Women’s Beginner Guide to Weight Training

Many women avoid weight training because they feel it will make them big and bulky. Instead they spend their time doing cardio, thinking it’s the only way to get that feminine shape they seek, but this is simply not true. There are many other factors that come into play such as calorie intake and the fact women don't have the same level of testosterone to increase muscle mass like men.

The fact is weight training increases lean muscle mass which is a good thing. The more muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn. The more calories you burn, the leaner you'll get. Increased muscle mass will also add shape to your arms, take inches from your stomach. 

To get the best results from weight training you need to follow a structured routine. That means hitting the gym knowing what you want to achieve, how many sets to complete and how many reps…so walking around and chatting without breaking a sweat doesn’t count. 

Types of Movements

Compound Lifts

A Compound lift is one that works more than one muscle group with performed. Along with building lean muscle, these movements increase strength, cardiovascular fitness and mobility. It’s recommended to performed compound exercises at the start of your workout before moving onto isolation lifts.

Isolation Lifts

Isolation lifts compliment compound lifts and as the names says it focus on that specific muscle in isolation. These are used to increase the size and shape of a body part.

How to create a training program

If you search the internet you will find many different programs for different periods of time eg. 4, 6, 8 or 12 weeks…so which one is right?? Well, the key takeaway is really that you should always be looking to change or mix up your training program after a planned amount of time. It’s far to easy to find exercises and programs you like and stick with them for months on end. Your body will then adapt to that training and it starts to become ineffective. So a good starting point is to create a 4 week program, and then plan to increase or change your amount of weight, sets and/or reps every 4 weeks.

It’s worth first noting before starting any workout session it’s recommended to complete a warm-up. This could be a light run on the treadmill or cross-trainer and this is important to increase blood flow and activate your central nervous system. This should then be followed by an ‘activation movement’, which is a movement completed on light weight for around 20 reps before getting started with your program.

Example Program

                         Exercises      Sets       Reps          Rest
Day 1: Legs             *3            3          10-12          45 secs
            Calves         *1             3          10-12          45 secs
Day 2: Chest           *4             3          10-12          45 secs
            Tricep           *1            3          10-12          45 secs
Day 3: Cardio (30-60 mins cardio session)
Day 4: Back             *4           3           10-12          45 secs
           Bicep             *4           3           10-12          45 secs
Day 5: Shoulders    *2           3            10-12         45 secs
            Abs               *2           3            10-12         45 secs
Day 6&7: REST

*Select your exercise from the list of exercises below

1st 4 weeks

If this is your first time weight training it’s worth starting with lighter loads as you don’t want to push yourself too hard to soon. Once you feel comfortable doing the movements and understand how they should feel, then you can start adding a more weight.

2nd 4 Weeks

For the next four weeks you should look to continue with the same program however it’s now time to select a new choice of exercises from the list below. Your strength will start to increase so you should be looking to increase the weight ever so slightly.

3rd 4 Weeks

Again we alter the exercises from the list below and your aim should be increase weight on each exercise each week.

Examples Exercises

Lateral Band Walk                 Barbell Squat 
Barbell Hip thrusts                 Leg Extension
Leg Curl                                Hack Squat 
Leg Press                              Lunges

Calf press                           Standing calf raises
seated calf raises

Bench press (Wide grip or narrow grip)
Cable Crossover                 Dips (wide grip)
Flat bench Flyes                 Dumbbell Bench press
Incline dumbbell Flyes        Cable Flyes
Push Ups

Dumbbell Kickbacks            Cable Tricep extensions
Dips (Narrow Grip)

Lat pulldown (Wide, narrow or reverse grip)
Deadlifts                              Pull-ups
Sumo Deadlifts                   Bent-over barbell row
Seated cable rows                   

Incline dumbbell curls          Preacher Curls
Hammer Curls                     Alternate dumbbell Curls
Barbell Curls                        Concentration Curls

Standing Dumbbell Press       Standing Military Press
Front raises                             Reverse flyes
Seated lateral raises               bent-over lat raises

Plank                                       Barbell ab rollout
Russian Twists                        Crunches
Cable rotations                        Leg raises

Types of Cardio

Low Intensity Steady State (LISS) - This is the most popular form of cardio for most people, however this may not be the best way to burn fat. This type of cardio is normally used by bodybuilders on extremely low-carb diets, who just don't have the energy to do HIIT training.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) - This can be done using equipment or bodyweight. The aim is to do intervals of a movement as intensely as possible from 30sec-60secs and then rest for the same period of time. Aim to do this for 20-30mins.


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Disclaimer: The purpose of this blog is to share advise from personal experience and good practices on fitness, nutrition and lifestyle. Content is sourced from a host of contributors not all of whom are qualified professionals. This blog is not intended to diagnose, cure or prevent any injuries/illnesses. Always consult your personal physician for specific medical advice