The best lifting program for women

Lifting weights can seem like a daunting task, especially when you don’t know which lifting program for women to choose.

The problem is, we all want to look, and feel better, but ‘time-and-time’ again, there’s so many conflicting ideas as to what’s the best lifting program for women.

Well ladies, I’ve got news for you, if you want curves in all the right places, and you want to feel, and look strong, there’s a handful of exercises that will give you more ‘bang for your buck!’

So without delay, here it is, the best lifting program that every women need to have!

Compound Exercises

woman doing squats in the gym looking healthy and strong

1. The barbell squat

The barbell squat will work your entire lower body. It also promotes muscle growth throughout other parts of your body.

Such as your core, and back, as you’ll be using a lot of stabilizing muscles to perform this exercise.

How to perform the barbell squat:

Start with a comfortable weight on your back, and feet slightly shoulder width apart. Then, slowly squat to the lowest part of the movement. Once you reach the bottom, drive through your heels back into a standing position.

Sets and Reps:

  • Weight: moderate to heavy
  • 7-8 repetitions
  • 4 sets
  • Lifting tempo: 3 seconds down, 2 seconds up

woman doing a goblet squat with a kettlebell in a picture which shows the entire movement from start to finish

2. The sumo goblet squat

The sumo squat is hugely popular for targeting the outer area of your glutes. It works to build those  rounded buttocks you’ve always longed for.

Not only that, it targets the inner thigh, helping you to tone all areas of your legs.

The only difference with this sumo squat is you’ll be doing it with a dumbbell or a kettlebell.

How to perform the sumo goblet squat:

Take a weight you’re familiar with, and hold it close to your chest, either with your palms facing upward supporting the weight (for dumbbell).

Or, holding the handle of the kettlebell and letting it hang down in a resting position, as if you were going to do a kettlebell swing.

Start in a wide stance with feet pointing outwards, and squat to the lowest position, then drive through the heels back into a standing position.

Sets and Reps:

  • Weight: moderate
  • 12 repetitions
  • 3 sets
  • Lifting tempo: 3 seconds down, 2 seconds up

woman doing weighted lunges in teh gym with a barbell while looking lean and muscular

3. Weighted lunges

Lunges help to build strong glutes, and hamstrings, which help for a lot of daily activities such as walking, running, and lifting heavy objects.

Not only that, they also look great and help to fill out a nice pair of jeans.

How to perform lunges:

You can either use a barbell on your back, or you can use dumbbells, or just your own body weight is enough.

Start in the standing position, lunge forward and place your front foot firmly on the ground. But remember, do not lunge forward into the single leg squat, as this puts pressure on the front of the knee.

Instead, you need stop once you have taken the step forward, and dip-down into the movement. This will isolate your glutes, hamstrings, and quads while preventing injury to your knees.

Sets and Reps:

  • Weight: light to moderate
  • 20 repetitions in total (10 each leg)
  • 2 sets
  • Walking tempo: slow, steady, and controlled

woman doing incline dumbbell press

4. Incline chest press

If you’re looking to build a stronger, and better looking upper-body, then, the incline chest press is for you.

It will not only increase your chest size, but it will also work your shoulders, and arms, giving you a full upper-body workout.

How to perform the incline chest press:

Start by setting a bench at a slight incline angle, then select two dumbbells that you’ll be comfortable lifting for roughly 12 repetitions.

Start with the weights in-line with your upper chest, and your elbows should be pointed outwards – this will help to isolate your chest for muscle growth.

Push the weights upwards, controlling the dumbbells at all times. Once your arms are fully extended, and the dumbbells are above your head/chest, then slowly lower the weight to the staring position.

Sets and Reps:

  • Weight: moderate
  • 12 repetitions
  • 3 sets
  • Lifting tempo: 3 seconds up, 3 seconds down

woman doing shoulder press with dumbbells while sitting on a bench

5. The shoulder press

Alongside the incline chest press, the shoulder dumbbell press will help to build strength, and size, in your entire shoulder muscle.

