If you're looking to get stronger, try cutting back on cardio for a few weeks to focus on these weight lifting exercises for women that increase metabolism and build lean muscle.
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4 Week Weight Training Plan for Women , woman lifting weights
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Are you overdoing the cardio? Yes, running, cycling, and hitting the elliptical religiously can absolutely help you reach your goals, especially if you're looking to lose weight or increase your endurance. If you are skipping weight lifting exercises or strength training for women, you could be cutting yourself short. If you stick to cardio-only workouts, at some point, you're going to hit a plateau and miss out on a host of other benefits, says Holly Perkins, C.S.C.S., founder of Women's Strength Nation and author of Lift to Get Lean.

To get past it, you need strength training in your life. Why? Strength training for women helps to amp your metabolism for long after your gym time since the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn when working out and even while sitting still. Not to mention, strength training is a great way for everyone to steer clear of injury; the stronger the muscles surrounding and supporting your joints, the more you'll be able to maintain good form and keep out of harm's way. And, of course, weight lifting for women can — and does — make you strong AF (without causing you to "bulk up").

If you're new to weight lifting exercises, don't worry. Perkins created this four-week beginner weight lifting workout for women to help you build a solid foundation of strength training and shift your body and mind. The moves will stay the same as you progress through the program, but the routine will get harder thanks to changing variables (e.g. rest, sets, reps, or load). (See: Progressive Overload Strategies for Smarter, Faster Results)

Aim to do this routine twice a week, putting at least two days of rest between strength training days. Keep in mind: You can do cardio on those rest days. After all, cardio isn't bad; it's just not the only thing you should be doing for overall fitness and longevity.

Now, let's break down the weekly gym workouts so you can start lifting weights like a pro in no time.

4-Week Strength Training for Women Program

Week 1

Do the exercises in each workout as straight sets. For example, do one set of leg presses, rest for 30 seconds, do a second set, rest, do the third set. Then, move on to the next exercise. Do all movements in both strength workouts for women this way.

Do 12 reps of all movements for 3 sets each, and then rest for 30 seconds between each set. Choose a weight load that challenges you so that the last 2 reps of every set are extra hard. (You should be too tired to do the thirteenth rep). You may find that you need to increase (or decrease) the weight load to maintain 12 reps for all three sets. (New to lifting weights? Check out this beginner-friendly guide to strength training workouts for women.)

Week 2

This week, continue with the straight-set format for both strength training workouts. But now, do 15 reps of all movements for 3 sets, resting for only 15 seconds in between each set. Therefore, this week, you'll do more work in less time. This is a great stimulus to take your fitness to the next level.

Week 3

Time to mix it up this week. Instead of straight sets, you're going to complete your strength training workout for women in a circuit style.

This week, do 1 set of each exercise for 15 reps, then immediately move on to the next movement with no rest in between. For example, on the day 1 workout, do your first set of leg presses for 15 reps, then immediately go to the goblet squat and do 15 reps and then continue on to the next exercise with no rest in between movements. Rest for one minute at the end of these four movements, then do the circuit two more times

Week 4

This week, continue with the circuit-style sets. This time, do only 12 reps of each movement, with two (tough!) changes: Do a total of 4 full circuits (that's four sets of each exercise for both workouts) and there will be no rest between each circuit. This week is all about keeping you moving. After you finish the last movement of either workout, immediately return to the first movement and start a new circuit.

Got it? On to the strength training moves: Below, see demos of the four weight lifting exercises that make up Workout 1 and the five moves that make up Workout 2. Watch and learn, then mark your calendar — four weeks from now, you won't believe how strong you'll feel.

Strength Training for Women Workout 1

Leg Press

Goblet Squat

Seated Cable Row

Lying Dumbbell Chest Fly

Strength Training for Women Workout 2

Leg Press

Walking Lunges

Dumbbell Hammer Curl

Lying Dumbbell Chest Fly

Straight Bar Tricep Press