Alright if you’re here, you came looking for some guidance on strength training for women. Be assured you are in the right place. This guide will tackle all the relevant issues you need to be aware of to start hitting the weights and gaining lean muscle. You’ll get razor sharp nutrition guidance tailored to your body type, the best set of workouts for sculpting your body, all the relevant knowledge you need to implement supplementation into your nutrition plan and more. So, stick around because you’re going to get pumped!
As we move through 2023, it’s time to stop and look at how you are doing with your fitness goals. Are you reaching them? Or are you getting beat?
Getting lean, healthy, and toned is your goal. However, we all know how difficult it can be. A busy schedule, excuses, and more get in the way and prevent us from getting where we want to go.
Living a sedentary lifestyle can cause a lot of problems. Not only are you not reaching your goal, but chances also are you’re not feeling as energetic and healthy as you’d like, which can negatively affect your work, your family, and other relationships as well.
Note: Check out Strength Training for Women at Home and Strength Training for Beginners if this working out stuff is brand new to you.
We’ve all been there, and it can be a hard, downward spiral that’s hard to reverse. Probably the most significant part of the problem is that we often set goals without having a plan to accomplish those goals.
That’s why we’ve put together this guide for you. Today, we’re giving you everything you need to get your strength training on track, blow through your goals, and achieve more energy and health than you ever thought possible.
Common Misconceptions Regarding Strength Training for Women
Women’s bodies are different than men’s bodies and many misconceptions have developed regarding whether it is the right kind of regime for women. Before we move on, let’s address some of those misconceptions.
Strength Training Will Make A Woman Look Bulky and Masculine
First and foremost, let’s address what you’ve probably heard countless times. Women will get bulky and muscular if they lift weights. Weight training will make you lose your elegant, feminine aesthetic. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The likelihood that a woman would put on muscle mass anywhere near that of a man is next to absolute zero. The female body is just not built that way. Women don’t have the hormonal profile to pack on muscle mass in the same way that men do. Testosterone is mainly responsible for men’s ability to gain muscle and women only have a fraction of the testosterone that men do.
The truth is you will gain weight if you consistently do weight training, but it will be lean muscle mass. That’s a good thing! It is critical that you realize that the scale alone doesn’t tell the whole story. Muscle takes up much less space than fat because it has a higher density. If you do consistent weight training, you can lose fat and gain muscle at the same time. That is, you might see the scale not move at all and yet you’ve made tremendous progress! Bottom line it makes much more sense to track your body fat percentage as an accurate measure of development rather than obsessing about what the scale tells you.
Strength Training Requires You to Act Like A Rabid Animal When You Workout
Another common misconception is that to make any progress at all, you must be in complete overdrive mode whenever lifting weights. Some people have images of those super intense bodybuilders etched into their mind, and they think that you’ve got to make every workout a cinematic event. Now truth be told, there are a time and place for that kind of exercise. But it does depend on what you’re looking to accomplish.
Most women who are going to get into weight training don’t need this kind of over the top intensity to achieve their goals. Most women are looking to sculpt their muscles, tone their bodies, and get greater overall utility from their body. The super intense kind of workout tends to be for the person who is either training for something competitive in nature, like a boxer or track and field athlete, or someone who is trying to maximize the amount of strength and muscle mass that they can build.
If you don’t have apex goals like these, then you shouldn’t worry that you’ll have to look like the Incredible Hulk while you’re in the weight room.
If You’re Over 40 Strength Training for A Woman Is Pointless
It is true that as you climb the age ladder, you tend to lose lean muscle from your body. But that doesn’t mean that it is, therefore, a bad idea for you as a woman to incorporate strength training into your schedule. In women over 40, the main culprit to lost lean muscle is due to inactivity. For many people, this is the period where there is a lull in the amount of physical activity in your life. Don’t let that be you! There are too many tangible benefits to weight training and don’t let your age intimidate you into submission.
Now with all that said. Let’s have a look at the benefits of strength training for women. You ought to be aware of these as these positives can help you stay motivated in the long run.
The Facts Regarding Strength Training for Women
More Muscle on Your Body Means Less Fat
First, let’s talk about the fat your muscles will eat. When you pack on lean muscle, you change your metabolism. The leaner muscle you have, the more calories you burn. The more calories you burn, the slimmer you are overall. So, getting some of that extra muscle on your body works in your favor, don’t run from it.
With increased strength and lean muscle comes better posture. The stronger your muscles are, the better your bodies substructure is, this, in turn, means less discomfort for you. When your body has a good position as its foundation, you are much more likely to sleep comfortably.
