More and more women are finding out just how beneficial weight training is. From improved bone density to better metabolic health, countless studies and experts have highlighted the impressive array of benefits that can be enjoyed by adding resistance training into your regular fitness routine.
Sports massage therapist and CrossFit coach Emma Ray, who trains lots of women including those who are pre- and postnatal, adds her voice to the chorus praising weightlifting for women, saying it’s one of the best things they can do for their health.
“Women can be very prone to osteoporosis and muscle atrophy,” says Ray. Strength and impact training using weights can help to prevent this.
“Impact training can be very helpful because it puts stress on our joints. A lot of people think this is a bad thing but we need to put stress on our joints through muscular contractions to elicit a stimulus that grows new bones and tissues,” says Ray.
Ray has put together a full-body workout suitable for women who want to get started with strength training and reap the benefits of lifting weights. If you don’t have a gym membership, you can start with the beginner home workout plan in our guide to strength training for women, or alternatively, you can start with this beginner gym workout plan for women from celebrity trainer Magnus Lygdback.
How To Do This Weights Workout For Women
This full-body workout from Ray consists of three sections. First, a two-move warm-up to mobilize your upper body and thoracic spine. Next, a strength training block made up of two EMOMs (which stands for Every Minute On the Minute). Ray finishes the session with a three-move conditioning finisher to improve your cardio fitness.
It requires a lot of kit so it’s best to perform this workout in a CrossFit box or the functional fitness area of your gym, where you have access to a barbell, rowing machine, plyo box and plenty of space to move around. The barbell exercises can be subbed in for dumbbell versions and you can use other cardio machines with a cardio counter instead of the rowing machine if necessary.
1 World’s greatest stretch
Sets 3 Reps 6 each side
From standing, take a big step forward and place your right hand on the floor in line with your left foot, while keeping your right leg straight and your right knee off the floor. Raise and extend your left arm upward, rotating your torso, then bring your left elbow towards the floor. Perform all your reps on one side, then switch sides.
2 Bootstrap squat
Sets 3 Reps 6
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Push your hips back and bend your knees to lower into a deep squat (or as far as your mobility allows). Keep your chest facing forward and hold your feet with your hands, pushing against the inside of your thighs with your elbows to open up your hips. Keeping hold of your feet, straighten your legs to stretch your hamstrings, then return to the deep squat position.
This strength block is made up of two EMOM-style sessions, although instead of working every minute on the minute, you’re working to 90 seconds. For the first pair of exercises, start a repeating timer for 90 seconds. Perform all the reps of exercise A, all the reps of exercise B, then rest for the remainder of the 90 seconds. Repeat that sequence four times in total. Move on to the second pair of exercises and do the same.
Sets 4 Reps 8
Hold a barbell in the front rack position, holding it across your upper chest with your elbows pointing forward. With your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, push your hips back and bend your knees to lower until your knees and hips are in line, keeping your elbows high. Push through your heels to stand and extend your arms to press the barbell overhead, pushing your head forward to keep the bar in line with your center of gravity. Lower the bar back to the front rack position under control.
1B Renegade row
Sets 4 Reps 4 each side
Holding dumbbells resting on the floor, get into a straight-arm plank position so that your hands are underneath your shoulders and your feet are planted on the floor shoulder width-apart. Your body should be in a straight line from shoulders to heels. Keeping the rest of your body as still as possible, lift one dumbbell to your ribs. Your elbow should brush past your ribs as you lift the weight. Lower the dumbbell to the floor under control and repeat on the other side. Alternate sides with each rep.
2A Barbell deadlift high pull
Sets 4 Reps 8
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hinge at your hips, then bend your knees to lower and grasp a barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart. Keeping your back flat throughout, drive through your heels to stand up. As you extend your legs, rise up on the balls of your feet, bend and raise your elbows, and shrug your shoulders to lift the barbell to your chest. Lower the bar under control back to the floor. Keep the barbell close to your body throughout the exercise.
2B Elevated glute bridge dumbbell bench press
Sets 4 Reps 8
Lie with your back on an elevated surface such as a weight bench, with your feet planted on the floor, holding dumbbells level with your chest. Your hips should form a straight line with your shoulders and knees. Retract your shoulder blades to engage your upper-back muscles, then press the dumbbells straight up powerfully. Lower the weights under control until level with your chest to complete the rep.
Ray has programmed this three-move circuit to finish. Perform the circuit continuously for three minutes, rest for one minute, then pick up again wherever you left off. Repeat this three times in total.
Burn six calories on the rowing machine. Hold the handle with your knees bent and back straight, and push powerfully with your legs to begin the stroke. As your legs reach full extension, lean back, then use your arms to pull the handle to your body. Extend your arms, then lean forward, then bend your legs to complete each stroke. Our guide to rowing form gives more pointers.
2 Box jump
Stand in front of a plyo box or bench. Bend your knees and swing your arms back, then explode up to jump onto the box, swinging your arms forward to help generate momentum. Land with a slight bend in your knees. Stand up straight to finish the rep, then step down one foot at a time. If you don’t feel confident with box jumps, perform step-ups instead.
Stand holding a fairly heavy kettlebell in both hands. Keeping your back flat, hinge forward, pushing your hips back to lower the kettlebell slightly underneath you, then powerfully drive your hips forward to push the kettlebell away from your body, swinging the weight up to chest or eye level. Keep your arms straight and relaxed throughout, controlling the descent of the weight, and go straight into the next rep.
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Alice Porter is a journalist who covers health, fitness and wellbeing, among other topics, for titles including Stylist, Fit & Well, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Grazia, VICE and Refinery29. When she’s not writing about these topics, you can probably find her at her local CrossFit box.