Weight Training for Women: How to Get a Lean, Hard, and Sexy Body

Updated on April 13, 2020
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David is an army-trained biomedical scientific officer, writer, and lifelong health and fitness enthusiast.

Weight training gives women a lean, curvy, sexy body
Weight training gives women a lean, curvy, sexy body | Source

Women’s Weight Training

Most women avoid weight training for fear that it will make them look bulky and unfeminine, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. Done correctly weight training is the very best way for women to get that lean, toned, curvy, sexy body that all women want.

So in this article I’ll dispel a few of the myths that are out there, I'll describe how a woman should train to get the best results; and I'll also provide you with an ideal workout routine that you can get started with straight away.

Why Weight Training?

If you simply want to lose some weight it mostly comes down to diet of course, so why bother with weight training? Well, if you lose weight just by dieting you will not only lose fat, but you will lose muscle tissue as well. So all that will happen is you'll end up as a smaller version of the way you look at present.

Well, what about going out jogging every day then? Surely that will help? Not really. Jogging will do nothing to build muscle and give you that toned, shapely appearance. In fact too much jogging will again cause muscle loss, so you will in fact be making the situation even worse.

The fact is that weight training (or some intense bodyweight training perhaps) is the only way to get a lean, hard, killer body that will turn heads everywhere you go. However you need to know how to do it in the right way or you could be putting a lot of time and effort into it for very little in the way of results.

Should Women Train Differently Than Men?

One of the big myths surrounding weight training for women is that women should use light weights and high reps to ‘tone’ their muscles rather than build them up. But the truth of the matter is that women should not train much differently to men. And heavier weights and lower reps will do much more for you than light weights.

Also, doing lots of dumbbell biceps curls and triceps kickbacks will not do much for you either. Do more basic compound movements if you want to see real results.

You don’t need to worry about building big muscles. It just won’t happen. Those women you see posing on the stage in bodybuilding competitions are all taking huge doses of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs. It’s simply impossible for a woman to look like that naturally. They just don’t have anywhere near enough testosterone in their bodies. Men have much more testosterone than women (about 20 times as much in fact), and even most men have a hard time gaining much muscle. So it’s just not an issue.

To be specific however, women can benefit optimally from a slightly higher rep range than men, so I would normally recommend 6 – 10 reps per set (as opposed to 5 – 8 reps for men) most of the time. Also women can tolerate a slightly higher volume of training. They also recover a little faster between sets (so need shorter rest periods), and between workouts. So a full body workout is definitely the way to go. Do this three times per week for best results.

An Effective Women’s Weight Training Program

Although I said full body workouts are the best way for women (and many men actually) to train, this does not mean you need to do a lot of exercises in a training session. In fact you can give your whole body a really good workout with just three movements. This would be a squat, lunge or deadlift variation, together with an upper body push and an upper body pull. So that is what my women’s weight training program will consist of. You can add in a couple more exercises later on when you are more advanced if you wish. But in the early stages adding anything to these workouts will produce little if anything in the way of extra benefits.

You will however be doing three different routines over the course of the week. This will aid your recovery between workouts and it will also help to give a more balanced and pleasing look to your figure. So the workout routine I recommend for women is as follows:


  • Squat 4 x 6 – 8
  • Incline Dumbbell Press 4 X 8 – 10
  • Dumbbell Bent-Over Row 4 X 8 – 10


  • Sumo Deadlift 3 X 6 – 8
  • Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press 4 X 8 - 10
  • Neutral Grip Pulldowns 4 X 8 - 10


  • Bench Press 4 X 6 – 8
  • Pulley Row 4 X 8 - 10
  • Bulgarian Split Squat 3 X 8 – 10

4 X 6 – 8 = 4 sets of 6 – 8 reps

The sets and reps listed are those you will do with your top (or working) weight. Do two warm-up sets with lighter weights first. If you are seeking maximum fat burning, you can do the exercises as a circuit. That is you will do one exercise, followed by the next one, followed by the final one. And then go through them again until you have done the prescribed number of sets. Or you can do them all separately if you wish.

If you are doing them as a circuit, keep the rest periods between sets short – about 45 to 60 seconds. But if you are doing them separately rest about 75 – 90 seconds between sets.

Start off by doing each exercise with a comfortable weight, and perform the top end of the suggested rep range (8 or 10). Then, each week add a little weight, until it becomes difficult to do this number of reps on all your sets. At that point, drop to the bottom end of the rep range, and just work on increasing your rep count each workout. Then, again, when you get to the top end of the rep range for all your sets, increase the weight for your next workout.

Continue to progress in this way until you hit a plateau (that is three successive workouts where you have not been able to improve). When this happens you can either change the exercise for a slightly (but not much) different exercise, or you can simply reduce the weight by about 10 - 15% and work back up again as before. Or alternatively, you could just change your rep range and do 8 – 10 reps on the exercises you have been doing 6 – 8, and 10 – 12 reps on those you have been doing 8 - 10.

Ensure you do all the exercises with proper technique, and through a full range of movement. Half movements equal half benefits. And on top of this if you do incomplete movements you will develop short tight muscles and muscle imbalances, and this could lead to injury further down the line. So make sure you go all the way down until the tops of your thighs are parallel to the floor in the squat. In the bench press you should touch the bar to your chest before pressing it back up again. And take the dumbbells down all the way in your dumbbell pressing movements too.

In the sumo deadlift the bar needs to be de-weighted on the floor between reps. And in Bulgarian split squats, put your back foot on a bench and again ensure you squat down until the top of your front thigh is parallel to the floor. Initially just your bodyweight will probably be enough for these; but when you can do your 3 sets of 10, start holding a dumbbell in each hand when you do them. Take a look at the videos I have put on here for more information on how to do these exercises properly.

Great demonstration of how to squat properly

Sumo deadlifts are great for the butt, hips and thighs, as well as firming the entire mid-section.

How to do a split squat

Dumbbell bent-over rowing is great for the back and biceps.
Dumbbell bent-over rowing is great for the back and biceps. | Source

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Proper Nutrition

To get the look you want you also need to eat the right foods. It’s simply not true that if you work out you can eat whatever you want. So cut right down on all processed, refined and sugary foods and eat much more whole natural foods instead.

Specifically you need to eat plenty of protein at each meal (and particularly after your workouts). Protein is best obtained from meat, fish, eggs, milk, cheese and whey protein. You also need a decent amount of carbohydrates. But if you are looking for maximum fat loss you might want to adopt a low carb approach for 5 or 6 days of the week. Or just eat your dense starchy carbs (rice, oats, potatoes etc.) during your four hour ‘post workout window’.

On top of this you need a good supply of healthy fats (from oily fish, nuts, seeds, avocados, extra virgin olive oil etc.) And ensure you eat plenty of fruit and vegetables too, in order to get all the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that you need.

Weight training really is about the best thing that women (or men) could do to get in shape – and stay in shape for life. So follow the advice given here and you’ll be able to get a lean and hard, but curvy and sexy body as quickly and efficiently as possible.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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