Top tips for women getting started in the weights room

You’ve heard all the benefits of resistance training. You’re ready to get started in the weights room. But what do you need to know?


More and more women are venturing into the weights area of the gym. Great news! Resistance training, weight training and working out with barbells and dumbbells won’t make you bulky or manly, but it will sculpt a lean physique which burns more calories even at rest. More muscle means a higher metabolic rate, helping keep weight and body fat in check.


Men and women don’t need to train any differently in the weights room. Ladies, it’s time to lift some heavy weights. You simply don’t have the testosterone levels necessary to build massive amounts of muscle, so set that worry aside right away. Your body will respond well to lifting heavy weights and will shed bodyfat whilst developing the kind of muscle shape every fit woman wants.


Forget lots of reps with light weights. Forget toning. Forget lengthening muscles. These are all fallacies. High rep training (15+ repetitions) has its place within a training programme but for now, you need to perform sets of between 6-12 repetitions for muscle growth (hypertrophy). You will not get bulky. You will not turn into a bodybuilder. But you will make the most of your precious time in the gym by performing set and rep ranges which maximise the effectiveness of your efforts.


Eat more protein. Your body needs good solid nutrition to support itself as it adapts to your weight training sessions. Recovery and performance and based on nutrition and rest. So get your diet in check. Forget dieting and cutting calories, and focus instead on getting the nutrients, proteins, healthy fats and necessary carbohydrates your body needs. Focus on protein, including a high quality protein shake for supplementation. Don’t skimp on healthy fats from fish, avocados, red meat, seeds, nuts and coconut oil. Eat natural sources of carbohydrate like sweet potato, white potato, rice, fruit and berries. And get plenty of vegetables and leafy greens. And stay well hydrated (at least 2 litres of water a day).


Do full body, compound exercises which use plenty of muscle groups. Exercises like deadlifts, squats, lunges, dips, pull ups, rows and presses will be the fundamental mainstay of your weight and resistance training for now. Forget working on the smaller muscles until you have the basics and the big muscle groups covered. Compound exercises will take care of the smaller muscle groups (and everything in between!) anyway. Get a personal trainer or strength and conditioning expert to show you proper form and technique and to advise on a progression which will work for you (body weight, dumbbells or loaded barbell).


How often should you weight train? You may decide to do a bodypart split (lower body one day, pushing exercises another, and pulling exercises on a third). Or you may design one or two full-body routines which hit all body parts in one session. Either way, remember that the key to weight training is in working hard whilst you’re at the gym, but then recovering hard, too. Your body rebuilds and repairs at rest, so that’s when the magic happens. We think three days in the gym lifting weights is plenty for beginners, with one or two metabolic conditioning/cardio sessions. That will be plenty.


What about cardio? Weight training is far superior for physique and fat loss goals than jogging, running or endless cardio on the machines. But cardio does have its place in a fat loss and fitness routine. If you’re a former cardio junkie, ditch your boring one-pace-pony sessions. They’re doing nothing for you. Weight training will skyrocket your body composition like nothing you’ve tried so far. Schedule in one or two metabolic cardio sessions instead of the steady-state stuff. Run sprints, do bodyweight circuits including kettlebell work, burpees and plyometrics, do hill sprints or try interval training. But no more steady-state cardio. Trust us, try it, and watch the fat fall off (and stay off). And think of all that time you’ll reclaim!


Good luck, and enjoy watching your body transform into a sleek, lean physique.

Nicola joyce

Nicola Joyce



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About Nicola Joyce

Nicola Joyce is a freelance journalist, features writer and copywriter who has been writing about sport and fitness for magazines, newspapers, books and corporate clients since 2004. Formerly an endurance athlete who has swum the English Channel (twice!) and taken part in long triathlons, running races and cycle sportives, she is now a competitive bodybuilder who has taken part in several British Finals of drug-tested natural bodybuilding federations. When she's not training or writing, she blogs about writing, fitness, sport and training at
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