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7 Best Strength Training Exercises for Women

The best strength training exercises for women, combined in a challenging and effective full body strength workout. Compound exercises target the lower body, upper body and core in 30 minutes. This home workout is designed to build lean muscle, burn body fat and increase metabolism – all using just a set of dumbbells.

We are huge advocates of strength training around here. Resistance training workouts are some of the most effective workouts you can do – and my personal favorite kind of training.

Weight training is important for everyone, but especially for women (who have been discouraged from picking up weights in the past).

The muscle built through weight training is important for moving through everyday activities and reducing risk of injury. This is even more important as we age. We start losing muscle mass at age thirty, and strength training is one of the best ways to stay active through all seasons of life (Harvard).

Whether you’re looking to lose weight, build muscle, or improve athletic performance, this strength training workout is for you.

Note: this strength training workout is an updated version of one of our most popular strength training workouts we filmed a few years ago. You can find the original guided Weight Training For Women video here.

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two women performing a lateral lunge and back row as example of strength training exercise for women

Strength Training for Women FAQs

What Weight Training Is Best For Women?

The best strength training exercises for women are some of the classics: squats, deadlifts, chest presses and back rows. Compound strength training exercises (or exercises that engage several muscle groups at once) are extremely effective for women looking to build muscle.

How Many Days A Week Should Women Lift Weights?

I recommend that beginners start to strength train with 20-30 minute workouts, 3 days a week. This is a pace that allows your body proper time to recover between training sessions as you build strength. Our more advanced weight lifting plans (like SplitStrong) follow a 5-day training split.

Is Strength Training Good For Women’s Health?

Weight training is extremely beneficial for women. The benefits of strength training go far beyond aesthetic/body composition or weight loss (although it helps with that as well). Strength training can also reduce risk of heart disease and increase bone density.

Does Lifting Weights Make Women Get “Bulky”?

This is a common myth in the fitness world. Lifting weights does not make women bulk up – but it does help them achieve strong, toned muscles. The truth is that bulking is difficult, and building bulky muscles requires extra calories, genetics and a really intentional and consistent muscle-building routine. Women won’t get bulky from doing workout routines like this one.

two women lying on their backs performing skull crushers as part of weight training exercises for women

30-Minute Workout: Strength Training For Women

Build full body strength with this ALL STRENGTH workout for women! 7 of the best compound strength training exercises combined in a challenging and effective 30-Minute Workout.

This strength workout has been my go-to through all seasons of life, including pregnancy and postpartum. You decide how challenging it is based on the weights you pick up.

Add this full body weight training workout for women to your home training program 1-2 times a week to build muscle and increase endurance.

Workout Equipment:

Medium Set of Dumbbells.

I recommend between 5-25 lbs depending on your fitness level. We used 10, 15 and 20 lb dumbbells in today’s workout. The goal is to fatigue your muscles by the end of each set – you should struggle to complete the last 2-3 reps with correct form. That means you chose challenging weights.

Option to drop weights at any time and do this workout with just your body weight.

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Workout Instructions:

Follow along with the guided Weight Training For Women Workout on YouTubeled by certified personal trainer, Lindsey Bomgren. 

Your Workout Looks Like This:

  • 7 Strength Training Exercises
  • Timed Intervals (45 seconds of work, 15 seconds rest; complete as many repetitions as you can in the timed interval)
  • Repeat All 7 Exercises x3 Sets (taking a 1-minute break between sets)

Workout Outline

  1. Front Squat and Overhead Shoulder Press
  2. Alternating Reverse Lunge and Bicep Curl
  3. Deadlift and Upright Row 
  4. Lateral Lunge and Single Arm Back Row 
  5. Push Up and Side Plank Hold
  6. Glute Bridge and Tricep Extensions
  7. Glute Bridge Hold and Chest Press

Prefer to Watch On YouTube?

youtube icon Strength Workout

7 Strength Training Exercises For Women

Front Squat and Overhead Shoulder Press

Targets: Glutes, quads, hamstrings, shoulders (rotator cuff and anterior deltoid) and core.

two women performing a front squat as example of weight training for women

How To Do A Front Squat and Overhead Shoulder Press

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointing straight ahead or slightly angled out away from the body.
  2. Holding one dumbbell in each hand at your shoulders (palms facing in), exhale to engage your core.
  3. Lower your hips down, thighs parallel to the ground, performing a front squat. Keep weight in your heels, elbows and chest up.
  4. Then drive through your heels to stand tall and press both dumbbells overhead, biceps by ears.

