Here are my 5 favourite exercises for strength training for women at home. They work equally as well for men. But as most of my clients when I was working as a full time personal trainer were women, that is where more of my direct experience comes from.
Gyms have been in various states of being open and closed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Since then a lot of of us have made training at home our default, rather than an occasional thing.
Cardio is relatively easy to replicate at home or outside. As is stretching and mobility work.
Strength training is a whole separate beast though. Strength training at home is tough.
Especially if you’re relatively inexperienced, your mind-muscle connection may not be as sharp. That means it is much harder to get the same results from body weight or calisthenics training.
In the gym you have machines or free weights to help with this. At home you don’t.
So how do you build strength at home? Let’s dive in!
Strength Training For Women At Home – The Basics
You have 5 key muscle groups you want to focus on for strength:
You can argue that I should include arms in there too but in terms of best bang for your buck, these are the main ones.
Your biceps and triceps are relatively small muscle groups. You will work them when training your bigger upper body muscles so I don’t give them too much focus.
Especially if you’re pressed for time.
I’ve also tried to minimise the use of equipment here. The only exception really, is the back. It is more difficult to challenge the back muscles at home then the other muscle groups without equipment and I do use some, but I will cover that below.
I’ll break down the best exercises for you and then cover how to put them together.
Full range, controlled squats.
They will challenge the strength of every muscle in your legs. They will challenge your flexibility. They will challenge your core and your posture too.
In fact I did a whole podcast on how to squat properly.
When 2 legged body weight squats start to feel easy, your technique is strong, and you’re ready to progress, you can start to advance it.
Jump squats are a great option if you don’t have any underlying joint issues and a safe, cushioned surface to train on.
You will want to spring up with explosive power to keep it focused on strength and power rather than aerobic endurance.
Or if you want to add an extra challenge, one leg or pistol squats are my current nemesis of choice.
The back is probably the most underworked muscle group both in the gym and at home.
We can’t see it so we don’t prioritise it.
But it is the second biggest muscle group, it is critical for supporting your posture, and almost every aesthetic goal will involve working on your back in some way.
In other words work your back.
The best back exercise is of course pull ups.
If you can do pull ups, do pull ups.
But I know my audience and readers are usually not at an advanced level to be able to do pull ups comfortably.
You can do pull downs with resistance bands as an alternative but I am a bigger fan of moving your body through space so you build a better foundation for your fitness.
So if you’re not there with pull ups yet, rows are a better option.
I am a big fan of the TRX (aka “suspension trainer”) and in recent weeks it has completely transformed my fitness routine.
The best exercise for the back if you’re not there with pull ups is in my own opinion, the TRX row.
There are options if you don’t have any equipment as well.
You can use a table instead, if it is sturdy. Or you can use a couple of chairs and a broomstick if they’re stable enough.
It is a different movement pattern to pull ups but it will still work the muscles in your back and strengthen them.
Push ups of course. You probably knew this one was coming.
Similar to squats, go for full range a a controlled tempo. Get your chest to at least elbow height and feel that stretch across the front of your torso.
Then squeeze your chest muscle together as you drive yourself back up.
If you’re not ready for full push ups, you can do them against a wall or a raised surface. As you get stronger, you can reduce the height you are doing them against until you are doing full push ups on the floor.
And if full push ups feel comfortable, there are plenty of ways to advance them:
- Place your feet on an elevated surface
- Start working on one-handed push ups
- Place a weight on your back
- Do them using a TRX or gymnastic rings so you have to stabilise yourself more
Shoulders can be another tricky one when looking at strength training for women at home.
I have 2 go-to exercises and I am going to recommend them both.
My favourite one does require equipment, so the second one is my favourite bodyweight one.
My first recommendation is lateral raises.
If you have dumbbells or resistance bands, this is my recommended option.
Or if like me you have a load of 1kg mini sandbags which came with a weighted vest, putting them in a bag to get to the weight you’re looking for is another option.
You can also use a filled water bottle.
If you don’t have equipment, then I would recommend the pike push up.
It’s a bigger move and works more of the shoulder than the lateral raise.
But I don’t make it my number one recommended choice is because until you’re at an advanced level, it will involve a lot more chest muscle as well.
So it can be overkill to do push ups and pike push ups in the same workout and you might not get the full benefit of whichever you choose to do second.
If you’re at an advanced level though, feel free to go all the way up to full handstand push ups!
No. Not sit-ups or crunches.
Most of the popular ab exercises don’t show any appreciation of this and just focusing on burning out your “6 pack muscles”.
Your core is much more complex than that. It supports your body. It rotates, and bends, and keeps your protected from the front and the back.
As you get more tuned in with bodyweight exercises, your core will be getting some work in anyways.
And I am not a big fan of dedicated core exercises.
But they are popular and I would rather give you advice to steer you in a better direction than to tell you not to do them at all.
I think to get a strong and balanced core there isn’t any one single exercise so I am including 2 to focus on the areas of the core, which most people don’t pay enough attention to.
First up is dead bugs.
Dead bugs are probably the best exercise you’re not doing.
They work your abs the way crunches do but also work your obliques – the muscles on your sides.
This will help you build a stronger, more coordinated, and more stable core.
The next one is to work on your lower back and strengthen those muscles. The lying back extension.
If you’re sitting all day or your posture isn’t great, our lower back muscles suffer.
This is also usually one of the first places you will start to ache when you’re getting tired.
So we want to build strength in the lower back to keep ourselves moving pain-free and feeling healthy.
You can add weights to both of the above exercises to make them more challenging, but they are plenty tough on their own if you’re doing them right.
Workout Plan For Strength Training For Women At Home
I’ve given you my favourite exercises and some variations.
It’s challenging for me to put it in a generic plan for you.
We’re all at different points in our journey and have different levels of strength and experience.
But here is a very general guide.
- Focus on technique and endurance first.
- As you nail the technique, you can work on intensity.
- Try not train the same muscle group on consecutive days.
- Try not to train any muscle group more than 3 times a week.
If you are using the above exercises, start with 1 exercise for each muscle group and 3 sets of 8-10. Allow yourself a minute of rest between each set.
Try to avoid doing chest and shoulders back to back because there is some overlap in the muscles being worked by these moves. And do your core last.
So you might start with doing the below workout 3 times a week:
- 3 sets of 8 on chest
- 3 sets of 8 on back
- 3 sets of 8 on legs
- 3 sets of 8 on shoulders
- 3 sets of 8 on core
Pick the exercise and variation that you can do with good form throughout but the last couple of reps in each set start to feel more challenging.
When 3 sets of 8 feels comfortable, aim for 3 sets of 9, then 10, and get up to 3 sets of 12.
When you can do 3 sets of 12-15 comfortably, then look at levelling up to a more advanced variation.
I need to add my standard disclaimer here. This information is for entertainment purposes only and should not be seen as a substitute for working with a qualified professional. You must consult with a medical / fitness professional before starting any new exercise / nutrition program.
The Final Word On Strength Training For Women At Home
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for anything to do with health and fitness.
It is very unique and personal to you.
But if you are looking at strength training at home – whether you’re just getting started or want some new ideas or anything else – I hope this will help you lay the foundation you’re looking for.
I have switched entirely to home-based workouts for strength and I am feeling stronger, I am moving better, and I am more flexible than I have ever been in my life.
So from my own experience, I can very highly recommend it.