Strength Training for Women - Getting the basics right

Stepping into the weights area of any gym can be super intimidating, for many it means stepping into the unknown and well outside of one’s comfort zone. However, if you're willing to take a tiny step beyond your comfort zone, you'll be on the road to some fantastic progress. This two-part blog series will give you great tips to get you started.   

Getting the basics right.   Knowing what exercises to perform, how much weight to lift and how many times to lift it can be difficult to work out for yourself. Just one session with a personal trainer or fitness professional can be really helpful. Many moons ago, before Instagram, you would buy Men’s Health Magazines (you can now get Women’s Health Magazine too) and simply copy exercise routines from there. With limitless online routines available it’s difficult to know where to begin! If you are a beginner, you want to aim to lift between 3-4 sets of 8-12 repetitions with around 60-90 seconds rest. If you can get to rep 12 easily then you need to up the weight, the last few reps should feel difficult and testing.  You want to focus on the whole of your body each workout – chest, shoulders, back, legs, bum and of course your core. A simple routine to get you started might look something like this:  

  1. Leg Press Machine (Legs) 3-4 of 8-12 reps
  2. Hamstring Curl Machine (Legs) 3-4 of 8-12 reps
  3. Incline dumbbell bench press (Chest and Shoulders) 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps 
  4. Assisted Chin Up on Machine (Back) 3-4 of 8-12 reps 
  5. Body weight glute bridge (Bum/ glutes) 3-4 of 8-15 reps
  6. Plank on knees or Feet, 3 sets of 15- 30 seconds.

But beware, feeling sore and exhausted is not always a sign of a good workout.  It is well known that women are often encouraged to seek out extreme soreness, and extreme fatigue like it’s the only indicator of a successful workout. Strength training isn’t about reaching the finish line as quickly as possible, but it is about moving at your own pace. It’s normal to feel sore when you start, but overtime your body will adapt and the soreness will reduce. 

Remember exercise is meant to help you feel revitalised, if you are leaving the gym feeling absolutely exhausted, miserable and ‘beat up’, you may be pushing yourself too hard.  

The best advice we can give to you, is to be kind and gentle with yourself, it’s ok to feel uncomfortable.  If you work-out in a crowded gym, venturing to the free weight area may be intimidating. The treadmill and cross-trainer feel safe right?  To make stepping into the free weights arena a little more manageable you can 

  1.  Recruit a friend to work out with you. You can support and encourage each other. 

  1. Pledge to do just one exercise in the free weights area, or spend just a few minutes there, then head back to an area you feel more comfortable.  

  1. Start at home – practice body weight squats, press ups and sit ups and build your confidence or follow an online home programme to get you started.   

  1. Book in for a Personal Training session.  Get 1 or 2 friends involved and see if you can spread the cost of the session.(£10 -15 per session instead of £30-35!) 

  2. Prefer not to train with a guy, look for a female personal trainer.

  3.  Load your favourite music onto your phone and listen to it while you train.  

  4. If in doubt, it is okay to stick to exercise machines, as you think about working each body part. Simply follow the instructions on the side of the machines. 

  5. Ask a member of staff for some guidance. Gyms often have staff on hand to help. Don’t be afraid to ask for a little bit of help to get you started.  

  6. Join a Women's only class. 

Remember, ANY exercise is better than none at all. Hang on in there. Your confidence will build eventually. The actions of confidence come before the feelings of confidence. You’ve got this!  

And please don’t worry…lifting weights won’t make you bulky. You aren’t going to wake up looking like the Hulk. It takes many years to build guns of steel and a substantial muscle mass. Lifting weights can actually make you feel like a strong independent badass woman. Get involved!