You've seen the headlines touting strength training. But what about beginner strength training workouts for women?
If you are new to working out, it can be intimidating walking into a gym and trying to put together your own workout routine.
Plus, it can be tough figuring out what the best beginner strength training workouts for women should include.
One of the hardest parts of any fitness journey is getting started. The key is to have a plan from the start that will get you results starting from day one.
Check out this full-body, at-home dumbbell workout — it's a great, quick strength training workout for women!
Why Should Women Strength Train?
As women age, lean body mass decreases, something known as sarcopenia.
Studies have shown that this appears to be more from muscle disuse rather than just aging alone, and can begin as early as age 30!
Having increased lean muscle mass is important for many reasons. For one, this will increase your basal metabolic rate, meaning that your body will be more efficient at burning calories throughout the day.
Studies have shown that increased lean body mass burns more calories at rest than fat mass.
This leads to increased weight loss and improved health.
Studies have also shown that strength training is important for bone health and reducing the risk of developing osteoporosis. In addition, strength training has been associated with a decreased risk of other chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes.
This is why strength training for women is so important, especially for the beginner.
Having stronger muscles means not only will you look great and be healthier overall, but you will also be able to do everyday activities more easily.
You will be able to complete tasks that require lifting, reaching, pushing, or pulling much more easily when you have a higher level of fitness and strength.
And as a busy mom, this is definitely a plus!
Strength Training Myths
There is a common misconception among women that weight training will make you “bulky.”
But since women have lower testosterone than men, lifting weights is not going to give women the same muscle hypertrophy as men.
What it will do is boost your metabolism and give you a toned, strong, healthy physique!
With weight loss, your body will tend to not only lose fat, but also muscle.
Strength training will help preserve muscle mass even as you are losing weight.
In addition, this increased lean muscle mass will keep your metabolism high to further aid in weight loss.
Beginner Strength Training Workout Tips for Women
There is so much information out there about workouts and strength training exercises, it can be hard to know where to start.
But the fact is, it doesn’t have to be complicated!
The key is really knowing how often to work out and the top strength training exercises to give you the best results.
The first step is knowing how often to train a week. A review of the scientific evidence has found that to optimize muscle growth, strength training should occur at least twice a week, and possibly three times weekly.
For women just beginning a new strength training program, you should start with two days and work yourself up from there to ensure you are getting adequate rest between sessions.
What are the Best Beginner Strength Training Workouts for Women?
The best strength training exercises for women that are just beginning to workout are moves that are safe and easy to perform, but extremely efficient at targeting major muscle groups.
This will allow you to get the most out of every workout session without risking injury.
The big thing you want to focus on is how to perform the exercises properly so that you can move on to more advanced moves as your fitness progresses.
Your strength training routine should target the major muscles in your back, arms, shoulders, legs, and core.
This could be spread out during the week, or combined in full-body exercises and workouts.
Top 10 Beginner Strength Training Exercises for Women
These top 10 exercises use a combination of machines, free weights, and bodyweight exercises to really challenge your muscles.
Squats are the ultimate lower body exercise.
This movement targets the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves to build strong legs.
Starting with dumbbells instead of using a barbell will help you master the movement while minimizing your risk of injury.
While holding a dumbbell in each hand, lower into a squat, making sure your knees don’t track past your toes.
Go down as far as comfortable, until your thighs are about parallel to the floor.
Perform three sets of 10-12 reps.
Don’t let the simplicity of this movement fool you.
Push-ups are a killer upper body exercises for beginners and seasoned gym-goers alike that work your chest, arms, shoulders, and core.
Position your hands under your shoulders with your feet straight behind you.
Lower your chest towards the ground, pause, and then extend your arms to push back up.
Perform three sets of 10-12 reps.
You can do push-ups anywhere, and you can modify this exercise easily based on your current fitness level.
If you find the move too challenging, try starting on your knees and working your way up.
Pull-ups may seem intimidating for the beginner, but they are one of the best upper body exercises out there and should be in every beginner’s arsenal.
