For Women

Gym Weight Lifting Workout Plan for Women

Author: Lee Bell

February 8th 2018

Strong women lift weights. And now it’s your turn to get in on the action with this gym weight lifting workout guide.

Fitness can be an intimidating prospect – for both men and women.

And that’s not helped by the fact that many people don’t really know where to start, or which exercises help to make your time in the gym more effective.

If you’re wanting to learn how to use weight lifting to tone up, develop curves and shape, but also drop body fat too, you’re in the right place.

We developed this guide during our coaches expert meetings under the working title ‘female strength training bible’.

And that’s what you’ll get here.

This detailed guide takes you step by step through everything you need to know to completely transform the way you look and feel. 

What does this program cover?

Goal:Fat loss, muscle conditioning
Aimed at:Beginner women
Program duration:8 weeks
Workout duration:45-60 minutes
Equipment needed:Barbell, dumbbell, resistance machines

A Beginner’s Guide to Female Weight Lifting

By deciding to exit the elliptical and trash the treadmill you’ve taken the first step to a healthier, more shapely figure.

It’s cardio no more.

And in this guide we take you through all of the basics of weight lifting, leaving no stone unturned in your quest for efficient progress, visible changes to your body and a completely different outlook on how to use the gym for body and mind.

If you’re a woman who considers herself to be more of an intermediate level and wants to look for ideas on strength training, then we’d suggest that you move onto the sequel to this guide – Muscle building workout for women.

But if you consider yourself to be a noob when it comes to all things strength training, stick with this workout.

Because we promise great things ahead.

Why use weight lifting to build a better body?

Cardio does change your body. It helps you burn fat and boosts vascular health. It’s actually pretty great.

But it lacks one important feature… it doesn’t build muscle.

Strength training helps to create not just a lean and fit body, but one with curves, shape and firmness too.

It keeps your womanly figure looking smoking hot, even if you’re dropping body fat.

Plain and simple: everyone should lift weights. Whether you’re a man, a woman, older or younger.

  • Muscle creates shape – unfortunately you really cant choose where you lose fat; but you definitely can choose where you enhance your curves. So whether its developing a bigger booty or sculpting more defined legs – strength training has you covered.
  • Builds resilience and confidence – pushing yourself physically can build character that transfers into areas other than the gym. And you’ll find that confidence and positivity comes with a healthy and great looking body too.
  • Weight lifting improves health – science is pretty conclusive that a healthy lean muscle to fat ratio boosts metabolic, vascular and cognitive health. We’d say it’s pretty much the fountain of youth!
  • You’ll never get bored – if you’re anything like us, the thought of jogging on a treadmill while facing a wall for an hour fills us with sheer dread. But with weights, you have hundreds of thousands of variations, modifications and ideas to work through.
  • Improves cardio and stamina – integrating shorter rest periods into your gym workouts provides a stimulus similar to cardio. This means better endurance and fat burning.

Dark-haired woman performing a single arm row in the gym

Beginners Need to Follow an Effective Plan

Before we move onto the actual program details, let’s take a look at some of the essentials of gym workouts and strength training.

Taking the time to get comfortable with some of the more basic principles of resistance-based exercise will help you understand why your program is structured like it is.

And what’s even better than that; once you begin to understand exercise programming better, you can then write your own sessions.

You’ll be like your own personal coach.

Following optimized gym workouts will give you better results

It might be difficult to admit that you’re a novice to weight lifting.

But embracing the fact that you don’t know a great deal about muscle building or gym weight lifting workouts helps you find the right starting point.

If you’re program is too difficult you run the risk of injury, excessive fatigue and overtraining. To easy and you’ll become demotivated at the lack of results.

It’s the same for both men and women.

Optimal progress is about ‘dose-response’ – finding exactly how much training helps you to get stronger and more muscular, without training too hard.

Here are the essentials of beginner programming…

Stick to the plan and build positive fitness habits

One issue that occurs commonly with those trialing a new strength program is a lack of patience.

In the beginning it’s important to build positive habits. We want you to try and make the gym an important part of your week.

This means going from…

“Shall I go to the gym tonight?”


“I’m going to the gym tonight no matter what!”

This takes time though, so don’t expect it overnight. Changing your mindset isn’t easy, but once you get there, the journey to a better body is so much easier.

Be patient – great bodies take time to build

There’s an old saying in weight lifting that goes “trust the process”.

What this means is that if the right tools are in place, you will reach your goals. For some you’ll find that progress is quick; but for others it can be frustrating slow.

But it WILL happen.

Key points for beginner weight lifting:

  • It can take time to build positive habits and make gym workouts part of your weekly routine.
  • Patience is key when building your new physique. It won’t happen overnight.

Get Stronger and Leaner with Weights

Now it’s time to look at putting the program together.

This is where it gets interesting of course, because you start to see how specific elements of your gym workout will lead to better strength, growth and athleticism.

Here are the rules that all beginner lifters should follow…

Rule #1: Choose the right exercises to maximize strength

You might have seen women in the gym doing fancy and elaborate lifting routines that you could only dream of trying.

The chances are though that they’ve been training for a while. Their bodies are finely tuned, their co-ordination is on point and their strength allows them to remain balanced and stable.

But even they would have started with basic movements and patterns.

Focusing your attention on compound exercises is the way forwards. These are simply weight lifting exercises that work more than one muscle group at the same time.

There’s nothing wrong with bicep curls and triceps kickbacks, but you can work those same muscles in other exercises too.

The core of your workouts should involve the following movement patterns:

  • Press
  • Pull
  • Squat
  • Hinge
  • Lunge

Use these on a regular basis and you’ll find that your strength and muscle increases quickly.

