Unfortunately, for all of us late to the gym game (those that didn’t quite follow through on those New Year’s Resolutions but have big plans to crush them next year), that coveted summer body might not be a reality just yet. So what do you do? Do you get a gym membership and promise that you’ll go every morning right before overspending on a picture-worthy acai bowl?
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.

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.
Caffeine inhibits phosphodiesterase (PDE), causing a build-up of cAMP levels and greater effect of NE on fatty acid lipolysis. PDE blunts lipolysis; therefore inhibiting PDE allows lipolysis to proceed at an accelerated rate. The end result is there are more fatty acids available for oxidation after consumption of caffeine. Caffeine increases the release of fat from body fat stores so it can be burned, leading to fat loss.

That is, after you perform an intense HIIT session, your body expends a lot of calories bringing all of your systems back to normal so you’re not just burning calories while you’re performing HIIT, but afterwards as well.  However, more recent research has declared that the afterburn effects of HIIT are much smaller than once believed.  HIIT can be performed immediately after your strength training workout, or on a separate day from strength training.


Everybody requires a minimum number of calories to, well, live. This minimum number is called the basal metabolic rate (BMR) and can be influenced by the amount of lean muscle mass a person has. The overall number of calories your body uses on a daily basis is the sum of your BMR and additional calories you use walking, standing, sleeping, exercising, driving, and even laughing. Altogether they comprise the total energy expenditure (TEE), or your daily caloric needs.
Hold two light-to-medium-weight dumbbells with an overhand grip and let them hang at arm’s length in front of your thighs. Lift your left leg a few inches off the floor behind you; this is the starting position. Keeping your lower back naturally arched, hinge at your hips and lower your torso until it's almost parallel to the floor. Let your left leg stretch out behind you with your toes pointed down to the floor the entire time. The dumbbells should travel straight down toward the floor. Return to the starting position without letting the toes of your left foot touch the floor. That’s 1 rep. Do 2 sets per leg.
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!

Great notes! However, since people reading this might be forwarding to their girlfriend, wives, fiancees, etc, you might want to include a small section that identifies what 1 pound of muscle means. It would be a guess but most women reading this will go, “What is 10 lbs of muscle? I don’t want that!” It might say how many pounds of muscle she might need to look “toned.”


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.
"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
“There are so many misconceptions about strength and resistance training,” says Larry Tucker, a professor in exercise sciences at Brigham Young University. “One is that you’ll become muscle-bound”—so bulked up that your body becomes rigid. That myth was somewhat dispelled when athletes who started strength-training saw that they could hit a ball farther, jump higher and run faster, Tucker says. “Gradually we started realizing there are benefits beyond sports.”
I have all these cutouts from magazines, newspapers, etc with all kinds of great exercises. But this book has it all & in color. It has three level of exercises; beginners, intermediate and advanced--plus extras for different problems at each level. I was loaned a copy from my physical therapist to learn some exercises specific to my problems. After one week, I knew I needed to puchase my own copy, so I did and am delighted with it. It has all the exercises I need to do, inclluding use of stability balls of various sizes, weights, therabands, and others. I am able to exercise in my home, on my schedule, when I need, which giives me flexability. Great book for any woman who needs to start or maintain a good safe exercise program.
I recommend exercises that simulate what you do in real life, exercises standing up using your body weight, for example. These exercises not only use the muscles you're targeting, for instance when doing a lunge you're working your legs, they also challenge your core muscles, which are the muscles of your abdominals and lower back. And they challenge your coordination, which you need in real life.
Another limitation is that, in studies on untrained subjects, we can’t necessarily assume that their backgrounds are identical prior to the start of a study.  In other words, it’s possible that the “untrained” men in these studies had previously undertaken more activities outside the gym that required high levels of muscular exertion than the “untrained” women.  If that were the case, you’d expect women to have faster initial relative strength gains simply from catching up with the male baseline.

