaining bulk. No, you will not bulk unless you have a strict meal plan that purposefully makes you bulk. You will gain definition and curves, which is what I believe many women who work out strive for. In addition, I’ve revisited running. I’ve noticed that I’m not tired as quickly. I also run faster and can run a longer distance without stopping. The fat I’ve lost and the muscle and strength I’ve gained through powerlifting have helped support my running milestones. If there was a zombie apocalypse, I think I’d be able to survive!
"I tried many home workouts but I always end up going back to ShaunT. Insanity Max30 is my current favorite. At 30 minutes it feels like the perfect length and it's a very well-rounded workout. It's crazy intense and easily the hardest workout I've ever done! I did three, 60-day rounds of it last year and lost some weight. I'm down a clothing size and have been able to maintain my weight loss. I've also gained muscle. But perhaps my favorite benefit is that all the interval training has really boosted my cardiovascular fitness. My resting heart rate has dropped by 10 beats per minute!" —Katie Stumpf, Milledgeville, GA
Caffeine inhibits phosphodiesterase (PDE), causing a build-up of cAMP levels and greater effect of NE on fatty acid lipolysis. PDE blunts lipolysis; therefore inhibiting PDE allows lipolysis to proceed at an accelerated rate. The end result is there are more fatty acids available for oxidation after consumption of caffeine. Caffeine increases the release of fat from body fat stores so it can be burned, leading to fat loss.
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.
Strength training exercises apply stress to your muscles and your central nervous system.  In response to this stress, your body increases motor unit recruitment and efficiency.  In layman’s terms, this means that your body figures out how to make the task you just performed easier, just in case you have to perform it again in the future.  After a few weeks of increased neural efficiency, depending on the type of strength training you’re doing, your body responds to the strength training stress by tearing down muscle tissue and rebuilding it bigger and stronger than before.
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.
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.
If you’ve ever skipped a workout because you’re just too sore from a previous one (hey, these videos are tough!), you’re definitely not alone. That’s why we love this easy-to-follow routine. It features exercises that stretch and strengthen your muscles simultaneously so you give your body the chance to recover—without skipping a workout altogether. That’s what we consider a win-win.
The Nerd Fitness Beginner Bodyweight workout is a great (free) place to start if you’re looking for a super basic, easy to follow bodyweight routine. This workout from my buddy/fellow Nerd Roman takes you through some very basic movements. Beast Skills and Gymnastics WOD also both offer great tutorials and progressions on how to master bodyweight movements, both basic and advanced.
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
POPSUGAR Fitness is the health arm of the popular entertainment and media company, providing a break from the celebrity gossip and fashion pieces usually highlighted. With its origins in mind, it makes sense that the channel puts a focus on the most buzzworthy workouts of today—such as the Victoria’s Secret model workout shown above, or the plethora of celebrity-approved methods featured. However, the trend-factor is no reason to write-off the channel as trivial, as it also provides short breakdowns of often incorrectly performed exercises, such as the squat or even basic stretching. Further, the sheer variety of practices available—from The Bar Method to P90X—ensures that users can fill a full fitness plan from home.

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.
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.)
Cardio history: Before I started lifting, I did many endurance events. Once I stopped playing soccer in college, I began to run and completed 10 marathons, including qualifying for and running the Boston Marathon. Running eventually led to triathlons, including three full Ironmans. During this time, I was running five days a week, anywhere from 5 to 20 miles, biking three to five days between 60 minutes and three hours, and swimming three days for about an hour.

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.
Next, bend your arms and slowly lower yourself until your chest is just about to touch the floor. Hold the position for a second. After holding it, straighten your arms again to return to the starting position. This is one repetition. Continue for up to 12 repetitions. To make it harder, try placing a gym bag or textbook on your back to add additional weight.
Move more during non-exercise activity. Studies have shown that overweight and obese people tend to move less during everyday activities. This may be a result of the excess weight, or it may be a cause of it. In either case, it’s likely a vicious circle. Extra incidental movement throughout the day is a key factor in establishing a basis for weight loss.
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.
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.

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.


"I started with seven or eight rounds of P90X, not to get ‘ripped’ but to stay in shape. I have also tried and loved the expansion packs, P90X2 and P90X3. I love that I can switch loads of laundry during a water break, not worry about what kind of weather is outside, and work out while my kids are home. The biggest changes I have seen are in my arms, back, legs, and stomach.” —Wendy Brown, Boise, ID

A 1985 study by Hunter had men and women do full-body training either three or four times per week for seven weeks.  Lean body mass increased by less than a kilo in all four groups, and bench press strength increased significantly more in the group training four times per week than the group training three times per week.  The male subjects increased their bench press by 11.87% and 16.69% in the groups training three and four times per week, respectively, while the female subjects increased their bench press by 19.54% and 33.33%.  Strength gains were not significantly different between the sexes.
If you are in reasonably good physical condition and need to lose a few pounds, you can check out our high-power fat-loss program. But if you’re starting from scratch with a lot of weight to lose and not much experience with exercise programs, then this program is for you. It’s based around walking and weights, and also includes one weekly session of what's called a "circuit program."

Natalie Jill is a very popular fitness trainer who you will see guest starring on some of the other sites and channels found in this list. Her best home exercise videos can be found on her personal fitness blog which shares workouts for weight loss, exercise ball routines, jump rope workouts, booty belt workouts, body weight exercises and more. Natalie also shares great healthy recipes and useful nutrition tips on her site.
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.
And regarding when to switch from the beginner routine to the intermediate routine, the short answer is simply whenever the beginner routine stops working. Whether that’s after 4 months or a year… just ride it out for as long you’re progressing. I’ll actually be a writing a post in the next few weeks that will answer this question in more detail. Keep an eye out for it as well.

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 tight, 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.
How her body has reacted: The main difference I notice is that people compliment me not only on my physique (lifting weights really helps out your booty!), but people are also impressed with what I can do. It’s more than just my appearance that gives them a positive impression. It’s so utterly empowering, no feeling can match that. The other bonus is that I don’t have to work out as often to maintain my fitness. I used to put in two or more cardio hours a day! Now if I miss a day or two, it doesn’t even matter. I can eat more. My body can burn the food as fuel just by standing there. It’s amazing to me how it all works.
Dena still urges her patients to exercise. But these days, it’s a prescription she really believes. Not everyone will become a bodybuilder, but most can get stronger and feel better by moving just a little bit more. “I find myself really encouraging patients to turn to exercise as an outlet or a way to help them cope with some of the difficult things they’re dealing with in life,” she says. “The message is different now, because I do it myself.”

Hold two dumbbells with an overhand grip and let them hang at arm’s length in front of your thighs. Lift your left leg a few inches off the floor behind you; this is the starting position. Keeping your lower back naturally arched, hinge at your hips and lower your torso until it's almost parallel to the floor. Let your left leg stretch out behind you with your toes pointed down to the floor the entire time. The dumbbells should travel straight down toward the floor. Return to the starting position without letting the toes of your left foot touch the floor. That’s 1 rep. Do 2 sets per leg.

So I decided to get a gym membership and see what this weightlifting was all about. Then I started researching the best weight training regimen for my body. I scoured YouTube videos, listened to podcasts, even researched hypertrophy and the mechanisms behind developing muscle. Knowledge is very powerful, and even though I was by no means an expert at the time, it helped me gained the confidence to enter the weight room.
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