By increasing the size, and strength of your shoulders, you’ll be able to perform more exercises with ease.

Such as push-ups, dips, and for the advanced athlete, walking hand stands!

How to perform the incline chest press:

This works in a very similar way the the inclinare chest press, although, this movement will be performed with a straight back at a 90 degree angle.

You can either use a bench to support your back, or sit freely in an upright position.

Get the dumbbells into the start position inline with your shoulders, with your elbows pointing outwards and your chest open.

Push the dumbbells directly upwards until your arms are fully extended. Once your arms reach a full extension, lower the weight slowly until the dumbbells are parallel with your shoulders.

Sets and Reps:

  • Weight: light
  • 14 repetitions
  • 3 sets
  • Lifting tempo: 3 seconds up, 3 seconds down

woman doing dumbbell row on a workout bench wearing gym clothes looking fit and lean

6. The dumbbell row

The single arm dumbbell row is a great exercise to build a strong back, along with the benefit of working your arm muscles at the same time.

As you’ll have to balance yourself with one knee on the bench, and the other foot on the floor, you’ll also be working your entire core as you stabilize your body.

How to perform the single arm dumbbell row:

Start by taking the weight in one hand and kneeling on the bench with your opposite knee. Then, place your foot slightly back. The aim here is to keep your back as flat as possible.

With your opposite hand on the bench supporting your upper body, let the weight hang with your working arm.

Pull the weight upwards into your midsection, focusing on your back muscles. It’s your back muscles, more specifically your ‘lateral muscles‘ that need to be doing the work.

TIP: Your hands should only be acting as hooks while pulling the weight. Focus on your back, do not allow your arms to pull the weight to start with, force your back muscles to do the work.

Sets and Reps:

  • Weight: light to moderate
  • 15 repetitions
  • 3 sets
  • Lifting tempo: 2 seconds up, 3 seconds down

woman doing leg raises while holding gymnastic hoops in the gym looking lean and fit

7. Leg raises

Looking to build a solid core, and get those abs showing? Then leg raises are one of the best exercises to make it happen.

By lifting your legs upwards, letting your core do all of the work, you’ll build great looking abs in no time.

How to perform leg raises:

You can either use Olympic rings, or you can use a dip machine. Start by holding yourself into position taking all of your body weight onto your hands.

Once you’re in this position, bring your feet outwards and upwards, raising them into a parallel position. If it’s your first time doing this exercise, then you might want to focus on pulling your knees to your chest instead.

The more you do this exercise, the easier it will become. Eventually, you’ll be able to do straight leg raises with ease!

Always remember not to swing your body, focus on keeping your body tight and let your core do all of the work.

Sets and Reps:

  • Weight: body weight
  • 5 repetitions (beginners) 10/15 repetitions (advanced)
  • 3 sets
  • Lifting tempo: 2 seconds up, 3 seconds down

strong fit woman doing yoga in the street


Well ladies, there you have it, the best lifting routine for women to get you strong, and healthy in no time at all.

We recommend sticking to this lifting routine for at least 1 month, before moving onto another program to get the best results.

Now that you’ve got this list of ‘the best exercises to build a well rounded body,’ don’t delay, and start creating your dream body.


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  1. Hi I would like to do these exercises at my gym but know nothing about lifting weights really.. I do know you need to really push your muscles to get results like to exhaustion.. but my question is what weight do I start with for these exercises for a beginner.. I don’t want to use too light yet not too heavy. Especially with bar bells.. I have never used them before. I would know how much weight to put on each side? Thanks!

    1. Hi Julie,

      We’d suggest starting light and seeing how it feels. Start off with no weight and perfect your form. Once you feel confident doing this, start to use an empty barbell and build the weight up in small increments. It’s the best and safest way to find out how strong you are and there’s nothing wrong with keeping it light while you build your confidence. Everyone is different and everyone has to start somewhere!

      Hope that helps!

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