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.
Strength training will bring out definition and get you stronger but will not increase bulk. The key is the correct exercises combined with a sensible diet and a serving of aerobics. The exercises that women most commonly do to bring out definition don't really work. They do hundreds and hundreds of repetitions, spend hours and hours on the treadmill and wonder why their bodies don't change. So it's time to try strength training.

Cardio history: I’ve been a runner/jogger/walker the majority of my life. In my early 30s, I did a lot of running races but stopped after I became a mom at 35. Then, my cardio routine depended on what I could get done while tending to a little kid. As my daughter got older, I returned to the gym sporadically and sometimes had trainers help me (but that could never last because of the expense factor). My very recent routine, before I began lifting, was jogging on the treadmill at the recommended “fat burn” rate about two times a week, and walking briskly outdoors about five times a week for about 4 miles each time.
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.
Second . . . the amount of time and effort that is actually required to gain muscle is something women likely don’t think about much. Maybe the cardio addicts hear “lift heavy things” and immediately have a negative reaction based on 30 or so years of hype about how women should workout. I have always hung out with guys who lift and have heard the celebratory cheers for each and every gain made, so I went into the whole lifting thing with my eyes wide open. Kudos for pointing this out!
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.
A more manageable way to track your eating habits is to identify reasonable portion sizes. Most restaurants in America shove heaping piles of food in your face to appeal to your economical compass. More food means more value for your money, right? Getting more Bang Bang Chicken and Shrimp for your buck merely means you pay for it elsewhere, like your waistline. And it's not just at restaurants. People pile their plates high with Grandma's spaghetti even when they're at home.
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.
"As a busy mom, the Beachbody programs have been a godsend. The 21 Day Fix Extreme by Beachbody is my absolute favorite. I started with the original 21 Day Fix in April 2014 and have worked up from there. I love that it's an at-home workout (and eating plan) because I can get the workout done in 30 minutes. These sweat sessions include an upper-body workout, a lower-body workout, cardio exercises, yoga, and Pilates.
Ok, so all fears gone! I will give it a try, and the cool part is that since my husband and I are trying to do something together, without kids, and look better, we could do this! But I am confused as to the ‘losing fat’ and ‘building muscle’ separate dietary reqs. I want both?! And how long to do the beginners workout before moving onto intermediate… Other than that, I’m very excited to start! I’m going to do before and after pics, and document progress. Awesome!
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.
While all cells contain some fat, it is mainly stored in muscle (intramuscular triglycerides) and in adipose tissue (body fat). Adipose tissue is the body’s main fat storage site and the fat we all want to lose. Adipose tissue is divided into individual cells called adipocytes. These adipocytes hold stored triglyceride (1 glycerol molecule bonded to 3 fatty acids) droplets, which serve as a source of energy for the body. These droplets make up 95% of adipocytes’ volume. In order for this storage of potential energy (60,000-100,000 kcal) to be used and to LOSE BODYFAT (everyone’s goal), it must be mobilized through lipolysis (the breakdown of triglycerides).
Just shy of an hour long, this video is a killer aerobic kickboxing workout. You’ll throw punches and kicks in supercharged sequences as you follow along with the ebullient Billy Blanks. Don’t be surprised if you start talking back to the screen, especially when Blanks looks straight into the camera and declares, “I see you at home! Keep going!” Talk about motivation.

Many women worry that weight training will somehow transform them into Hulk-ettes, so they spend hours doing cardio in order to maintain their "feminine" figure. The truth is, women just don't have the hormonal support to gain muscle mass like men. The hormone testosterone is responsible for large increases in muscle mass. Women's testosterone levels are a fraction of men's. That means you can bench press without concerning yourself about how much chest hair you might grow.


