Each of your workouts should include a warm-up that will activate your muscles, prepare your central nervous system for the workout, and increase your blood flow to your muscles. It's also a great idea to do foam rolling before each workout. For leg workouts, roll the quads, hamstrings, IT band, piriformis, and calves. For upper-body workouts, roll the shoulder, chest, triceps, and biceps.
I appreciate such a thorough synthesis on this topic. As a systematic reviewer, my main concern would be a lack of systematic assessment of risk of bias in the individual studies. I see you did a funnel plot to see any bias by study size, but there are so many other things involved in study quality (study design, selection of participants, statistical adjustment for potential con founders, etc). I would be interested to see how many of these studies were fair or better quality (there are several well accepted quality rating tools available for various study designs). I would also be interested to see a sensitivity analysis to see if the pooled results differ when high risk of bias studies are eliminated, for example. Thanks for an interesting read.
Stand tall and look straight ahead, then step your right foot forward and lower into a lunge until your right thigh is parallel to the ground. Keep your core tight and your chest up; your left knee should be on the ground. Raise your arms overhead and clasp your hands together, leaning back slightly. You should feel a stretch in your hamstrings and hip flexors; feel free to shift your torso to the left or right a little bit. Return to the start, then repeat on the other side. Alternate side until time expires; do this drill for 2 minutes.
Calorie counting should not be a life-long endeavor. It just doesn't effectively work in the long term. Studies show that calorie counting is prone to inaccuracy by upward of 25 percent—even if you triple-check your calculations and sources! The discrepancy arises from measurement errors on food labels, serving sizes and measurements which are impossible to reproduce consistently, different food quality, and a whole lot of guesswork.
While I was training for endurance events ... at times I felt run down, and it would be hard to eat properly and I would end up bingeing. I also was in the constant mindset of needing to be thinner to excel in endurance events, which would lead me to eat too few calories and again I would end up bingeing. So although my calorie burn was much higher while training for marathons and Ironmans, my nutrition was not nearly as good. The other thing that has changed is my confidence. I was always self-conscious of having big thighs, now I embrace them because they are strong thighs. These thighs let me squat a lot of weight! It is funny, I am even more confident in my running (short distances, of course!) and have run a lifetime mile personal record this year. I am so much more confident in my own skin, which transfers to all aspects of my life.
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.
What’s more, when you strength train, you get more calorie-torching bang for your buck. Working with weights keeps your body working long after you’ve stopped lifting. This is the process commonly called “after-burn.” There is much talk in exercise circles about the body’s ability to continue burning calories after exercise, called “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption,” or EPOC. A study reported by the University of New Mexico (UNM) reports that the body takes between 15 minutes and 48 hours to return to a resting state after exercise. This means you can continue burning calories after you exercise. The UNM study reports that the intensity of the workout has the most effect on how long the after-burn effect lasts.
The biggest factor in a diet is calories in versus calories out; your total calories will determine if you lose or gain weight. Eating too many calories will lead to fat gain. But if you don’t eat enough calories you will not gain lean muscle. Setting a target calorie intake and counting the amount of calories you eat each day is vital to losing fat and gaining lean muscle.

I have a question that I’m pretty embarrassed to ask in person so I’d like your opinion on it. I am a woman who prefers wearing men’s clothing. My current measurements make me fit a men’s XS. Even though I am a woman and it’s harder to build muscle, is it realistic for me to expect to bulk up at least to reach a size S or will results never be that big? I guess my question is, how much can a woman bulk up naturally by doing weight training? Thanks so much.

