Strength training for women offers numerous benefits such as increased bone density, improved heart health and a higher metabolism. Starting Strength, one of the most popular strength programs, is based on compound lifts including the squat, deadlift and bench press. Other exercise plans that are more bodybuilding oriented such as Strong Curves and New Rules of Lifting For Women (NROL) offer a larger variety of exercises.
Increase Bone Density
Weight-bearing exercises provide the needed stimuli in order to increase bone density. One study of two female powerlifters aged 48 and 54 years, both with over 30 years of lifting experience, showed bone density far above the average 20-29 year old women, who are considered to be at their peak in regards to bone density. One of the most effective ways to minimize ones risk of osteoporosis is to start a strength regimen.
Achieve PR’s & Become Stronger
There’s nothing more satisfying than achieving new personal records aka “PR’s”. Deadlifting or squatting 135 lbs for the first time are major milestones! It’s a great feeling to get stronger and realize how much your body is capable of.
3X A Week
Focus On Strength
5 Compound Lifts
Lifts Explained In Detail
3X A Week
Focus on Hypertrophy
Variety of Exercises
Emphasis on legs/glutes
NROL For Women
2-3x A Week
Focus On Hypertrophy
Variety of Exercises
Which Strength Training Program Should I Pick?
It depends on your goals. If your goal is to get stronger and proficient in the big lifts (squat, bench, deadlift) Starting Strength (also known as SS) would be most suitable. If your goals are more aesthetic oriented and you’re looking to develop glutes in particular then I would recommend Strong Curves by Bret Contreras. This particular program is very lower-body oriented and incorporates a large selection of glute exercises such as the hip thrust in order to encourage a glute hypertrophy.
Why Buy A Book?
Books offer detailed and technical information about the lifts; Starting Strength in particular. Starting Strength has chapters devoted just to the the squat, deadlift, powerclean and bench. Watching Youtube videos online (although very helpful) won’t give you the level of technical specificity that the book entails. Learning the big compound lifts and lifting with an olympic barbell for the very first time can be intimidating for any novice lifter. The most effective way to overcome the initial nervousness is to be well informed.
Which Weight Lifting For Program Is Best If I Want To Lose Weight?
The training program does not matter. You can lose weight on any of the above programs or even if you don’t follow any program at all by eating in a caloric deficit. In order to lose weight, calculate your caloric needs, required protein, fat and carb intake and make sure to hit your target every day.
For optimum results it is recommended to weigh all foods on a digital scale (this includes condiments, oils, vegetables, fruits etc) in grams or ounces (not cups or spoons since these can be highly inaccurate). For convenience you can use an app like MyFitnessPal to track your intake but double check the entries to make sure they are correct and re-enter them if they are listed in cups, spoons etc.
What If I want To Gain Muscle or Weight?
If you want to put on muscle simply eat in a caloric surplus with adequate protein intake. It is recommended to eat approximately .7 up to 1 gram of protein per lb of body weight for strength training as long as caloric intake is adequate. Please refer to this topic for more information about calculating macro and micro nutrients.
Can’t I just Design My Own Program?
It doesn’t make much sense to design your program instead of following one that is tried and true if you’re a beginner. Some people who end up designing their own programs end up adding in way too many redundant exercises (such as leg press after squats) or just too many exercises and sets period. Progression is another factor to keep in mind. Sure you can add weight whenever you “feel” like you’re ready but you will get stronger and see results faster with a professional designed program.
Should I Follow The Program My Gym Trainer Gave Me?
That depends on your trainer. If your trainer is a strength or conditioning coach chances are they know what they are doing. If it’s from an average gym trainer at a commercial gym chances are the plan isn’t that great. If the program revolves around compound lifts (squat, bench, deadlift, barbell rows) performed with an actual barbell and with a focus on getting stronger it’s probably pretty good. If you “program” revolves around going from one machine to another you’re better of nixing it.
Can I Use Machines Instead?
There is a massive difference between squatting in the Smith machine versus with a barbell. A barbell squat requires more core stabilization and is more challenging for most people. The Smith machine also limits your range of motion. Most people will find they lift much less with free weights than with machines. There is no machine that can substitute an overhead press or deadlift. If your gym only has machines and no barbells you may want to find a different gym.
Do I Need A Spotter?
No. I’m a woman who has strength trained for years and have never needed a spot for any lifts. For squats, simply squat in a rack with safeties on each side. This will allow you to sit down all the way and place the bar on the safeties if needed. For bench press I’ve always benched without the collars in case I need to dump the weight but mainly do the “roll of shame” which consists of rolling the weight down until it’s in my lap and simply sitting up. If you find this uncomfortable you can always ask for a spot if you want; it’s your choice. For deadlifts you simply lift it up and put it down on the floor; no spot needed.
What To Look For In A Weight Training Program For Women
Clear Explanation of Exercises
The program should have clear explanations of how exercises are to be performed in a safe manner. Diagrams and pictures can be very helpful when illustrating proper form which is important in order to avoid injury. It is helpful to provide alternative exercises for those who are unable to perform them.
There should be a focus on progressive overload or adding more weight to the bar. Even if your focus is on bodybuilding; squatting the exact same weight year in year out for the same amount of reps is not going to do you any favors. Progression can be measured in heavier weight or a higher number of reps depending on the program.
Are you seeing results? Results can be measured in strength and changes in physical appearance depending on your goal. If you went from struggling with the bar to squatting 135 that equals results. If your goal is to get bigger glutes and they grew bigger; that equals results. If your goal is to put on muscle and you built some amazing quads, back and lats; those are results! Some women may want to lose weight while others may want to gain and put on muscle while others simply want to be as strong as humanly possible. Your results are measured by the achievement of your initial goals.
The most popular weight training for women and strength training programs for women are Starting Strength, Strong Curves and NROLFW. Read our reviews in order to pick the program that is best for you.
Source: Women Fitness Magazine is Best women’s fitness blog for tips on women’s fitness exercises, women’s health issues, women’s workouts, women lifestyle articles