Strength training is one of the most effective ways to support weight loss, improve bone density, boost metabolism, and keep your balance and coordination as you age. Strength training is especially important for women because it helps prevent osteoporosis and can mitigate some of the effects of menopause.

Going to a gym to lift weights can be intimidating, uncomfortable, and inconvenient. Luckily there are many ways that you can improve your muscular tone and strength from the comfort of your own home. Try these exercises to start building lean muscles and strengthen your body from the inside out.

Getting Started with Strength Training

If you have never tried strength training before, you will want to start out gently. It is possible to injure yourself, especially as you are still learning proper form. Practice the movements without any extra weight at first, and then increase weight slowly as you develop confidence and strength. Give yourself 24-48 hours of rest between strength workouts, three strength workouts per week is optimal.

It is important to include a warm-up and cool-down each time you exercise. To prevent injury, reduce soreness, and get the most benefit from exercising, warm up every part of your body before the workout and stretch everything afterwards.

Eventually you will want dumbbells, but to begin with you can use anything heavy, including soup cans or clean plastic bottles filled with sand, soil or water. Be sure to use the same weight for each hand/side of an exercise.

1. Squat

  • Stand with feet wide apart, toes and knees turned out equally. Hold a 3 to 8 pound weight in each hand with the shoulders relaxed, elbows lightly bent.
  • Squat down as you inhale, keeping your spine as straight as possible and bodyweight back in your heels.
  • Return to standing as you exhale.
  • Repeat 8 12 times

2. Single Leg Plank Hold Burpee

  • From standing fold forward and step your right leg back, then your left leg, until you are in a push up position.
  • Hold for three deep breaths.
  • Step your right foot forward, then your left, until you are in a forward fold.
  • Inhale as you rise to standing and reach your arms overhead.
  • Exhale as you fold forward and step back, leading with the left leg this time.
  • Repeat 8 10 times, alternating which leg goes first with each repetition.

3. Lunge

  • Stand with a 3 8 pound weight in each hand.
  • Step the right foot forward until you are in a deep lunge, but do not let the knee drift past the ankle.
  • Exhale as you lower straight down, bringing your left knee close to the ground. Do not lean forward, and keep the weight evenly distributed through both legs.
  • Inhale as you rise up.
  • Repeat 8-10 times, and then switch sides. To challenge your balance more, you can alternate sides with each repetition.

4. Biceps Curl + Overhead Press

  • Stand with a 3 to 8 pound weight in each hand.
  • Keep the elbows tucked back and in towards the ribs as you exhale and curl the hands up towards the shoulders.
  • Once your arms are fully curled, press the hands straight up, keeping the shoulders as relaxed as possible.
  • Inhale as you lower the arms, first bringing the elbows back along the ribs, then uncurling the arms.
  • Repeat 8 10 times.

5. Inner-Thigh Deadlifts

  • Stand with 3 8 pounds in each hand, arms and shoulders relaxed. Turn your toes outward so your legs make a V shape.
  • Keeping the legs straight but the knees lightly bent, hinge from the waist and fold forward.
  • Inhale as you lower just until your back comes to horizontal. Keep the spine long, no rounding in the lower back.
  • Squeeze your glutes and upper thighs and exhale as you lift to standing.
  • Repeat 8 10 times.

6. Wide Row

  • From standing, fold forward until your back is parallel to the ground, holding onto 3 to 8 pound weights.
  • Exhale as you lift the weights straight up, bending your elbows out to the sides and engaging your mid-back.
  • Inhale as you slowly extend the arms.
  • Repeat 8 to 10 times.

7. Narrow Squats

  • Stand with feet together, holding 3 to 8 pound weights, shoulders relaxed.
  • Inhale as you slowly bend your knees and lower your hips behind you. Keep your back as flat and long as possible.
  • Exhale as you slowly straighten your legs.
  • Repeat 8 to 10 times.

8. Triceps Extension

  • Bend your knees slightly and fold forward until your back is parallel to the ground, holding 3 to 6 pounds in each hand.
  • Keeping the elbows tucked into the ribs, exhale as you extend the hands behind you, straightening the arms.
  • Inhale as you bend the elbows.
  • Repeat 8 to 10 times.

9. Chest Press

  • Lie on your back on an exercise mat, weight bench, or other padded surface. Hold 3 to 8 pounds in each hand.
  • Extend the arms straight above you towards the sky.
  • Keep your lower back relaxed and core engaged as you inhale and take your arms out to the sides. Keep the hands in line with the shoulders.
  • Exhale as you press your hands up towards the sky.
  • Repeat 8 to 10 times.

10. Twist and Crunch

  • Sit on an exercise mat or padded surface with knees bent, holding a 3 to 8 pound weight close to your chest.
  • Lean back to a 45 degree angle.
  • Draw your navel in and lift your chest. Do not let your spine round.
  • Rotate slowly from side to side, keeping the abdomen engaged the entire time. The further you lean back, the harder it will be.
  • Repeat 20 times total.

End by walking for a few minutes and stretching your arms, legs, back, and chest.

Enjoy this routine as an introduction to strength training. As you develop proper form and more strength, you will want to explore other exercises to keep your workout effective and interesting. When combined with a nutritious diet and plenty of rest, strength training can support women to be more fit, resilient, and healthy in body and mind.