Strength Training for Women
Who should do strength training?
You just want to lose a few pounds.
You go to the gym and hop on the treadmill or elliptical 4 days a week.
But you just can’t seem to drop the weight and keep it off.
You don’t love the way your body looks.
I’m looking at you.
You are a woman who wants to lose fat and you should strength train
The message is everywhere these days and many women have given it a try.
But you are still apprehensive.
It doesn’t make sense. You don’t want to get bigger or stronger, you just want to look better in a crop top and you don’t want your jeans to dig into your belly. You just want your hips and legs to be smaller and toned.
I see you.
My mission today is to convince you to pick up heavier weights and do less cardio.
I know it doesn’t make sense to you right now.
But trust me. It will.
Why Should Women Strength Train For Fat Loss?
- Your metabolism will be better
- Your body will be burning fat when you aren’t working out
- You’ll have better posture
- If you have aches and pains they are likely due to muscle weaknesses and imbalances
- You’ll fight inevitable bone and muscle loss from aging
- You’ll have more energy
1. Your metabolism will improve
This is the goal, right? If you have a better metabolism you get to eat more while staying leaner. There is absolutely no downside to having a better metabolism!
Your metabolism will only get worse with age if you do nothing to improve it.
If you are constantly dieting and in a caloric deficit (eating fewer calories than you are burning in a day) you will destroy your metabolism and not be able to eat very much without gaining fat.
Say goodbye to eating less than 1400 calories a day! Say hello to more than 1600 or even 2000 calories!
This is one of my favorite results of building muscle since I began in 2011.
2. Your body will burn fat while you aren’t exercising
Studies show again and again that when you strength train your body continues burning fat for much longer after you finish than when you do cardio.
Maximize your exercise time and enjoy the extra calorie burn you will obtain!
Just because your heart rate doesn’t spike as it would with running or interval training doesn’t mean your body isn’t burning fat. Remember this.
3. Your posture will improve
If you don’t care about your posture, you should.
We all sit and stare at our phones a ton and we will pay the price with hunched backs and necks.
If you want a toned tummy you need the muscle to stand taller and not hunch over!
You will love the way you stand and sit tall without fatiguing once you build some back, butt and core muscles!
4. Your aches and pains will lessen
Bad posture often leads to neck and back strain.
Weak muscles cause pain because your body is trying to overcompensate.
I struggled with chronic lower back pain that started in high school and lasted until after I graduated college. When I began to strengthen my glutes, core, and back my pain slowly lessened until it finally disappeared. My pain was a result of weak glutes and overcompensation in opposite muscle groups.
My quality of life is so much better because I started strength training. This wasn’t even why I started, but this alone has been worth the hard work and consistency.
5. Bone and muscle goes away unless you combat it
Bone loss may not be on your radar if you are young, but it hits us all at some point.
As you age, do you desire to have an active lifestyle?
Do you wish to stay lean over the years?
Then you need to build muscle. Or you will lose it.
If you are already in your 30s, 40s, 50s, or older you know what I’m talking about and you should definitely start a strength training program for women!
6. You will have more energy!
I knew I was tired in my teens but I had no idea I could combat the exhaustion.
When I started building strength in my 20s, I was shocked at how much energy I had!
As a bank teller, I had to wake up very early to get my strength training in before work but the more I consistently went to the gym, the more energy I had to enjoy the rest of my life!
Now that I have children I use every ounce of this extra energy and boy am I glad I have it!
Could you use some extra energy?
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What is strength training?
Now that I’ve convinced you to give it a try let’s talk about the basics of strength training for women.
Which movements, how many repetitions, and how many sets?
We will narrow down “strength training” for beginner women here, as doing movements such as squats, deadlifts, glute bridges bench press, rows, and the list goes on, with additional weights that are heavy enough to keep your repetitions per set between 6-12.
A note about bodyweight movements
Bodyweight movements can be extremely difficult but it is difficult to fully train the body to build muscle without some additional weights added to most movements.
A note about beginners
If you are a beginner to strength training doing heavyweights that keep you from getting to 6 repetitions would be much too difficult and potentially dangerous. Once you’ve been strength training for a while, you can definitely go heavier for less reps and I hope you will eventually!
A note about high repetitions
If you complete more than 12 repetitions you run the risk of getting into high-intensity interval training which becomes more about cardiovascular training and endurance, rather than building muscle. Let’s stick to building muscle for now.
This means that you should choose to add weights to your squat if you could successfully do more than 12 squats without weight.
On the other hand, if you can only do 3 push-ups, we want to find a variation of push-ups that can successfully get you to at least 6 in one set instead of adding weight to your back! I will teach you how to do this!
How many sets should you do?
We will stick to 3-4 sets of each exercise. If you desire to cut the time, do 3 sets. If you have more time, do 4 sets.
How do you Strength Train?
If you would like a workout plan for women, I have a FREE Strength training program for women.
