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Weight Lifting 101 for Women

April 28, 2014


If you have read about me and/or my fitness journey, you know that I first began exercising when I was 13 years old, at home, doing exercise videos. They all required free weights/dumbbells/whatever you want to call it. I always thought lifting weights was just a part of exercise. I did not worry about becoming "big and bulky". The women in the videos were not big and bulky, they were just really toned and had pretty muscle definition. I liked it. However, I can see why women worry about lifting weights. It is understandable. There are some women who partake in bodybuilding and try to become bigger. Women can, if they eat a very high caloric diet of protein and carbohydrates and pair that with lifting extremely heavy weights; but truth be known, they will need assistance from an artificial substance to become as big as some of them do. That is just the bold truth. I have friends all across the United States who are bodybuilders, bikini, and figure competitors, etc. and I have been around the industry for a long time. Naturally, women do not have the testosterone in their body to have the muscle enlargement that men do. However, every woman is different. What works for one woman may not work for another so when it comes to exercising, engage in activities that most positively respond to your body.

Weight lifting is important for every woman. There are so many benefits to it that cardio alone can not provide. If you pair weight lifting with a clean diet, you will start to see more results than you do with just cardio. Weight lifting and strength training increases bone density which is essential for us women, it burns more calories at rest, helps with stress and depression, increases "good" cholesterol, makes you stronger, it can assist with lowering blood pressure, and lowers the risk of breast cancer; as it reduces high estrogen levels linked to the disease. 


The first thing to understand about weight training is how important your form is. Correct form comes above anything when you are lifting weights. If you have lift a piece of paper because any other weight is too hard to do with correct form, then do it. If your form is not correct, you are wasting your time, not building muscle, and you are very susceptible to injury. 

There are many ways one could divide their workouts for weight training. You could do two body groups a day; a lot of my friends who are more focused on building muscle rather than fat loss, do this. I do not right now, as my primary focus is just fat loss. I have plenty of muscle, I just need to lose the fat on top of it.

If you decide to do two muscle groups a day, paired with cardio, I would recommend one "push" muscle and one "pull" muscle. The reason I recommend this is since the two body parts engage in different ranges and motions on the exercises, you do not burn out. You are able to lift heavier, more reps, and with correct form. 

12-15 reps are ideal for most women. If you want to focus more on really building muscle, go with 12 reps. That will be hard and it should be. The last two reps should be a struggle for you. If your focus is more on fat loss, go with 15 repetitions. However, even then the weight should not be easy. If you can perform all of your exercises with correct form, and are not struggling at the end, you need to bump your weight up. Your work outs should always be a challenge; if they aren't, you will stay where you are. I recommend 3-4 exercises per muscle group and 3 sets per specific exercises with 12 repetitions. A 60-90 second rest should occur after each set. Often times you will see it written as "3 x 12" - that means 3 sets of 12 repetitions. 


The way I personally lift weights now is by a weight circuit. I do this 3 times a week. The other days I like to hike, do a plyometric workout, leg, and core workouts. When I do my weight circuits, I do each upper body muscle group; one specific exercise, 3 sets of the exercises, and 15 repetitions per set. The body parts are back, chest, biceps, triceps, and shoulders. 


If you see below I have outlined each upper body muscle group and three specific exercises for each group. This is a sample you can go can buy for a week of training; this allows you three days of weight circuit. Engage in one exercise per muscle group, each day. Anyone can do this - you can do this at the gym or in your own home.






48 comments

  1. This is a great post!! I don't go to the gym--usually do my workouts at home--so this is very helpful! Bookmarking it for sure!! Thanks girl!!

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  2. i love this post so much!!! I am a paper-weight lifter lol...but Im still doing it. when I find a new weight workout I ALWAYS have brad make sure my form is correct and it helps me so much!! I am saving this post for sure!!!

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  3. So informative, I love reading your posts. I started a bootcamp class last year, I absolutely LOVE lifting in there. It's the perfect mix of lifting and cardio for me :)

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  4. Yay! I was just refiguring my May plan and now this is it. Thanks Liz.

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  5. what is going on with blogger? it ate my comment!!!

    aside from all of these, i also inject (full body) functional moves like dumbbell cleans to shoulder pressses to burpees. i hate but love that move.

    -kathy
    Vodka and Soda

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  6. great post! hope you don't mind if I pin it?

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    1. Please do!!! I am trying to install the "pin this" cursor on my blog and it is a lot harder than I thought!

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  7. SUPER! I'm going to grab a few of these and work them into my Weight/Strength Days!

    YOU ARE AMAZING!

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    1. You need to change your preferences so when you leave a comment, I can reply to it! You know you're my girl. You are double amazing. XO!

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  8. This post is so amazing! I will be printing it out for reference!

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  9. Thank you so much for this!! Great post!!!

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  10. Love this! I am all about the "bro" work out these days. Lift, lift, lift! It is crazy how many women think they are going to bulk up from lifting weights. I love how weights make my muscles long and lean. Awesome post :)

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  11. Yay I was headed back to the gym today (after a VERY long time off) & super excited to see this. My arms are def something I want to work on...I have the muscle...but I have the chicken wing effect going on too. Thanks Liz!

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  12. I've been lifting weights for several years now. Hubby was really into it back in the day, so we have a complete set up in our home gym. I only need half the dumb bells (not even half, but we've got the whole set). I'm a little more into a full-body workout, hitting everything and trying to repeat it Mon/Wed/Fri. Sometimes I'll try a DVD which introduces some different moves that I maybe wouldn't do on my own ... I do really like to SEE it in action, as I have a hard time reading instructions and knowing if I'm doing it right.

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  13. Love that you posted tons of pics for dummies like me! Keep up the great work, missy!!

    Kristen @ Your Beauty Fix

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  14. The images are great representatives of the workouts. It really helps apply a visual to the name of the exercise. Great job and appearance. I like that you added benefits of lifting and they are more than physical appearance :)

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  15. Nice one! I bet it took you a lot of work to make this post up! Thanks for sharing :)

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  16. Very good for those starting out. I love that you spread the knowledge of the benefits of weights. Cardio alone can't give the tone ladies want so much.

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  17. this is fanfreakingtastic. i am absolutely printing this and taking it with me to the gym, lol.

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  18. Love this!!!
    So glad you are sharing your knowledge with other woman!!!

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  19. Great post! Up until last Aug, I use to work as a physical therapy aide, so I lifted weights on and off all day long. I miss it, but am excited to go back to teaching in the Fall. I lost about 100 pounds and have shared my tips for staying healthy on my blog. I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, so I put myself on an even a stricter meal plan filled with folate, omega 3, and fiber. I would love for you to join the Anything Goes weekly linky, if you have not already.

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  20. Awesome post! I'm totally printing off some of those and hanging them in my exercise room!

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  21. Love this! I'm getting bored of my current routine so I'm bookmarking this to try!

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  22. This is awesome! I would love it if you would do a similar post for lower body exercises.

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  27. Your blogs are always amazing and it helps a lot to know that there is someone who is concerned about Good workouts for women

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  29. In order to drop pounds, you must remain active. These simple activities can take more healthier. So all you and we need is a little activity every day. Thanks for sharing this very helpful information.

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  30. This is a great post! I don't go to the gym--usually do my workouts at home.So its a great article for home gym workouts.Thank you.

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