31 Things to Know about the Strong Curves Workout by Bret Contreras (2021 Review)

Strong Curves Bret ContrerasLooking for an aesthetics-based weight lifting program built specifically for women? Then maybe it’s time you took a look at the Strong Curves workout routine, the program built by Bret Contreras. The book-based workout, which has gained considerable popularity over the last few years, aims to help women build shapelier bodies.

Want to give it a try? Here are 31 things you should know about Strong Curves before getting started, including where to get the PDF and helpful tips for maximizing your results.


#1 It’s designed with women in mind.

Choosing a weight lifting plan can be a difficult task for women. A big part of that is it seems that most of the programs are geared toward men. However, Strong Curves is a program designed specifically for women, not men.

#2 It focuses on the booty, but you’ll still work out the entire body.

Who doesn’t want a great ass? That’s what this workout aims to give you (and trust me, you’ll feel it with all those glute bridges and hip thrusts). But while the program does have a booty-focus, it will also hit your upper body to ensure you get a full body workout. So don’t think it’s booty-only. (More on butt workouts for women here.)

#3 It’s not just for beginners.

A lot of these programs, such as StrongLifts, are geared towards beginners. And while there definitely is a beginner component, Strong Curves includes advanced programming for those who have already spent time lifting in the gym.

#4 You can do Strong Curves at home.

Can’t afford a gym membership? No worries. Each chapter tells you exactly what equipment you need, and there’s also a chapter focused specifically on bodyweight exercises. However, you’re going to want a good pair of dumbbells. I recommend getting some adjustable ones so you can add and subtract weight as needed. You’ll also want a set of resistance bands. These are solid and cheap. More info on dumbbell workouts for women here.

#5 You need to devote four days a week.

Strong Curves suggest lifting four times a week. The program is designed in such a way that you can do back to back workouts. So workouts A and B can be done back to back. Then you rest a day. Then A and C can be done back to back. Stick to the schedule for max results.

#6 Rest completely once a week.

You might be tempted to push through and get some cardio in on your off days when doing the Strong Curves workout routine. That’s not a bad idea sometimes. However, the program is designed as follows:

Day1: Lift
Day 2: Lift
Day 3: Active rest
Day 4: Lift
Day 5: Lift
Day 6: Active rest
Day 7: Full rest

Note, while you might try light cardio on active rest days, you need that day 7 full rest day. Adequate recovery is crucial for repairing muscle, as well as for regaining the ability to hit the following week’s workouts with the right intensity. I highly recommend getting a fitness tracker that will help you monitor how well you’re recovering each day.

Now, if you’re someone interested in doing more HIIT style cardio, then you may be interested in our article, Best Peloton Alternatives.

#7 You’re going to be sore the first week. Really sore.

This is a given. However, don’t let it stop you. Eventually, you’ll find the soreness isn’t there as much after the workouts. Just keep pushing through. Continuing the workouts will actually help the soreness to go away. Oh, and don’t forget, the soreness won’t come immediately. In fact, I’d say you’ll be the MOST sore two days after a workout. So get ready for it!

#8 You need to get a full night of sleep before and after your workout.

Sleep is the most often-overlooked factor in a successful workout program. During sleep, your body releases growth hormone to repair and grow muscle. This is where that booty is going to be growing. So don’t skimp on sleep. You may even wish to take pre-workouts for women before exercising, especially if you’re short on sleep.

#9 You need to dial in your calories.

This works two ways. On one hand, getting shapely is largely diet. You can lift all you want, but you aren’t going to lose weight and grow muscle if your diet isn’t in check. However, it’s also important that your diet is in check to properly fuel your workout. If you aren’t getting enough of the right kinds of calories, you simply won’t have the energy necessary for lifting. It’s definitely a good idea to start using a protein powder for women to aid in your muscle development and recovery.

#10 You can swap out some exercises if you don’t have the right equipment.

Whether you don’t have all the right equipment or a certain exercise just doesn’t feel right, you can swap out exercises in Strong Curves. While the book offers some assistance with this, the easiest way is to check out this handy list that has exercises grouped for easy comparison.

#11 Skip the Smith Machine.

While you can swap exercises in Strong Curves, I suggest you don’t try using the Smith Machine. While the Smith Machine might seem like a safer way to squat, bench, or deadlift, the truth is that it’s more dangerous, as it often forces you to push the bar along an unnatural path, placing your spine and other body parts in compromising positions. Not only that, it doesn’t allow you to work all the small stabilizer muscles that free weights do.

#12 Don’t worry about getting too muscular.

It’s a common fear I hear from other women when it comes to starting a weightlifting program. “I don’t want to get too muscular.” Trust me, you won’t unless you’re planning on taking growth hormone or something (we don’t recommend this). Instead, you’ll get stronger and shapelier. Win, win.

#13 You might not be able to keep up with your cardio routines.

