There are many ways for women to work out, and some are far better than others. This article will show you why.

 

If you’re like most women, you want a specific type of body.

You want to be lean but not too skinny.

You want muscle definition in your upper body but don’t want to look “jacked.”

You want a flat, sculpted stomach.

You want toned but not bulky legs.

And you want, of course, the callipygian piece de resistance:

A tight, round butt that can bring tears to a grown man’s eyes.

And amen! I want all the same for you.

How do you get there, though?

Do you follow the advice in magazines and subject yourself to starvation dieting and an unconscionable amount of cardio?

And what about weightlifting?

Is it necessary? Will it make you “bulky”? Should you “train like a man” to “look like a goddess”?

Well, in this article, we’re going to break it all down.

By the end, you’re going to know exactly what types of workouts you should be doing and why, and exactly how to get the body you desire.

But let’s start with what you most definitely shouldn’t be doing.

And it’s probably going to sound familiar…

The Worst Type of Workouts for Women

worst workouts for women

Unfortunately, the bulk of mainstream diet and training advice for women is a one-way street to skinny fat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Do excessive amounts of steady-state cardio.
  • If you do any resistance training, make sure it’s high rep with light weights.
  • Do long (2+ hour) workouts.
  • Exercise 6 to 7 days per week at maximum intensity each day.

And then, just to slam a few more nails in the coffin, the diet advice:

Heavily restrict your calories.

Eating less = losing weight so eating as little as possible = losing it as quickly as possible, right?

Heavily restrict your carbs.

“If you haven’t reached your ideal body fat percentage, you don’t deserve carbs!” says the moronic trainer with the funny haircut and ridiculous tattoos.

Heavily restrict the types of foods you eat.

Grains…anything containing gluten or sugarhigh-glycemic carbsred meat…processed foods…fruit…dairy…caloric beverages…granola…it’s all gotta go.

All your toys. Throw all that shit into the fire.

What do you get when you combine all this nonsense?

Misery.

  • You’re going to be tired.
  • You’re going to be hungry.
  • You’re going to dread your workouts.
  • You’re going to have sensual daydreams about carbs.
  • And you’re going to wonder if the frumpy girl in the mirror can ever look like the duck-lipped seductress on Instagram.

Well, the truth is no, she can’t…if she doesn’t drastically change her approach.

Why?

Well, the primary reason is while you will lose fat if you eat very little food and do a lot of cardio…but you’ll lose a lot of muscle as well.

And the more muscle you lose, the more amorphous your body begins to look…even when body fat levels are low.

You see, a low body fat percentage on a woman with little muscle looks quite different than on one with good muscle development.

For example, check out the following pictures:

female fitness training

woman fitness plan

The kicker?

Both of these women are around the same body fat percentage!

What sets them apart is muscle.

The first woman has little whereas the second has a lot.

It’s muscle that gives you curves, shape, and definition (when you’re lean, at least, but we’ll talk more about that soon).

You see, the question isn’t if you should gain muscle, it’s just how much.

That is, how curvy and “ripped” do you want to be?

Another example:

female fitness plan

And here’s the shocker: she weighs the same in each of these pictures!

That’s the power of improving body composition.

When you focus on losing fat and adding muscle instead of just “losing weight,” wondrous things happen with your body.

So, if that’s a summary of how to ruin your physique and health, how do you actually reach your goals?

Well, it boils down to this:

  • Do a lot of heavy, compound weightlifting.
  • Be stingy with cardio.
  • Maintain a moderately aggressive calorie deficit to lose fat.
  • Balance your macronutrient intake properly.

Yup.

That’s it.

Let’s dive in deeper, starting at the top.

Doesn’t Heavy Weightlifting Make Women Bulky?

weight training for women

If there’s one lie that causes more harm to women’s physiques than any other, it’s this one.

The claim that heavy weightlifting makes them “bulky.”

Well, here’s the truth:

Heavy weightlifting doesn’t make you bulky–being fat does.

I know that sounds harsh but bear with me.

You see, at first glance, this myth sounds plausible.