Modification: Hold one dumbbell horizontally at your chest, or perform the movement as a bodyweight exercise.

Alternating Reverse Lunge and Bicep Curl

Targets: Upper arm (biceps), quads, hamstrings, glutes and core.

two women performing reverse lunge with a bicep curl as example of strength training exercises

How To Do An Alternating Reverse Lunge and Bicep Curl

  1. Stand with feet hip-distance apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides, palms facing in towards each other (hammer grip).
  2. Step your right leg back into a reverse lunge, dropping your right knee down towards the ground as you lower your hips until both knees reach a 90-degree angle, front thigh is parallel to the floor. Lower slowly and with control.
  3. Hold at the bottom of your lunge, then bend your elbows and curl the dumbbells up towards shoulder height, performing a hammer grip bicep curl. With control, lower the dumbbells back down to starting position.
  4. Exhale, squeezing your left glute and keeping the weight in your left heel as you push up, returning to standing position.
  5. Repeat on the left side, stepping your left foot back into a reverse lunge, dropping your left knee down towards the ground until both knees reach 90-degree angles. Hold, and perform a bicep curl.
  6. Exhale, squeezing your right glute to push up and return to starting position.

Deadlift and Upright Row 

Targets: Hamstrings, glutes, core and shoulder muscles.

two women performing a deadlift and upright row exercise

How To Do A Deadlift and Upright Row 

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart, a dumbbell in the right hand, palm facing in towards your body.
  2. Stagger your feet, so your left leg is slightly in front of your right foot. Kickstand your back right foot, right heel floating off the ground. Keep 80% of your weight in your front foot, 20% in your back toe.
  3. Maintain a staggered stance as you hinge at the hips. Push your hips back towards the wall behind you as you glide the dumbbells down the front of your legs, until you feel a stretch in the back of your leg.
  4. Then, press through your front heel to push your hips forward, pulling the dumbbell back up towards your hips as you stand tall.
  5. From a standing position, pull your right elbow up towards your right shoulder, gliding the dumbbell up your body. This is an upright row.
  6. With control, lower the dumbbell to starting position.

Lateral Lunge and Single Arm Back Row 

Targets: Gluteus medius (the outer part of your butt used for side-to-side movements), quads, hamstrings, hip adductors and abductors, hip flexors, calves, back, biceps and core.

two women performing a lateral lunge and dumbbell back row as example of strength training exercise

How To Do A Lateral Lunge and Single Arm Back Row 

  1. Stand with your feet under hips, holding a dumbbell in your left hand.
  2. Step your right leg out to the side as you push your hips back, bending your right knee while leaving your left leg straight. Think of performing a single leg squat with your right leg while your left leg remains straight. Knees and toes are pointing forward.
  3. Hold at the bottom of the lateral lunge, then pull your left elbow back towards your left hip, performing a single arm row. With control, lower the dumbbell back to starting position.
  4. Then, drive off your right foot to reverse the movement, stepping back to center.

Push Up and Side Plank Hold

Targets:  Chest, shoulders, triceps, back, abs and core muscles.

Push ups are a true test of strength, and one of the most effective exercises for building muscle in the chest and shoulders.

two women performing a push up and side plank open compound strength exercise

How To Do A Push Up and Side Plank Hold

  1. Start in a high plank position with your shoulders stacked over your wrists, weight evenly distributed amongst all 10 fingers. Pull your kneecaps up towards your belly, feet hip-width apart.
  2. Slowly lower your chest down towards the ground as your elbows fall back towards your hips.
  3. Once at the bottom of your push up, exhale as you push back up into high plank position.
  4. Then, pull your right arm up and over your body, opening up to your right as your arms expand in a “T” shape, performing a side plank. Hold for a 3-count before returning to high plank position.
  5. Then repeat, performing another push up and then opening to the left, performing a side plank on the left side.

Modification: Substitute incline push ups by placing your hands on a chair or bench; or drop to your knees for modified push ups and planks.

