7 Best Strength Training Exercises for Women (30 Minute Workout Video)

Seven of THE BEST strength training exercises for women at home using a set of dumbbells. From squat and shoulder press to lunge and curl; follow along with each of these exercises in a guided, 30-minute full body workout for women. Build strength at home when you can’t go to the gym!

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Strength training, weight training, resistance training — call it what you want but listen up LADIES, strength training is so important for women!

Benefits of Weight Training for Women

Strength training is so important for EVERYONE, but I’m a huge advocate for women picking up weights. For so long, women were told they would get “bulky” if they lifted weights, and that’s simply not true!

  • Strength training increases metabolism.
  • Strength training builds lean muscle (without getting bulky).
  • Strength training effectively burns body fat to help women lose weight.
  • Strength training reduces the risk of heart disease (the number one killer of women).
  • Strength training enhances mood and reduces stress.

Have I convinced you that strength training is important for women?

If you want to read more about the benefits of strength training, keep scrolling.

If you’re ready to grab a set of dumbbells, these seven best strength training exercises for women are a great place to start. Follow along with the guided, 30 minute full body workout for women at the top of this post.

weight training for women, floor press with dumbbells

This 30-minute workout routine for women consists of seven COMPOUND EXERCISES. Full body exercises that engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously.

So you can build strength at home, when you can’t go to the gym.

These seven dumbbell exercises hit the quads, hamstrings, glutes, biceps, triceps, back, shoulder AND core muscles.

Strength Training For Women: 30-Minute Home Workout

Target multiple muscle groups, increase strength, and build lean muscle with this 30-minute home workout.

Add this strength training workout to your fitness routine 1-2 times a week to bust through fitness plateaus and lose weight.

Equipment:

A medium-to-heavy set of dumbbells.

Or multiple sets of dumbbells if you wish to adjust the amount of weight throughout the workout. I recommend 8-25 lb dumbbells, depending on your fitness level.

I’m using 10 lb and 12 lb dumbbells in this workout video.

Instructions:

Let me be your certified personal trainer for the day. Follow along with the 30-minute strength training workout video at the top of this post.

I’ll be sweating with you through each dumbbell strength exercise, providing form cues and motivation.

  • Alternatively, you can work off the seven best strength training exercises for women outlined below (see a GIF demonstrating proper form for each exercise below).
  • Perform each exercise for 45 seconds, then take 15 seconds rest before moving on to the next exercise.
  • Once you complete all seven exercises, take a one minute rest. Repeat x 3 sets.

The 7 Best Strength Training Exercises For Women

  1. Front Squat + Overhead Shoulder Press
  2. Alternating Reverse Lunge + Bicep Curl
  3. Sumo Squat + Upright Row
  4. Curtsy Lunge + L-Fly
  5. Plank + Row
  6. Glute Bridge + Tricep Extensions
  7. Glute Bridge Hold + Chest Press

1. Front Squat + Overhead Shoulder Press

Targets: Legs, shoulders and core! Squats are great for building glute strength, the foundation of your lower body and muscles you use daily as you sit down and stand up — legs, butt, thighs, hamstrings and quad.

Add an overhead shoulder press to build upper body strength; strengthening the rotator cuff muscles and anterior deltoid. An effective total body exercise.

Front Squat and Overhead Shoulder Press | 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. With your weight in your heels, sit your hips back.
  3. Lowering your hips down, parallel with your knees. Keeping weight in your heels, elbows and chest up.
  4. Then explosively stand tall pressing both dumbbells overhead; biceps by ears.
  5. Return to the starting position and repeat this exercise for 45 seconds.

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

2. Alternating Reverse Lunge + Bicep Curl

Targets: Legs and arms. Reverse lunges are a great unilateral leg exercise targeting the power generating muscles in the lower body — quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.

