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How to Start a Strength Training Routine

The elliptical and treadmill used to my BFFs—I would spend at least twenty minutes with them everyday.  It’s no wonder I started to dread going to the gym; it was the same old routine with the same old equipment.  Sure, I may have mixed up my ab routine but my daily treks to the gym were far from varied.  After reading a lot about strength training and its benefits, I decided to incorporate it into my workouts.  Starting a strength training and weight lifting routine was one of the best decisions I ever made.  I feel fitter, faster, and more toned than I ever have in my life.  Many girls, however, don’t strength train for various reasons.  Conquer those fears and myths with some of my favorite tips for kicking a$$ in the weight room.


1) You Won’t Get Bulky   

This has to be THE most common fear I hear amongst women who don’t strength train.  Perhaps pictures of jacked women or female bodybuilders that circulate your Pinterest and Instagram feeds are the reason for this myth, however I promise you it’s not true.  According to Women’s Health Magazine, Alexander Koch, a professor of exercise science, and Jill Coleman, a former figure competitor, “women have testosterone levels that are about 15 to 20 times lower than those of men—hormonally speaking, we are just not likely to get jacked.  Furthermore, ‘that bulky look is usually the result of adding muscle without monitoring your diet or burning fat,’ says Coleman. ‘You need to burn fat as well as build muscle to lose inches.’  People look more defined when they have less fat on top of their muscles.”  So ladies, fear the bulk no more.  A healthy diet combined with fat-burning cardio AND lifting will add muscle and create a toned appearance without bulkiness.

2) Confidence is Everything

It can be scary to step into an area that’s typically the “guy zone” of the gym.  When I first started lifting and strength training by the boys, I was intimidated too.  Don’t let that fear hold you back, however.  Speaking from experience, when people are working out they tend to be in their own zone and don’t pay attention to the other people around them.  Unless you’re making a scene, chances are people will mind their own business and do their own thing.  I find that keeping my headphones in with my music blaring helps me stay on track, focus, and forget about those around me.  If you’re really nervous about looking silly, come prepared with a simple routine that you have practiced at home (see my next tip!).  All it takes is some baby steps and as time goes on you’ll find yourself getting more and more comfortable in the weight area.

3) Plan Ahead and Create a Routine

Like I said before, if you want to look like a gym pro, plan ahead.  It’s also okay to decide what you want to do as you go, as I often do, but that tends to come with a little practice and knowledge of certain moves.  Of course, one of the best places to find strength sequences is Pinterest.  Start with a simple routine, such as this one, and then work your way up to more difficult moves as you become stronger.  Remember to incorporate cardio into your workout too and work your entire body.  For example, I strength train on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday and focus on arms and legs but also do 20 minutes of light cardio.  Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I do intense cardio, abs, and some light arm exercises.  Do what works best for you, but make sure you give your muscles time to heal in between sessions.  Also, don’t stick to the same five pound weights and same exercises.  As you get stronger, increase your weight and mix up the routine.  This will prevent a plateau and continue to improve your strength and tone.

4)  Wear Your Favorite Workout Clothes

Ok, so you may be wondering why on earth this is one of my tips.  You know that saying, “look good feel good?”  Well this is where it comes into play.  On my days that I strength training, I try to wear one of my favorite pairs of leggings and ALWAYS a tank top.  Why?  When I’m lifting or squatting in front of the mirror and I can physically see my muscles working and improving, it’s a huge motivator and confidence booster.  Being able to see your body work and push itself is an amazing thing and should always be used to your advantage.

With these tricks in mind, I want you to research, prepare, and get excited to go do some squats.  If Nicki can do it, so can you (but with bigger weights).


Asia Bradlee is a senior studying Public Health and English at Tulane University. She grew up in Boston, MA and has a passion for health and wellness writing. Asia has experience at Boston Magazine as the digital health intern and maintains her own wellness blog, Healthy, Hungry, Happy. 
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