Weight Training For Women | The Fit Mother Project

Slogging it out day after day on the treadmill? Cardio alone isn’t the answer! You also need to incorporate weight training for women.

Strength training with free weights is an excellent way for women to build muscle, lose weight, and stay in shape.

Women may avoid strength training for a number of reasons. Some feel that they don’t want to become “too bulky.”

Others may just not know the proper way to use free weights.

But the truth is, free weights are an excellent tool to be added to any fitness program.

Free weights include things like dumbbells, kettlebells, and barbells. All of this equipment can be utilized to target every muscle in the body.

Here’s what you need to know about weight training for women — and how to get started!

Discover all of the benefits of weightlifting for women!

Why Weight Training For Women Is So Important

Weight training is important for women for many reasons.

For one, it will increase your lean body mass, strength, and muscle definition.

Increased lean muscle mass will further increase your metabolism and allow your body to burn more calories throughout the day.

Strength training is beneficial for bone health as well.

Research has shown that the risk of osteoporosis is lower in women who participate in strength or resistance training.

Training with free weights will also help you maintain strength and independence.

Being fit and healthy with strong muscles will allow you to perform the activities of daily living with ease.

You’ll look and feel great, too!

Doing resistance workouts is not only beneficial for your physical health but also for your psychological well-being.

Studies have shown that high- or low-intensity strength training can improve overall physical fitness, mood, and self-efficacy in older adults.

Why Not Just Do Machine Workouts?

Machine workouts are great, too, and can still be worked into your fitness routine.

However, working out with free weights offers additional benefits that you cannot get from solely using machines.

Free weight workouts typically require you to engage your core to maintain proper form.

This means getting a full-body workout with every move!

Typically with machine workouts, your body is anchored against a back or front support.

With many free weight exercises, you have to rely much more on proper posture and contracted core muscles to complete the workout.

Having to use your body with your abdominal and low back muscles will strengthen the core and improve your balance and stability.

Plus, having a strong core will give you an overall toned physique and great-looking abs!

Free weights are very versatile, allowing you to do multiple movements in one exercise.

You can target your muscles from different angles by simply changing your grip on the weights.

This can lead to a more complete and efficient workout.

Plus, free weights are readily available!

You can keep a set of dumbbells at home; machine exercises are typically only available at a fitness center unless you set up your own gym, which takes a lot of space — and money!

Weight Training For Women: Top Exercises To Incorporate Into Your Workouts

Just like machine or bodyweight exercises, free weight exercises can be used to hit every muscle group to give you a great overall workout.

The amount of weight will depend on your fitness level and comfort level with the exercises.

Start with a weight that will allow you to perform 8-10 reps of the move while maintaining good form.

Here are the top free weight workouts for women, broken down by area.


Dumbbell Bench Press

  • Lie on the back of a flat bench while holding a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Straighten your arms so that the dumbbells are above your chest.
  • Bend your elbows slowly to bring the weights down to your chest.
  • Then drive your arms back up to the top.

Incline Dumbbell Flyes

  • Lie on the back of an incline bench set to about 30-45 degrees while holding a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Start with the dumbbells above your head, palms facing each other, and a slight bend in the elbows.
  • Open your arms to the side until they align with your torso.
  • Then slowly bring them back up to the starting position in the same arc that you brought them down to the sides.


Tricep Kickbacks

  • Place your left leg and left hand on a flat bench and bend over until your torso is parallel to the floor while holding a dumbbell in your right hand.
  • Or simply bend over at the waist.
  • Hold your right arm against your side, with a 90° bend at the elbow.
  • Straighten your right arm back until it is parallel to the floor.
  • Contract your triceps at that top portion of the lift.
  • Slowly lower until your arm is back at a 90° angle.
  • Do your 8-10 reps, then switch arms.

Lying Tricep Extensions

  • Lie on the back of a flat bench while holding a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Start with the weights held up above your chest.
  • Bend your elbows to lower the weights down towards your ears.
  • Then straighten your arms back up to the top.


Dumbbell Overhead Press

  • These can be done either seated or standing.
  • Standing will force you to engage your core to a greater degree.
  • However, if you are just starting out, you can start in a seated position.
  • Hold two dumbbells overhead and slowly bend your elbows to lower the weights until they are in line with your shoulders.
  • Then push the weights back up to the top to complete one rep.

Front to Lateral Dumbbell Raises

  • Stand upright, holding a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Raise your arms out to the sides until they are at shoulder height, then lower them back down.
  • Then raise your arms straight out in front of you until the dumbbells are at shoulder height, then lower back down.
  • This is one rep.


Wide Bicep Curls

  • Stand upright while holding a barbell or EZ curl bar at the wide outer handles with the palm of your hands facing forward.
  • While holding your upper arms still, curl the weights up until your biceps are fully contracted, and the bar is at shoulder level.
  • Hold the contracted position for a pause, then slowly lower the bar back down.

Standard Bicep Curls

  • Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Bend your elbows to bring the weights up towards your shoulders.
  • Pause, then slowly lower the weights back down.


Single Arm Row

  • Place your left leg and left hand on a flat bench and bend over until your torso is parallel to the floor while holding a dumbbell in your right hand.
  • While keeping your back flat, bring your right elbow up to lift the weight up to your torso.
  • Lower back down slowly.
  • Do your 8-10 reps, then switch arms.

Bent-Over Barbell Row

  • Hold a barbell with an underhand grip with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend your torso until it’s about parallel to the floor, and bend slightly at your knees.
  • Let the bar hang at arm’s length.
  • Pull the bar to your upper abs as you squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  • Pause and slowly lower the bar back to the starting position.