Here’s a rundown of how to strength train.
What body parts do you need to focus on?
I know many women who want to just train their abs, triceps, or butts. But I want you to focus on every single body part. Your entire body will thank you for not skipping a single body part.
When you first get started it’s helpful to do full body strength sessions like the ones you’ll find in my free strength training program for women. Instead of focusing on each individual muscle we will make several groups.
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You can break it down into these categories:
- Lower body
- Single Leg
- Upper body pull
- Upper body push
Examples of each movement category
- Goblet Squats
- Back Squats
- Kettlebell Deadlifts
- Trap Bar Deadlifts
- Dumbbell Romanian deadlifts
- Leg Press
- Split squats
- Reverse Lunges
- Step Ups
- Single Leg Squats
- Bulgarian Split Squats
- Single Leg Romanian Deadlifts
- Glute Bridges
- Monster Band Walks
- Hip Thrusts
- Hip abduction
- Glute Kickbacks
- Dead bugs
- Side Planks
- Flutter kicks
- Supine Windshields
- Stability ball pikes
- Pallof Press
- Belly Breathing
Upper Body Pull
- Chin Ups
- Dumbbell Rows
- Barbell rows
- Reverse Flyes
- Lat pulldown
Upper Body Push
- Bench press
- Overhead press
- Lateral Raises
- Ring Dips
When you place these exercises together you get full body training! Once you’ve been training for a few months it is completely acceptable to move on to days where you only train lower body or you only train upper body. You could also incorporate upper body push days or upper body pull days.
As you can see there are many varieties of each movement and this helps keep things fresh! For instance, working your back by doing pull-ups will feel different than lat pull downs or dumbbell rows. There are always fun new things to try!
Don’t make it too complicated. When just getting started just get your body warm by choosing to walk, bike, or row for 5 minutes. From there I like to do about 5 minutes of just basic yoga stretches to get my body moving and the blood flowing. I focus on stretching the muscles that feel especially tight. Keep moving and don’t hold anything very long at the beginning for your warm up. Keep moving through the yoga flow.
Be sure to give yourself some time to stretch and foam roll at the end of your workout! This will keep your muscles from getting too tight and sore.
When should you strength train?
How many days per week?
My beginner plan for you is to strength train 3 times per week. Once you get your feet wet and you are consistent feel free to increase to 4 or even 5 times per week!
How many minutes per day?
Commit to at least 30 minutes for strength training. However, if you enjoy it feel free to work for up to 90 minutes! I will give you the option to superset some of the exercises (working two different movements back to back) if you desire to speed up your workout. Or you can do straight sets, which just means doing all of the sets of squats before you move on to all of your sets of glute bridges.
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Where should you strength train?
Strength Train at the Gym
The optimal place is at a gym unless you have a full gym at home.
There are so many options at the gym that you can pick the perfect size weights for your personal level.
l know it can be intimidating or expensive (or maybe you have kids!) so here are some suggestions to help make it work
- Find a cheap gym such as Planet Fitness!
- Find a 24-hour gym so you can go when it’s convenient for you!
- Grab a friend to do it with so that you have support and you aren’t alone!
- Remember people aren’t judging you, try to get outside of your nerves. We’ve all been the newbie! I was and I remember it well!
- Find a gym with reliable and safe childcare!
- Volunteer to clean or work part-time at the gym to cover costs!
Strength Train at Home
If you need to train at home it’s ok!
But you will need some equipment and it can get expensive.
Check out my resource page for my favorite fit gear.
- Yoga Mat
- 2-4 sets of Dumbbells ranging from 10 pounds to 35 pounds (depending on you!)
- 2-4 Kettlebells ranging from 20-40 pounds (again this depends on you and weights aren’t cheap so if you buy one that is too light and have to go get a heavier one you will spend a lot of money!)
- Hip circle band
- lightweight resistance band
- Pull up bar
- adjustable incline/flat bench
- step or box that goes up to your knee height
Here’s the difficult thing about picking out your weights. 10-pound dumbbells may be difficult for you to press overhead but they may be way too easy for you to row. Or a 20-pound kettlebell may make a goblet squat challenging but will be too easy for a kettlebell deadlift.
This is why I’d love for you to work out at a gym!
As you buy weights for home use, consider going to Academy or a used sports store where you can test them out and grab a weight that is slightly heavier than you anticipate needing. In my experience, beginner women underestimate their strength! Step away from the 5-pound dumbbells!! Facebook Marketplace and yard sales are also great places to find cheap equipment!
It’s easy to get started because I’ve developed the perfect program for you to follow!
The best part is that it’s FREE!
Receive the Beginner Strength Training program for Women and either fill it out on your device or print it and place it in a binder! Fill in your weights as you workout so that you can keep track easily and look back on your progress. I still have my workout sheets from my very first program in 2011. It wasn’t near as cute as the one I’ve developed for you but I LOVE looking back at how much I’ve progressed!