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! 😛
Of course, cardio is an important part of fitness too, but the benefits of strength training are major. Strength training helps build muscle, and lean muscle is better at burning calories when the body is at rest, which is important whether you're trying to lose weight or maintain it. It also helps strengthens joints and bones, avoid injury, improve your muscular endurance, and will help you give it your all during your other workouts, whether that means setting a new PR if you're a runner or pushing (and pulling) a little harder with your legs during your favorite indoor cycling class.
Hold two light-to-medium-weight 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.
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?)
If someone is offering to spot you on an exercise (like the bench press), don’t assume they think you are a newb. Probably the opposite – they just want to help. If someone asks you to spot them and you’ve never spotted someone before, tell them that you would love to help but haven’t done it before so you could use some pointers. They will tell you what they want you to do.
Powerlifting isn’t the only way to get results. Strength training comes in far more accessible forms as well—many of which do not even require a gym membership and certainly don’t require a personal trainer. Resistance bands, cheap strips of elastic that loop around arms or legs, are one good way to build strength without weights, for instance. A 2017 study showed that when frail women over 60 who were obese worked out with resistance bands for three months, they dropped body fat and increased bone density. Another option that involves even less equipment is to use your own body weight. Sitting up and down in a chair many times builds strength, as does jumping, which uses many of the legs’ major muscles. Even walking can count as strength training, depending on the intensity.
Jillian Michaels, the star trainer on "The Biggest Loser" TV series, has a series of workout videos that feature her boot camp style of motivation. "No More Trouble Zones" is a DVD that highlights classic exercises such as squats, triceps kickbacks and lunges with bicep curls. Cathe Friedrich is known for her challenging workouts using an ultra-high step and heavy weights. Her "Butts and Guts," "Muscle Max" and "Core Max" workout videos will challenge even advanced exercisers. Kathy Smith's "Lift Weights to Lose Weight Double" offers seven 26-minute workouts targeting every muscle using a Swiss ball and dumbbells. Master instructor Karen Voight's "Firm Arms and Abs" and "Lean Legs and Buns" are two separate 40-minute videos that will define your entire body. "Maximum Body Shaping" includes 46 minutes of classic dumbbell toning exercises and intense plyometrics to accelerate muscle fatigue.
How her body has reacted: Once I started lifting, I got a lot of feedback from friends saying I’d lost weight. Funny thing is, I didn’t really lose any pounds, I was just looking leaner and fitter. Now that I’ve been lifting regularly for several years, my energy is better and I feel stronger. I’m positive that my physical fitness helped me have a faster and (somewhat) easier delivery of my son in 2016. I continued to lift responsibly through my pregnancy, which helped me quickly get back into pre-pregnancy shape later. Overall, I feel better and look better thanks to this lifestyle change.
Powerlifting isn’t the only way to get results. Strength training comes in far more accessible forms as well—many of which do not even require a gym membership and certainly don’t require a personal trainer. Resistance bands, cheap strips of elastic that loop around arms or legs, are one good way to build strength without weights, for instance. A 2017 study showed that when frail women over 60 who were obese worked out with resistance bands for three months, they dropped body fat and increased bone density. Another option that involves even less equipment is to use your own body weight. Sitting up and down in a chair many times builds strength, as does jumping, which uses many of the legs’ major muscles. Even walking can count as strength training, depending on the intensity.
Start lying on your back, arms and legs extended. Tighten your abs, pressing your lower back into the floor as you do so. This should lift your legs off the floor; work to keep them straight. Lift your shoulder blades off the floor as well; keep extending your arms back as you do this. Do 4 reps. During Week 7, try to maintain the hollow hold for 40 seconds, then rest for 20. During Week 8, aim for 50-second holds, then rest for 10 seconds between reps. Can’t hold that long? Hold for as long as you can, then come out of the hold and get right back into it until time’s up.
"I used to find lots of excuses to avoid the gym—the drive, not knowing how to use the machines, and classes that were at least an hour. But with Beachbody I just change clothes, push play, and I'm done. I can get on with my day. Since 2014, I've lost close to 40 pounds and 20 inches. I went from a size 14 to a comfortable size six. Even better, I know I'm stronger than I've ever been. In the last race I ran, I came in third in my age group!" —Kristen Morgan, Knoxville, TN
Schnelle "Nellie" Acevedo is a busy Brooklyn mom of three -- 2 boys aged 7 and 9 and a newborn baby girl. Brooklyn Active Mama is a body positive community that focuses on demonstrating to all women that you can always find time for fitness. In addition to fitness content, Nellie shares her parenting stories, NYC tales and travel adventures. A hopeless running addict, Nellie has completed 16 Half Marathons and two Full New York City Marathons in 2015 & 2016. Nellie left Corporate America in 2016 to become an Entrepreneur and create her own startup Social Media Management Agency, BAM Digital Media LLC. You can find Nellie on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Periscope, Snapchat & Google Plus. -->Facebook Group!<-- Join The Women Prioritizing Fitness Facebook Group for fitness tips, tricks and motivation!
Begin with three weight-training sessions each week, recommends Joe Dowdell, founder and co-owner of the New York City gym Peak Performance. For the greatest calorie burn, aim for total-body workouts that target your arms, abs, legs, and back, and go for moves that will zap several different muscle groups at a time—for example, squats, which call on muscles in both the front and back of your legs, as opposed to leg extensions, which isolate the quads.