You can start with assisted pull-ups as you build strength. And learning the movement early on in your training will allow you to build up to eventually performing unassisted pull-ups.
The move itself is simple, and that’s another reason why it is great for the beginner.
Hang from a bar with your palms facing away from you at about shoulder width.
Pull your body up while contracting your shoulder blades together until your chest is at the height of the bar, or chin is just over the bar. Then, slowly lower yourself down.
Doing pull-ups trains you to use your back, shoulder, and arm muscles synergistically to really build up these upper body muscles.
Aim for three sets of 8-10 reps.
If you cannot do an unassisted pull up that’s OK! There are modifications that you can start out with as you gradually build up your strength and work up to performing pull-ups on your own.
Pull up modifications include:
Many gyms will have a machine with a platform to rest your legs on.
The heavier the weight you choose to assist you, the easier the pull up will be.
Gradually decrease the assistance until you are able to do a pull up without any assistance at all.
Pull-Ups With a Spotter
Have a spotter hold your legs to assist you during the movement.
Start by standing under a pull-up bar. Jump up, grabbing the bar with a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip.
Using the momentum from your jump, pull yourself upwards until your chin is above the bar. Slowly lower yourself.
Slowly extend your arms as you inch closer to the ground.
Aim for 3-5 seconds until your arms are extended. Let go of the bar and return to the ground.
Repeat for the desired reps.
Dumbbell Bicep Curls
Bicep curls are an excellent way to isolate your biceps muscle and really tone up your arms.
Stand with your feet hip-distance apart holding a dumbbell in each hand.
Bend your elbows to bring the weights up towards your shoulders.
Pause, then slowly lower the weights back down.
Perform three sets of 10-12 reps.
Triceps Push Down
Just like you want to target your biceps, it is important to work the triceps on the back of the arm as well.
Attach a rope attachment to a high pulley and hold the rope with your palms facing each other.
Bring your torso forward at about a 30-degree angle.
Contract your triceps to pull the rope down until your arms are fully extended.
The upper arms should always remain stationary and only the forearms should move.
Hold for a pause and then bring the rope slowly back up.
Aim for three sets of 10-12 reps.
Shoulder presses will help round out your arms and enhance your upper body strength.
Hold a pair of dumbbells and sit on a bench with back support.
Bring the dumbbells up to shoulder height with your palms facing forward.
Push the dumbbells up until they touch at the top.
After a brief pause, slowly bring the dumbbells back down.
Aim for three sets of 10-12 reps.
Kettlebell swings will work your upper body, lower body, and core.
Plus, this move will add a bit of cardio to your workout session.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed out, and knees slightly bent.
Hold a kettlebell between your legs with both hands in an overhand grip.
Bend your hips back until the kettlebell is between and behind your legs.
Then, contract your glutes to extend your hips and swing the weight up to about chest height.
Let the weight swing between your legs as you bend your hips and slightly bend your knees.
Immediately begin the next rep by extending your hips again and bringing the kettlebell up.
Complete three sets of 10-12 reps.
Lat Pull Downs
This exercise really works your lats and is an easy movement for the beginner to master.
Grab the bar with the palms facing forward at about shoulder width.
Bring your torso back around 30 degrees.
Pull the bar down until it touches your upper chest by drawing the shoulders and the upper arms down and back.
Your upper body should remain still and only your arms should be moving.
Squeeze your shoulder blades together for a brief pause, then slowly raise the bar back to the starting position.
Dumbbell Chest Press
Chest presses are another great exercise that emphasizes functional movements while strengthening the chest, triceps, and shoulder muscles.
Lie back on a bench holding a dumbbell in each hand just to the sides of your shoulders.
Press the weights above your chest by extending your elbows until your arms are straight, then bring the weights back down slowly.
Aim for three sets of 10-12 reps
Most of the exercises listed here require you to engage your core during the movements. But it is important to try to isolate these muscles as well.
The elbow plank really focuses on the abdominal muscles and core muscles in the pelvis and trunk.
Lie face down on the floor resting on your forearms and knees.
