Top 10 Thursday: Top Ten Strength Training Workout Ideas For Women

We’ve made it over the hump, almost to the end of the week! I want to thank everyone for the generosity and support that you all have shown in regards to yesterday’s post. It means the world to both me and Erica.

With all the support I have had lately, I have been extra motivated in the gym. My workouts lately have been killer… in a great way. I’ve even been doing sprints on the row machine! Which by the way, is my new favorite cardio blast during workouts. OMG, I think Amanda is trying to kill me! The joys of working out with a collegiate rower. All in good fun and for the name of fitness.

But with that, I thought it would be fun to talk about the limitless options open to you in regards to strength training. Chances are when you think of weight training workouts, the first thing that pops into your mind is 3 sets of 10 reps… and I want to change that.

So today’s Top 10 is all about:

The Top Ten Strength Training Workout Ideas For Women

Hopefully by the end, you’ll be super excited to try out a few of these training programs and see just how much fun you can have with workouts.



Believe it or not circuits didn’t make their big debut until 1953! Who doesn’t love a good circuit? The idea is to have 5+ exercises laid out where you’ll move from one exercise to the next. The idea is that while you’re focusing on one muscle group another will be recovering from the previous exercise.

Because you’re moving from one station to the next with little rest time, circuits are none to help not only tone and strengthen the muscles but to help improve cardiovascular performance as well.

On top of that, a lot of women enjoy circuits because they seem to make the time pass quickly.

Blended Circuits


What makes these different from a “standard” circuit? Instead of moving from exercise to exercise, there is a cardio burst thrown in there. The idea is to blend cardio and strength training. So for example, you might do 5 exercises back to back and then head to your favorite cardio machine for 3-5 minutes before repeating the circuit or moving on to another. This is what I was doing (and Dan) with the row machine the other day… in case I didn’t already say it, it was brutal.

Doing blended circuits can cut overall workout time by quite a bit and deliver great results in terms of toning, burning calories and feeling awesome at the end.

Pyramid Training

negative training

I LOVE pyramid training. There are a two main ways to go about pyramid strength training… either start off light(er) with high reps -or- start heavy with few reps. The idea is that with each set (3-6 sets total) has the overall work load change.

So if you’re starting of lighter, the weight will go up the second set and the reps will go down. Continue this trend until you’re lifting heavy with just 4-6 reps. If you’re starting with the heavy, the weight would decrease; reps increase until you’re using a weight on the final set where you can get around 12-15 reps.

Personally, my rep/sets generally look like this (I start with lighter weight): 1. 15 reps 2. 12 reps 3. 8 reps 4. 6 reps… and yes, set 4 is killer!

Why do pyramids? They are effective at increasing strength! Who doesn’t want to get stronger? And just to clarify, strength does not equal bulk.

Full Body Super Sets


Honestly, this is what about half of my weight training workouts are modeled after. Full body workouts, back to back exercises. A super set combines two exercises. You move directly from exercise 1 to exercise 2 before taking a rest break. By doing both exercises brings the end of a set to a close.

Super sets are great because they allow the ability to fit in a lot to a workout… hence the full body part. You can do a BIG upper body exercise, pair it with a BIG lower body exercise and continue with this until you have done about 3 different superset pairings.

A second option is to do a BIG upper body exercise, pair it with a smaller upper body exercise (i.e. a pull-up with a bicep curl) and then do the same but with lower body for a second set. Generally I recommend 4 supersets for this sort of pairing (2 upper; 2 lower).

Full body workouts allow for massive calorie burn, toning and results! My personal favorite pairing is some type of squat paired with some sort of bench press.

Split Routines

spilt routines for women

When you think of men’s weight training this is what might come to mind: Back on Monday; Chest on Tuesday; Legs Wednesday… you get the picture. While this is a great program if you’re focusing on increasing muscle size, the truth is that it’s not so idea for burning off fat… there is a lot of emphasis on small, isolated muscle groups. And let’s be honest,  it’s time consuming.

