Looking for the best women’s exercises to do to burn fat, get toned and get body confident?

In this post I’ll be outlining the best exercises for women that will have you toned up and feeling great in no time.

We’ll be focusing on resistance training (weight training) as the foundation as this is the single best and fastest way to burn fat, tone muscles and feel strong and confident.

And don’t worry… you won’t ‘get big’. This is an absolute myth. It takes years of dedicated lifting of very heavy weights and eating a lot of protein and carbohydrates consistently to get big. So don’t worry… the exercises I’ll be recommending and the number of reps (repetitions) will be at a level that will cause muscle tone and fat burning and not ‘bulking’ 🙂

With all this in mind, let’s get into my top women’s exercises that I recommend to all my female clients…

Dmitri Simons
Co-Founder Exercises.com.au, Personal Trainer, Triathlete, Qualified Chef, Father of 5

Arm Exercises For Women

The biceps and triceps are among the smallest muscles in the body, yet many people give arms the most attention in the gym.

What is it about owning a toned set of arms that possess people to spend 2-3 hours in the gym inflicting a barrage of supersets, giant sets and other intensity techniques to muscles that are about the size of their calves? It’s just not necessary.

For women, your arms are the body part that is frequently exposed. It’s difficult to hide a toned set of arms.

When you are wearing a short-sleeved shirt, your upper arms indicate the amount of work you put in your biceps and triceps. Owning a toned set of arms is especially a challenge for women.

Unfortunately, women are predisposed to have more fatty deposits in their lower arms and elbow area compared to men. Women like to wear sleeveless clothing and thus, become more conscious of their arms.

So while guys may think “Curls will get the girls” and women believe the “Triceps Kickback will attract” sadly, these exercises will not get you toned arms.

Why You Should Not Over-Train Arms

People who spend 2-3 hours working arms by doing countless sets and reps in addition to heavy weight fail to recognise that the biceps and triceps are small muscles. The arms do not need much stimulation to grow.

As a matter of fact, many compound exercises utilise the arms in executing proper form and technique.

The primary function of the biceps is to pull objects toward the chest. Exercises such as Barbell Rows, Lat Pulls and Chin Ups engage the biceps.

The triceps are designed to support elbow extension. Exercises such as the Bench Press, Shoulder Press and Push Ups rely on the triceps as the elbows begin to extend at 50% of the range of motion.

Overtraining the arms will not produce growth and it can lead to serious injuries as the tendons and connective tissues have not fully recovered.

The Best Exercises For Toning Arms

If you want to get toned arms, you have to choose exercises based on the following criteria:

  • Places the body in biomechanically strong but safe positions;
  • Improves functionality;
  • Allows greatest flexibility to safely add resistance

This means the best exercises for toning the arms are those that recruit other muscles to support proper execution. Isolation exercises target specific muscles which lead people to spend more time in the gym.

Compound exercises stimulate all the different areas of the biceps and triceps safely and effectively.

Here are the 5 best exercises you should do to get toned arms:

1. JM Press

JM Press is similar to the Close Grip Bench Press except that the range of motion emphasises only the triceps.

Remember to take a shoulder width grip and follow a bar path directly above your upper chest.

You can use a Smith Machine for JM Press for greater safety. With a Smith Machine, you can go thumb-less for better results!

Recommended Work Volume: 3 sets x 6-8 reps

2. Seated Tricep Press

Seated Tricep Press is another great compound exercise that hits all the muscles of the triceps but particularly the long head.

Make sure to keep your elbows in and your shoulders aligned with your upper back.

Recommended Work Volume: 2 sets x 12-15 reps

3. Dips

Dips are a great way to finish your triceps workout. If you are too tired or unable to do a single body weight dip, you can switch to Assisted Dips.

Dips are a functional exercise. It allows a deep stretch at the bottom and strong contraction at the top.

Recommended Work Volume: 2 sets x 8-10 reps

4. Close Grip EZ Bar Curl

Your hand position during Close Grip EZ Bar Curl makes it safer to use compared to the straight Barbell.

An EZ Curl Bar places less stress on the wrists and elbows. Keep your elbows in and place one foot forward for better balance. Only your arms should be moving.

Recommended Work Volume: 3 sets x 10 reps

5. Hammer Curls

Hammer Curls work your biceps, forearms and improves grip strength.

It is also safer for your wrists and elbows compared to the Dumbbell Curl which requires the wrists to pronate.

Recommended Work Volume: 2 sets x 12-15 reps

When Should You Train Arms?

