Best Exercises for Women

Best Exercises for Women

Trendy workouts for women always pop up in an attempt to keep things interesting and inspire people to move (we’re all here for that!), but some add up to little more than pricey toys or memberships you never use. (BTW, here are the best and worst “as seen on TV” abs products.)

To cut through the B.S., here’s a solid set of the best exercises for women that will help you feel strong and confident when combined into heart-pumping workouts. Best part? They don’t require tons of equipment — you just need a yoga mat (or soft floor!), something to step up on, and a pair of light- and medium-weight dumbbells. (Which you can get on Amazon for, like, so cheap.)

Read on for the 10 of the best exercises for women for strengthening your core, inner thighs, butt, and shoulders, plus tips on how to combine them into one of the best workouts for women — or literally anyone.

Total-Body Workout for Women

For a quick, total-body workout for women, pick five of the best exercise moves and do 3 sets of each. Move as fast as possible between moves for maximum calorie burn.

The next day, do the other five female fitness exercises. You can incorporate a few sets of cardio intervals into the total-body training session or do it separately for a longer period of time.

Target a Specific Zone

If you want to strengthen one or two areas in particular (e.g. maybe you’re especially interested in ab worouts for women or arm workouts for women), pick the best exercises that focus on those places and incorporate them into your existing workout routine. Just remember to continue challenging your body by gradually increasing the weight or number of reps as you get stronger—these will only prove to be the best exercises if you’re working hard enough!

Single-Leg Deadlift

“Deadlifts are one of the best exercises for working the back of your body, including your glutes, hamstrings, and back,” says Jacquelyn Brennan, C.S.C.S., a personal trainer and co-founder of Mindfuel Wellness in Chicago. (FYI: That’s all part of your very important posterior chain Plus, since deadlifts work so many muscles at once, they save you a whole lot of time performing single isolation moves. Performing this exercise on one leg also adds a bonus balance challenge to this workout for women.

  • Grab a pair of dumbbells and stand on your left foot.
  • Keeping core engaged and chest up during the entire movement, lift your right foot behind you and bend your knee so your right lower leg is parallel to the floor.
  • Bend forward at your hips, and slowly lower your body as far as you can.
  • Pause, then push your body back to the starting position. As you come up, think about using your glutes to push your hips forward instead of lifting from your back.

Side Plank

Planks are one of the best exercises for your abs, considering they work your deep inner core muscles (including your transverse abdominis), which helps stabilize your spine and power your workouts, says Brennan. This oblique-targeting variation is a nice way to work your abs in areas crunches often miss.

  • Lie on your left side with your knees straight.
  • Prop your upper body up on your left elbow and forearm.
  • Raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from your ankles to your shoulders. Hold this position for 30 seconds.
  • Turn around so that you’re lying on your right side and repeat.

Do two 30-second holds per side (then work up to 45- and 60-second holds as you progress).

Side Plank

Planks are one of the best exercises for your abs, considering they work your deep inner core muscles (including your transverse abdominis), which helps stabilize your spine and power your workouts, says Brennan. This oblique-targeting variation is a nice way to work your abs in areas crunches often miss.

  • Lie on your left side with your knees straight.
  • Prop your upper body up on your left elbow and forearm.
  • Raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from your ankles to your shoulders. Hold this position for 30 seconds.
  • Turn around so that you’re lying on your right side and repeat.

Do two 30-second holds per side (then work up to 45- and 60-second holds as you progress).

Push-Up

A perfect-form push-up challenges the entire body (especially your chest) while burning some calories since it’s like a moving plank. This is one of the best exercises to include in workouts for women because it trains your body in a functional movement pattern, helping improve your performance in other exercises at the gym as well as in daily life.

  • Start on all fours and place your hands on the floor so that they’re slightly wider than and in line with your shoulders, feet close together.
  • Keeping hips lifted and core braced the entire time, lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor and then push yourself back to the starting position.

Do 15 reps.

Second Position Pliés

Your lower body — yes your entire lower body — loves pliés. They’re one of the best exercises for women because, “they work all of the larger muscles in the lower half of the body, making them incredibly efficient and effective at both building muscle and burning calories,” says Brennan. Turning your toes out during this move means that the squat motion will sculpt the inner thighs as well as tone the gluteus minimus (side of your butt). Add them to your leg day routine to create a killer workout for women.

  • Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart, toes turned out slightly.
  • Lower your body down by bending your knees until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Bring arms overhead and shoulders down and back.
  • Pause, then slowly push yourself back up to the starting position.

Do 15 reps.

HIIT Intervals

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is one of the best workouts for women because it burns more calories in a shorter amount of time compared to long, slow endurance exercise. Try incorporating it into your workout routine twice a week on alternate days.

Choose any piece of cardio equipment (elliptical, jump rope, treadmill, bike, etc) or choose bodyweight HIIT move:

  • 3 minutes at 50 percent of your maximum effort
  • 20 seconds at 75 percent of your maximum effort
  • 10 seconds at your absolute maximum effort

Do 10 reps of the circuit.

Triceps Extension

Triceps kickbacks (and their best exercise cousin skull crushers are stellar at zoning in on triceps, sure, but they also hit your traps, which many women overlook, says Brennan. And apart from balancing out your biceps and keeping your arms strong, hitting your traps and triceps during arm workouts for women will also make your arms look amazing. Try this workout for women with light weights and high reps, or if you prefer, step up to a weight you can do with good form for 10 to 15 reps.

  • Start in lunge position, holding 2 to 3-pound dumbbells, with back heel on the ground.
  • Lean over your front bent knee as your lift your arm straight up by your side, top of the weight facing the ceiling.
  • Lift and lower the weight about an inch. Switch sides and repeat.

Do 30 reps per side.

Step-Ups

This one of the best exercises for targetting the muscles of your glutes and hamstrings to create stronger legs and a tighter booty. Step-ups also target your quadriceps since they require you to straighten your knee against resistance.

  • Stand in front of a bench or step and place your left foot firmly on the step.
  • Keeping chest up and core engaged the entire time, press your left foot into the step and push your body up until your left leg is straight.
  • Lower your body back down until your right foot touches the floor and repeat.
  • Keep your weight balanced evenly, not leaning too far forward or too far back.

Do 10 reps per side.

Bridge

Bridges are not only one of the best exercises for a sculpted butt, but they will also help keep your back healthy and pain-free, making them a perfect addition to women’s fitness workouts (FYI:Glute bridges and hip thrusts are not the same thing)

  • Lie face-up on the floor with knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Raise hips so your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
  • Pause in the up position, then lower your body back to the starting position.

Do 20 reps.

Plank with Arm Raise

Adding an arm raise to an already-excellent core exercise like the forearm plank makes the ab workout for women even more of a stability challenge, which in turn improves posture and core strength.

  • Start in push-up position, then bend your elbows and rest your weight on your forearms instead of on your hands. (Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles.)
  • Brace your core and maintain your hip placement as you lift your right arm straight out in front of you. Draw your shoulder blades down and back as you lift your arms.
  • Hold the position for 5-10 seconds and then switch arms.

Do 5 reps per side.

Shoulder Stand

There are so many physical and mental benefits to yoga, so why not include bits of the practice in a workout for women? Inversion postures are great for relaxation, blood flow, and for a new perspective! This is one of the best exercises for women to add to their workout — but you can also add more chill inversions to other parts of your life. For example, try putting your legs up the wall for 5 minutes every night before bed.

  • Lie down on your back and lift your legs and hips off the ground, bringing your legs up over your head until your toes touch the floor behind you.
  • Place your hands behind your back and extend legs straight in the air, creating a straight line from shoulders to ankles.
  • Keep your neck relaxed as you hold the shoulder stand.

Hold for 1 minute (or as long as you’re comfortable balancing).

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Tips for Female Beginners

As a first timer at the gym, it can be scary. As a woman, it can be really intimidating. Because of the gym stigma, the lack of knowledge and for most women, lack of confidence, it can be difficult to get yourself out there to workout.

You shouldn’t have to feel this way at all! So we’ve gathered our best tips below to help you get started. It’s really all about having the right mindset, knowing where to start, what will make you feel comfortable and seeking help when required.

