“I think the most important thing about any athletic pursuit for women ... is the general sense of competence you get from knowing that your body can do whatever you need it to,” says Karen Ko, a Toronto-based strength coach and personal trainer. “This is huge for women. We’re socialized to defer to men in areas of physical activity — they are the experts, they are inherently stronger than us. Strength training challenges this narrative and is extremely empowering.”

"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
What about cardio? Get stronger. That is what matters most when it comes to transforming your body. Extra movement is always a good thing, so you can aim for at least 30 minutes of light to moderate movement every day, or just on non-lifting days. You can do traditional cardio activities if you prefer (i.e., cardio machines), but I recommend doing something fun you actually enjoy.

Place your right foot on a bench or box that’s about knee height, bending your knee slightly, and step your left foot about 18 inches away. Your left leg should be almost straight. Bend your left knee, sitting back; your right knee will bend more as you do this and nearly touch the floor. Hold when your left thigh is parallel to the floor, then stand back up. That’s 1 rep; do 2 sets per leg.
Moderate-intensity cardio is also important because it helps you build a solid aerobic base, which is critical to performing your best. Moreover, numerous studies has proven that low-to-moderate intensities of cardiovascular exercise 3-5 days per week for 30-50 minutes are sufficient to reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Strength training is an area that is geared predominantly toward men. As a woman interested in strength training, I really appreciate that this article address the differences between men and women and helps me to understand what I can do to get the most out of my strength training. I love that there was a study done about strength gains specifically in women, it’s so interesting that women’s strength increased 27% faster than men’s.
There are a lot of misconceptions about strength training for women, and there are a lot of reasons for those misconceptions.  Women are less likely to be represented in exercise research, women are less likely to take part in strength training or compete in strength sports, and there are still a lot of societal biases against women lifting (heavy) weights.

How: Begin with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Contract the muscles of your core and stabilize your pelvis and shoulders. Shift your balance onto your left knee and your right hand. In one movement, extend your right leg back behind you and your left arm outin front of you. Extend both as far as possible and hold for 2 seconds. Slowly release both back to the starting position. That's one repetition. Immediately switch sides and perform the same with the left leg and right arm. Continue alternating sides for a total of 20 reps.


There are a lot of exercises in Lean, Long & Strong that don't require any weights at all. You don't need dumbbells or resistance bands. These exercises rely on body weight, such as lunges, plies and pushups. As you get better at certain exercises you add weight to increase the challenge. With a band it's hard to quantify how much weight you're at.

Hold a light-to-medium-weight kettlebell in your right hand and stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder width. Perform a kettlebell swing, hold the weight only in your right hand. As you complete the swing, when the kettlebell is out in front of you, shift it into your left hand for the next rep. Alternate reps back and forth until time’s up. (If you’re not comfortable shifting the kettlebell between arms on every rep, do 5 single-arm kettlebell swings with your right arm, then place the kettlebell on the ground and do 5 single-arm swings with the left; alternate those two moves until time’s up.) Do 3 sets.
You may learn proper exercise form and increase your strength rapidly. Or this strength training thing may be intimidating and mentally and physically uncomfortable at first. Move at your own pace. Don’t force yourself to do too much too soon, but don’t hold yourself back too much either. Strength training isn’t about reaching the finish line as quickly as possible only to burn out halfway there — it’s about moving at a consistent, challenging pace to ensure you get there, and go beyond.

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.

I’m so tired of watching friends do endless cardio and Zumba classes holding one-pound weighted sticks to ‘tone’ their arms. I’m also tired of hearing “aren’t you scared of getting bulky?” when I tell them about how I love squats and deadlifts and bench presses. I’ve been lifting heavy for about 8 months and my body hasn’t looked this good in years. Thanks for writing this article.


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.
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
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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).
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