Why: "The chest muscles (pectorals) for all women are particularly weak and underdeveloped," says Perkins. "By increasing the mass in this muscle group you are adding a substantial percentage of lean mass towards your overall health. Additionally, the chest muscles are responsible for supporting breast tissue. This move will bring a bit more lift to your chest."
Strength training exercises apply stress to your muscles and your central nervous system.  In response to this stress, your body increases motor unit recruitment and efficiency.  In layman’s terms, this means that your body figures out how to make the task you just performed easier, just in case you have to perform it again in the future.  After a few weeks of increased neural efficiency, depending on the type of strength training you’re doing, your body responds to the strength training stress by tearing down muscle tissue and rebuilding it bigger and stronger than before.
One of the reasons why I love this specific routine so much is that is it easy for beginners. It does not have you doing a thousand reps and burning you out! Instead, you might notice the reps being a little lower than what you are probably used to and that is because the goal is to gain muscle-not worrying about endurance much. Also, you train 4 days per week-that screams “DO-ABLE” to me! You have two designated days where you work your upper body and the same goes for lower body.
"I used to find lots of excuses to avoid the gym—the drive, not knowing how to use the machines, and classes that were at least an hour. But with Beachbody I just change clothes, push play, and I'm done. I can get on with my day. Since 2014, I've lost close to 40 pounds and 20 inches. I went from a size 14 to a comfortable size six. Even better, I know I'm stronger than I've ever been. In the last race I ran, I came in third in my age group!" —Kristen Morgan, Knoxville, TN
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.
And remember to fuel your workout properly. Too many dieters make the fatal error of cutting back on crucial muscle-maintaining protein when they want to slash their overall calorie intake. The counterproductive result: They lose muscle along with any fat that might have melted away. Sports nutritionist Cassandra Forsythe, Ph.D., co-author of The New Rules of Lifting for Women, recommends that you eat one gram of protein for every pound of your body weight that does not come from fat. For instance, a 140-pound woman whose body fat is 25 percent would need 105 grams of high-quality protein. That's roughly four servings a day; the best sources are chicken or other lean meats, soy products, and eggs.
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.

Vasocharge is formulated to allow you to increase the intensity of your workouts while delaying fatigue, which results in greater progress being made. VasoCharge increases energy production and power output, decreases H+ accumulation and fatigue, and increases blood flow and the delivery of amino acids to skeletal muscle, making it an all-in-one pre-workout powerhouse.
And remember to fuel your workout properly. Too many dieters make the fatal error of cutting back on crucial muscle-maintaining protein when they want to slash their overall calorie intake. The counterproductive result: They lose muscle along with any fat that might have melted away. Sports nutritionist Cassandra Forsythe, Ph.D., co-author of The New Rules of Lifting for Women, recommends that you eat one gram of protein for every pound of your body weight that does not come from fat. For instance, a 140-pound woman whose body fat is 25 percent would need 105 grams of high-quality protein. That's roughly four servings a day; the best sources are chicken or other lean meats, soy products, and eggs.
"I've always hated running. I was the kid who would get a doctor's note saying I had 'bad knees' to excuse me from running in gym class. But then I heard about the program C25K (Couch to 5K) that is geared specifically for non-runners. The program is eight weeks, and you can do it all without a gym. The first time I ran eight minutes without stopping, I sobbed for joy. Soon enough I was running a full 5K without a problem. That was huge for me! At that point I added TurboJam DVDs to my workout routine on days that I couldn't run outside. I also started tracking my nutrition using the My Fitness Pal app. It helped me realize I actually wasn't eating enough calories! I upped my calories and kept working out at home and I ended up losing 20 pounds. My clothes fit so much better now. The funniest part is that all the running has actually helped strengthen my bad knees." —Mandy Powell, Mendon, UT
I highly prefer dumbbells to exercise machines, for the reasons I've said before. In other words, if you sit down on a machine and press something up, you're really getting good at sitting on a machine and pressing something up. If you sit on a ball or stand in a squat position and press up a set of dumbbells, not only are you working your shoulders, you're working your core muscles, which are your abdominals and lower back, and you're challenging your balance and coordination. In real life, we need all of those things.
If there’s one travel-friendly workout tool, it’s the resistance band. Not only does it weigh next to nothing and take up little room in your bag, it’s also super versatile. And if you’re a fan of our full-body resistance band workout, you’ll definitely dig this free workout video. It combines strength movements, like rear lunges with a rotation, with heart rate-boosting exercises for a routine that’ll challenge your entire body.
Why she switched: I switched because I started seeing and reading a lot more about women doing squats and dead-lifting, and they weren’t huge or extremely bulky, and I became very interested in trying this. Then I found Instagrammer Jen Selter (queen of squats) and admired her figure, so I followed her and began doing squats and absolutely loved the results I was seeing. As I get older, or any woman in their 40s, we will start losing muscle and I want to prevent this as much as possible. Squatting and dead-lifting have given my legs and butt a lot of shape and muscle definition.
Start in pushup position, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width. Perform a pushup, lowering your chest to an inch from the ground, then press back up. As you press back up, lift your right arm off the ground and reach it toward the sky, turning your torso to face the right side (you may need to shift your feet as you do this. Hold for 1 second, then return to pushup position and perform another rep, lifting your left arm off the ground this time. Alternate reps until time’s up for each set. Do 3 sets.