What should a beginner do at the gym?

The gym is an intimidating place to be if you’ve never been before. With that being said, it’s important to be mentally prepared before heading in for the first time. At Crunch, we like to make the gym a really comfortable and safe place to do your workouts. But sometimes it can be a little tough to motivate yourself to head in!

Here are a few pointers that will help you feel comfortable if it’s your first time or early days at the gym:

The gym is an intimidating place to be if you’ve never been before. With that being said, it’s important to be mentally prepared before heading in for the first time. At Crunch, we like to make the gym a really comfortable and safe place to do your workouts. But sometimes it can be a little tough to motivate yourself to head in!

Here are a few pointers that will help you feel comfortable if it’s your first time or early days at the gym:

  • Before heading in, remind yourself that going to the gym is for you and only you!
  • You’ll realise everyone is just as self-conscious as you are. It’s called the “spotlight effect” where you feel that everyone is looking at you but really they’re wondering the exact same thing! So just focus on yourself and you’ll soon realise…everyone else is as well not on you!
  • Everyone at the gym has started somewhere. You’re not the first person who has been a beginner. Like most people, they definitely would’ve been in the same position you are now.
  • Keep your headphones in and create a playlist that makes you feel good and motivated. It’s easy to zone everyone out once you plug some music in and start concentrating on yourself.

The hardest part of heading into the gym is actually going. So schedule it and put some of your best workout gear that you feel good in. Once you’re there, that is 80% of the hard work done!

What Equipment and Exercises are best for women beginners

If you’ve never picked up weights or done any form of physical exercise, start slow. A great suggestion is to jump onto the treadmill. You can start by doing a slow walk for 10-15 mins which will introduce yourself to cardio. This will help you ease yourself at the gym, especially if you see people who are confident working out already, it can be a little scary!

If the treadmill is something you’re not familiar with, ask someone or a trained professional like a personal trainer. Properly learning how to use any equipment at the gym, like weight machines or any of the cardio equipment, is important so that you don’t hurt or injure yourself.

If cardio is something that is too much at first because it’s tiring or you don’t have the confidence, you can start by setting yourself up in a quiet area of the gym and do some stretches. At this point, it’s about getting familiar with the setting, the environment and being relaxed with yourself.

How long should you workout for if you’re a beginner?

As a beginner you don’t want to push yourself too much, so start with however long you feel comfortable with. Go at a pace that suits your fitness level. A great time to start with is 30 mins. Once you’ve started going regularly you’ll probably start incorporating weight training into your routine which will change how long you workout for. It also will be influenced by your fitness goals whether be to lose weight, gain muscle or improving your endurance.

Here are some easy beginner gym workout routines for females

To make things easier for you, we’ve listed some easy beginner gym workout routines that you can try. As always, if you’re not feeling confident, seek help from one of our friendly Crunch staff members or our personal trainers who can guide you in the right direction.

Depending on what your goals and fitness levels are will determine what will suit you best. These suggestions should be used as a guide.

Cardio workout routines for beginners

  • You can try treadmills, elliptical machines, stationary bikes, the stair climbers and rowers. Each of these machines can start on a low-intensity setting so that you can get familiar with them first.
  • Begin with 15 minutes of cardio and then when you’re comfortable, start gradually increasing the time as well as the intensity.
  • For women who are older than 40, it’s natural for your bone density to decrease due to hormonal changes. Cardio exercise is fantastic to promote bone growth because you’re on your feet.

Beginner strength training routines

  • A full body workout routine can comprise of shoulder presses, back rows, leg curls, crunches, chest presses and leg presses. These are basic starter exercises, consult with a personal trainer if you’re unsure how to do them.
  • To start with, female beginners should try to perform 2-3 sets with 8-10 repetitions. Definitely start with light weights so that you can build into heavier weights.
  • Women naturally possess lower levels of muscle-building hormones so weight training is fantastic because it helps increase muscle, speeds your metabolic rate and helps with bone density.

At the end of your workout, don’t forget to do some stretching. Especially if you sit at a desk all day, your muscles can become tight. Performing stretches after a workout is ideal because by then, your muscles would have warmed up already.

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