With four different 16-week programs—that’s 64 weeks of training—you get over a year’s worth of workouts, including progressions to ensure that you continue making progress. You’ll also get a training manual, exercise glossary, progress tracker, a bonus conditioning manual, plus a video library with over 70 high-definition videos breaking down each exercise, step by step.
The express route to a two-piece starts here: Bikini Body: Absolution. The pair of 20-minute workouts take the burn-and-firm approach to cinching with a cardio-focused session of jumps, squats, lunges and planks, then a toning series of what a reviewer described as "new-to-me ab exercises that kick the typical crunch's booty." Get ready for the wood-chopping arabesque move, one tester jokingly warned. So sore but so sleek!
Next, squeeze your glutes – this helps stabilize you – and push the bag up in a straight line. You may have to move your head back while pressing it up to ensure it goes up in a straight line. Hold the gym bag above your head with your arms straight for a couple of seconds before lowering the bag back to your shoulders. This is one repetition. Continue for up to 12 repetitions.
The general guideline for an active individual's intake of protein is about one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. If you weigh 135 pounds, you would aim to eat approximately 135 grams of protein. Since it's difficult to consume that much protein in two or three meals, people tend to spread it out over multiple meals and ensure that some form of protein accompanies every meal.
And this is where my fitness journey truly began. That said, I didn’t go from Cardio Fit Bunny to Girl Who Lifts in a week. I eased in by alternating between my HIIT and cardio-focused program a few days a week and weightlifting the others. After a few weeks, loving the way I felt lifting heavier, I gave my up the fat-burn routines and switched to weightlifting exclusively.
Lie with your belly and chest on an incline bench set to a 40-degree incline, holding dumbbells in both hands, arms hanging naturally. Squeeze your shoulder blades, then pull the dumbbells up toward your lower chest, aiming to drive your elbows as high as possible. Continue to hold the left dumbbell in this position as you lower the right dumbbell back to the start slowly. Then slowly lower the left dumbbell back to the start. Do another rep, this time lowering the left dumbbell back to the start first. 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.
But when I started college, I had to give up gymnastics to focus on my studies. That's when I quickly learned you can’t eat the same way when you’re training eight hours per week as you can if you’re doing almost no physical activity. Long story short: I gained roughly 20 pounds and just felt horrible in my own skin. So after the stress of getting into university was behind me, I decided it was time to “get in shape" (an expression I now hate, but more on that later).
How: Using 8- to 15-pound dumbbells, stand behind a chair. Place your feet under your hips and fold forward so that your head can rest comfortably on the chair or surface. Keep your knees slightly bent and your neck relaxed. Begin with your palms facing each other directly under your shoulders. Bend your elbows and pull the dumbbells towards you until your palms are next to your ribs. Draw the shoulder blades together at the top. Pause for two seconds, then slowly release back to the starting position. That's one repetition. Aim for 12 to 15 reps.

Now that you've got the training part down, it's time to stretch it out. (Can you say ahhh?) Stretching while your muscles are warm can help improve your flexibility, says Davis, not to mention it just feels phenomenal after you've pushed yourself hard. A light cool-down is also great for calming the nervous system. While dynamic stretches should be your go-to during a warm-up, the cool-down is where static stretching comes in—this means holding a stretch for 20-30 seconds. These four passive stretches will do nicely.
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.
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.
Now that you've got the training part down, it's time to stretch it out. (Can you say ahhh?) Stretching while your muscles are warm can help improve your flexibility, says Davis, not to mention it just feels phenomenal after you've pushed yourself hard. A light cool-down is also great for calming the nervous system. While dynamic stretches should be your go-to during a warm-up, the cool-down is where static stretching comes in—this means holding a stretch for 20-30 seconds. These four passive stretches will do nicely.
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.
That’s unfortunate: On average, a woman over 25 years old who doesn’t do strength-training exercises loses about one-half pound of muscle each year, or roughly 5 pounds in a decade, research has found. That makes you feel weaker and look flabbier, and results in about a 3% decrease in resting metabolic rate (RMR). Over time, this slowing metabolism can lead to an increase in body fat.
This is most-likely due to not being informed, or even misinformed (by the media), about how women should train. What about diet? One of the most common breakfast meals recommended to women is yogurt and a banana. Now there is nothing wrong with eating a yogurt and banana, but where is the protein and essential fatty acids? If you are a woman trying to gain lean muscle, you will need to eat adequate protein and good fats (essential fatty acids). It is time to stop listening to the media and misinformed individuals and time to become educated and get results. In this article, we will go over some basic diet and training information and then direct you to where YOU can get diet and training help and direction!
Now, I’m a student at Berkeley, so I can only fit three or four workouts into my schedule. But if you do it right, four days is enough. I do two upper-body sessions, one focused on shoulders and chest, the other on back, biceps, and triceps. The two lower-body sessions are both focused on legs and glutes. And overall, I mainly focus on compound lifts, like deadlifts, squats, hip thrusters, bench press, and military press.
Why: "The muscles of your upper arms are very small from a volume perspective. Due to the muscle loss that has occurred since your 30s (sarcopenia), these muscles are atrophied," says Perkins. "It's critical to keep your biceps muscles strong so that you are able to carry objects safely and easily. It'll also make your arms look great." (For more moves for sculpted arms, try this at-home workout.)
Why: "The muscles of your upper arms are very small from a volume perspective. Due to the muscle loss that has occurred since your 30s (sarcopenia), these muscles are atrophied," says Perkins. "It's critical to keep your biceps muscles strong so that you are able to carry objects safely and easily. It'll also make your arms look great." (For more moves for sculpted arms, try this at-home workout.)
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.

