Dumbbell Workout for Women

Think lifting weights is only for guys? Think again. There are lots of benefits associated with female weight lifting. And I’m not talking about lifting those little 2 pound dumbbells for 50 reps, either. Lots of health professionals recommend that women looking to burn fat and sculpt their bodies add some serious weight lifting into the mix.

Scared about bulking up? Don’t be. Unless you’re training like a professional bodybuilder and shooting yourself full of testosterone, weight lifting (coupled with good cardio) will simply peel off the fat and promote muscle growth and definition.

Now most of us don’t have weight benches and barbells at home. That’s okay. All you need is a small variety of dumbbells and you can get a solid, full body toning workout.

Do Movements That Hit Multiple Muscles

As you’ll see in all of our full body workouts on this site, we will focus on on major muscle group with each exercise. However, we typically won’t do movements that target ONLY one muscle, because you’ll get more benefit out of movements that hit multiple muscles. You’ll also get your heart rate up more doing that, which means greater fat loss.

Sample Dumbbell Workout Routine

Here’s a routine to get you started with your dumbbells. Basically, you’re going to do 3 sets of each exercise. Rather than doing the traditional method of boosting weight and lowering weight as you go, I’m going to suggest the opposite. You’re going to start with lower reps and heavier weight. Then you will increase reps and lower weight. My rationale? You are less tired at the beginning of the workout, so you should expend the most energy on the heaviest lifts to burn more.

1. Sumo Squats (Sets of 10, 12, and 15)

Great exercise for thighs (inner thighs, particularly) and glutes. Begin by holding a heavy dumbbell by one end, hanging in front of you. Spread feet apart a little farther than shoulder width with toes pointing out at an angle. Be careful not to spread legs out too far. Keeping your back straight, squat down until the weight almost touches the floor. Make sure you keep your back straight and push your butt back. Bring the dumbbell forward slightly in the movement to help you keep balance.

Need a video tutorial? Here’s a great one I found online that really guides you through step by step.

2. Chest Press (Sets of 8, 10, and 12)

There are lots of benefits associated with chest presses. First of all, a woman needs to work her chest to help fight the affects of gravity and aging. A little boost in the pecs can give us a little lift in the bosom. Chest presses also work our arms, which will help get rid of those wings.

The chest press is a basic move. It can be done on an exercise ball, or even lying flat on the ground. Simply lie down with a dumbbell to each side. Grasp each weight and spread your arms out straight to each side, holding the weights up. So your upper arms will be flat to the ground. Your elbows will be bent at a 90 degree angle, with forearms and fists facing the ceiling. Exhale and push the weights to the ceiling. Bring them back down and repeat.

Sounds kind of complicated, but it isn’t! Here’s a video from YouTube to show you how it’s done.

3. Dumbell Swings (sets of 8, 10, and 12)

Dumbbell swings are very similar to kettlebell swings. They work multiple muscles: hips, core, lower back, shoulders, etc. Take a heavy dumbbell and hold it by the end with two hands. With feet a bit wider than shoulder width, drop down almost as far as you would a squat. Squeeze your core and keep your back straight. Keeping your arms straight, simultaneously:

  • begin to stand
  • bring your hips forward
  • swing the dumbbell up

Return to starting position and repeat. This should be one fluid motion. Tip: Choose a weight that allows you to perform no more than 12-15 reps.

You can also do the swing one arm at a time, as shown here:

4. Alternating Shoulder Press (Sets of 10, 12, and 15)

Your shoulders comprise big muscles, so they need to be worked hard. I like the alternating shoulder press for this reason. It’s fairly simple. You hold two dumbbells up and out, with arms making an upward facing L. Tensing your core, lift one dumbbell straight up and then back down. Repeat with the other arm. That’s one rep. I suggest sitting to help stabilize your back, although some people like to stand becaus eit causes you to contract your core more for stabilization.

For an example, watch this YouTube video.

5. Hammer Curls (Sets of 8, 10, and 12)

While we often focus on our butts and legs, women really should spend a little time toning up those arms as well. With this variation of the standard dumbbell curl, you will work more muscles in your arm, including your forearm. This movement is performed like a regular curl, except you rotate the dumbbells so that when you curl them, they are perpendicular with the ground.

Here’s a great tutorial I found:

Remember, Concentrate on the Core

 Wishing their were crunches in this workout? Don’t. Your abs should be blazing by the end–if you are concentrating on the core. make sure you squeeze your abs during every movement. Otherwise you’re cheating yourself out of a full body workout!