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Ten Ways for Women To Progress in Weight Training

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Women face different challenges than men when lifting weights and doing other kinds of strength training. A woman I met at a summer barbecue told me she started a weight lifting program but stopped after only a short while. When I asked her why, she responded that increasing weight each time she worked out was too hard --she couldn't do it. It hurt.

The goal of strength training is to get stronger and healthier and to improve your appearance. The body must always be challenged in any weight training routine, otherwise you will start to see declining results. But it should never hurt. It should never be painful.

We have listed several ways in which you can increase strength by your workout. You have a number of options from which to choose.

1. Increase Weight

The most common and effective way to challenge your body is to increase the weight you are lifting. This alone will keep your body challenged for a good while. Each muscle is comprised of numerous muscle fibers, and the more weight you lift, the more muscle fibers are recruited for the job, and the more your body gets a full workout.

When we increase weight, we should always be vigilant about performing the exercise with proper form. If that form is compromised during a weight increase, it may be that your body is telling you it needs a different method of getting to the same result. Some alternative methods when we are not ready to increase weight are described below.

2. Increase Repetitions

The standard range is to perform 8-12 repetitions of a movement in one set. Do not exceed that maximum range. There is no weight training benefit to doing more than 12 reps per set unless you are in physical rehabilitation from an injury.

3. Increase Number of Sets

Normally you perform 2-3 sets per exercise. If youíve done two sets at the same weight, increase to three.

4. Increase Frequency of Workouts

If you are working out two times a week, increase to three, if three times, then four. You should, however, not weight train more than two days in a row unless you're training requires it(for instance, if your are a bodybuilder). Your muscles get stronger, not during the workout phase, but during the rest phase.

5. Increase Intensity of Exercise

There are two ways to increase intensity without increasing weight - super sets and compound sets.

Super sets involve exercising two opposing muscle groups by following one exercise immediately with another. For example, do a set of dumbbell bicep curls, then, without a rest period, do a set of standing tricep pushdowns. Rest. Repeat.

Compound sets - involve exercising the same muscle group by attaching one exercise to another. For example, do a set of chest presses, then without a rest period, do a set of dumbbell chest flyes. Rest. Repeat.

6. Change Tempo

Slowing down the negative (eccentric) portion of exercise will promote more muscle development. This phase is usually the downward portion of an exercise, when you are lowering the weight. External resistance (usually gravity) is greater than the tension in your muscles. For example, during a chest press, the eccentric phase is when you are lowering the dumbbells towards your chest.

7. Change Position

Go from flat, to incline, or decline. A change in position forces you to exercise different parts of your muscles, helping you to achieve a more well-rounded workout.

8. Use Resistance Bands with Dumbells If you are doing a one-armed standing bicep curl, place a resistance band underneath your left leg, slide your left arm through the other end of band, gripping the dumbbell with the same hand. Repeat with your right side. Your exercise will have added resistance near top of movement because of the added tension exerted by the resistance band. This means you challenge your muscles at both the beginning and at the end of the movement, allowing you to exercise more parts of your muscles.

9. Increase Length of Levers

Weight held further away from your body exerts more tension on the muscles. For instance, if you are doing chest flyes, instead of keeping arms bent, straighten them.

10. Add Instability to Your Workout

For instance, if using a bench, change to a stability ball. If doing lunges, try them on a balance disc. If doing a bicep curl, try doing it while standing on one leg (the one opposite your lifting arm). Adding instability to your exercise regimen will force your body to exercise your supporting muscles as well as the targeted muscle groups.

In brief, by utilizing the various methods mentioned to increase strength, you will continue to develop muscle. And the more muscles you develop, the more calories you burn, the younger you feel, the greater your appearance.

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Author Bios:

Linda Kravitz, is CEO of PowerFit LLC, owner of, a website of women's weight training and fitness equipment.

Gordon Waddell, CSCS, is a certified personal trainer, who holds a B.S. with Honors in exercise physiology and is currently completing his Masterís degree in exercise science.

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