Legs and Glutes

Weighted Squats

  • Hold either a dumbbell or kettlebell in both hands with the weight hanging down in front of you.
  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
  • Sit back into a squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Tap the weight to the ground, then stand back up.

Dumbbell Curtsy Lunges

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart while holding a pair of dumbbells at your side.
  • Step your right leg back into a modified lunge position where your foot crosses behind and to the outside of your left leg.
  • Step back up to starting position and repeat on the opposite leg.

Hip Thrusters

  • Start by sitting on the floor with your back and shoulders against a bench.
  • Roll a barbell onto the front of your hips.
  • You can wrap a towel or use a squat pad to help cushion the bar against your hips.
  • Bend your knees to drive your hips off the floor until your back is parallel to the ground.
  • Then slowly lower your hips back to the floor.


Dumbbell Touch The Sky

  • Lie on your back on the floor, legs straight up in the air, with the soles of your feet facing the ceiling.
  • Hold your arms straight with a dumbbell or medicine ball up above your chest.
  • Lift your shoulders off the mat, pushing the ball toward the ceiling, not your feet.
  • Return to starting position by lowering your upper body all the way back to the floor and keeping your arms locked in a straight position.
  • Your feet should remain lifted in the air.

Russian Twist with Weight

  • Sit on the ground with your knees bent and your heels about two feet in front of you.
  • Lean your upper body back into about a 45-degree angle while holding a dumbbell or small medicine ball in front of you.
  • Rotate to the left, return to the center, then rotate to the right for one rep.
  • Avoid rounding your back during this free weight exercise.

Full Body

Squat, Curl, and Overhead Press

  • Stand upright with your feet about hip distance apart while holding a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Squat down until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
  • Stand back up and perform a bicep curl.
  • At the top of the curl, turn your hand so that your palms are facing forward, then push the weights over your head.
  • Slowly bring your arms back down to complete one rep.

Reverse Lunge and Press

  • Stand upright with your feet together while holding your dumbbells at shoulder height.
  • Step your right foot back and come down into a lunge until your left leg is parallel to the ground.
  • Then push off your right foot and bring your right leg up in front of you so that your right knee is up at hip level.
  • Simultaneously press the dumbbells overhead into a shoulder press.
  • Then bring the weights and your right foot back down to the ground.
  • Do your 8-10 reps on the right, then repeat on the left.

Putting Together a Full-Body Weight Training Workout

Using these free weight exercises, you can put together a killer workout to strengthen and tone your body.

Sample Weight Training Workout


Start with five minutes of light cardio on the treadmill, elliptical, or rowing machine.

If you don’t have access to any cardio equipment, you can use this five-minute warm-up to get your muscles primed for the main set:

  • Jog in place for 30 seconds
  • High knees for 30 seconds
  • Butt kickers for 30 seconds
  • Jump rope for 30 seconds
  • Jumping jacks for 30 seconds

Complete two rounds for a total of five minutes.

Main Set

Complete 8-10 reps of each exercise.

Finish the circuit, then rest for 2 minutes.

Then repeat two more times for a total of three sets.

  • Dumbbell Bench Press
  • Single Arm Row
  • Front to Lateral Raises
  • Hip Thrusters
  • Tricep Kickbacks
  • Russian Twists with Weight
  • Squat, Curl, then Overhead Press

Cool Down

Cool down with some light stretching to loosen up your muscles and help release some of the lactic acids that can build up during a tough workout.

This will help you recover for the next day and avoid injury.

Upper Body Stretches

Cross Arm Swings

  • Swing both arms forward at chest height, allowing your right arm to cross under your left arm as they come across your chest.
  • Swing both arms open, feeling a stretch across the front of your chest, then swing them forward again, this time with your left arm under your right arm.
  • Repeat for 20-30 seconds.

Arm Cross Body Stretch

  • Stand upright and cross your left arm across your body at chest height.
  • Use your right forearm to gently pull it to feel more of a stretch across your shoulder and back.

Overhead Triceps Stretch

  • Lift your right hand overhead and bend your arm at the elbow so that your hand falls behind your head.
  • Use your left hand to gently push down on your right elbow for a deeper stretch.

Lower Body Stretches

Standing Quad Stretch

  • Stand upright and grab your right foot with your right hand.
  • Hold it behind you, pulling your foot close to your butt to feel a deep quad stretch.
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds, then switch sides.

Lying Glute Stretch

  • Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Lift your left leg and cross your left ankle over your right knee.
  • Reach your hands around your right leg and grab under your thigh.
  • Pull your right thigh toward you to feel a stretch in your glutes.
  • Use your left elbow to press your left knee away from you as you draw your right thigh in closer.
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds, deepening the stretch with every exhale, then switch sides.

Holly Smith, M.D.

B.S. – Dietetics, NASM-PES Certified Trainer

Writer, The Fit Mother Project

Holly is an osteopathic physician, runner, triathlete, and fitness and nutrition enthusiast.

She is board certified in nephrology and internal medicine, has a bachelors degree in dietetics and is a certified personal trainer with NASM-PES certification.

Holly has completed four full ironmans, twelve marathons, countless half ironmans, olympic distance triathlons, half marathons and numerous other road races.

Holly joined the Fit Father Project in May 2019 as a regular writer, contributing articles on health, wellness, exercise, and nutrition.

She has also recently qualified for the 2020 World Championships for Ironman 70.3, in New Zealand!

*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on weight training for women.

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