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.
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.

How can one express that this is not the case any more clearly than explaining relative gains, different baselines and even addressing the implications of the results (the very fear of getting as big vs not getting any muscularity) at great lengths like Greg did? Hey, this is strongerbyscience, the home of strong-nerds, not the clientele for a …dumb-sized pink message sticker or fitness catchphrase in a glossy lifestyle magazine. I expect the audience of this blog of having above average interest in and knowledge about the topic and reading comprehension (only their written English becomes bumpy at times as a non-native speaker like me…). I fully trust the overwhelming majority to understand the article the right way and even educate others about 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
Start with 5 reps for each exercise and use the same weight until you can perform 8 reps for every set. Once you can perform 4-5 sets of 8 reps with the same weight/variation for all sets, it’s time to add weight (to free weight exercises) or use a more challenging variation (for bodyweight exercises). Then return to 5 reps with the heavier weight/harder variation, and repeat.
I’ll admit I have not looked at any of the individual studies to see what kind of study designs you were dealing with. PEDro is designed for RCTs, and I’m guessing you didn’t have all RCTs, so I agree it wouldn’t be the best tool to use. The Cochrane Collaboration has a tool for non-randomized studies. It’s pretty in-depth but could be simplified. I would most be concerned about tracking potential bias in selection of participants into the intervention/control groups, differences beteeen groups at baseline, adjustment for any differences at baseline, measurements of intervention adherence, and handling of missing data.
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!
A 1985 study by Hunter had men and women do full-body training either three or four times per week for seven weeks.  Lean body mass increased by less than a kilo in all four groups, and bench press strength increased significantly more in the group training four times per week than the group training three times per week.  The male subjects increased their bench press by 11.87% and 16.69% in the groups training three and four times per week, respectively, while the female subjects increased their bench press by 19.54% and 33.33%.  Strength gains were not significantly different between the sexes.
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.
Calling all new moms! Whether you're looking to stay in shape during pregnancy or get back into shape post-delivery, this workout is designed to help you feel like your best self. A blend of Pilates and barre moves, it follows the guidelines of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists so that you can rest assured that you're exercising safely.
I just want to let you know that this article is absolute gold. You’re the real MVP for conducting a meta-analysis on this topic, especially when it’s so hard to find much research out there. More importantly, you’ve paved a way to explain more fully why strength training is so great for women to women and the benefits of it in comparison to men. Research is not only assuring and affirming, but it’s convincing for people who dabble with the idea of something, so thank you! Anyways, very well done and please keep doing what you’re doing!
This is true and this should be the focus. Not ‘you can’t get bulky so lift’. I’m a dancer and heavy weight training ruined my lines (which I need to work). I’m fit and strong either way but I need to be more careful with how I train because looks matter to me professionally. It would be nice to hear trainers talk more about how they tailor workouts to clients needs and wishes than to make sweeping statements about women’s bodies.

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.


And this is where my fitness journey truly began. That said, I didn’t go from Cardio Fit Bunny to Girl Who Lifts in a week. I eased in by alternating between my HIIT and cardio-focused program a few days a week and weightlifting the others. After a few weeks, loving the way I felt lifting heavier, I gave my up the fat-burn routines and switched to weightlifting exclusively.
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