Glute Bridge and Tricep Extensions

Targets: Legs, glutes, hamstrings, inner thighs, and triceps (back of the arm) and core.

Glute bridges are one of my favorite booty burning exercises, targeting the gluteus maximus, thighs, hips, core, and hamstrings. And they are kind on joints — I always recommend glute bridges to people with lower body injuries and knee pain.

two women performing glute bridge and skull crushers as an example of strength training exercises

How To Do A Glute Bridge and Tricep Extensions

  1. Lie flat on your back with your legs bent at 90 degrees (heels on the ground).
  2. Holding one dumbbell in each hand, fully extend your arms so the dumbbells are directly overhead, palms facing one another.
  3. Bending at the elbows slowly lower the dumbbells towards your head (just bending at the elbows).
  4. Then as you push the dumbbells back overhead to return to the starting position, simultaneously drive through your heels, squeezing your butt to lift your hips up toward the ceiling. Keep knees in line with hips.
  5. Hold at the top for a moment, then lower your hips with control back down to a hover position, as you lower the dumbbells back towards your head.

Modification: Perform the tricep extensions using one dumbbell; holding the dumbbell horizontally.

Glute Bridge Hold and Chest Press

Targets: Legs, glutes, thighs, hips, hamstrings and chest muscles.

Holding a glute bridge is a great way to increase the time under tension and isolate the gluteus maximus. Add a chest press to target the chest or pectoralis major muscles.

two women lying on a black mat performing a glute bridge chest press example of strength training exercises

How To Do A Glute Bridge Hold and Chest Press

  1. Lie flay on your back with your legs bent at 90 degrees (heels on the ground).
  2. Holding one dumbbell in each hand, fully extend your arms so the dumbbells are directly overhead, palms facing away from your body.
  3. Drive through your heels, squeezing your butt to lift your hips up toward the ceiling. Perform an isometric hold at the top of your glute bridge.
  4. Then, bending at the elbows slowly lower the dumbbells towards your chest (chest puffed out and weights in line with nipples, bending arms at 90 degrees at sides).
  5. Then exhale, pushing the dumbbells back overhead to return to the starting position.

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8 comments
  1. I was skeptical at first, as I’m used to my videos! Well…I’m sold! A solid 30 breathless, sweaty minutes! Thank you!!

    • Shaun! So glad you were willing to give this workout a try and liked it! It sure does give you a total body burn in 30 minutes! Thanks so much for sharing and I hope you Pin this one to your workout boards and come back for more! -Lindsey

  2. Thank you SO much for sharing these simple moves/workouts Lindsay! I really like how simple you make them and how you incorporate movement into lifting weights.

    • Emily! I’m so glad you love these 7 exercises as much as I do! Thanks so much for your feedback and I hope you add this one to your ‘workout’ Pinterest board or weekly routine. Thanks Emily and have a great week, xo-Lindsey

    • Laura! I’m so glad you love this workout as much as I do! And seriously I lived in that sweater during my second trimester, so cute + comfy! Thanks for sharing and awesome work! xo-Lindsey

  3. I can’t wait to try this workout! I just found out I’m pregnant (yay!) and been reading a lot about exercising during pregnancy. Do you have any tips of what to focus on/avoid? I read that you should not do workouts on your stomach or back. Are these bridge workouts safe?

    • Sandi! Congrats on your pregnancy — that’s so exciting!!! Honestly, my best tip for exercising while pregnant is to listen to your body! If you’ve been active stick to your normal routine (it will help you feel more normal too) and just listen to your body, pull back and modify when needed. I didn’t really start adjusting my workout routine till around 20 weeks and I slowly started modifying and now in the third trimester I’m doing lots of modifying. But pregnancy is so different for everyone so just listen to your body (it will tell you what it likes and doesn’t), stay hydrated and just try and keep moving! I stopped doing exercises on my stomach after 12 weeks, but I still do some stuff on my back if it feels ok. The main thing with bridges on your back is more when you’re at the end of second/beginning of third trimester and you want baby to be head down and doing bridges can confuse babies positioning. Again your body will tell you what it likes and doesn’t like! Hope that helps and happy #fitpregnancy! xo-Lindsey