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Workout Plans for Women

Workout Routines for Women

At Girls Gone Strong we recommend a balanced approach to training that incorporates strength training, metabolic conditioning, cardiovascular training, and restorative training. Workout routines for women that use a combination of these four types of training ensure your long-term health and happiness.

Below is our recommendation for how much of each type of training a women’s workout routine should include each week in order to achieve a balanced training program, where the goal is to look good, feel good, and feel healthy and strong:

  • Two to four days of strength training
  • One to two days of HIIT (high-intensity interval training)
  • One to two days of MIC (moderate intensity cardio)
  • Restorative activities as often as possible

There are a few different workout plan structures that you can use when you’re strength training depending on how much time you have, your experience, your goals, and what you enjoy doing.

Best Workouts for Women

“The best workout” is one that you will do, rather than the one that looks optimal on paper.

As mentioned above, it’s important that you enjoy your workouts. If they’re not fun for you, if they don’t make you feel great, and if you don’t look forward to your training, find something that you do enjoy. You can only force yourself to do something you hate for so long before you stop altogether and then dread having to start again. It’s mentally and emotionally draining and adds unnecessary stress to your life.

That said, while there is no optimal or best workout for women, there is also no workout that you’ll totally look forward to every single day. It’s not the workout. It’s you. It’s all of us. We all have days when we just can’t even. Or at least it feels that way. So, chances are you won’t find a workout that fires you up to train every single time, but finding a workout you enjoy in general should do the trick. In those “just can’t even” moments, most of the time, once you start and get past the first 10 to 15 minutes, you’ll start to feel some joy or satisfaction, and you might even forget you didn’t want to be there just a few minutes before.

A sustainable and efficient approach

The Modern Woman's Guide to Strength Training will help you achieve maximum results, whether you’re new to strength training, or a veteran in the weight room.

Strength Training Workouts for Women: Is A Full-Body Plan The Best?

You might hear a lot of weird and confusing terminology at the gym, like “full-body,” “upper and lower body splits,” and “body part splits.” What do they mean? And are there any specific strength training exercises for women?

There are different ways of designing your weekly strength training workout program. For example:

Full-body: A strength training plan in which you train your full body each time you strength train. These are usually performed two to three times a week.

Upper and lower body split: A strength training plan in which you train either your upper body or your lower body when you strength train. These are usually performed three to four times a week.

Body part split: A strength training plan in which you group exercises by body part (e.g. chest, upper back, quads, hamstrings) and train specific body parts. This typically involves four to six (or more) workouts a week.

At Girls Gone Strong, we believe that any of these workout plan may fit your needs depending on your goals and available time. However, we recommend body part splits far less for women than full-body or upper/lower splits, and below you’ll find out why.

Full-Body Workout for Women

In a full-body workout plan you perform a strength training workout two to three times each week, with at least one day of rest in between. Most people break this down into Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but it can be any three days with rest days in between. You could do Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday or any combination as long as you have one day in between where you’re not strength training. Other activity is okay, but your body needs time to recover between strength training workouts. Here’s an example of a full-body workout plan for three days a week:

full-body-3days-640x89

Another option for full-body workout plans is to train two days a week with at least one day in between and ideally two days.

Working twice a week is a good option if you find you’ve made some progress, but life has gotten in the way and you don’t have time to get to the gym more than twice a week. Twice a week will be enough to maintain what you’ve worked hard for, but you may not see big improvement. Here’s an example of a full-body workout plan for two days a week:

full-body-2days-640x89

Another option is to alternate between three times a week and two times a week, if that works for you. In that case your workout plan would look something like this:

full-body-alternate3and2days-640x89

Remember, in full-body workouts you are performing exercises that target all of the major muscle groups in your body in the same workout. You’ll include lower body exercises like squats, lunges, deadlifts, and hip thrusts along with upper body exercises like push-ups, chin-ups, presses, and rows.

Benefits of a full-body workout for women include:

  • With about two and a half hours a week of strength training you can train all major muscle groups and movements.
  • With full-body workouts your muscles are trained two to three times a week. There’s research showing that women recover faster1 and may do better with more frequent workouts.
  • The focus is on movements not muscles. Your body parts don’t function in isolation. They all work together, in coordination. Major movements include squatting, hip hinge, pressing, and pulling.
  • Works well for beginners as well as advanced lifters.

A sustainable and efficient approach

The Modern Woman's Guide to Strength Training will help you achieve maximum results, whether you’re new to strength training, or a veteran in the weight room.