Stronger Bones and Joints
Weight training doesn’t just strengthen muscle tissue; it builds up your bones as well. Many studies have shown that strength training promotes bone development and helps reinforce your joints. Joints that are healthy aren’t going to be screaming at you in pain.
Strength Training Reduces Risk of Injury
When you do training with weights, you can significantly enhance the strength in your joints and connective tissues. When you have stronger joints, ligaments, and tendons, you are preventing yourself from getting those nagging injuries in your knees and back.
All You Need to Know About Strength Training Nutrition for Women
Before you start weight training, you should understand the nutritional aspect of it. It can’t be stressed enough that a fitness routine is only half the battle. You must calibrate your diet correctly if you wish to see good results.
With that said let’s get to it.
Calories are the sort of all-encompassing energy that your body uses for its functions. Just about everything that you do burns calories throughout the day. Voluntary actions like walking, running and standing. Involuntary movements like your heartbeat, blinking, and digestion.
Note: If you’re a runner don’t forget to check out our post on how to reduce your running times. Your personal best record awaits you.
The minimum number of calories you need to function is called your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the number of calories you need to exist if you did nothing but lie in bed and stay still. The amount of lean muscle mass that you have will influence your BMR.
If you take your BMR and add on the total number of calories you burn in your daily activities, you have your total energy expenditure (TEE). Your TEE is unique to you so your nutritional plan may be very different from your gym partners.
Keep reading to learn how to tailor your nutritional plan ought to your body type.
Protein has been getting a lot of press lately because it is the “good guy” in contrast to its evil counterpart, carbs, which isn’t the case; it is more complicated than that. Protein is the central macronutrient in lean muscle development.
Here is how it works in a nutshell. When you do training with weights, you cause micro-tears in your muscles, which might sound scary, but it is the way your body was designed to build lean muscle. Those micro tears in your muscles get repaired by mechanisms in your own body and its protein that helps fix those tiny tears in your muscle fibers.
The general guideline for people who are serious about doing weight training is to get 1 gram of protein per pound that they weight. So, if you are a 140-pound woman, you should be getting 140 grams of protein per day.
Carbs have become associated with Satan himself. Many of us have the impression that carbs are something to shun at all costs, which, of course, is misleading.
Carbs are your bodies preferred source of energy. What you must understand is how to tell the “good” carbs apart from the “bad” carbs.
We may be oversimplifying this a bit but, in a nutshell, the “bad” carbs tend to be the sugars. Those are the carbs you want to eat sparingly.
The “good” carbs are the complex carbs. These carbs make you feel fuller for longer and are slower to digest. That means they provide you with more sustainable energy over a more extended period. Here is a short list of complex carbs
Good Sources of Carbs
- Brown Rice
- Sweet Potatoes
Fats get a bad rep as carbs do and it’s understandable. People of course associate this macronutrient with becoming fat and therefore will treat it universally like the bubonic plague. But like carbs, fats need to be understood because they also are an essential part of your nutritional plan.
The right kind of fats is monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. What makes them good is they help you reduce LDL cholesterol, the type that backs up your arteries. Polyunsaturated fats contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These are essential fats that your body uses for cell growth and maintenance, as well as brain function.
Good Sources of Fat
- Dark Chocolate
Women’s Body Types and Nutrition
Now that we’ve covered the basics of nutrition let’s get more specific and tailor it down to the body type that you have. What body type you have is going to have a significant influence on your nutritional plan.
A thin build with long limbs and a tall frame characterizes the ectomorph body type. Ectomorphs generally have a fast metabolism and therefore have lower body fat, which is the body type that you would associate with runway models. Ectomorphs often end up being the long-distance runners in the athletic world, and “hard gainers” in the weight room because they tend to struggle to put on muscle.
Because ectomorphs have rapid metabolism, they tend to need an extra serving to push their body into muscle building. If you’re an ectomorph, you’re known as the type who can seemingly eat anything, and you don’t seem to put on weight. If you are looking to weight train for results, you’re probably going to have to force yourself to wolf down some servings when you aren’t hungry.
50-60% Carbs, 25-30% Protein, 20-25% Fats
The endomorph body type is characterized by a medium to large bone structure, shorter limbs, and full figure (see also ‘A Workout Plan For The Endomorph Body Type‘). The endomorph body type generally has a slower metabolism along with a sensitivity to carbohydrates, which means that high carb foods are more likely to be converted to body fat than burned for energy. The endomorph body type is the body type you would associate with powerlifters. If you are an endomorph, you generally find it difficult to get rid of stubborn body fat.