Stand with medium-weight dumbbells held at your shoulders, elbows pointing forward, core tight. Keeping your core tight and your chest up, lunge backwards with your right knee, stepping backwards then lowering that knee until it touches the ground or until your left thigh is parallel with the ground. Pause, then drive back up and repeat the process on the other leg. Alternate legs until time expires. Do 3 sets.
My Free Yoga is pretty much exactly as it sounds – if offers free yoga classes for you to enjoy! It is a little different than other yoga options on this list in that it is really a hub for yoga instructors to post their free yoga class videos. The video library is huge and you can search for classes that focus on your specific problem areas. For example, there is a category for those suffering from hip issues and another for those experiencing back pain.
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.
Keep pushing your butt back as you lift your right arm off the ground; thread it under your left armpit, reaching to the left as far as possible. Pause and feel the stretch, then, continuing to push your butt back and keep your left hand on the ground, reach your right hand toward the ceiling. Pause, then return your right hand to the start position. Repeat on the other side. That’s 1 rep.

"I find I have so much more success when I work out at home. You don't have to worry about what you're wearing, what your hair looks like, or what anyone will think of you. It's also my only alone time during the day. I do high-intensity interval training workouts from FitnessBlender.com. For my strength-training workouts I use Body Pump from Les Mills on demand. And sometimes I just make up my own lifting workouts based on things I've read online and podcasts I listen to. After I started working out at home, I also switched to a Paleo diet. The changes have been slow, but I've lost more than 20 pounds and put on some serious muscles. I can actually feel the muscle in my arms now." —Ami Paulsen, Denver, CO


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.
Getting comfortable with a steady running routine is definitely something to be proud of, but when you're on that cardio grind day-in and day-out, you might be ready to change things up and take on a new challenge. Time to throw some strength training into the mix. It can be a little intimidating at first if you don't know where the hell to start, but understanding the basics can help you feel confident in your refreshed fitness routine.

There's a longer-term benefit to all that lifting, too: Muscle accounts for about a third of the average woman's weight, so it has a profound effect on her metabolism, says Kenneth Walsh, director of Boston University School of Medicine's Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute. Specifically, that effect is to burn extra calories, because muscle, unlike fat, is metabolically active. In English: Muscle chews up calories even when you're not in the gym. Replace 10 pounds of fat with 10 pounds of lean muscle and you'll burn an additional 25 to 50 calories a day without even trying.

After posting her first video on YouTube in 2009, Cassey Ho’s distinct take on training has turned into one of the largest female-focused online fitness empires—Blogilates. Though the practices focus around the class created by Ho—POP Pilates, combining pop music and pilates movements to create a more danceable practice—there is a wide variety of videos available, from single-song challenges to 20+ minute workouts. Each video is equipment free, besides the optional (but recommended) yoga mat. The best part? Ho preaches body positivity, fearlessly uploading videos detailing her struggles with self image. If you’re new to the channel, we recommend the POP Pilates for Beginners – Total Body Workout; for a challenge, a video from the PIIT series, Total Body Slim Down.
The exact duration, frequency and intensity depends on each person’s individual needs and preferences. And even more importantly, their goals. Someone interested only in muscle growth has no true need for cardio and may not do any. Someone looking to lose fat on the other hand may need cardio to create their deficit. Then again, that same person could have created their deficit through diet alone and therefore no longer needs cardio.
It’s also one of the very few ways to make bones denser, a perk that is especially important for women. Lifting something heavy, like a dumbbell, makes bones bear more weight, and in exercise, stressing your bones is a good thing (to a point of course). Bones are constantly remodeling, explains Anthony Hackney, an exercise physiologist at the University of North Carolina. “Your body is always adding calcium to your bones and taking calcium away from your bones,” he says.
Hello, I made comments before about your program and how I really enjoyed it. Long story short, I recently found out that I have a leaky valve in my heart at 46 :( possibly from a car accident several years ago. I’m in good shape otherwise, and have been weight training for 10 yrs. I am in shock and upset that I was told not to lift heavy weight anymore. I refuse to not lift anymore, and I was wondering if you had any suggestions. Low weight, more reps? Perhaps continue this workout with less weight which is what I am doing, but I don’t feel I will get results without lifting heavier, thanks...
×