Strength training does so much more than build muscles. Top trainers like Tony Horton consider it crucial for total body fitness. This ultimate workout routine for women will help you tap into some of these great results.
Learn why those barbells aren’t just for guys — and how to start your weight training routine.
Why Strength Training Is Important For Women
There’s a whole swirl of misconceptions surrounding women and the weight room. Maybe you’ve heard things like, “You’ll look like a Miss Olympia contestant,” “It’s bad for your joints,” or, “You’ll gain weight as soon as you stop working with weights.” But, there’s little evidence to support these claims.
On the contrary, more and more women are discovering that weight training can lead to a leaner, more defined physique. The extra strength you gain also affects everything from your athletic performance to your bone density.1
These are a few more common potential benefits associated with strength exercises for women.
Weight Loss Support
You’ve probably heard that weight training might cause you to gain weight. This isn’t true. In fact, lifting weights may help you lose weight. Resistance training can actually burn more calories than cardiovascular exercise. When you lift weights, your body continues to burn fat even after you finish your exercise session.2
Feel more alert and energized throughout the day with a full-body session. Even small amounts of resistance training may help boost your energy levels. You’ll feel invigorated as your body continues to expend energy after resistance training.3
Bone Mass Support
Bones are living tissue, like muscle. And, like muscle fibers, bones can become stronger and more durable. A great way to help stimulate bone growth and strength is by lifting challenging weights. This can be particularly beneficial for aging women to help support strong bones.4
Strength Training: Something For Everyone
Barbells and clunky weights are not the only way to tone your muscles. Weight training is a general term that applies to any kind of resistance training. Many tools and exercises fall under this umbrella. They can include effective exercises, such as:
- Bodyweight workout plans
- Free weights
- Medicine balls
- TRX moves
- Resistance bands5
Ultimate 5-Day Workout Routine
Tony Horton designed this beginner workout routine for women to make you feel comfortable around common strength training equipment. There’s no need to try and tackle the biggest, scariest weight machines in the gym for strength training. You can use basic equipment for muscle gains. An easy start may also help you to build confidence with your abilities and strength.
The program includes days for weight and resistance training, cardio, and a day of rest. Start with light weights, and slowly progress as you gain confidence.
Let’s jump in with your new strength training routine. Just make sure to get your doctor’s approval before giving the routine a go.
Day 1: Chest And Back
Build that upper body strength with these simple strength workouts.
Flat Bench Barbell Press – 3 Sets Of 5-10 Reps
- Lie flat on a weight bench. Plant your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands on the resting bar. They should be about shoulder-width apart.
- Lift the bar off of the rack, and hold it up with straight arms above your chest.
- Lower the bar toward your chest by bending your elbows. As you do, squeeze your shoulders back to absorb the tension with your chest muscles.
- Lift the bar back up to return to a straight arm position. Repeat.6
Bent Over Rows – 3 Sets Of 8-10 Reps
- Stand behind a barbell. Lower toward the weight by bending at your hips. Keep your back straight, and grab onto the bar with hands facing out.
- Pick up the bar and lift toward your sternum, keeping your shoulders down and back as you do. Your torso should be parallel with the floor, and your elbows should be in during the up motion.
- Extend the bar back toward the starting position. Repeat.7
Lat Pulldown – 3 Sets Of 8-10 Reps
- Sit down at the lat pulldown machine. Grab the bar above your head with your hands shoulder-width apart.
- Keep your torso up, and pull the bar down toward your chest by bending your elbows. Your shoulder blades should come down to ensure you are working your lats.
- Bring the bar back up, and repeat.8
Day 2: Arms And Shoulders
These dumbbell workouts can help support muscle growth in your arms.
Dumbbell Shrugs – 3 Sets Of 10-15 Reps
- Stand in between a pair of dumbbells, and lift the weights up using your leg muscles, not your back.
- In the neutral position, arch your back, and bring your shoulder blades together.
- Lift your shoulder blades toward your ears. Lower them back down toward your back.9
Dumbbell Bicep Curls – 3 Sets Of 8-10 Reps
- Stand with a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing forward. Keep your head forward, and bend your knees slightly.
- Curl your right arm toward your bicep. Breathe out as you bring the weight up. Slowly lower the weight back down. Repeat with your left arm.10
Tricep Bench Dips – 3 Sets Of 10-12 Reps
- Sit on a flat surface or a weight bench. Lift your head up tall, and bring your shoulders back and down.
- Move forward, and place your hands facing forward on the edge of the bench. Lift yourself up, and extend your legs out.
- Bend your elbows to lower your hips down toward the ground. Keep those shoulders pressed back as you lift yourself back up. Repeat.11
Day 3: Cardio Workout
No full-body workout is complete without some cardio — which includes any aerobic activity that helps support cardiovascular conditioning. The American Heart Association recommends you do about 30 minutes of aerobic exercise daily. You can do this with any number of activities. Here are a few exercise ideas for your cardio day:
- Jumping rope
Day 4: Rest
Don’t feel guilty about taking a day off from fitness. Even though you aren’t at the gym, your entire body is still working hard to recover from the last few days of exercise. This makes rest a crucial component to total fitness. When you rest, your muscles restore and rebuild. This allows them to grow and develop so that your strength increases.13
With that said, you don’t need to sit on the couch all day. There are still light activities you can do to keep that blood flowing. Try any of these options for your rest day:
- Tai Chi
- Steady-state cycling14
Day 5: Legs
These essential exercises can help keep your legs strong and toned.
Barbell Squats – 3 Sets Of 5 Reps
- Stand with a bar across your shoulders. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and your core tight.
- Flex your glutes, and lower down with the bar into the squat position. Your abdominal muscles should be engaged during this whole exercise.
- Quickly lift back up to start using your leg muscles. Repeat for five reps, and return the bar back to the rack between sets.15
Note: Be sure to stay within the rack while you do your squat. This way, you can easily replace the barbell if it becomes too heavy
Calf Raises – 3 Sets Of 10-20 Reps
- You can do this exercise with or without weights. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Push your weight toward your toes to lift your heels up off the ground.
- Hold for a few seconds, then lower back down. Repeat.16
Leg Curls – 3 Sets Of 10-15 Reps
- Sit down at a seated hamstring curl machine. Put your feet up on the rest in front of you. Push your back up against the rest. Lock your legs down with the top pad.
- Curl the pad down, and squeeze your legs at the bottom.
- Your back should remain flat against the rest throughout the whole exercise. You can use your hands to push against the top bar to keep it flat.17
A New Path To Total Fitness
Strength training can do a lot more than build muscle mass. Lifting weights may help you develop a toned appearance, support weight loss, and help promote healthier bones. This can be accomplished with a comprehensive, targeted training schedule.
Tony Horton’s beginner workout routine for women uses specific workouts to deliver those results. The workouts above utilize critical muscles to help you develop total body strength. You don’t need advanced workouts or fancy equipment, either. With a few pieces of simple gym equipment, you can begin to enjoy all the powerful results of strength training. Again just make sure to get your doctor’s approval before beginning any new exercise regimen.