Ideally, you should train arms with a larger body part. This saves you time and reduces the risk of injury.

Because the arms have been pre-exhausted, you will not be inclined to use heavy weight:

  • Triceps –  After training chest or shoulders
  • Biceps –  After training back

If you want to give arms their own day, just make sure to stay within reasonable intensity. Your arms have been worked thoroughly the previous days. They should be given enough time to recover.

5 Best Leg Exercises For A Toned Lower Body

In most surveys, women have identified the following body parts as problem areas:

  • Thighs
  • Buttocks
  • Hips
  • Hamstrings
  • Lower Abdominals

Hormones dictate where fatty deposits tend to accumulate and this appears to have a gender-specific function. Women tend to have more fatty deposits in the hips, midsection and the lower body.

But biological pre-disposition aside, it does not mean you can never have a toned lower body.

Aside from diet, resistance training is the best way to tone your lower body. And while there are many leg exercises to choose from, they are all not created equal. There are leg exercises that tone your lower body better and faster than others.

The criteria for selecting the 5 best leg exercises are as follows:

  • Activates the highest number of muscle fibres
  • Works other muscle groups and areas
  • Allows for full range of motion
  • Requires balance, stability and mobility
  • Flexible; allows variability in exercise execution

These exercises target a primary muscle group in your lower body. But because these require full range of motion, control and enable slight adjustments in form and technique, you work the other muscles as well.

Here are the 5 best leg exercises for toning your lower body…

1. Squats

Acknowledged by many as the “King of Leg Exercises”, Squats primarily targets your thighs.

But if you do a full squat whereby the hips go lower than your knees, you work your glutes, hamstrings and calves as well.

Hold the bottom position of the Squat for 2-4 seconds to really tighten your hamstrings and bum!

Squats also activate your core section; the upper and lower abs and hips, to stabilise your upper body and support the lower back. Thus, you tone up the midsection as well.

Recommended sets and reps: 3 sets x 12-15 reps

2. Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian Split Squat allows you to work each leg individually thereby giving more focus on precise form and technique.

This exercise works the thighs, hamstrings, glutes, calves, hips and abdominals.

You can also do adjustments in form to place more emphasis on key areas. For example, by lunging forward slightly you target the hamstrings and glutes more than the thighs.

Using kettlebells and dumbbells creates forward drag which works the thighs more.

A barbell or the Smith Machine puts you in a more stable position so you distribute the workload throughout your lower body.

Recommended sets and reps: 3 sets x 12-15 reps

3. 45 Degree Leg Press

The 45 Degree Leg Press hits the thighs, hamstrings, glutes, calves and hips. It is a classic machine stand-by in many lower body toning programs for 3 reasons.

First, you start out the exercise from the top position which places less pressure on the knees.

Second, you can adjust the angle of the seatback to open up the range of motion.

Finally, by adjusting your feet placement on the platform you shift the focus of the exercise.

High foot position hits the hamstrings, middle foot position hits hamstrings and thighs equally and the lower foot position emphasises the thighs.

Recommended sets and reps: 3 sets x 12-15 reps

4. Romanian Deadlift

Romanian Deadlift is great for toning your hamstrings, glutes and lower back.

To develop a nice, deep curve on your lower back which accentuates the tightness of the waist and the shape of the buttocks, do Romanian Deadlift with Full Squats.

In addition to shaping the backside of your legs, this exercise strengthens your spine and the supporting muscles.

Women are more prone to osteoporosis than Men and the lower back is often the first to give out.

This is another reason why Romanian Deadlift is one of the 5 best leg exercises.

Recommended sets and reps: 3 sets x 12-15 reps

5. Overhead Lunges

Overhead Lunges can be a great finisher to your leg workout. For one, it requires tremendous balance, stability and mobility.

This means it will hit even the deepest fibres in your legs. If you want toned legs fast, include Overhead Lunges in your program.

Second, placing a weight overhead increases the involvement of the abdominal muscles and brings in the shoulders and upper back as well.

You can use a barbell plate, a pair of kettlebells or dumbbells.

Recommended sets and reps: 3 sets x 12-15 reps

You do not have to do all the exercises in one workout. Choose 1-2 exercises that target a primary muscle and 3rd one that ties in all the muscles in your lower body.

