Women may not possess as much growth hormone or testosterone as men, but they can still make significant strides in strength and build notable muscular tone with consistent weight training. Lifting weights is important for women, not only because of the physical strength benefits, but because of the activity’s positive effects on bone density. How many sets and repetitions women should do depends on their training goals.
The number of sets and reps that you complete during your workout will dictate what type of results you bring about. A workout for training to build strength will be different than if you’re looking to increase muscle size. Increases in strength occur when you force your muscles to lift loads beyond what they’re used to. Therefore, when you’re trying to build strength, your focus will be on lifting heavier weights, not completing as many repetitions. Building muscular tone occurs when you overload and damage your muscles by doing a relatively higher number of total repetitions. To build muscular tone, therefore, your focus will instead be on your workout volume, which means you’ll be doing more repetitions.
Reps and Sets
Women should follow a workout plan that reflects their weight training goals. Strength and conditioning specialist Dr. Helen M. Brinkley recommends that those women looking to get stronger should perform two to six sets of each exercise, with each set consisting of six or fewer repetitions. The rest period between each set should last two to five minutes so your muscles can recover from lifting the heavy weight. Women looking to build tone and increase their muscle size should complete three to six sets of six to 12 repetitions. Because you’re trying to exhaust your muscles, your rest period between sets should last just 30 to 90 seconds.
Importance of Weight
Just as important as the number of sets and repetitions you complete is the weight you’re using during each exercise. If you follow the strength program and perform a set of six repetitions, but do so while using a light weight, you’re not going to get stronger. If you are following the strength program, pick a weight that's heavy enough that you’re unable to perform more than six repetitions. If you are following the muscle-building program, use a weight that allows you to do at least six repetitions, but no more than 12.
Recommendations for Beginners
The recommended sets and repetitions are for women who have been consistently weight training and are comfortable in the weight room. If you’re just starting out or are returning to lifting weights after a long break, Fitness magazine recommends that women begin by doing each exercise for two sets of 10 to 15 repetitions. Seek the guidance of your doctor if you are new to exercise.
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