Heavy weights are for the boys that want bulging biceps, right?

Why would women, who want long, lean, “toned” muscles, train in the same way?

I mean, visit just about any Crossfit box and you’ll see at least a few women that look like high school linebackers.

Well, the first thing you should know it’s very hard for women to build a big, bulky body.

It doesn’t happen by accident or overnight. It takes years of intense training and eating.

Us guys have a hard enough time doing it so trust me–you’re not going to have it any easier.

And the great irony is heavy weightlifting is actually the only way for most women to get the body they want.

Yup…

If you want a lean, athletic body with tight muscles and all the right curves and lines, you’re going to need to build quite a bit of muscle.

And heavy weightlifting is the most effective way to do that.

The key to building muscle and not “bulk,” however, is staying lean. The more muscle you have, the more you have to pay attention to your body fat percentage.

A simple illustration of this would be an athletic woman with an enviable body.

You know, shapely legs, curvy butt, tight arms, and flat stomach.

Like this:

strength training for women

I doubt you’d call her bulky, right?

Well, add 15 pounds of fat to her frame and you might be surprised how much “blockier” she would look.

Her super-sleek legs would look more like logs. Her perfectly perky butt would get too big for her britches. And her ripped and vascular arms would fill up like sausages.

This is because fat accumulates inside and on top of muscles, and the more you have of both, the larger and “blobbier” your body looks.

(Yes, that’s a technical term. 😉 )

That, then, leads us to the obvious question:

How much muscle do you have to gain and how low does your body fat percentage have to be to get that lean, athletic look?

Well, generally speaking, most women will need to…

1. Gain 10 to 20 pounds of muscle.

(Yup, gain weight to look better!)

2. Maintain a body fat percentage between 15 and 20%.

This allows you to showcase your muscle definition without compromising your health or sanity.

The reason for the wide ranges is it depends on how you want to look.

If you want to be toned and athletic, you probably don’t need more than 10 pounds of muscle and a body fat percentage around 20%.

If you want to look like a bikini competitor, though (like the girl above), you’re going to need quite a bit more muscle and quite a bit less fat.

I’ve worked with thousands of women and the “sweet spot” for most seems to be around 10 to 15 pounds of muscle gained and 17 to 18% body fat.

This is where you look both feminine and fit and it’s also something that can be maintained year-round.

The Best Type of Workouts for Women

workout routines for women

You can be the embodiment of elegance and grace outside the gym, but if you want a killer body, you need to get down and dirty in your workouts.

You want statuesque legs, a butt that “melts the Internet,” and chiseled arms and abs, you say?

Then you need to knock off the BOSU lunges, side bends, yoga poses, and Swiss ball crunches.

This wimpy training will only make you a waif.

Squats, deadlifts, hip thrusts, overhead presses…these are your new best friends.

These are what will turn you into a goddess.

And you need to show up every day with one goal in mind: to build muscle and strength.

That means you’re going to be moving heavy weights and giving each rep, set, and workout everything you’ve got.

That means you’re going to make some deformed faces when you grind out those last few reps. You may even let out a grunt or two.

Your hair is going to get messed up and you may want to invest in some good moisture-wicking clothing.

But you’re not there to look cute.

You’re there to make progress and it comes one ugly, shaky, sweaty facial contortion at a time.

Now, the best types of workout routines for women meet the following criteria:

  • They focus on heavy weightlifting.
  • They emphasize compound movements.
  • They emphasize the lower body more than the upper body.
  • They keep cardio to a minimum.

This approach won’t meet everyone’s needs, of course, but this is how the majority of women should be working out.

You can learn more about this style of training in my book Thinner Leaner Stronger, but I want to give you a simple workout that you can do for the next 8 weeks to see how my advice works for you.

What I want you to do over the next 8 weeks do the following weightlifting workouts:

DAY 1
CHEST & CALVES

Incline Barbell Bench Press

3 light warm-up sets

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps (8 to 10 reps if you’re brand new to weightlifting)

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Flat Barbell Bench Press

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Optional:

(Train your calves if you want more defined calves. Don’t if you don’t.)