For example:

Leg Workout 1:

Squats – 3 sets x 12-15 reps
Romanian Deadlift – 3 sets x 12-15 reps
Overhead Lunges – 2 sets x 12-15 reps

Leg Workout 2:

45 Degree Leg Press (feet high on platform) – 3 sets x 12-15 reps
Bulgarian Split Squat – 3 sets x 12-15 reps
Squats – 3 sets x 12-15 reps (lighter weight, more reps)

 

Women’s Shoulder Exercises: 6 Exercises For Super Sexy Shoulders

If there is a body part that immediately draws attention to the eyes, it would be the shoulders. Nothing looks better on clothes than a set of firm, toned, tight and supple shoulders.

Women such as Jessica Biel, Miranda Kerr and Maria Sharapova are beautiful but their toned shoulders get a lot attention also. And who can forget Linda Hamilton’s character “Sarah Connor” in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”?

Her toned shoulders sent women from the aerobics classes to the weight room!

Here are the top 6 shoulder exercises for women to get sexy shoulders…

1. Smith Machine Shoulder Press

The Smith Machine is a fantastic equipment to use because you can focus 100% on form and technique. Smith Machine Shoulder Press is a safe alternative to Barbell Presses because at the bottom position, your elbows remain under the bar but alongside your lats which gives better support.

This exercise hits all 3 heads of your shoulders and allows you to maintain constant range of motion. Perform in a seated position using an incline bench set at a 70 degree to protect your lower back.

Here’s a cool technique you can use: turn the incline bench to face the other way so that when you un-rack the bar, your wrist will be at a 90 degree angle and in line with your elbows.

This position will shift more focus on the showy lateral heads of your shoulders.

Recommended set and rep range: 4 sets x 10 reps

2. Seated Dumbbell Press

Seated Dumbbell Press is the best shaping exercise you can do for your shoulders. First, it hits all 3 heads of the shoulders. Second, you can vary the range of motion to shift focus on areas you want to concentrate on. Third, as a free weight exercise, it stimulates more muscle fibres.

This is a great 2nd exercise in your rotation after Smith Machine Shoulder Press which warmed up the entire shoulder girdle making Seated Dumbbell Press easier and safer to do.

Here’s a cool technique you can use: While performing Seated Dumbbell Press, keep your thumbs higher than your pinky. This places more emphasis on the lateral head of your shoulders.

Recommended set and rep range: 3 sets x 12-15 reps

3. Lateral Raises

Lateral Raises are a great way to isolate the lateral head of the shoulders. The lateral head creates the round, capped look which draws attention to your shoulders.

There are 3 ways to do lateral raises: seated, standing or one arm at a time. In any variation, always focus on form and technique. Lateral raises are more productive when done in a controlled manner and precise technique.

Here are 2 cool techniques you can use: First, when performing lateral raises keep your pinky higher than the thumb. Imagine pouring a pitcher of water.

Cool technique # 2: If you’re strong enough, do single arm lateral raises with an empty EZ curl bar. Using an EZ curl bar requires more balance and stability and will recruit more muscle fibres to work. This means better, more toned shoulders!

Recommended set and rep range: 3 sets x 12-15 reps

4. Face Pulls

Most people are not aware that the area which best frames the shoulders are the posterior or rear heads. This is because the rear heads tie in with the upper back muscles. It pushes your shoulders outward giving you a nice, square-ish frame that looks great on sleeveless clothing!

The best way to hit the rear shoulders are with Face Pulls because there is constant tension throughout the exercise and you can hold the bottom position for as long as you can to create greater contraction.

The harder the contraction, the more muscle fibres are developed leading to more toned shoulders. Here’s a cool technique you can use: Pull toward your forehead with your elbows angled slightly upward.

Recommended set and rep range: 3 sets x 10-12 reps

5. Inverted Rows

Inverted Rows are a great finisher to a back workout but they can also be used to conclude a shoulder workout. Inverted Rows hits your rear shoulders, traps and upper back. It is a bodyweight exercise which means different fibres are stimulated.

Here’s a cool technique you can use: Keep your feet elevated on a bench. This makes Inverted Rows more challenging as your lower body is taken away from the exercise.

Recommended set and rep range: 2 sets x 15-20 reps

6. Car Drivers

Car Drivers are a uniquely named exercise that hits the front head of your shoulders. This exercise will help improve mobility and flexibility in your shoulders.

If you have nagging shoulder injuries, this is a good exercise for rehabilitation. You should not use heavy weight for Car Drivers as range of motion is more important.

Here’s a cool technique you can use: Perform Car Drivers as a ‘time under tension’ exercise. Try to do as many good reps as you can in 30 seconds or 1 minute.