Upper-Body and Lower-Body Split Workout for Women

Upper and lower body split workouts break up training days into upper body movements and lower body movements. People following an upper/lower-body split typically train three to four days a week.

Here’s an example of a four-day upper and lower body split:

upper-lower-split1-640x89

Here’s an example of a three-day upper and lower body split over two weeks:

upper-lower-split2-640x207

Squats, lunges, hip thrusts, Romanian deadlifts, and any other deadlift variation are examples of lower body movements. Pressing movements like bench press, shoulder press and push-ups, as well as pulling movements like chin-ups, pull-ups and rows are examples of upper body movements (what some people mistakenly refer to as “arm exercises” for women, though they certainly involve a lot more of the body than just the arms).

You likely spotted a bit of a problem. Don’t deadlifts work the entire body? Where do Turkish get-ups, farmer walks, and planks fit in? Most of these borderline exercises tend to fall under lower body, though you can try them on either day, and track how you’re doing.

The benefits of an upper and lower body workout for women include:

  • With about 3 hours a week of strength training you can workout all major muscle groups and movements.
  • Your muscles are trained 1-2 times a week. There’s research showing that women recover faster1 and may do better with more frequent workouts.
  • Focus is on movements not muscles.

Things to think about when considering an upper and lower body split workout plan:

  • Not typically recommended for beginners.
  • Figuring out where some exercise fit in may be inexact.

Body Part Split

You may be thinking, “I want to lose weight in my thighs so why wouldn’t I have a day for just thighs (quads)?” Or, “I want to tone my arms, so maybe I should have a workout just for my arms.”

We don’t normally recommend body part splits for several reasons:

  • Inefficiency. You need to train more often in order target each body part with this schedule. It takes more hours a week this way, and most people don’t have that kind of time.
  • Frequency. There is just not enough stimulation. With this method you generally only target a muscle once a week. Women’s muscles tend to recover faster from strength training than men making this plan less effective for women.
  • Functionality. The focus is on muscles not movements: This may sound great, but your body doesn’t work that way. Your body parts work together in coordination. When you work on compound movements (as you would in full-body and upper/lower-body split workouts) you’ll still be working your muscles, but with all the added benefits of those kinds of workouts.

There are instances in which you may want to use body part splits. For example, you might choose to do a body part split program if you’re an advanced lifter who has been training for at least two years consistently, or if you’re interested in participating in a physique competition like figure or bodybuilding. Even in those cases, body part splits may not be the best option. Remember, you can always include isolation/single-joint exercises near the end of your upper/lower workouts if you want to target a specific muscle. For example, after you’ve done squats, Romanian deadlifts, reverse lunges and step-ups, you may want to throw in some leg extensions or leg curls if you feel like your quads or hamstrings need a little extra work.

It’s not that isolation/single-joint movements are bad, they just don’t offer the same benefits as the bang-for-buck exercises.

A sustainable and efficient approach

The Modern Woman's Guide to Strength Training will help you achieve maximum results, whether you’re new to strength training, or a veteran in the weight room.

MIC and HIIT Workouts for Women

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) improves metabolic flexibility (the ability to switch between fuels, like sugar or fat, for energy). Many fitness and fat loss programs recommend HIIT workouts for women. HIIT workouts also burn more calories per minute and more calories post-workout than other types of cardio, although research suggests we have previously overestimated the effect of EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) on fat loss.  EPOC is not the fat-loss miracle it was once touted to be, but it does burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time and may slightly elevate your metabolism post-workout. On the other hand, moderate intensity cardio (or MIC) improves your aerobic foundation, which helps you recover more quickly between sets within a workout as well as between workouts. MIC can even help improve your sleep quality.

For scheduling HIIT and MIC, start with HIIT. As the name suggests, it’s high-intensity. That’s the key to making it work. This is why you should limit it to only once or twice a week and have at least one day between HIIT workouts.

You can schedule your HIIT training after your strength training if you’re doing full-body workouts, or after the lower body day when you’re doing upper/lower body or body part splits. It isn’t very long (only six to 15 minutes), so going to the gym a separate day just to do your HIIT isn’t efficient or necessary.

We suggest something like this:

hiit-640x124

MIC sessions should be about 20 to 40 minutes long, and your heart rate should be between 120-140 beats per minute.

Add the MIC sessions in between Strength/HIIT sessions:

mic-640x122

This plan includes strength training, HIIT, and MIC and would require less than four hours a week.

