Weight Lifting for Women: Five Rules

If you know you should be lifting weights but don’t know where to start, this is for you. Maybe every week you walk into the gym, head over to the weight section, you look in the mirror and realize you have no idea what to do.

Sound familiar? I thought so.

As a personal trainer, I help women strength train for results. Every program I write includes lifting weights and follows a set of rules.

These rules will guide you every time you step into the gym.

Five Weight Lifting Rules for Women

Use heavy (for you) weights

As you approach the weight rack, grab a set of weights that will make it difficult to complete ten to twelve repetitions, with good form. Using heavier weights will cause you to sacrifice form. Using lighter weights will not challenge your body enough to make a change.

My rule of thumb is to grab a set of weights that is 2-5lbs more than I “think” I can lift. I’ll perform as many reps as I can with that weight and drop down as needed.


Prioritize full body workouts

In order to get the biggest metabolic bang for your buck, you’ll want to work your entire body whenever possible. If you can, set up your workout so that you’re switching between upper and lower body movements within the same set to challenge your cardiovascular system while building strength.

I have a whole section of full body workouts, test em out.

Focus on big muscle groups

One of the main mistakes I see women making when they start lifting is that they focus on accessory lifts. Think bicep curls, tricep extensions, and calf raises, AKA muscles that are likely going to be shaped while doing full body or combination movements. While isolation exercises might “tone” your smaller muscles, they are NOT going to increase your metabolic rate or burn major calories.

Instead of performing isolation movements, focus on the bigger muscle groups (back, core, chest, legs) and use combination movements. Combination movements are perfect for changing your body’s shape.

Tempo is queen

Once you’ve got some heavy weights, modify the tempo with which you move. We are often tempted to throw weights around or swing when we have a heavier weight (or challenging bodyweight exercise). This decreases the stress placed on the muscle you’re working: decreased challenge = decreased results.

The name of the game is time under tension. In order to maximize time under tension, focus on moving slowly as you extend the weight away from your body. By moving more slowly through this movement, you challenge all the muscles that stabilize and move you through the exercise.

When in doubt, move slowly!


Increase the challenge

Once you’ve successfully completed a full body workout focused on larger muscle groups, using heavy weights and a slow, controlled tempo, it’s time to figure out how to continually challenge your body.

Each week or two, it’s imperative that you figure out ways to progress the workouts you do. If you continue doing the same workouts without any progressions, you will stop seeing additional results.

There are a couple easy ways to make the workout more difficult:

  • Add a plyometric element (a hop or jump)
  • Increase the load (AKA, increase your weights)
  • Increase your range of motion

If you’re ever in doubt, definitely check out my Wednesday WOD series. You can take these with ya to the gym and use them whenever you need some inspiration.

If you follow these rules, you WILL see changes in your body composition, performance, and strength.

If you’re still not sure where to start, I’d love to work with you in an upcoming program!

How often do you lift weights?

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