Recommended set and rep range: 2 sets x 20 reps or 2 sets x 1 minute

At the end of your shoulder workout, do not forget to perform static stretching exercises. Static stretching helps improve blood flow, removes toxins, enhances recovery time and keeps your shoulders flexible and mobile. All of these contribute to getting super sexy shoulders in no time!

Ab Toning Exercises For Women

If there was a body part that best represents a toned body, hands down, it would be the midsection. For many people, fatty deposits usually end up in their midsection.

Thus, a toned, tight and taught midsection is the best indicator of having low body fat levels.

Your Midsection Has 4 Muscle Groups

1. Rectus Abdominis – The outer layer. Popularly referred to as the “abs”.

2. Transverse Abdominis – The inner layer. Provides your abs and spine stability and support.

3. External Obliques – Located along the side and front of the abs; used for flexion and rotation.

4. Internal Obliques – Located underneath the External Obliques and used also for flexion and rotation.

In choosing the exercises that you’ll need to develop a toned, tight and taught midsection, the following criteria was used:

  • Safety; it should not compromise the lower back
  • Utilises the 4 sections of the midsection
  • Full range of motion
  • Requires balance, stability and mobility
  • Functional

There are 10 abdominal exercises listed but you should only choose 3-4 exercises from the list.

The Top Ab Exercises

1. Plank – Recommended by trainers and orthopedics as the safest ab exercise. It helps build strength, flexibility and mobility in your abs, hips and lower back.

2. Oblique Twists – Great for improving trunk flexibility and lower back strength.

3. Mountain Climbers – Primarily focuses on the lower abs and can be used as a conditioning exercise.

4. Bird Dog Exercise – Primarily focuses on the external oblique and will help improve hip mobility and flexibility.

5. Swiss Ball Crunch – Primarily focuses on the upper abs; it is a safer variation of the crunch as long as the lower back remains in contact with the Swiss Ball.

6. Swiss Ball Pike – A challenging ab exercise that improves flexibility, mobility and agility. It also strengthens the upper body.

7. Ball Slams – An explosive ab exercise that also works the legs, lower back, upper back and shoulders.

8. Medicine Ball V Up – Great for toning the upper abs and develops flexibility in the hips and lower back.

9. Swiss Ball Rollout – This ab exercise is valuable in stretching the midsection to improve circulation.

10. Bicycle Crunch – An old school ab exercise that can also be used as a conditioning exercise.

Women’s Abs Workout Schedule

You may not be aware of it, but your abs are constantly working every day. When you are walking, the abs are contracting to accommodate shifts in body weight and to absorb pressure on your knees and lower back.

Thus, your abs are high endurance muscles. You can train them as often as you like but it is also a good idea to give them a day off. Here are 3 workout schedules to choose from depending on your schedule and capacity.

You can go through each option in order by staying with a routine for at least 1 month before switching to the next.

Workout Option A: 3 days a week

Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
1 A Rest B Rest C Rest Rest
2 A Rest B Rest C Rest Rest
3 A Rest B Rest C Rest Rest
4 A Rest B Rest C Rest Rest

Workout Option B: 4 days a week

Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
1 A C Rest Rest B C Rest
2 A C Rest Rest B C Rest
3 A C Rest Rest B C Rest
4 A C Rest Rest B C Rest

Workout Option C: 6 days a week

Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
1 A B C Rest A B C
2 Rest A B C Rest A B
3 C Rest A B C Rest A
4 B C Rest A B C Rest

Remember to always focus on form and technique when performing these exercises. Lastly, do not forget to stay strict with your diet. These are the only ab exercises you need but you still have to eat clean to remain healthy and to keep excess body fat away.

Now let’s put it all together!

Women’s Ab Workout Routines

Listed below are 3 ab workout routines that you can use in your exercise program. If you have a Swiss Ball and a Medicine Ball, you can actually do these workouts at home. There are specific instructions for each workout. As you can see, you can also get a good cardio workout by training your midsection.

Workout A:  Swiss Ball Challenge

Instructions:  Straight Set Workout
Rest Periods:  60 seconds between sets; 120 seconds between exercises

1. Swiss Ball Crunch- 4 sets x 10 reps
2. Swiss Ball Pike –  4 sets x 10 reps
3. Swiss Ball Rollout – 4 sets x 10 reps
4. Plank x 30 seconds

Workout B:  Medicine Ball Challenge

Instructions:  HIIT; 4 Intervals
Rest Periods:  60 seconds between intervals

1. Ball Slams x 30 seconds
2. Medicine Ball V Up x 30 seconds
3. Oblique Twists x 30 seconds
4. Plank x 30 seconds

Workout C:  Bodyweight Challenge

Instructions:  HIIT; 4 Intervals
Rest Periods:  60 seconds between intervals

1. Bicycle Crunch x 30 seconds
2. Mountain Climbers x 30 seconds
3. Bird Dog Exercise x 30 seconds
4. Plank x 30 seconds

Glute Exercises For Women: Get Your Butt Into Gear!

