The average American flat-out loathes strength training. While about half of people do the recommended amount of aerobic activity each week, only 20% also do the muscle-strengthening moves that work major muscle groups. Yet the scientific benefits are stacking up in favor of it, from bone protection to disease prevention, and it appears to have special benefits for women.
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.
"I make my own home workouts from YouTube videos, online articles, and magazines. Most of my moves include high-intensity interval training, military exercises, and yoga. Working out at home is perfect for me because I hated the feeling of having to 'perform' at the gym, and I felt too intimidated to try new moves and equipment. Now I try new stuff all the time. I had neck surgery years ago, and my workouts have helped me regain my fitness and increase my endurance. I went from barely being able to walk to doing a Tough Mudder race. I'm also so much stronger—I can do pullups and handstand pushups now. I'm so proud of the way my body looks and performs." —Betty Nordengren, Aurora, IL
This entire site is awesome. I have very little fat on my body besides my boobs and butt, and I’ve been wondering whether I “need” cardio or not to help build muscle/tone since losing weight is not something I need or am interested in. It sounds like I do NOT, which is what I wanted to hear. I’m down with dancing around and walking around the block and doing cardio “naturally”, but treadmills and other machines bore me to death and always made me feel like a quitter. I’m so glad to know I can basically skip that crap and just focus on weight training. I’m going to send this article to every chick I know.
For general fitness, muscle toning and improved health:Begin with lighter resistance and aim for 1-2 sets of 8-15 repetitions of each exercise, with rest periods of 30-90 seconds between sets. That means you’ll do 8 dumbbell curls, rest, then do 8 again. Each time you do this, you’ll build a little more strength, and eventually you’ll be able to complete 15 curls using the same weight. The next time you work out, use the a 5% heavier dumbbell, and start at 8 repetitions again.
Certified personal trainer Jessica Smith is showcasing her 15 years of experience in the form of weekly, full-length videos in an organized fashion. From meditation and walking practices to HIIT and barre, the channel is cleanly divided into 13 playlists that are actually maintained (a rare occurrence in the internet fitness industry). These videos have options for those with physical limitations, whether it’s chair-bound status, joint fragility or prenatal/postnatal body changes. And her adorable dog that frequently makes an appearance is an added bonus (is it just us, or is he much easier to identify with?). For those just getting started on a weight loss journey, we recommend the HIIT for Beginners series and accompanying free four-week plan.
These simple weight exercises are an effective method of strength training for women that have proven results. How do we know? Just take a look at the toned body of TV and radio presenter Caroline Flack, who, in addition to practising yoga, is a fan of free weight exercises. When WH found out that the Love Island presenter enlisted the help of PT Sarah Lindsay of Roar Fitness, to devise free weight workouts for her to follow, we were keen to find out exactly what free weight exercises for women she recommends. And we did.
How: Lie on your back with your feet on the floor and your knees bent so that there's a 90-degree angle at the back of your knees. Place your hands on your thighs with your upper body relaxed. On an exhale, slowly roll your chin towards your chest and lift up until your shoulders lift off the floor. Your hands will slide upward toward your knees. Continue lifting up until your shoulders are completely off the floor or your fingertips reach your knees. Pause at the top for 2 seconds, then slowly lower back down to the starting position. That's one repetition. Aim for 20 to 30 reps.
Let’s not forget how resistance training speeds up your metabolism. With every pound of muscle you build, you will burn an additional 35-50 calories a day, even at a resting rate, and that adds up: if you gain 4.5 lbs of muscle, that’s an extra 150 calories burned a day, which is 4,500 extra calories burned each month, and THAT adds up to losing about 15 lbs a year. HELLO!
Hold light-to-medium-weight dumbbells at your sides, then brace your core and hinge at your hips until your torso is at about a 45-degree angle with the ground. Let your arms hang naturally with the weights. Squeeze your shoulder blades and continue bracing your core. This is the start. Keeping your shoulder blades squeezed, row the right dumbbell upwards, driving your elbow up high and pulling the dumbbell to your ribcage. Pause then return to the start. Repeat on the other side. Alternate reps on both sides until time is up. Do 3 sets.
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.
To hammer this point home: Staci wrote the majority of our free guide, Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to Know. The videos we mention and link to within the guide are generally of her demonstrating them. And we know that women often have to face additional challenges when training in the weight section of a gym (usually it’s idiot dudes who think they need help, ugh).