Strength training is one of the most empowering things a woman can do – and it’s about much more than just lifting weights and living a healthy lifestyle. In addition to building beautiful curves and muscles, strength training builds discipline and mental strength. Plus, it creates time in every day for self-care!
But, none of the benefits of strength training exercises for women can be enjoyed without first learning the basics! If you’re interested in seeing what strength training is all about, here are the top ten exercises to start with.
This is arguably the most popular exercise that women do in the gym and for good reason! Squats are all about building beautiful legs. Depending on how you place your feet and how low you squat, you can target many different muscles in the legs with this exercise.
For example, squats with a short stance focus more on the quads and squats with a wider stance are better at targeting the glutes and hamstrings.
If you want another way to target the legs when exercising, do lunges. Lunges can be done with one barbell resting on your shoulders, or with one free weight in each hand.
They’re best done with a short step and weight in the heels to target the glute. Lunges can be done walking up and down the gym, but also standing in place and stepping backward then forward.
Deadlifts are one of the best strength training exercises for women and men. When done correctly, deadlifts target the legs, back, and abs.
The legs are the driving force of the first half of a deadlift when the bar is coming up from the ground toward the knees. Once the bar passes the knees, the hips become the driving force to finish pulling the bar up. The second part of the deadlift is when the back is activated – as the bar comes up, the lats should be activated and the shoulders pulled back.
After a few sets of these, you’re sure to feel the burn! Plus, you can work deadlifts into almost any day of training.
4. Lat Pulldowns
Speaking of back exercises, lat pulldowns are great for the entire back. These are best down slowly and with control, although you’ll likely see a few people trying to go fast with a weight they can’t control.
To get the most out of this exercise, really focus on your mind-to-muscle connection both on the pull motion down and on the release up. Be sure to bring the bar all the way down to the top of your chest, too.
5. Bent Over Rows
Bent over rows are done with one barbell, with your back bent over toward the ground. The name is simple enough, but this motion is one of the trickier ones to get right.
You need to make sure your grip is at the right position and that your back is straight from the top of your spine to your butt. Any curve in your back compromises the motion and it can end in injury if you jerk the bar. The ideal position for your back to be in is a straight spine slightly bent forward, at about a 45-degree angle from the ground.
6. Bicep Curls
Bicep curls are a simple exercise with a big reward. Just a few of these will get your arms burning at first, and as you build strength, you can go up in weight and really notice a difference.
Classic curls are the best place to start. But as your strength progresses, you may start doing bicep curls or rope curls, or try to test your stamina with a set of 21s or buddy curls.
7. Rope Pulls
A cable on the setting closest to the ground with a rope attachment is for bicep curls, while a cable on the setting highest from the ground with a rope attachment is for rope pulls.
Rope pulls focus on the triceps. They’re most effective when your elbows stay by your side the entire time and you never bring the rope all the way back up. This keeps tension in your tricep as you work the rope up and down.
8. Shoulder Press
Up next on the list of strength training exercises for women is the shoulder press. Shoulders are a muscle group that most women tend to overlook when they’re in the gym. They may choose to swap a traditional “shoulder day” in their training split for an extra leg day or a cardio day.
However, it’s not a good idea to skip shoulders! Building your shoulders will give you a well-rounded physique as other areas of your body grow. It will also help you build strength and stability when you’re working related muscle groups – like the back and arms.
For a shoulder press, all you have to do is keep your back straight as you lift free weights from the top of your shoulders to a full extension of the arms, then back down. Be sure to keep your core engaged to protect your spine, and don’t move your head too much.
9. Upright Rows
Upright rows target both the shoulders and the back. These are best done with a barbell, but you can use free weights, too.
Either way, stand straight with the equipment in your hands, then pull up so that the bar (or free weights) is at the top of your chest, elbow pointed out. Lower the bar/weights, and then repeat.
10. Chest Press
Last but not least, the chest press. The chest is another muscle group that women tend to skip, but it can do wonders for you!
Working your chest will help you when you do other upper-body exercises. It will also give a nice accent to your bust and can help with bodyweight motions like push-ups and burpees.
Get Started with These Strength Training Exercises for Women
Do you already use most of these strength training exercises for women, but want to start doing some variations of them? Are you completely new to strength training, and just trying to learn a bit about it before getting into the gym?
Whatever your level of fitness is right now, don’t be afraid to push it to the next level! Try one of the exercises on this list that you haven’t done yet, or try doing one in a new way, and see how your body feels.
And, keep reading our blog for more fitness tips!