Have you ever entered the gym and then quickly turned around, intimidated by bulky men lifting twice their body weights?

“I’m not cut out for this type of thing,” you tell yourself. “I’ll just go do a Zumba class with the girls.”

Not so fast! While Zumba and other cardio exercises certainly burn calories and help heart health, weight training is the best choice for firming and toning your body.

“The exercises that women most commonly do to bring out definition don’t really work,” fitness expert Wini Linguvic told WebMD.com. “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.” [1]

Besides the benefits to your physique, you may not know that weight training burns more calories overall than other exercises. In fact, after a strength training workout, women burn an average of 100 more calories in the 24 hours after the workout! [2]

Plus, muscle affects metabolism. Simply put, when you have more muscle, you burn more calories each day—and thereby lose more weight, even when you’re not working out.

Now, you might be wondering: But what if I end up looking like those beastly men in the gym?

Fear not. Because women have less testosterone than men, there’s no way for women to become the Incredible Hulk (without steroids, that is). Weight training affects women’s bodies much differently than it does men’s. [3]

Convinced yet? Whether you are or aren’t, you’ll definitely benefit from these best tips and tricks for women’s weight training.

How Do I Get Started?

It’s a good idea to meet with a personal trainer when you first start weight training. That way, you can learn the proper lifting form. If you begin weight training on your own and learn incorrect lifting habits, this could interfere with your progress. Plus, you want to learn correct techniques so you don’t injure yourself. Start out with a beginner training program instead of jumping to skills you aren’t ready for.

It’s also good to set goals for yourself to slowly but surely improve the amount of weight you’re lifting at the gym. That way, instead of doing the same old routine week after week, you’re forcing your body to become stronger and stronger.

How Often Should I Weight Train?

Most experts recommend lifting weights three times a week. Less than this may not give you all the benefits, and more than this won’t give you enough time to recover in between workouts. [4]

Each session can last anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes. If you have the right routine, you can see benefits in as quickly as 15 minutes. More than 45 minutes, though, could overstress your muscles. [1]

And don’t worry, you don’t have to give up Zumba. You should still do cardio exercises several times a week, preferably on the days you don’t do weight training.

What Exercises Should I Do?


Focus on exercises that give you a full range of motion, like squats and lunges.

According to nutrition expert John Berardi: “Big, compound movements such as the deadlift and the squat are superior to machine, isolation-type movements for hardening up your thighs and butt as they allow you to use maximal weight while training a number of muscle groups simultaneously.” [5]

Rather than focusing on machines that isolate smaller muscles, pick exercises that work more muscles at the same time, like presses, rows, and pulldowns. These exercises help the little muscles work together with the big ones for ultimate results on more than one muscle group.

For a good ab workout, try crunches on an inflatable ball (which give you a better range of motion than floor crunches), or the plank position (holding your body straight in push-up position while propped on toes and forearms). [4]

Chin-ups, push-ups, and deadlifts are also good choices for beginners. A personal trainer can give you a good idea of the best exercises to start out with.

How Much Should I Lift?

Now comes the tricky part. To avoid facing those hulk-like men in the gym, you should sidestep the “big stuff” and stick to the small dumbbells, right?


Don’t be afraid to lift hard! It’s actually best to focus on lifting weights that are heavy for you in less reps, as this is forcing your muscles to adapt and change, and will more likely increase strength and give you a tight and toned look. Continuously lifting light weights in more reps just won’t give you as many strength-enhancing benefits. [5]

Experts suggest performing at least 3 sets of 3 to 6 reps, using a weight heavy enough that causes you to really push yourself. You might also want to alternate between moderate intensity lifting (8 to 10 reps with medium weights), lighter intensity (12 to 15 reps with lighter weights), and hard intensity (3 to 5 reps with hard weights).

Be sure to increase the weight over time, too. You’ll be surprised how quickly your strength increases!

What Benefits Do Women Get from Weight Training?


You might be eating healthy and exercising every day, but still not seeing the results you want with your body. Weight training can give you that tight and toned look that you just won’t get with other forms of exercise.

Obviously, weight training can make you stronger, and women need strength more than we think. Just think how often you have to lift heavy bags, carry children, or do repair work in your home. Women need to be strong just as much as men do.

Plus, weight training is an easy way to get your body to burn more calories, which will help you lose more weight!

So, what are you waiting for? Hit the gym and get that strong and sexy body you’ve been dreaming of!


[1] “Strength Training for Women.” WebMD.com. Available from: http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/strength-training-for-women

[2] Lauren Aaronson. “The Best Strength Training for Women.” Women’s Health Magazine. Available from: http://www.womenshealthmag.com/weight-loss/weight-training-tips

[3] “The Ultimate Female Training Guide: Specific, Proven Methods to Get Lean and Sexy.” SimplyShredded.com. Available from: http://www.simplyshredded.com/the-ultimate-female-training-guide.html

[4] Katherine Hobson. “8 Strength Training Tips for Women.” US News. Available from: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/on-fitness/2008/02/08/eight-strength-training-tips-for-women

[5] John Berardi. “Lean, Sexy & Hard.” Mar 23, 2015. Available from: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/berardi12.htm