Rule #2: Full-body workouts are better for strength and muscle conditioning

There are lots of ways you can structure your gym program. Some opt for single muscle splits (where you train one muscle per day), others have a push-pull-legs system that they follow.

And while these will definitely build muscle, the best approach for you is a full-body workout.


Because it’s been shown to cause minimal soreness after training, but still optimize both strength and muscle response.

For example, research shows that when a group of weight lifters take part in either a split muscle workout or a full-body session, the multi-muscle approach is far superior to the ‘bro-split’ [1].

And 3 sessions of total-body strength training is far easier to fit into your week than a 6-day muscle split as well.

Rule #3: Progressive overload is key

In order for your gym weight lifting workout to be effective, you have to keep challenging yourself.

By choosing weights that take your body to fatigue, you force it to build new muscle cells and grow.

If you use weights that are easy, you don’t trigger the biochemical changes that occur during the muscle growth stimulus. Basically, you’re wasting your time.

If you’re asked to choose a weight for say 10-15 reps, you need to go with something that allows you to perform more than 9 reps, but reach fatigue in less than 15.

You record that weight and use it each workout until you can do more than 15 good reps; and then you increase it.

And start the process all again.

Note: fatigue means lifting a weight until you are really struggling to squeeze out your last rep. It’s important to avoid ‘failure’ where you try to finish a rep but can’t move the weight, just for safety reasons.

Brown-haired young woman in the gym listening to music through earphones

Rule #4: Follow a program for women

Most programs are designed for men and women. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, there are physical differences that affect the way in which you can optimize progress.

There’s also the fact that men and women often have different goals too. Men tend to want more upper body work, whereas women prefer butt, abs an leg training.

This might be a little stereotypical, but from our experience it’s largely true.

  • Women are strong

If you’ve ever gone to the gym with one of the guys, you might have noticed that they were lifting more than you.

Okay that’s cool. They were more experienced than you and they have more muscle mass.

But if you were take into account the fact that males are largely taller and heavier than a woman, your strength is pretty much the same. There’s a significant similarity between strength and muscle size.

Men are stronger simply because they have more muscle. But you’re still an absolute strength machine!

  • Women have got fantastic recovery ability

Not only have you got considerable strength to work with; you can also recover fast. Much faster than a man anyway.

Because of the way that your muscle fibers are formed, enzymes in your muscle cells allow you to use oxygen for recovery and regeneration at an astounding rate.

While the guys are still bent over, breathing heavily after a heavy set, you’re ready to go.

You put them to shame.

In this program you’ll find that your rest times between sets are low. This helps to push progressive overload, but also keep your workouts shorter and more productive.

  • You can’t build muscle ‘mass’ like the guys can

One concern for women using a gym weightlifting program is getting too bulky.

Okay, you understand that strength training will help you develop curves and athleticism, but the last thing you want is huge, rippling muscles.

Well don’t worry.

Without the anabolic power of hormones such as testosterone (men have around 15 times more than you), you just can’t trigger muscle growth like they can.

But what you will achieve is tone, size, shape and beauty.

So let’s lift big!

The Program

To get the very best from this 8-week workout plan we’ve split it into 2 different phases. By doing this, we can factor in your progressing fitness levels and structure a tiered approach to training.

The result will be greater strength, muscle conditioning, fat loss and fitness – remember, progressive overload is key.

Phase 1: Getting started (weeks 1-2)

The emphasis on the first 2 weeks is to focus on the core movements that give you the most ‘bang for your buck’.

It’s very much about learning what your body can do and building up a bank of skills for later in the program.

We’ve structured each session so that you move quickly from one muscle group to the next, reducing overall fatigue but creating a cardio effect at the same time.

Your rep range is perfect for laying down some foundations of progress, and your rest times are set for optimal recovery.

We’ve given you the same workout for each of the 3 sessions you’ll perform each week. And while this might get tedious towards the end of week 2, it’s important that you learn through repetition.

But don’t worry, we’ll shift things around in the second phase.

Phase 2: Zoning in on serious strength (weeks 3-8)

The most obvious difference here is that you have 3 separate workouts each week.

This allows you to use what you learned in phase 1, but target each muscle from a variety of angles, using more challenging exercises.

The number of sets for each lift remains the same, but the weekly total sets per muscle group has gone up – welcome to a whole new level of weight lifting.

Each exercise is 3 sets of 8-12 reps (each side for single limb exercises), with a 2 minute rest between sets.

Phase 1:

NumberExercise RepsSetsRest
1Leg press10-1532-3 minutes
2Lying leg curl10-1532-3 minutes
3Chest press machine10-1532-3 minutes
4Lat pulldown10-1532-3 minutes
5DB Split squat10-1532-3 minutes
6Ab curl10-1532-3 minutes
7Side plank20-60 seconds each side32-3 minutes

Phase 2:

NumberSession 1Session 2Session 3
1Glute bridge/hip thrustDB Step-upGoblet squat
2DB chest pressAssisted / bench dipsPress-ups (either full or on knees)
3Seated rowDB single arm rowLow cable row
4DB Alternate lungesDB Back lungesSide lying clam
5Lying leg curlRomanian deadliftKettlebell swing
6Lat pulldownUnderhand grip pulldownNeutral grip pulldown
7Mountain climbersCycle crunchesTabletop crunch
  1. Schoenfeld, BJ et al. Influence of Resistance Training Frequency on Muscular Adaptations in Well-Trained Men. J Strength Cond Res. 2015; 29(7): 1821-9

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