6 Strength Exercises for Women

“Do you have any workout plans for a female that never worked out before to lose weight quick? This is for a friend of mine that is kind of overweight and wants to get in shape fast.”



My Answer: In Tactics and Strategies I have a chapter on strength training for women, so you should check that out.  It goes over the 3 different body types women have and how to strength train for each body type.

When it comes to exercise, women naturally gravitate towards certain activities, such as running or yoga or group classes.  Women tend to gravitate more towards cardio and flexibility.  But when it comes to strength training, many women just don’t have a clue.  Women are often intimidated by weightlifting, and don’t lift anything heavier than 15-20 pounds.

While cardio burns calories and fat when you’re performing it, high rep strength training has what is known as high EPOC or “Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption.” This is a fancy term for saying how long your metabolism is elevated after exercise. Studies show that a well-designed strength program can elevate your EPOC or metabolism for up to 38 hours after the workout. In other words, you continue to burn calories long after strength training. Whereas once you stop cardio, the calorie burning stops as well.

The women that do weight train regularly seem to weight train like men.  In other words, women who’ve been bit by the weightlifting bug tend to do the same exercises and workouts.

Yet if men weight train to achieve the V-taper, then should women train the same way?  In a previous post I mentioned that a key determinant of attractiveness to a woman is a man’s shoulder to waist ratio, or the V-taper. For men, a key determinant of female attractiveness is hip to waist ratio. A woman’s weight doesn’t matter to a guy. What men find attractive in women is the hour glass figure. In other words, it’s not about weight. It’s about shape.


So although it’s great when a woman does strength train, women should strength train somewhat differently if they’re looking to accentuate their hour glass figures.

https://i0.wp.com/media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/6a/4f/13/6a4f13df6178e4b73353a49b7a7cae50.jpgThe number one fear that women have with regard to weight training is that it will bulk them up.  This is a legitimate concern, because most women aren’t looking to have monster traps and thick forearms.  So for the women that I’ve trained, I’ve recommended very different strength exercises from what I have for my male clients.

Exercise selection for women is somewhat tricky, because most women want muscle tone without muscle size.  The solution to this are isometrics.  Isometrics, or the static holding of weight, is what creates muscle tone without bulking you up.

The following are 6 exercises that I’ve included in my workouts for women.  They all build muscle tone without muscle bulk.

Front Squats: Women will perform back squats and lunges to tone the glutes and hips, but those exercises actually build bigger butts.  If you like big butts, then back squats and lunges will build your ass.

A better choice for women looking to tone their legs, hips and glutes is the front squat. Since the bar is in front of your body, you have to support the weight in an upright position. Squatting in this upright position will tone your quads and your abdominals, with minimal build-up of your glutes.

Step-ups: The step-up works the hips and glutes on the concentric portion of the movement, but there is little eccentric tension on the lowering portion. The step-up is ideal for generating blood flow into the hips and glutes without bulking them up.

Turkish Get-up: The Turkish get-up is a very demanding exercise that strengthens the core and shoulders.  It also tones the glutes and triceps.

Kettlebell Windmill: Another kettlebell exercise that will stretch your hips and strengthen your shoulders and triceps.

  • Press a kettlebell overhead with one arm.
  • Your feet should be pointed at a 45° degree angle away from the arm with the locked out kettlebell.
  • While keeping your arm locked out overhead at all times, bend over to the opposite leg, pushing your butt out in the other direction.
  • Lower yourself with the kettlebell locked out until your free hand touches the floor or your foot. Pause for one second and reverse the movement until you’re back in the standing position.

Bird Dog Plank: I see a lot of people do planks on their elbows or with both hands.  These versions are way too easy, so your abs are not going to activate.  To truly activate the abs with the plank, you have to test your balance.  The bird dog plank will work your core much more than regular planks:

  • Get into plank position.
  • Raise one arm up and keep it in this position.
  • Then raise the opposite leg and keep it up off the ground. For example, if you raise your right hand, then you would simultaneously raise your left leg.
  • Keep your raised arm and leg straight and aligned with your body. Maintain this position for as long as you can.
  • Shoot for at least 30 seconds. Being in this precarious position requires even greater concentration than a normal plank.
  • Tighten your abs, triceps and thighs and do not drop your arm or leg from their raised positions.
  • When you lose your balance, then that is the end of the set.
  • Repeat for the opposite arm and leg.

Overhead Split Squat:  The overhead split squat develops flexibility in the hip area and the shoulder complex simultaneously.  It also improves your posture and will work your glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps.

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