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3 Training Tips For Women Short On Time, From A Dietitian & Fitness Coach 

Jason Wachob
July 24, 2023
Jason Wachob
mbg Founder & Co-CEO
By Jason Wachob
mbg Founder & Co-CEO
Jason Wachob is the Founder and Co-CEO of mindbodygreen and the author of Wellth.
Holly Baxter
Image by Holly Baxter / mbg Creative
July 24, 2023
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Say it with us: Strength training is one of the best things you can do to maintain muscle and improve longevity. However, a lot of people think they'll "bulk up" if they start lifting heavier weights. This could not be more false

Take it from dietitian and fitness coach Holly Baxter, who trains with women of all ages to build muscle, lose body fat, and feel strong. "The primary goal for anyone who wants to focus on fat loss—not lean tissue loss—is to maintain your muscle. So, resistance training needs to be the priority," she shares on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast

But let's face it—exercise science can be quite confusing, and many folks just don't have time to sort through all the noise. If you only have 20 to 30 minutes a day to focus on lean muscle mass, how can you get the biggest bang for your buck? Below, Baxter shares her top research-backed training tips: 


Train close to failure

First and foremost: "We need to focus on making sure that we train with close proximity to failure," says Baxter. That doesn't mean you should be limping your way home, but don't be afraid to really test your strength. 

See, your muscles need to feel "fatigued" in order to grow. Yet "what I tend to see with women is that they'll go into the gym and don't lift enough weight," she explains. 

Again, that doesn't mean you should push yourself past your limits. However, "If you are able to still perform 10 more reps with that same dumbbell or barbell, then you are not effectively signaling your muscles to grow," Baxter says.

And if you're short on time, you want to get the most bang for your buck—make sure you''re actually exerting those muscle groups. 


Choose specific muscles 

On the subject of those muscle groups, Baxter recommends training with muscle specificity—or choosing which muscles you'd like to prioritize. 

"We don't all have the same goals," she explains. Some wish to strengthen their upper body, while others prefer to work on their glutes; those individuals will want completely different training programs. "Structure your program in a way that really targets the muscles you want to see improve," she notes. 

You don't want to ignore every other muscle group, but you don't necessarily have to spend ample time on bicep curls if you want to tighten your legs—especially if you have a jam-packed schedule. "For me, if I've only got a limited amount of time, I will be choosing all glute exercises and all shoulder exercises," Baxter says. "I would encourage [everyone] to do the same thing: Is your program specific for your goals?" 


Accelerate the volume

Finally, we have the volume. "We do need to meet a minimum viable volume," says Baxter, if you want to see results quickly. What does she mean by "volume," you ask? Calculate your set number times the number of reps you do, times the weight selection you choose—that large number at the end is your volume. 

"What research tends to suggest is a minimum of 10 to 15 sets per muscle group, per week," she adds. "That would be something that I would recommend for a brand-new beginner. For a more advanced athlete, we might see 30 exercises." 

But here's the thing: Your volume should progress over time, says Baxter. Keep track of your total volume number for each training session over a six- to 12-month period. "We should see that number progressively increasing," she says. If it stays the same over a long period of time, chances are you might not see the results you want. 

The takeaway 

Ultimately, "You have the autonomy to train how you want to train," says Baxter. But if you're hoping to build lean muscle mass and lose body fat in a healthy way, her top three tips will certainly help you in the gym. Looking for specific exercises to try? Here, find our complete guide to strength training, with over 33 expert-approved moves.

We hope you enjoy this episode! And don't forget to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, or YouTube!

Jason Wachob author page.
Jason Wachob
mbg Founder & Co-CEO

Jason Wachob is the Founder and Co-CEO of mindbodygreen and the author of Wellth. He has been featured in the New York Times, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and Vogue, and has a B.A. in history from Columbia University, where he played varsity basketball for four years.