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?
Primarily, your diet should consist of whole foods. Sometimes, though, you can't get all the necessary nutrients from eating whole foods—even if you think your diet is perfect. That's where supplements swoop in. Supplements should complement your diet of whole foods; they should never be a replacement for something you intentionally leave out of your diet.
Start in pushup position, with your hands directly beneath your shoulders. Tighten your core and glutes and perform a pushup, lowering your torso to an inch from the ground. Press back to the start, and as you do this, remove your right arm from the ground and touch your right hand to your left shoulder. Pause for one second in this position tightening your core and trying to keep your hips level, then return to the starting pushup position. Repeat the process on the other side. This move will challenge you, but you’re continuing to build core stability. Alternate reps on each side for 4 sets. During Week 5, do the move for 40 seconds during each set, then rest for 20. During Week 6, work for 50 seconds, then rest for 10.

Place a kettlebell on the floor in front of you, and spread your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width. Push your hips back and slightly bend your knees, and grab the kettlebell handle with both hands. Start your swing with a “hike pass” to optimally load your hamstrings, insuring the handle of the bell is higher than your knees. Then explosively snap your hips forward, squeezing your glutes and lifting your chest; as you do this, the kettlebell will swing forward. As it falls back down, guide it back between your legs and, in one fluid motion, perform another swing. Do 3 sets.
What she does now: Now I spend more time on weights than cardio. Your body actually works harder and longer during and after weightlifting than cardio, so you get a bigger bang for your buck. As a working mom, it’s hard to find time to get to the gym, but I make an effort to lift three to four times a week. I focus on different areas each day — legs, back and biceps, triceps and chest, and shoulders. I try to incorporate a short abs workout into every session, too. I never do the same workout routine twice. I want my body to be surprised, and challenge my muscles in a different way each week. I do a mix of machines, free weights and body weight exercises. In addition to lifting, I still do cardio about two to three times a week. I’ve been teaching Zumba for six years and I love it. I’m able to burn upward of 750 calories a class. I also walk a lot with my family.
If you got something out of this article, I’d really appreciate it if you’d share it with your friends, your gym buddies, and anyone else who you think might benefit.  Since women are so underrepresented in strength training research, I find that this is a topic with so much misinformation swirling around.  I hope this article can serve as a small beacon of sanity.

Fast forward to now and I’m incredibly proud of where I’ve gotten in the past few years. I’m a personal trainer and group fitness instructor in NYC. I went from zero strength to being able to dead-lift over 200 pounds, doing several pullups in a row, and can clean and jerk almost my body weight. [Editor’s note: “Clean and jerk” refers to a weightlifting movement in which the barbell is pulled up to chest and shoulder height and then hoisted above the head.] I tell every woman I meet to stop being shy and get in that weight room! If you don’t know where to begin, hire someone. You will never realize what your body is truly capable of until you start picking up real weights.
Sit with both feet about hip-width apart on the ground, feet flat on the floor. Your shoulder blades should be against a bench, arms wide for stability. Lift your right foot off the ground, raising it as high as you can and bending your knee. This is the start. Now brace your core, and use your left glute to press your entire torso off the ground, driving your torso and left thigh so they’re parallel to the ground. Pause here, then return to the start. That’s 1 rep; do 2 sets per leg.
Unlike the exercises listed above, you don’t need water jugs or gym bags to complete these exercises. They can be completed with minimal equipment – usually all you need is a chair. If you want to make it harder, however, you can use jugs or bags. Try adding a couple of these exercises to your strength training routine, doing them three times a week.
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!
If you don’t have a ball you can perform the exercises on the floor or a bench. For each exercise below perform 8-12 repetitions and rest for 30-60 seconds in between exercises. Move slowly through each exercise concentrating on proper form and continued breathing. And don’t forget, it’s always helpful to have guidance. If you have the ability to reach out to a fitness professional — even if it is just for one session — he or she can help take you through proper form and teach you how to move properly for your body. Enjoy your new fountain of youth.

Some of my acquaintances at the gym were actually startled when I abandoned the cardio equipment in favor of the ugly dumbbells and weight plates. I have been asked the “aren’t you afraid of bulk” question more times than I care to think about. When I am standing right there, clearly not bulky, this question seems a bit disingenuous. I haven’t really figured out why people keep asking. Having to explain how it is physically impossible for me to ever build enough muscle to be bulky has gotten a bit old. I think from now on I will simply refer them to your article.


Thank you so much for explaining this in such a clear manner. I am also sick to death of most women’s negativity towards weight lifting created by their stupid beliefs which you have discussed here; The ingrained fear that lifting weights will make you bulky/manly! Lifting weights it the best thing I have ever done for my body and I could not be happier with the results I have achieved. The internet can be an excellent tool for research and source of information about training and nutrition. Sites such as yours are truly valuable and ones I turn to very often for guidance! So thanks again, it’s appreciated.
The first option is bodyweight training. With bodyweight training you need minimal equipment (or none at all), and you can train from anywhere.  It doesn’t matter if you’re at home, in a hotel, at a playground, in your office at work,  or traveling around the world, as long as you have enough space to move around, you can get your workout done (and fit it into a busy schedule).