With all the splits, when will you have time to add in cardio and rests? For body building, figure competitions and such yes split workouts are great, for the general woman training to improve health and body composition, it’s not my favorite to suggest.

Strength Intervals


I LOVE intervals! Who says they are just for cardio workouts? Dr. Tabata would agree with me that strength training intervals kick ass. You will often see Dan and I with our interval timer in hand during workouts.

Basically, choose an exercise and dedicate a certain amount to it at FULL intensity. This interval can range from 20 seconds to 60 seconds, but by the end you should have muscles burning and your heart pounding, so it’s a good thing that it’s followed up with some sort of rest.

Intervals are amazing when it comes to increasing caloric output during a workout, with the full intensity and the rest your body won’t know what’s happening so it just burns off fat! Score.

A Tabata is just one example… it’s 8 rounds of 20 seconds full out (100%) work with a 10 second rest. There are several different interval based workouts you can go with. Give it a go!

Metabolic Resistance Training (MRT)

mrt training

What the heck is MRT? Metabolic Resistance Training makes up about 30% of my overall training, I love this form of exercise. While I hate to use this example, the easiest idea of MRT I can give is CrossFit. High rep workouts, full out, little rest, and extremely high intensity.

MRT has become very popular over the past 5 years and for good reason. I use this form of training often in my boot camps and with my Torched In 20 program.

Let’s dive a little deeper… MRT is based on using big muscle movements, so you will likely not see any small isolated moves like calf raises. Instead you’ll see things like kettle bell swings, burpees, pull-ups, and exercise combinations (ever heard of a burpee pull-up?).

Because of the intensity this form has been shown to not only improve body composition (decrease fat, tone up the muscles), but also overall performance, cardiovascular endurance, speed, and calorie burn… calorie burn during and after the workout (referred to as EPOC). These workouts are hard and effective but I DO NOT RECOMMEND new women to try these. There is an increase risk of injuries (poor form) and burn out.

Chip Away Routines

chip away weights

While these aren’t routines I recommend doing multiple times a week, they are fun. The idea is to start off with a list of exercises, like a circuit… with a set number of reps for each one. Then do as many reps of the first exercise as you can without taking a break. When you need to rest, that means it’s time to move to the next exercise and so forth. You’ll simply keep “chipping away” at the reps until the workout is complete…

Negative Training Routines


If your goal is to add some muscle and get stronger then try doing negatives! Each rep is made of 3 different parts: the contraction phase (curling a weight up), the isometric phase (weight at top) and the eccentric phase (negative: lowering down).

We all think of the contraction phase as being the most important, however studies show that the lowering, or the negative part of a lift is actually where the most stress is placed on the muscle doing the work. Stress = muscle tears = repair = results.

This is better done with a spotter for most exercises where they can help you to get to the top of the move so that you’re not having to work so hard on the contraction. From there, take your time (anywhere from 3-10 seconds) to lower back to the start position.

These workouts are time consuming, but a great way to add a major training change to your program.



Plyometrics really is a type of exercise, however you can design an entire workout around plyo moves, which is tough but a lot of fun!

What is a plyometric exercise? It is just a fancy word to say jumping. Jumping does amazing things for the body:

-It creates a “rubberband” affect so that muscle fibers are fired off like crazy!
-It creates almost an instant rise in heart rate, which will last through out the workout, making it a great cardio-strength program.
-It improves overall fitness performance: run faster, jump higher!
-It improves joint and bone health (makes bones stronger).
-Tones and strengthens the muscles.

While I don’t often dedicate a workout just to plyo, I do always add it into my routines. For example just the other day I would do a set of squats then follow it up with squat jumps to failure. Talk about wearing the muscles out! It felt awesome.

Because plyo is quite intense, make sure to allow for plenty of recovery time between workouts. Here are a few of my favorite plyo moves: squat jumps, lunge jumps, box jumps, and explosive push-ups. Find out more on plyo here.

What is your favorite way to strength train? 

Favorite exercise? 



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