Push off the floor, raising up off your knees onto your toes and resting mainly on your elbows.
Contract your abdominals to keep your body straight.
Try to keep your back flat and your butt in line and not sticking up.
Hold as long as you can, aiming for 10-20 seconds in the beginning.
Gradually work your way up to one minute.
How Much Weight Should You Use?
For the beginner, start with a weight that you can complete the desired number of reps, with the last two reps being very challenging.
If you start a set and realize that the weight is too heavy, stop and use a lighter weight.
On the other hand, if you finish your reps and found the last two to be very easy, pick a heavier weight on your next set.
Be sure to record the amount of weight you use and the number of reps and sets for each session. This will allow you to track your progress.
Rest Between Sets
Be sure that you are getting enough, but not too much, rest between sets.
For women that are new to strength training, you may want to give yourself a little bit more rest between sets.
Start with one and a half to two minutes.
Create a Weekly Strength Training Routine
In a beginner strength training workout plan for women, aim for two days a week to start.
You can choose three to four exercises from the above list for each day, making sure to target all of your major muscle groups.
Every strength training workout should include a warm-up and a cool down.
This is especially important for women who are just beginning a new program. A proper warm-up and cool down will help decrease your risk of injury.
Here is an example of what one of your training days could look like:
Warm-Up Dynamic Stretches
Dynamic stretches are superior to static stretches prior to a workout.
Studies have shown that dynamic stretching is better for muscle coordination and better muscle power during a workout, while static stretching could actually decrease muscle power.
Stand tall with your arms outstretched to your sides and parallel to the floor.
Make small circles with your arms going forward for 10 reps, then backward for 10 reps.
Then make larger circles forward for 10 reps, and backward for 10 reps.
Stand with your arms outstretched to the sides and parallel to the floor.
Move your arms across the center of your chest and let them criss-cross each other.
Steadily move them back out and repeat, but this time cross them with the opposite arm on top.
Continue this for 10-20 reps.
Leg Kicks With Arm Reach
Kick your left leg out straight in front of you while reaching for your toes with the right hand.
Then kick your right leg out and reach your toes with your left hand.
Repeat for 10 reps on each side.
- Bicep Curls
- Kettlebell Swings
- Lat Pull Downs
- Elbow Plank
Always remember to include a cool down after every weight training workout.
This will stretch out the muscles and reduce your risk for post-workout muscle soreness and soft tissue injuries.
You should include stretches that target the upper body, lower body, and core.
While dynamic stretches are best prior to a workout, static stretches are a nice addition to the cool down.
Sit on the ground with both knees bent and both feet on the floor.
Lift your right leg and cross it over your left thigh.
Pull both legs inwards toward your stomach for a deep stretch of your glutes.
Hold this position for 30 seconds and then switch sides and repeat.
Push your arms up behind you while pulling your shoulder blades together and your back straight until you feel the stretch in your chest.
Hold for about 20-30 seconds before releasing.
Lie down on your stomach with your face towards the ground and your palms facing the floor.
While keeping your hips on the floor, push your upper body up from the ground.
Hold for 30 seconds before releasing.
Lower Back Stretch
Start lying on your back with your knees bent and pulled up toward your chest.
Hold for 30 seconds before releasing.
More Beginner Strength Training Workouts For Women
Starting a new workout routine as a beginner can be a daunting task, especially as a busy mom with so much already on your plate.
Luckily, the Fit Mother Project can make this so much easier for you to take on.
The Fit Mother Project was developed specifically for busy moms like yourself to help you achieve your fitness goals.
From structured workouts and nutrition plans to continued community support, the Fit Mother Project provides numerous resources to put together an amazing strength training plan for women beginning on a new fitness journey.
If you are looking for other examples of great beginner fitness programs for women, the free Jumpstart program offered by the Fit Mother Project is another excellent place to start.
This is a top of the line introductory program to “jumpstart” your fitness journey.
With so many excellent resources available, there is no excuse to not take control of your health and fitness.
So get started today with a great beginner strength training program for women and get in the best shape of your life!
*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on beginner strength training workouts for women.