Women’s Beginner Upper Body Strength Workout

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Exercise Type: Strength/Resistance
Level: Beginner
Goal: Muscle development & endurance

Baseline set & rep schemes for strength exercise:

8-10 reps – this specific rep range (if done with a properly challenging weight) stimulates muscle growth. You must lift a weight or choose a resistance level challenging enough that you cannot perform more than 8-10 reps.

12-15 reps – this specific rep range (if done with a properly challenging weight) creates muscle endurance. You must lift a weight or choose a resistance level challenging enough that you cannot perform more than 12-15 reps.

Reps to failure – perform exercise until your form fails or until one more rep is impossible.

Rest periods for strength exercise:

During between-sets resting periods, shake out exercised muscles to flush built-up lactic acid. This will help you continue a workout with more-or-less fresh muscles. 60 seconds is recommended for each exercise below. This is enough time to recover so you can push hard each set, but short enough to keep the muscles warm. For muscle growth and/or strength, I don’t recommend having rest periods shorter than 60 seconds. Growth comes from maximal effort. If your muscles don’t recover every set, your performance will dwindle along with potential gains.


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The warm-up

3-minute jog around gym or on a treadmill with a challenging incline or decline

1-2 minutes of dynamic stretches: forward and back arm circles, followed by  dislocates with band or lightweight bar

Total warm-up time: approx. 5 minutes

Dips on parallel bars

3 sets: 4-6 reps for absolute beginners; 3 sets to failure more experienced trainees

Many people do dips in a manner that isn’t “functional,” meaning their movement pattern is unnatural for the human body. When doing dips, always use parallel bars or two surfaces that enable your body to dip down directly between your arms. Using a chair or bench dips forces your arms to decline behind you, putting strain on your shoulders in an unnatural movement pattern — ouch! Prevent the injury chair and bench dips can cause and heed the images below.

Triceps Dip (between benches)
Correct form

 

Dumbbell shoulder press

3 sets: 8-10 reps for muscle growth;  3 sets of 12-15 reps for muscle endurance and tone

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Dumbbell rows

3 sets: 8-10 reps for muscle growth; 3 sets of 12-15 reps for muscle endurance and tone

Tricep overhead extensions

I recommend using cables for this exercise as opposed to dumbbells. This will give the body more diversity of resistance. The previous exercises utilize dumbbells, focusing on large muscle groups in a compound movement. The first exercise, dips, is a body weight movement that trains small and large muscle groups simultaneously. Doing tricep extensions with cables will again train large and small muscle groups together, while under constant resistance, thanks to the cables.

3 sets: 8-10 reps for muscle growth; 3 sets of 12-15 reps for muscle endurance and tone

 

You’re done! Now stretch

Stretch muscles worked.

Total time: approx. 5-10 minutes or longer for more flexibility

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MEET SYLVIA PETRO — THE BROKE, FIT SINGLE MOM: As an athlete of over 15 years, and a broke single mom for most of that time, I created this site to aid not only broke single parents to a life of fitness, but anyone who believes the road to fitness requires a lot of cash or time. In reality, the road to fitness is paved with knowledge and firm principles; informing readers about mastering both of those building blocks is my goal.

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