8 Strength Training Exercises Every Woman Can Do

From her experience with clients, Beth Lewis, master trainer at Clay Health Club & Spa, finds that women tend to gravitate toward cardio—and run away from heavy lifting for fear of bulking up.

“The first thing they do is grab 3-pound weights,” Lewis said, “but if you do a set of 10, you’re not really creating the stress on the muscle that changes them.” She reassures us: Women don’t have enough testosterone to bulk up like men do when they lift. So dodging the weights will just make you miss out on all the health benefits of lifting.

“It’s so good for bone density, which is a problem as women age,” noted Lewis. It also helps boost metabolism, and builds strength you need for other activities like running. After lifting, your body continues to burn calories for hours, making it important for any weight loss plan.

Lewis stressed to always focus on quality over quantity: “If it’s ugly, it ain’t right,” she said. For all of these moves, start with 6-8 reps, and work up to 10-12 if you feel you can do it with proper form. Choose a weight that you can really only get 8-10 reps out of, with the last two really hard but still doable. That’s the weight that’ll really challenge you and give you the best results.

Ready? Time to pick up those weights and get lifting!

1TRX Ab Workout

Get into a modified push-up position, with knees on the floor and feet pointed and resting in the TRX band. If you’re doing this at home without a band, you can just elevate your feet on a sofa, pillow or bench, Lewis said. Perform a push-up. Press up to plank position.

This full-body move works everything from your chest and shoulders, to your core and quads.

2Hams & Butt

Lie flat on your back, hoisting your heels into the strap so legs are straight and elevated. Keep your back flat on the floor and spine straight. Tilt your hips to lift them off the ground. Then, bend legs in, push back out straight, and place hips back down.

3Squat to Press

Grab a set of weights—don’t be afraid! You should be able to press a heavier weight with this move, so this is your chance to pick up a set that you can handle but that challenges your muscles.

Perform a squat, holding weights right at shoulder height. As you stand up straight (be careful not to over-arch your back as you stand), push your arms up straight over your head. Then, lower your arms back into the beginning position, just under your chin.

You should feel this in your shoulders, abs, legs and your booty.

4Reverse Lunge With Bicep Curl

You might be able go a little heavier with the weights on this one also, Lewis suggested.

Stand up straight, legs together, holding your weights by your side. Step back with one leg into a lunge. Perform a curl with your arm, extend arms straight again, and then stand back up straight.

Repeat, alternating sides each time.

5Plank With Row

While push-ups primarily work your triceps, a row motion will work your upper back. Get into a plank position, holding a weight in each hand. Keep your hips as still as possible, and make sure to never arch your back—your spine should be stable and aligned the whole time. Perform a push-up. Then, perform a row, one arm at a time.

If you’re having trouble, lighten up your weight a little bit—again, always put form first.

6Tricep Extension

For this one, you’ll want to use weights a little lighter than you were using for the squats and rows since bending the arms back is more difficult, Lewis noted.

Get into a slight lunge—not very deep—to give your glutes and core a little more work. Keep your back straight, but tilted forward. Bend arms up by your armpits. Then, push arms back, extending them completely straight behind you. Bend back to starting position.

7Lateral Raise

Stand with legs shoulder-width apart. Lift one slightly off the ground—this will give you an extra bonus leg and core workout. Hold your arms by your side, gripping a weight in each, with palms facing in toward your body.

Then, extend your arms out straight on both sides. Lower arms back down in a controlled movement. Halfway through, switch the leg that’s in the air. You should be feeling this in your deltoids (tops of the shoulders) and also in your core.

8Side Plank

Get into a side plank position, with your bottom arm bent for stabilization. Place one leg slightly in front of the other (bonus inner thigh workout!), and your top arm straight up in the air, holding a weight.

Reach under your body with the weight, rotating your torso so you are facing the ground. Stretch the arm under and behind you, but make sure to keep your body stable. Switch sides and repeat.