If you’re an endomorph, your body lends itself to building muscle but generally finds it difficult to burn body fat. Your nutritional framework will have to be tailored in concordance with this if your goal is to lower your body fat percentage. You should be wary of refined or processed carbs. Instead, you should get your carbs from high fiber foods like oats and brown rice. High protein meal plans should become your best friend, as it keeps you feeling full and prevents you from steering off track with your nutritional plan throughout the day.
20-25% Carbs, 30-35% Protein, 25-30% Fat
Low body fat, narrow waist, broad shoulders, and naturally muscular build characterizes the mesomorph body type. They tend to put on muscle and lose fat quickly. If you’re a mesomorph, you’re probably the envy of many around you. In the athletic world, mesomorphs are the gymnasts, bodybuilders, and sprinters.
The mesomorph body type responds well to healthy foods that provide it energy and makes excellent use of protein for muscle. So, as it turns out, if you are a mesomorph your macronutrients should be about evenly split.
30-35% Carbs, 30-35% Protein, 30-35% Fats
Should Women who Workout Take Supplements?
The topic of supplements is one of those things that is bound to forever be a hot one. There’s no way around it, whenever you bring it up, you’re bound to start an argument on the internet. So, here’s my quick take for you.
Supplements are meant to be supplemental. They are complementary to a solid nutritional plan and good hard, consistent workout regime. In other words, don’t think of supplements as magic pills or powders that deliver the goods by themselves.
I use the analogy of a car to illustrate. Think of your nutrition and workout regimen as the frame, substructure, and engine of the vehicle. Without those things correctly in place, the car won’t function. Think of supplements as adding a turbo booster on the car. It can help you get that extra 10 or 20 miles per hour, but all by itself its worth practically nothing.
You’d be crazy if you bought turbo boosters for a vehicle of any sort but didn’t have a motor for it yet.
Alright rant over, let’s discuss strength training supplements for women for a bit.
Taking a multivitamin should be a no brainer. You should take it whether your strength training or not. Getting all the nutrients you need for general health will enhance your ability to strength train. Multivitamins can help your body with the ability to break down all the nutrients that your body needs to breakdown to build lean muscle.
What is it?
Whey protein is a protein found in milk. If you drink milk at all, you’re getting whey protein into your body.
Why take it?
When you do strength training, you are essentially breaking your muscles down at a microscopic level, which isn’t a bad thing; it’s how your body functions. The stress you put on your muscles causes microtears that your body repairs. Your body repairing the microtears you created is how you build lean muscle — whey protein assists in your body’s natural repairing process.
How do I take it?
The absolute most critical time for you to take whey protein is right after you finish working out. If you’re going to take whey protein at all, make sure you do it then. 20g of whey protein after your workout should do the trick.
The other times to take it are first thing in the morning with your breakfast and right before your workout. Again, 20g is the recommended dose.
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’S)
What is it?
Three amino acids (valine, isoleucine, leucine) that help in building lean muscle.
Why take it?
BCAA’s provides a good foundation for protein synthesis, which makes them a great complement to whey protein. You’ll hear it hailed that BCAA’s and whey protein are a match made in heaven because they have also been shown to help reduce muscle fatigue and sustain better workouts.
How do I take it?
Take 5-10g of BCAA’s with your pre and post workout protein shake.
What is it?
Eicosatetraenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Two essential omega-3-fatty acids.
Why take it?
Consuming fish oil is kind of like taking a multivitamin. There’s no good reason why you shouldn’t. Fish oil has been shown to aid in lowering the risk of cancers, decrease blood pressure, reduce triglycerides, reduce the risk of heart disease, reduce the risk of stroke.
You get the point. Fish oil is healthy for you. Take it. 🙂
How do I take it?
Take 2g of fish oil three times daily.
What is it?
Casein protein is another type of protein found in milk just like whey.
Why take it?
Casein is the opposite of whey in that it digests slowly. The consensus is that the casein protein takes between 6 and 8 hours to understand, which helps your body reach an anabolic state for an extended period. Your body will have a steady supply of protein to feast on which spells lean muscle growth if you are in the right fitness regime.
How do I take it?
Take 20g of casein protein as the last thing you consume before you go to bed at night to help give your body a steady supply of protein while you fast for the 7-8 hours you are asleep.
What You Need to Know Before You Hit the Weights
Warm Up and Stretch
You should never get into the bulk of your workout without properly warming and getting a good stretch. Some people in the weight room will swear that with experience you can skip this step. I implore you, don’t listen to them. It’s always better to be safe and get your muscles stretched and warmed up first.
Stretching after a workout is a must as well as it greatly aids in recovery and is an excellent preventive practice against injuries.
