For Women

A Complete Female Weight Lifting Routine For Beginners

Author: Lee Bell

February 20th 2018

In this ultimate beginners guide to female weight lifting, we show you how to use strength training to improve your shape, enhance your curves and boost your fitness levels.

It can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to lifting weights. It;s hard to build up the confidence to enter the free weights room for the first time.

But if you’re a woman who’s here to learn the basics of strength training, you’re in the right place.

If your goal is to learn how to use dumbbells and barbells to drop body fat, build muscle tone and develop a beautiful, athletic body you’ll not find a more suitable routine.

This is a guide that focuses on simplicity.

It concentrates on females that don’t know where to start when it comes to free weights. Whether it’s from poor confidence, or just a real lack of knowledge on where to start.


In this detailed guide we break it down for you and tackle the more daunting aspects of the weights room. 

What does this program cover?

Goal:Strength, muscle conditioning
Aimed at:Beginner females
Program duration:4 weeks
Workout duration:30-45 minutes
Equipment needed:Body weight, dumbbell, resistance machines

Beginner’s Strength Training Workout for a Woman

The benefits of weight lifting for women are becoming more and more well known.

It’s no longer considered to be a male activity.

And rightly so.

Not only does training with dumbbells and barbells help you carve out a leaner, curvier silhouette, it also improves your health, wellness and physical performance too.

Weight lifting decreases your risk of poor bone health in later life, reduces incidence of vascular and metabolic disease and even promotes neuro-protective benefits too.

But it doesn’t mean its any less confusing as a beginner female to just pick up some weights and get started. .

We’re here to help you though, and we’ve used our collective experience as female coaches to give you the very best advice that science and experience can offer.

By regularly using weights in your gym routine you’ll sleep better, improve your overall functional ability and feel less tired. It can even help you get rid of that knee and back pain you’ve suffered from for a while too.

Chances are though that you’re here not just because you want to improve your long-term health, but because you want to rediscover an absolutely banging body.

Curvy, feminine and athletic.

That’s where strength training gives you the upper hand.

Strong females lift weights for health, beauty and confidence

Rewind a few years and it was pretty common to see the majority of women in the gym performing hours and hours of cardio.

Females that trained like this quickly become known as cardio bunnies – they had very little muscle tone, a flat shape and were non-athletic looking.

And then there was an almost overnight revolution.

Women started to enter the free weights areas of their gym, breaking free from the norm, and starting to build athletic bodies that sparkled with feminine but curvy sex appeal.

And we’ve not looked back since.

Here’s why strength training creates great bodies:

  • Enhances your shape – the unfortunate truth is that you can’t choose where your body burns fat. For most women, it’s your butt, thighs and back of your arms that are last to respond. But you can choose where you sculpt muscle, add volume and create silhouettes. Choosing specific exercises solves this issue… but cardio doesn’t.
  • Lifting weights burns calories – every time you use your muscles during a gym workout with weights you’re using stored energy in the form of calories. An intense workout can burn a surprising number of calories in a short and specific amount of time.
  • Improves your health – we’ve already mentioned that weight lifting improves health. But having more lean tissue and less body fat reduces your risk of diabetes, high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. It also decreases your risk of osteoporosis in later life as well.
  • Cardio doesn’t boost lean mass; but weights gives you a cardio effect – a cleverly structured strength program will soon bump your heart rate and body temperature up, and give you the feeling of cardio – without having to jog on a treadmill for hours on end.

Woman in gym strength training lifting dumbbells from a rack

How to Start Female Weight Lifting

The most intimidating part of weight lifting is knowing exactly where to start.

You want to make your workouts as simple as possible, but also need something that gets the job done too. After all, if it doesn’t help you reach your goals then you’re just wasting your time.

What equipment do you need?

The short answer to this is it doesn’t matter.

Any type resistance training will help you develop more muscle and greater athleticism.

Weight lifting in general helps to boost your strength by making your muscles work against an applied force. Whether that force comes from a dumbbell or your own body weight doesn’t really matter.

Choose what you like the most and stick with it.

Common types of weight training equipment include:

  • Barbells and dumbbells
  • Fixed resistance machines
  • Body weight
  • Medicine balls, sand bags, elastic bands, cables and tubes

You might have to choose your equipment based on what your gym has available.