We talked a bit about rest earlier. But look, laying off the cardio for a bit while you get used to lifting weights can be a good thing. After all, all that lower body work is going to make those long runs awfully difficult. So pull back for a bit and build that muscle. And you’ll be surprised how much a good weightlifting routine can work your heart as well.

#14 You don’t need to train to failure every set.

People often feel like they need to put every ounce of energy into exercises when they’re at the gym. However, with Strong Curves, you don’t need to train to failure every set. Follow the prescribed rep ranges. Remember, you don’t always have to be totally wiped out at the end of the work to get results.

#15 The book is the ultimate resource for the program. 

When it comes to Strong Curves, the book is basically your bible. Many people report purchasing the book and referring back to it a million times throughout the program. It’s the best way to make sure you’re following it correctly and doing everything properly. You can order the paperback on Amazon here.

#16 You can get the book cheaper by ordering the e-book.

If you like to use an e-reader, you can save big by ordering the e-book. Right now it’s only $9.99. See it here. However, if you want to take notes in the book, you’re going to want the physical copy.

#17 But you can get the Strong Curves PDF free.

Don’t feel like you need the entire book? Just want to jump right in? If so, then maybe you can get by with the Strong Curves PDF. No worries, you can find it here.

#18 Track your progress using a spreadsheet.

I’m really big on tracking progress. So I suggest you track everything in spreadsheet form. Here’s a link to a reddit post with really useful pre-built templates. Check them out!

#19 You can follow the program creator on Instagram for good advice.

Bret Contreras gives a ton of good advice on his Instagram. There are explanations, motivational memes, and more. Basically, why nit learn from the creator himself?

#20 Research each move before you do it.

I can’t stress this enough. Don’t just try any weightlifting maneuver without carefully studying first. The last thing you want it to do a lift incorrectly and hurt yourself.

#21 You need to check your form.

Form is crucial for safety and to get the most benefit out of an exercise. So make sure you check it. Mirrors help, but they can cause you to strain unnaturally while trying to simultaneously check form and lift. A better option is to video yourself and study afterward.

#22 Lower back pain isn’t okay.

Yes, you’re going to be all sorts of sore at first. but that’s muscle soreness. Pain in the lower back isn’t okay. More than likely, it’s a sign that you’re doing a lift incorrectly, such as rounding your back during Romanian Deadlifts. Don’t ignore this pain, as fighting through it could end up putting you on the shelf for a long time.

#23 It’s a good follow up to StrongLifts.

We’re big fans of StrongLifts here. However, eventually, people like to change things up. We recommend StrongLifts as a great beginner program for building a base of strength. Strong Curves is a good follow up, as it allows you to continue building strength while focusing a bit more on aesthetics.

#24 It’s great for someone bored by weightlifting.

Following up on the StrongLifts point, some people have complained that StrongLifts was boring. There is very little variation. Just a few of the same main lifts every time. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s not for everyone. If you need to mix things up, you’ll probably like Strong Curves better. Not only does it implement more moves, but it also uses supersets, which will keep you moving more.

#25 There’s a subreddit specifically for this program. 

Looking to meet like minded people to share in your Strong Curves journey? Then check out the subreddit. It’s a great place to meet people in all points of the Strong Curves journey. It’s also a great place for additional program information.

#26 Don’t skip the warm-up.

It’s tempting to just jump right into your workout. Don’t. The book lines out a specific warm up. Stick to it. This is crucial to fire up your muscles, get the most out of your lifts, and avoid injuries.

#27 Commit to the entire 12 weeks.

If you’re going to give Strong Curves a try, commit to the entire 12 weeks. Too many people lose focus a few weeks in, or don’t see the results immediately and decide it’s not working. I implore you – go through all 12 weeks, then decide what to do next. You need to get through the full program to really see how it will make you look and feel.

#28 Make sure to rest the right amount of time between sets.

While it may be tempting to fly through the lifts to get out of the gym early, you really need to use the built in rest times. These help your muscles recover just enough to squeeze more out of the subsequent reps. Skipping rest time robs you of intensity.

#29 The workouts don’t require a ton of time.

That said, the great thing about Strong Curves workouts is they aren’t very long. Don’t have time to spend hours in the gym? Most people don’t. What makes this program accessible for the average woman is that it’s easy enough to knock it out in 30-45 minutes a day. Perfect for the busy woman.

#30 Make sure you choose the correct starting point.

If you’re not a beginner, you may find the beginner plan (Bootyful Beginnings) to be too easy. In that case, you’ll want to try the more advanced program (Gluteal Goddess). The main difference is the latter is that volume of reps decrease in exchange for increasing weight.

#31 Don’t wear your wedding ring.

While wedding rings might keep away unwanted advances at the gym, they also put you in danger. If you don’t believe me, then just Google “ring avulsion.” Actually, don’t — you won’t be able to unsee that. Instead, take off your ring when you lift. Or get a silicone ring off Amazon (they’re super cheap and safe!).


There you have it. 31 things to know about Strong Curves. Any questions or comments? Leave your replies below!

You might also be interested in our guides for upper body workouts for women!