Get in pushup position with a light dumbbell outside your left arm. Tighten your core and squeeze your glutes. Doing everything to keep your torso steady, grab the dumbbell with your left hand, lift it an inch off the ground, and move it so it’s now on the outside of your right arm. Return to plank position, then repeat the process with your right arm. Work for 40 seconds, then rest for 20 seconds each set in Week 9. In Week 10, work for 50 seconds, and rest for 10 seconds each set. Do 3 sets.
Why she switched: I made the switch to more heavy lifting and dedicated powerlifting because I was always injured. I would get at least two injuries a year that would knock me out for two months, many of them stress fractures. So I knew I needed to build stronger bones, hips and glutes to support my endurance activities, and the light weightlifting wasn’t cutting it. A CrossFit gym near my house was starting an eight-week powerlifting class that was going to provide a program and culminate in a competition. It was great to have the support and coaching for the proper form. I ended up adapting quickly and falling in love with the heavy lifts and the powerlifting program. I broke six Illinois state records at the competition and was hooked. I also did not get injured that year.

"Start with two days for two to three weeks, then add a third day," says Davis*.*"Ideally, you should strength train three to five days per week, but work your way up—starting off at five days a week might shock your body." Here's a comprehensive three-day-per-week plan to get you started. Aim to complete 20-minute sessions, then gradually add on time in ten-minute increments until you're working for 45 to 60 minutes, suggests Davis.
Begin with three weight-training sessions each week, recommends Joe Dowdell, founder and co-owner of the New York City gym Peak Performance. For the greatest calorie burn, aim for total-body workouts that target your arms, abs, legs, and back, and go for moves that will zap several different muscle groups at a time—for example, squats, which call on muscles in both the front and back of your legs, as opposed to leg extensions, which isolate the quads.
Start in pushup position, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width. Perform a pushup, lowering your chest to an inch from the ground, then press back up. As you press back up, lift your right arm off the ground and reach it toward the sky, turning your torso to face the right side (you may need to shift your feet as you do this. Hold for 1 second, then return to pushup position and perform another rep, lifting your left arm off the ground this time. Alternate reps until time’s up for each set. Do 3 sets.
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.
While your total caloric intake is the most important diet factor, the ratio of protein to carbs to fat can dictate whether the weight you gain/lose is muscle or fat. A diet that contains 80% of calories from carbs, 10% from protein, and 10% from fat will produce different results than a diet containing 40% of calories from carbs, 40% from protein, and 20% from fat.

The unfortunate problem with injury prevention is that no one seems to worry about it until they’re already injured or in pain.  On the surface, some women appear to be exceptionally strong, but upon closer inspection, they’re actually ticking time bombs for an injury because they never built a solid foundation of good movement before piling on the heavy weights.
Though BeFit is another company that provides the majority of it’s content via paid downloads, subscription services and DVDs, it can still be a great resource for free, at-home workouts. It boasts a plethora of videos in the 10 to 20-minute range, done by top fitness trainers like Denise Austin, Jane Fonda and Scott Herman, to name a few. While this channel is perfect for those who want to raise their heart rate in a shorter amount of time, there are a handful of longer videos sprinkled throughout the lineup for those with more time available. Unlike a few in this list, this channel is definitely not aimed specifically at women and has many workouts that would be suitable for men looking for a challenge.
I find it hilarious that women are afraid of getting too big or bulky. I just watched a video of Jennifer Thompson benching over twice her body weight. She is a completely normal-looking woman. Yes, she’s “toned”, but even with her arms and legs exposed, if I’d seen her out of context — say, wearing a t-shirt and shorts at the beach, or walking down the street — she wouldn’t have stood out from anyone else wearing the same amount of clothing. Maybe if she’d been wearing a bikini she would’ve stood out a bit just because of how muscular her upper arms, shoulders, pecs, and abs probably are; but she certainly wasn’t “big” or “bulky” compared to an average woman.
The second portion of this first strength training note is exercises that provide the greatest benefits, and this is equally important. A dumbbell biceps curl, for example, has a small learning curve, but it won’t provide the greatest results for your effort. A better choice would be a cable pulldown using a palms-up grip — this exercise works your biceps and your back; this makes pulldowns a better choice than curls. Not only do they work a lot of muscle mass, but they have a much greater loading potential (i.e., you can get much stronger and progress quicker).

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."


Protein is a key component to building lean muscle and transforming your body. No, eating more protein won't suddenly make your muscles huge. Building lean muscle though, is essential to that "toned" look everybody's going for. Protein is made up of amino acids, which are the body's building blocks for a number of functions, including making muscle protein.
In reality, fats demand a rightful spot on your plate; they are integral to maintaining optimal health. After all, they are a macronutrient that your body needs to function. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) like omega-6 and omega-3s help keep you feeling full, cushion vital organs, assist with absorbing fat-soluble vitamins, maintain proper brain cognition and development, and are responsible for a slew other benefits.
Get in pushup position with a light dumbbell outside your left arm. Tighten your core and squeeze your glutes. Doing everything to keep your torso steady, grab the dumbbell with your left hand, lift it an inch off the ground, and move it so it’s now on the outside of your right arm. Return to plank position, then repeat the process with your right arm. Work for 40 seconds, then rest for 20 seconds each set in Week 9. In Week 10, Work for 50 seconds, and rest for 10 seconds each set. Do 3 sets.