Or if you’re spoiled for choice then stick with two or three different variations to begin with – that way you’ll keep things interesting without having to learn too much in one go.

How many reps and sets should you perform?

As  beginner it’s important to find a balance between doing enough to force your body to adapt, and doing too much.

If you’ve ever done that little bit more than you should have, you’ll likely have suffered from delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS) – that horrible soreness you get in your muscles for a day or three after a workout.

Now don’t get us wrong – you’ll probably end up with some soreness on this program. But if it’s anything more than one or two days you’ll have done too much and need to reel things in a bit.

A common approach with weight training is to choose 2-3 sets of 8-15 reps. And as a beginner who’s taking part in a program for the first time, this works well.

This means that the weights are light enough for you to ‘feel’ the muscles working, build up your skills and decrease the risk of injury.

One of the most challenging aspects of weight lifting for beginners is getting used to each exercise – how it feels, where your arms or legs should be moving and so on.

You’re training your brain just as much as your body in the early stages of your workout program.

Adding in multiple sets helps to challenge your muscles just that little bit further.

The result will be some real progress, fast.

How hard should you work?

The human body is actually pretty lazy.

If it was easy to add lean and toned muscle you’d not have to work hard at all.

Unfortunately you do.

When you choose a weight you need to go with something that is challenging. If you’re working on 8-15 reps then you should grab a weight that tires you out within that number of reps.

For example, if you choose a pair of dumbbells that are 6 kg each and you can squeeze out 9 reps then that’s great.

But if you can only perform 6 reps it’s too heavy . Or if you crank out 20 reps it’s too light.

Women and weightlifting – What You Need to Know

When it comes to weight lifting, you might have come across various myths or stories about how it can affect your body.

Maybe a friend of yours has suggested that “lifting weights will turn you into the hulk” or “lifting anything above light dumbbells will make you look bulky”.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Here’s what you need to know…

You can’t choose where you burn fat; but you can influence your shape

Have you ever tried to perform sit-ups to chisel out a slimmer waist? or maybe doing hundreds of twists night after night to tighten your sides?

If you have, you’re like many people that think they can burn fat from specific parts of their body.

Unfortunately it’s just not possible.

But what you can do is choose where you enhance the shape of your bodyBuilding muscle can help to tone your arms or even build a tight and high booty.

Combining a healthy diet with regular strength training will completely change the way your body looks for good.

Women have less muscle mass than men

It’s pretty well accepted that females aren’t as strong as the guys.

But that’s only because men are typically heaver, taller and carry more muscle mass on their frames. It’s not because you don’t have muscle or can’t generate power.

If you actually take body mass this into account, men and women are pretty equal in terms of strength – particularly in your lower body.

You’ll not build ‘bulky’ muscles

To build huge muscles you need to not only train hard but have high levels of circulating anabolic hormones too. Men have around 300-1,000 ng.dL of the steroid hormone testosterone in their blood.

Women only have 15-70 ng.dL.

No matter how hard you try you’ll not look masculine or bulky from strength training.

Only feminine, athletic and beautiful.

You can recover quickly between sets

Here’s where us ladies have the upper hand.

In terms of recovery between sets, we are absolute machines. There’s no need to rest 3 or 4 minutes between weight training sets as our physiology allows us to replenish lost energy in a matter of seconds.

To really push your training to the next level you should rest 1-2 minutes between sets.

Smiling young female athlete performing bicep curls with red dumbbells

Workout Plan for Women: What’s next?

Once you’ve graduated from this beginner program you’ll be a much more competent and confident weight lifter. You’ll look and feel better and your figure will tell a story of someone that’s worked hard over the last few weeks to construct a body that radiates health.

But it doesn’t have to end here.

The next step on your quest for a fighting fit, lean physique is the sequel to this program – Muscle Building Workout for Women, where we step things up a gear and introduce you to more intermediate difficulty workouts.

It’s a great way of taking your progress just that little bit further.

Beginner Strength Training Routine

NumberExerciseRepsSetsRest time
1Chest press12-1531-2 minutes
2Lying leg curl8-1231-2 minutes
3Leg press8-1231-2 minutes
4Close grip pulldown12-1531-2 minutes
5Dumbbell step ups8-1231-2 minutes
6Side plank20-40 seconds each side31-2 minutes
7Mountain climbers20 each side31-2 minutes
8Back extensions12-1531-2 minutes

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