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.
What is the most common thing you see women do in the gym? Cardio. And if they do lift weights the pick up a 5 pound dumbbell and do endless reps. As we have discussed, women need to lift heavy, challenging weights just like men in order to gain muscle. While machines do provide sufficient stimulation to gain muscle, nothing can beat free-weight/compound exercises.
This video is proof positive that you don’t need to hit the gym—or have a ton of time or space—for a truly killer workout. Speed through this routine when your schedule is packed, and don’t worry: With exercises like one-legged squats and moving planks (and only 10 seconds of rest between each), you won’t be missing out on any muscle-building benefits.
Stand holding medium-weight dumbbells at your sides. Keeping your chest up and core braced, perform a reverse lunge with your right leg, stepping your right leg back, bending your knee and lowering your torso until your left thigh is parallel with the ground. Drive off your right leg to return to standing, then step forward with your right leg, bend both knees and lower your torso until your right thigh is parallel with the ground. Press back to standing, then repeat on the other side. Alternate reps on both sides until time is up. Do 3 sets.
While seasoned lifters may choose to do different exercises every day during a week-long period (and repeat the same moves the following week), there's no need to follow this type of program when you're just getting comfortable, says Davis. "Stick to the same basic moves two to three times a week to build a basic level of fitness and strength," says Davis. "Why complicate things if you don’t have to? Great results can be made by repeating the same workout but increasing weights as you become stronger." Switching things up can help you avoid a training plateau, explains Davis, but so can increasing weights while doing the same exercises.
Why she switched: I made the switch to more heavy lifting and dedicated powerlifting because I was always injured. I would get at least two injuries a year that would knock me out for two months, many of them stress fractures. So I knew I needed to build stronger bones, hips and glutes to support my endurance activities, and the light weightlifting wasn’t cutting it. A CrossFit gym near my house was starting an eight-week powerlifting class that was going to provide a program and culminate in a competition. It was great to have the support and coaching for the proper form. I ended up adapting quickly and falling in love with the heavy lifts and the powerlifting program. I broke six Illinois state records at the competition and was hooked. I also did not get injured that year.
I enjoy these workouts. They're straightforward and good for beginners, not too complex or exhausting. My only complaint is that the 10 minute lower body workout is done without holding weights. After she says bigger muscles should use heavier weights, she doesn't show any weights with the legs, which are pretty big muscles. Bodyweight is fine, but this isn't advertised as a bodyweight workout. I think a beginner video should show basic squats and lunges with weights. Other than that, it's great.

While seasoned lifters may choose to do different exercises every day during a week-long period (and repeat the same moves the following week), there's no need to follow this type of program when you're just getting comfortable, says Davis. "Stick to the same basic moves two to three times a week to build a basic level of fitness and strength," says Davis. "Why complicate things if you don’t have to? Great results can be made by repeating the same workout but increasing weights as you become stronger." Switching things up can help you avoid a training plateau, explains Davis, but so can increasing weights while doing the same exercises.

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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