When best friends and trainers Karena Dawn and Katrina Scott created Tone It Up, no one could have predicted the success of the company’s long-distance coaching methods just a few years later. Unfortunately, a few key factors are not free, such as the highly-praised nutrition plan and yearly workout DVDs. However, it is still possible to be incredibly successful with the shorter—but still dense—workout videos and recipes posted on YouTube. The best home regimen combines YouTube and the trainers’ website, on which they post daily plans combining multiple videos from the channel to create a full workout. To take it a step further, connect with the TIU community on Instagram for daily check-ins and challenges—such as the yearly Bikini Challenge.

Ann continues, “There is no such thing as perfect posture. Posture is not a static position, posture is dynamic, and we must constantly adapt to the situation at hand. In order to have true, deep central core stability we need a coordinated effort of our breath with our movement. Our breathing muscles, our pelvic floor, our deep abdominals, and our spinal stabilizing muscles must all work together to allow stability of the lumbar spine for movement of the arms and legs.”
Why she switched: As I’ve become a more advanced practitioner of yoga (I am now a yoga teacher and wellness influencer), I have been craving more. I used to leave a level 3, two-hour yoga class exhausted, but now I am ready for more. I also wanted a more drastic improvement in muscle mass. I have always been fairly thin and petite, but as I get older, I desire to have more of a physique. So, I decided to add in weightlifting about three or four weeks ago.

Grab a medium-heavy looped resistance band and set it up around a post of some sort so it’s at shoulder-height. Kneel facing the band, thighs perpendicular to the ground, and grab an end of the band in each hands. Move away from the band enough that there’s tension on both ends. Squeeze your shoulder blades, then bend at the elbows and shoulders, pulling the band toward the bottom of your chest. Pause when you thumbs touch the bottom of your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades. That’s 1 rep. Do 3 sets.
Next, bend your arms and slowly lower yourself until your chest is just about to touch the floor. Hold the position for a second. After holding it, straighten your arms again to return to the starting position. This is one repetition. Continue for up to 12 repetitions. To make it harder, try placing a gym bag or textbook on your back to add additional weight.
Most women have “trouble areas” or places on the body where the most fat is stored and it is difficult to get rid of. In most women these areas are primarily the thighs, glutes (butt), and in some women the triceps (back of the arms) and “love handles”. After dieting to lose weight and tone up these trouble areas the last thing you want to do is regain excess fat. If you don’t keep your diet clean and controlled you will gain fat, and it will most likely be in these trouble areas. We will go over why these trouble areas exist and then outline a plan to keep these trouble areas lean and sexy while adding lean mass.
Why? Well, one, those gyms are just too damn hot for a mid-July workout. And second, regardless of what many popular gym chains may want members to believe, “gymtimidation” is very real and very miserable. No one wants to enter a gym after a long winter of avoiding doing just that, only to glue themselves to the closest cardio machine and hope for the best.
The nutrition section of most weight training guides will try to shove a boilerplate nutrition plan in your face, but that's not how we roll. We want to instill the idea that—metabolically and physiologically—your body is unique. What works for someone else may not work for you. Understanding how your own body works and discovering your dietary needs are important concepts to remember as you form your own nutritional strategy.

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.


Because “every Heart and Soul deserves to be fit,” HASfit has pledged to provide all of its programming at zero cost. This doesn’t seem like that big of a big deal, until you realize that the company is providing not only over 1,000 full length workout routines via YouTube, but also 30-90 day fitness and meal plans. Even better, these schedules accommodate a wide range of activity levels and dietary restrictions. While the full programs are only available on the HASfit website, all of the separate routines can be found on the company’s channel as well as an estimated calorie burn for each. For a beginner’s workout, check out the video linked above; to really get your heart rate up, try one of the longer Tabata HIIT practices.
This DVD is focused on strength training, and you can choose whether you want to do an upper or lower body workout, an abs and back routine, or a quickie 10-minute total body session. But don't think you have to be super buff to jump in: This DVD is designed for people of any fitness level, and you'll need minimal equipment — only a stretch band and exercise ball — to get started.
Complete the exercises in each workout as Straight Sets. For example, you'll do one set of leg presses, rest for 30 seconds, do a second set, rest, do the third set. Then, move on to the next exercise. You'll complete all movements in both workouts this way. Complete 12 reps of all movements for 3 sets each, and rest for 30 seconds in between each set. Choose a weight load where the last two reps of every set are extra hard, where you wouldn't be able to do a 13th rep. You may find that you increase the weight load for each set while keeping the 12 reps for all three sets.
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