Restorative Exercise

The last thing to put on your schedule is restorative exercise or restorative activities. Not because it isn’t important but you can do it any time and anywhere. Unlike strength training, HIIT, and MIC, you can do restorative exercise every day if you want to.

Many women who struggle to lose weight or don’t seem to be getting stronger drop restorative workouts all together and keep adding more of the higher intensity workouts. The misconception is that they need to be working harder, more often. If you have a well-designed workout plan and are not getting closer to your goals, look at consistency first, then recovery. Recovery includes restorative activities, proper nutrition, and sleep. Three things many women ignore because their importance have been minimized, overlooked, or they feel that they’re being lazy if they’re not going all-out at each workout.

Putting it all together could look something like this (but you can change it to suit your schedule, and it can change from week to week):

entireplan-640x123

Examples of restorative activities include: a walk during your lunch break, playing with your kids at the park, yoga (less intense varieties), hiking, biking, and any low-intensity physical activity during which your heart rate stays below 120 beats per minute.

Workout Schedule for Women

Get a calendar or create a table with seven columns and two rows. Follow Steps 1 through 5 below, adding each workout to the calendar or table. To make it easier for you, change the column names to days of the week (for example, change “Day 1” to “Monday”).

blankweek-640x124

Step 1: Decide on a strength training plan. Full-body, upper/lower split or body part split.

Step 2: Decide how often to strength train depending on the plan, your schedule, and your goals.

Step 3: Add HIIT one to two times a week after your strength training

Step 4: Add MIC one to two times a week on days you’re not strength training

Step 5: Add restorative activities whenever possible

The Modern Woman's Guide to Strength Training

Designed by women, for women who want to get strong and lean, and feel amazing.

When you’re busy and everyone wants some of your time, figuring out your training and nutrition often gets pushed aside. Even if you can find the time, wading through all the marketing BS can feel like a full-time job.


At Girls Gone Strong, we want you to feel confident knowing that what you’re doing to look good, feel good, and feel healthy and strong are not only based on tested, reliable, and safe information from trustworthy sources, but that it is also effective and efficient.

That’s why we developed our flagship training system, The Modern Woman’s Guide To Strength Training. We’ve cut through all that noise and the BS with a sustainable and efficient approach that will help you achieve maximum results, whether you’re brand new to strength training, or a veteran in the weight room.

With four different 16-week programs—that’s 64 weeks of training—you get over a year’s worth of workouts, including progressions to ensure that you continue making progress. You’ll also get a training manual, exercise glossary, progress tracker, a bonus conditioning manual, plus a video library with over 70 high-definition videos breaking down each exercise, step by step.

We believe fitness should enhance your life instead of become your life. If you exercise in a way that you actually enjoy, staying fit and strong won’t ever feel like a drag. You’ll look forward to it for years to come.

If you want an entire training system that will help you look and feel your best, The Modern Woman's Guide to Strength Training is for you!

Additional “Workout Plan for Women” Resources

  1. Judge LW, Burke JR. The effect of recovery time on strength performance
    following a high-intensity bench press workout in males and females. Int J Sports
    Physiol Perform. 2010 Jun;5(2):184-96.

The Modern Woman's Guide to Strength Training

Designed by women, for women who want to get strong and lean, and feel amazing.

When you’re busy and everyone wants some of your time, figuring out your training and nutrition often gets pushed aside. Even if you can find the time, wading through all the marketing BS can feel like a full-time job.


At Girls Gone Strong, we want you to feel confident knowing that what you’re doing to look good, feel good, and feel healthy and strong are not only based on tested, reliable, and safe information from trustworthy sources, but that it is also effective and efficient.

That’s why we developed our flagship training system, The Modern Woman’s Guide To Strength Training. We’ve cut through all that noise and the BS with a sustainable and efficient approach that will help you achieve maximum results, whether you’re brand new to strength training, or a veteran in the weight room.

With four different 16-week programs—that’s 64 weeks of training—you get over a year’s worth of workouts, including progressions to ensure that you continue making progress. You’ll also get a training manual, exercise glossary, progress tracker, a bonus conditioning manual, plus a video library with over 70 high-definition videos breaking down each exercise, step by step.

We believe fitness should enhance your life instead of become your life. If you exercise in a way that you actually enjoy, staying fit and strong won’t ever feel like a drag. You’ll look forward to it for years to come.

If you want an entire training system that will help you look and feel your best, The Modern Woman's Guide to Strength Training is for you!

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