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.
Thank you for covering women for a change! As an older women I am always looking for information on both groups. I have found that I do better with higher reps simply because heavier weights end up causing me injuries. I think it may be because we start so much weaker (especially me!) that we are more likely to have imbalances if we miss a muscle. Does that make sense? I also get into situations often where I can do one weight many times but can’t really do a higher weight at all. (ie 10# 16 times but 12# not at all with decent form.) So I am now using weight gloves to achieve in between weights. I usually use weights I can lift 12-15 times to (or almost to) failure, doing 3 sets total but in rotation so I have some time to recover. Is that a reasonable approach?
Start in plank position, shoulders directly over elbows, forearms and hands on the ground, core and glutes squeezed tight. Now lift your right arm off the ground and reach your hand forward. Pause for 1 second then return to the plank position. Repeat on the other side. Work to keep your hips as square as possible as you do this. Alternate reps on each side for 4 sets. Work for 40 seconds, then rest for 20 on each set during Week 3. During Week 4, work for 50 seconds, then rest for 10.
Strength training is a key part of a healthy, active lifestyle. It tones muscles, burns calories, and builds stamina for a stronger, leaner body. But learning the proper form and technique can make or break your practice. This program provides straightforward instruction, practical tips, and an efficient, effective workout for all experience levels.
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.
One of the beautiful things about yoga is that you can do it anywhere, anytime. (Even in the middle of a desert, as this video proves.) But sometimes you need some instruction to get through an entire sequence. That’s where Tara Stiles comes in. The New York City-based yogi teaches a full flow class in this excellent 50-minute video (one of the best YouTube workouts, in our opinion). Her detailed, easy-to-follow instructions make it seem as though you’re working one-on-one with her, and by the end of it, you’ve had a super solid yoga experience.
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.
This delicate balance starts to tip as people age, and “they lose more mineral from the bone than they’re able to lay down,” Hackney says. Over time, bone gets less dense and more brittle and prone to osteoporosis, a condition that affects about 10 million Americans—80% of whom are female. Women have smaller, thinner bones than men from the start, and after menopause they lose estrogen, a hormone that protects bones.
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.
How her body has reacted: Since adding in weights, I feel leaner and stronger — physically and mentally. Yoga is incredibly soothing and replenishing for me, but I wasn’t 100 percent happy with my physical appearance. I just wanted more of a body. I’m a petite woman with no curves, which can be daunting in today’s booty-obsessed world. Overall, sweating and detoxifying through working out has made me a happier, kinder and all-around better person. I now have the ability to channel my angst into something positive, benefiting myself and everyone around me. Lifting weights makes me feel like a strong, independent woman, while yoga gives me peace of mind and confidence.
Tracking what you do in the gym is critical because if you don’t, it’s unlikely that you will push yourself and the weights that you’re using.  This will slow down not only gym progress, but aesthetic progress as well. Keep track of what you’re doing in the gym, workout to workout, week to week, month to month. Write down your sets, reps, and the weight you used. Make notes about each workout (for example, “weight felt easy, can go up next week” or “feeling a little sluggish today, didn’t push it.”)  This will allow you to know when to push, and know when to take it easy.
Why: "Due to gravitational pull, we are constantly fighting a battle to keep our body upright with good alignment," says Perkins. "This move strengthens all of the muscles in your back improving both bone density of the spine and proper integration of the spinal column. It also helps to fight off the decrease in bone that occurs over 50 and will keep your posture upright."
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.
"I found Cathe Friedrich on FitTV about seven years ago. I bought her Strong & Sweaty DVDs and fell in love with her workouts. Cathe inspires me because she is in her fifties, but is as fit as ever. Even though I'm a lot younger than her, I still find her workouts to be amazing—and probably the most challenging. Her newer workouts are my current favorites because they are short and intense, utilizing high-intensity interval training and heavy weights. I lost my baby weight (I have three kids), and I've put on 10 pounds of muscle. My kids love that I can do pullups at the playground with them." —Sierra Schwartz, Buffalo, MN
Want to lose fat and achieve a toned looking physique? Fantastic! To achieve those results you must improve your strength training performance every time you repeat a workout. As a beginner strength trainee, getting stronger must be your sole priority in the gym. For the first several months you should (a) perform more reps with the same weight, (b) increase the weight, and/or (c) perform more sets for each exercise.
With that out of the way, this article is going to start with a review of the research comparing strength and muscle growth in men and women.  After that, I’ll focus just on the research using participants with prior training experience, and then I’ll review the inferences we can draw from sex differences in strength sports.  At the end, I’ll discuss some other sex differences and female-specific considerations beyond rates of strength gains and muscle growth.
Lie with your back on a bench, glutes squeezed and feet flat on the floor. Hold medium-weight dumbbells directly over your shoulders. Squeeze your shoulder blades. Keeping your left arm straight, lower the right dumbbell to your chest; pause when it’s an inch from your chest then drive it back up. Repeat on the other side. Alternate reps on both sides until time is up. Do 3 sets.
How: Stand with your feet shoulder-width distance apart and your toes turned out slightly. Extend your arms forward and keep them parallel to the floor throughout the movement. Bend your knees and reach your hips back as if to fully sit down on the chair. Lower your hips until you feel the chair underneath you, but don't fully sit. Touch the chair with your butt, then immediately press into your heels and stand back up to the starting position. That's one repetition. Aim to complete 10 to 15 reps.
Why she switched: I decided to truly switch my focus after the summer of 2016 due to a hip injury while training for a marathon. I could perform most lifts without pain, yet couldn’t run a mile. This is when I saw a shift in my body, energy and success lifting. I entered my first powerlifting competition the winter of 2016. After the second time I competed, I ran a personal-record half-marathon the next weekend.
However, the role of testosterone may be overstated.  My friend James Kreiger recently published a super thorough analysis (note: paywall, but totally worth it) on all things testosterone and muscle growth, including analyses of cross-sectional research on people with different testosterone levels, studies comparing men and women, studies where people are given exogenous testosterone, and even studies where people were put on drugs to totally suppress testosterone production.  The main takeaway was that testosterone levels can dramatically affect the amount of muscle you start with, but they don’t really impact relative rates of muscle growth.
While your body naturally produces vitamin D when you're under the sun, you're likely vitamin D deficient, especially if you have an office job or live in a region in which sunshine is a rare luxury. This deficiency affects overall health, and some studies suggest it may even hamper athletic performance and recovery from exercise. If you can't get enough vitamin D from the sun or from your diet, taking a supplement would be the next best thing.
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.
Because of hormonal changes that women experience as they get older, they naturally lose bone density, putting them at increased risk for developing osteoporosis. Routinely lifting weights slows bone deterioration and can help your bones grow stronger, help you maintain strength, and reduce your chance of developing — or slow the effects of — osteoporosis.
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.
How should I warm up for each exercise? Begin with a weight (or variation for bodyweight exercises) that allows you to perform 10 easy reps. Then add a little weight and perform 5-8 reps. You can perform a third set of 3-5 reps, with a heavier weight, if needed. Use the warm-up sets to find the proper weight/variation to use for the work sets. The goal of the warm-up sets is to hone proper technique and prepare you for the main workout.
Ask 100 women this year what their New Year’s resolution will be and a third will likely answer “weight loss” in to look fitter and more toned. Many of these women will join a gym (or actually start using their membership) and center their workout around high-intensity sessions on the treadmill, elliptical, or any other cardio machine.  Running on the treadmill 4 days a week may help you lose body fat, but without adding on muscle, it won’t give you that tight, toned look.
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