A perfectly toned and well-shaped set of glutes is a work of art. The glutes or the “butt” makes you look good in everything and anything that you wear.

It is not an easy part to tone for women due to fatty deposits ending up in the lower body. But with these 5 best exercises, you can get your butt in great shape in no time!

1. Squats

Squats are widely considered the best exercise for your lower body. It works every muscle in your legs and targets the deepest fibres for fuller development because it allows you complete range of motion.

Squats work the entire lower body with a focus on the glutes, quads and hamstrings.

Recommended set and rep range: 4 sets x 10 – 15 reps

2. Romanian Deadlift

The Romanian Deadlift tones the glutes, hamstrings and lower back better than any other exercise because it allows you to handle more weight and add resistance on the negative part of the lift or the descent.

As you bring the weight down, the muscles are in a fully elongated position and more fibres are being worked. Romanian Deadlift also strengthens your lower back and the abdominal region. This is a fantastic exercise to do after Squats.

Recommended set and rep range: 4 sets x 10 reps

3. Barbell Glute Bridge

Barbell Glute Bridge tones your glutes by providing it a deep stretch at the bottom position and a strong contraction at the top position.

The keys to get the most from Barbell Glute Bridge are to keep your glutes tight throughout the exercise, use enough weight for resistance and to hold both top and bottom positions for a count of 5 to 10 seconds.

Focus on the quality of reps; you do not need a lot of reps to get results from Barbell Glute Bridge.

Recommended set and rep range: 3 sets x 5-6 reps

4. Glute Ham Raise (aka GHD Back Extensions)

Glute Ham Raise (aka GHD Back Extensions) works your glutes, hamstrings and lower back. It also improves your level of flexibility and mobility. Body positioning is important to get productive results from Glute Ham Raise.

Your heels have to be secured in the foot pad and your thighs should be positioned high on the back support. If your thighs are positioned lower, it will place shearing forces on your knees.

The Glute Ham Raise is a combination of 2 exercises: back extensions and leg curl. Get a good stretch at the bottom and a strong contraction at the top. This is best done after Barbell Glute Bridge.

Recommended set and rep range: 3 sets x 12-15 reps

5. Dumbbell Lunges

Dumbbell Lunges are a great finisher to a lower body workout. For one, it hits all the key muscles: thighs, glutes, hamstrings, calves, lower back and abs.

Second, Dumbbell Lunges are a functional exercise; it works the hips and knees through extension and flexion. To focus on the glutes, it is better to use dumbbells because of the “forward drag” it creates.

The body tends to lean forward and your core, gluteus and hamstring muscles have to work harder to accommodate the shifts in bodyweight.

Recommended set and rep range: 3 sets x 15-20 reps

If you want to get faster results, use intensifiers in your program. Intensifiers are techniques that make the exercise more challenging.

Here are a few intensifier techniques you should consider for your butt shaping workouts:

  • Hold the bottom position of the last rep of your working sets of Squats for a count of “5”. After your last set, reduce the weight by 30% to 50% and do 20 reps.
  • Superset Squats and Romanian Deadlifts. Superset means to alternate between 2 exercises. Rest 2 minutes between supersets.
  • After your last set of Barbell Glute Bridge, remove the weight and do one bodyweight set for 2 minutes straight. No need for holding the top and bottom positions.
  • Superset Glute Ham Raise and Dumbbell Lunges. Rest 1 minute between supersets.
  • Tri-set Barbell Glute Bridge, Glute Ham Raise and Dumbbell Lunges. A tri-set is to do 3 exercises one after the other. Rest 1 minute between tri-sets.

You should only use one intensifier technique per week. It is an effective way to get more from the exercises and makes your workouts fun and challenging!

Wrap Up

I hope you enjoyed learning about the top exercises for women and will implement these in your gym routine or ask your Personal Trainer to implement them into your next workout.

So which exercise do you like the idea of the most? Which body part will you focus on first?

Remember, resistance training (lifting weights) is proven to be the best way to simultaneously burn fat and tone muscles, as well as a host of other benefits such as improving bone density which can help avoid osteoporosis.

If you have any questions, please add them in the comments below and I’ll respond personally 🙂

Dmitri.