Focus on Form
Maintaining proper form in all your exercises is crucial as it ensures your safety that you don’t strain any muscles or joints, but it also maximizes your results because it means your forcing your muscles to do all the real work. Bones are there to support the movement, but you want the muscle group to be on call for the actual lifting. If you have a mirror in the gym use it to check yourself. Also, if you don’t know for sure what great form looks like, you can always YouTube the exercise to get a great video tutorial.
The way to keep the lean muscle gains coming is by keeping your muscles challenged. There are numerous ways of doing this. You can steadily increase the weight that you are lifting, change your rep range, change your rest period between sets, change the speed of your repetitions…just to name a few. The takeaway point is that you want to avoid becoming acclimated. To keep making progress in strength training, you want to avoid doing the same thing for too long. So, as you get experience, use your creativity to keep your workouts challenging and keep the gains coming.
Alright, Workout Time!
You’ve got the info you need. You’ve got the motivation and the inspiration you need. You’ve got your diet dialed in. Now it’s time to sweat. Working out will be far more effective when you have a detailed plan to follow. We’ve got the workout routines that you need to strength train with the best of them.
This first workout is a traditional split where you hit one major muscle group a day. This kind of exercise tends to fit into people’s schedules when they really can commit to the gym most days of the week. You focus on one group per day, so you don’t want to miss a day.
Squat – 3 sets / 20 reps
Lunges – 3 sets / 20 reps
Barbell Step Ups – 3 sets / 20 reps
Barbell Hip Thrust – 3 sets / 20 reps
Dumbbell Military Press – 3 sets / 20 reps
Dumbbell Lateral Raise – 3 sets / 20 reps
Dumbbell Front Raise – 3 sets / 20 reps
Dumbbell Rear Delt Raise – 3 sets / 20 reps
EZ Bar Curl Superset with Dips – 4 sets / 30 reps
Dumbbell Curls Superset with Lying Dumbbell Triceps Extension – 4 sets / 30 reps
Cable Curl Superset with Cable Pushdown – 4 sets / 30 reps
Dumbbell Bench Press – 4 sets / 30 reps
Push Ups – 4 sets / 30 reps
Dumbbell Fly – 4 sets / 30 reps
Deadlift (Barbell or Dumbbell) – 4 sets / 20 reps
Pull-ups or Lat Pulldowns – 4 sets / 20 reps
One Arm Dumbbell Row – 4 sets / 20 reps
This second kind of workout is a circuit where one exercise follows the other and is a great way to build strength while also keeping your heart rate up which means you’ll be burning fat as well. Nothing better than getting two birds with one stone. When you’re just starting, try getting through the circuit at least three times with 90 seconds rest in between loops. As you gauge your fitness level and improve, you can increase weight, increase reps, and vary the rest period between sets to employ progressive overload.
Total Body Workout
Squat – 30 reps
Barbell Deadlift – 30 reps
Dumbbell Bench Press or Pushups – 30 reps
One Arm Dumbbell Row – 30 reps
Dumbbell Military Press – 30 reps
Dumbbell Curl – 30 reps
Dumbbell Overhead Extension – 30 reps
90-second rest then repeat 2x
This last workout splits the upper body and lower body into two days. This kind of exercise works excellent if you can only get to the gym 2 or 3 times a week. If that is the case, you should be pushing yourself hard to get the most out of it. This kind of workout also is great if you do like hitting lots of muscle groups in one day because you’re just seeking out a great burn.
Upper Lower Split
Dumbbell Bench Press – 3 sets / 25 reps
Pull Up – 3 sets / 25 reps
Dumbbell Military Press – 3 sets/ 25 reps
Dumbbell Curls – 3 sets / 25 reps
Overhead Triceps Extension – 3 sets / 25 reps
Lower Body Day
Squat – 5 sets / 25 reps
Deadlift – 5 sets / 25 reps
Step Up – 5 sets / 25 reps
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Strength training is often overlooked by women who are working toward a fitness goal. Many of the reasons women avoid strength training are based on common misconceptions about the topic. However, strength training can have some fantastic benefits for women including more muscle, less fat, better posture, stronger bones, and more.
Nutrition is vital if you want to get the most out of strength training. One of the most important things to remember is that everyone has a different body type. Knowing what your body type is and what kind of nutrition it requires will allow you to amplify the results of your fitness and nutritional plan greatly.
The benefits of strength training will be increased when you have a proper understanding of what supplements you need. Sometimes it is not possible to get everything that you need entirely from the food you eat. Supplements can fill this gap and provide your body with what it needs.
As you approach strength training, it is essential to take it one step at a time – warm up, focus on proper form, work your way up slowly and steadily. Strength training is a great way to improve your health, meet your fitness goals, and take things to the next level.
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