Do Yoga with Me is one of my personal favourite sources for good home workouts, obviously of the yoga variety! Many of their classes are filmed outdoors in beautiful British Columbia, Canada. The level of instruction is top-notch and there are videos that focus on pretty much every part of the body (e.g. hips, hamstrings, back, etc.), so you can target the area that you need to work on most.
I weigh only 41kgs.. Slim for the most part but like most women wanted to lose belly fat and i wanted to start building muscle.. I know that you cant do targeted fat loss in certain area of our body… I have started lifting weights for just two months and i can feel and see my upper arms shaping. My question is guess, should i bulk up to build muscle??
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.
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.

Sit on the ground, with your right leg directly in front of you, bent 90 degrees at the knee, knee flat on the ground. Your left leg should be behind you, also bent 90 degrees at the knee, knee flat on the ground Your thighs should also form a 90-degree angle with each other. Now place your hands on the floor on each side of your right leg; slowly lower your chest toward your knee. Go only as low as you can while keeping your shoulders square. Pause and feel the stretch. Return to the start position, then swivel your hips so your left leg is now directly in front of you and repeat the process.
Start in pushup position, with your hands directly beneath your shoulders. Tighten your core and glutes and perform a pushup, lowering your torso to an inch from the ground. Press back to the start, and as you do this, remove your right arm from the ground and touch your right hand to your left shoulder. Pause for one second in this position tightening your core and trying to keep your hips level, then return to the starting pushup position. Repeat the process on the other side. This move will challenge you, but you’re continuing to build core stability. Alternate reps on each side for 3 sets. During Week 5, do the move for 40 seconds during each set, then rest for 20. During Week 6, work for 50 seconds, then rest for 10.
Former ballet dancer and Ballet Beautiful founder Mary Helen Bowers has serious fitness cred thanks to training Natalie Portman for her role in Black Swan. With this free workout video, she takes her expertise outside the dance studio. The 15-minute mat workout will help tone your lower body with graceful ballet-inspired movements like bridge variations.
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.
To go a little deeper, we can look at powerlifting meet results to see how the gap between men and women shifts when comparing less competitive lifters to more competitive lifters.  As mentioned in a previous article, women lift about 67% as much as men in the squat, 56% in the bench, and 71% in the deadlift, on average (using allometric scaling to correct for differences in body mass).  However, those gaps are larger when looking at less successful lifters (those in the 10th percentile of relative strength) and smaller when looking at more successful lifters (those in the 90th percentile of relative strength).  A 5th percentile woman has about 62% as much relative strength as a 5th percentile man in the squat, 53% in the bench, and 67% in the deadlift. On the other hand, a 95th percentile woman has about 71% as much relative strength as a 95th percentile man in the squat, 60% in the bench, and 75% in the deadlift.  An analysis of weightlifting results in CrossFitters had similar findings (though they didn’t correct for differences in body mass):  larger sex gaps in snatch and clean & jerk performance in lower-level lifters and smaller gaps in higher-level lifters.
Finally, women also have to deal with the menstrual cycle (women taking hormonal contraceptives can probably ignore this paragraph).  There’s some evidence that women’s response to training varies based on menstrual cycle phase.  For starters, it takes women longer to recover from training during the luteal phase (last half) of the menstrual cycle.  Building on that, several studies (one, two, three) show that concentrating your training during the follicular phase (first half of the cycle) can lead to larger strength gains and more muscle growth than concentrating your training during the luteal phase or evenly dispersing it across the entire month.  On a more practical level, it’s probably not wise to use an extreme program like the ones used in those studies (for example, training 3-5 times per week during the follicular phase, and only once per week during the luteal phase), but it’s possible that you can increase your progress in the gym while minimizing overtraining risk by adding an extra workout or two per week during the follicular phase.  For example, if you normally train three times per week, every week, you could probably keep training three times per week during the luteal phase, but increase your frequency to four or five times per week during the follicular phase. This would help you take advantage of faster recovery rates and reap the benefits of the larger strength gains and enhanced muscle growth that occur during the follicular phase.
What she does now: I’m really new to the weightlifting, and I love/hate it. I hate it because it is so foreign to me, and I have all sorts of preconceived ideas about who should really be doing weightlifting. Since it’s new to me, and I’m already experiencing a significant shift in the body in terms of inches, I have cut back on my other workouts. I’m doing hot yoga to stretch out and continuing with the swimming.
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!"

What she does now: My routine now consists of higher-intensity weight training, no more than 12 reps. I split it up into upper body and lower body, and use the maximum amount of weight I can lift. I do exercises that have big, compound movements and involve the biggest muscles — like your quads, hamstrings and glutes. My cardio I do at a higher intensity and not longer than 25 minutes, and only on the days I do my upper body. After squats and dead lifts, I can barely walk out of the gym, so no cardio.

Paying attention to your form is definitely important when you’re doing bodyweight workouts, but the risk of injury goes up when you add more weight. Be sure you’re stretching regularly, and whenever  you have the opportunity, work with a trainer, physical therapist, chiropractor or structural integrationist who can help keep your bones and muscles working together and lined up.
If you’re trying to starve your body by eating fewer calories than it needs, of course it’s going to fight back. I used to tell you that then, when you wanted to eat less than 1200 calories a day. The problem was, I thought 1200 was enough. I thought that was plenty to support a healthy body. Why did I believe that for so long? I’m sorry because I wasn’t trying to trick you or play games to get your money. I believed the lies we were fed as much as you did. 
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