Add a bicep curl to strengthen both heads of the upper arm (the bicep muscles).

reverse lunge and bicep curl

How to do a Reverse Lunge and Bicep Curl:

  1. Stand with feet hip-distance apart. Holding a dumbbell in each hand at your sides.
  2. Step your right leg back into a reverse lunge, lowering your hips until both knees reach a 90 degree angle, front thigh parallel to the floor.
  3. Then squeeze your left leg glute, driving your back, right leg forward as you stand up back to the starting position.
  4. Once you reach the top of your lunge with both feet shoulder width apart; perform a bicep curl by pulling the dumbbells up towards your shoulders by bending your elbows (underhand or supine grip, palms facing out). Hold at the top to contract the bicep muscles. Then lower the dumbbells back down towards your sides, slow and controlled.
  5. Repeat this movement, alternating legs as you step back to lunge for 45 seconds.

Modification: Option to remove the alternating lunge and perform standing bicep curls.

3. Sumo Squat + Upright Row

Targets: Legs and thighs, back and shoulders. Sumo squats work the glutes, quadriceps and inner thighs (or adductors). Upright rows work the upper trapezius, deltoids and biceps.

Sculpt and tone your arms, legs and inner thighs with this multi-functional exercise.

sumo squat upright row | workout routine for women

How to do a Sumo Squat and Upright Row:

  1. Stand with feet wide, heels in and toes pointed out. Holding one dumbbell in each hand at your hips, palms facing your body.
  2. Lower down into a squat, pushing your knees out towards your pinky toes. Dumbbells between legs.
  3. Drive through your heels to stand tall, pulling your inner thighs together. As you stand glide the dumbbells up the front side of your body, up towards your shoulders. Think of pulling elbows to shoulders.
  4. Lower the dumbbells back down towards your hips, slow and controlled.
  5. Repeat this movement for 45 seconds.

Modification: Option to remove the upright rows and perform sumo squats.

4. Curtsy Lunge + L-Fly

Targets: Legs, glutes, hips, thighs, shoulders and arms. Similar to a standard reverse lunge, the curtsy lunge works the quads and glutes. But adding the curtsy, when your leg crosses back and around, requires the hip abductors to work as well.

Add an L-Fly Lateral raises incorporates the medial or middle deltoid shoulder muscle as well. Another legs and shoulders exercise.

curtsy lunge and L-fly | workouts for women

How to do a Curtsy Lunge and L-Fly with Dumbbells:

  1. Stand with feet hip-distance apart. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms bent at 90 degrees, palms facing each other.
  2. Step your right leg back into a curtsy lunge (right shin should meet left calf), lowering your hips until both knees reach a 90 degree angle, front thigh parallel to the floor.
  3. Then squeeze your left leg glute, driving your back, right leg forward as you stand up back to the starting position.
  4. Once you reach the top of your lunge with both feet hip-distance apart; perform a L-fly by pulling the dumbbells up to shoulder height with goal-posted arms (arms bent at 90 degrees). Hold at the top to contract the shoulder muscles. Then lower the dumbbells back down, slow and controlled.
  5. Repeat this movement, alternating legs as you step back to curtsy lunge for 45 seconds.

Modification: Option to remove the L-fly and perform alternating curtsy lunges.

5. Plank + Row

Targets: Full body strength — legs, arms and core! The renegade row, is an effective way to build muscle definition in the arms and abs. Simultaneously building upper back strength and core strength.

plank and row or renegade rows | strength training for women

How to do a Plank and Row or Renegade Row:

  1. Start in plank position with one hand on each dumbbell (shoulders stacked over hands on dumbbells). Hold this position, maintaining a straight line with your body, gaze slightly in front of you.
  2. From this plank position, engage your core as you pull your right elbow back towards your hip, then repeat this row movement on the left side of the body.
  3. Perform these alternating rows from a high plank for 45 seconds.

Modification: Perform a plank and row from your knees, or add an incline by placing the dumbbells on a stable bench or chair. Alternatively, omit the plank and perform standing bent over rows.

6. Glute Bridge + Tricep Extensions

Targets: Glutes, hamstrings, arms and triceps. 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.

And tricep extensions are one of the best arm exercises for building tricep muscles (back of the arm).