Standing Calf Raise

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

Seated Calf Raise

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

DAY 2
BACK & BUTT & ABS

Barbell Deadlift

3 light warm-up sets

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps (8 to 10 reps if you’re brand new to weightlifting)

Barbell Squat

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Barbell Row

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

One-Arm Dumbbell Row

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

3 to 6 Abs Supersets

(Do the following 3 sets back-to-back to complete one superset.)

Cable Crunches

1 set of 10 to 12 reps

Captain’s Chair Leg Raise

1 set to failure

Air Bicycles

1 set to failure

If you have lower-back issues, remember that you can swap the deadlift for a more lower-back-friendly variation like the sumo or hex deadlift, or you can replace it with an exercise like the T-bar row.

If you can’t do pull-ups or chin-ups, you can use a machine that assists you. If your gym doesn’t have one, you can do dumbbell rows instead.

DAY 3
SHOULDERS & CALVES

Standing Barbell Military Press

3 light warm-up sets

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps (8 to 10 reps if you’re brand new to weightlifting)

Side Lateral Raise

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Bent-Over Rear Delt Raise

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Optional:

Standing Calf Raise

3 sets of 12 to 15 reps

Seated Calf Raise

3 sets of 12 to 15 reps

DAY 4
ARMS & ABS

Barbell Curl

3 light warm-up sets

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Close-Grip Bench Press

3 light warm-up sets

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Alternating Dumbbell Curl

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Seated Triceps Press

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

3 to 6 Abs Supersets

Cable Crunches

1 set of 10 to 12 reps

Captain’s Chair Leg Raise

1 set to failure

Air Bicycles

1 set to failure

DAY 5
LEGS & BUTT

Barbell Squat

3 light warm-up sets

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps (8 to 10 reps if you’re brand new to weightlifting)

Leg Press

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Romanian Deadlift

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Hip Thrust

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

That’s it–just 9 to 12 heavy sets for each workout with some optional additional sets if you feel you still have energy in the tank.

A couple odds and ends:

  • Rest 2 to 3 minutes in between each heavy set and 1 minute in between the bodyweight sets.

This will give your muscles enough time to fully recoup their strength so you can give maximum effort each set.

  • Once you hit the top of your rep range for one set, you move up in weight.

For instance, if you get 10 reps on your first set of squats, you add 5 pounds to each side of the bar for your next set and work with that weight until you can squat it for 10 reps, and so forth.

  • If you’re looking to lose fat, do several sessions of high-intensity interval training as well.

You can learn more about this here.

I guarantee that if you do this workout and eat right for the next 8 weeks, you’ll be very happy with how your body responds.

What About the Best Diet for Women?

best diet for women

Oh diet…you little four-letter word you…

If you dread the idea of dieting, I understand. Most diets feel more like punishment than self improvement.

Instead of educating you on science-based fundamenetals like energy balance and macronutrient breakdowns, most diet “gurus” resort to fearmongering and food restriction instead.

If you want to lose fat or build “lean muscle,” they say, you can kiss just about everything you like eating goodbye.

Well…

  • What if I told you that you could dramatically transform your body eating foods you actually like…every day…7 days per week?
  • What if all you had to do to build muscle and lose fat was follow a handful of flexible dietary guidelines…not starve and deprive yourself?
  • And what if I promised you could forever break free of the restrictions and anxieties most people associate with dieting and learn to love it instead?

Too good to be true, you think? Downright heresy?

I know. I used to think the same thing.

I now know the truth, though, and I lay it all out in this article.

The Bottom Line on the Best Workouts for Women

workout plans for women

Don’t make building the body of your dreams harder than it has to be, and don’t buy into the bullshit.

You don’t need top-shelf genetics.

You don’t need to live in the gym.

You don’t need to develop an eating disorder.

All you need to do is apply the basic principles outlined in the article.

  • Build muscle.
  • Get lean.
  • Stay healthy.

And you’ll have it made.

I promise.

 

What’s your take on workouts for women? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!