This multi-functional, full body exercise is a great way to tighten and tone the legs and back of the arms; two common ‘trouble areas’ for women.

overhead tricep extensions and glute bridge | weight training for women

How to do a Glute Bridge and Tricep Extension:

  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 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 simultaneously lower the dumbbells back towards your head.
  6. Repeat this glute bridge with tricep extension for 45 seconds.

Modification: Perform the tricep extensions using one dumbbell; holding the dumbbell horizontally, one hand on each head of the dumbbell.

7. Glute Bridge Hold + Chest Press

Targets: Legs, glutes and chest muscles. Holding a glute bridge is a great way to increase the time under tension of muscles and isolate the gluteus maximus, thighs, hips, and hamstrings.

Add a chest press, an arm exercise with dumbbells for building upper body strength; targeting the chest or pectoralis major muscles.

This compound exercise is a great way to build lower body and chest strength (legs and chest). It’s also a great alternative to squats and push ups. 

glute bridge chest press or floor press

How to do a Glute Bridge Hold and Dumbbell 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.
  6. Continue to hold your glute bridge while performing a dumbbell chest press for 45 seconds.

Modification: Omit the glute bridge hold and perform a dumbbell chest press or floor press.

7 Best Strength Training Exercises for Women with Dumbbells

What are the benefits of weight training for women?

  1. Avoid fitness plateaus. Strength training never plateaus as you are always striving to increase weights as you get stronger.
  2. Weight loss and fat loss. As lean muscle increases, so does resting metabolism. In other words, muscle burns fat. The more muscle you have the more calories you burn.
  3. Increased strength (without getting ‘bulky’). Women getting ‘bulky’ from strength training is a fitness myth. Lifting weights will NOT make you bulky — just stronger!

What is the importance of strength training for women specifically?

Strength training is truly for everyone, but especially important for women! I’m an advocate for strength training exercises for many reasons, but two of the main reasons include:

  1. Weight training helps women see the ‘toned’ results they’re striving for. Building muscle through weight training is important to moving through everyday activities and injury prevention. This is even more important as we age. A statistic that absolutely blew me away — we start losing muscle mass at AGE 30 (Harvard).
  2. Women in particular are prone to neglecting strength training. This impacts their daily lives and can impact them long term. 80% of Americans diagnosed with osteoporosis are women, and strength training is one of the ways we know we can increase bone density (Time)!

dumbbell strength training for women, lunge and fly

How many days a week should you do strength training?

Aim three days a week of strength training. Include full-body workouts, like this strength training routine for women, that focus on compound exercises.

For a more structured workout routine for women, follow one of our FREE Workout Plans.

Is it safe to strength train during pregnancy?

In general, yes! Strength training is recommended during pregnancy to support your growing body and prepare you for labor and delivery. 

That said, I always recommend chatting with your doctor or midwife about what level of exercise may be appropriate for your body and your pregnancy. As always, you know your body best, and it’s especially important that you listen to what feels good to you during pregnancy.

Strength training can provide so many benefits for both mom and baby. Benefits of resistance training during pregnancy include:

  • Healthy weight gain
  • Reduced risk of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia
  • Better psychological wellbeing

Plus, Parents Magazine says lifting weights is one of the best ways to reduce pregnancy aches and pains.

Strength training is a low impact way to stay active, which is why I especially love it for prenatal and postpartum fitness.

In fact, I originally filmed this workout in my second trimester of my first pregnancy. Then we re-shot this workout with a follow-along video when I was 6 months postpartum after my second child.

Pin this Workout: 7 Best Strength Training Exercises for Women (30 Minute Workout Routine for Women)

30 Minute Full Body Workout Routine for Women

More Strength Training Workouts for Women

Legs + Lower Body Workouts for Women: 

Arms + Upper Body Workouts for Women: 

*And if you’re pregnant my most popular prenatal workout is this Strength Training for Pregnancy: 30-Minute Pregnancy Workout Video.

Follow one of our FREE Strength Training Plans to build muscle at home! 

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