20 Best Exercises to Gain Weight for Females

When the majority of females want to shed some pounds, there are some women who want to put on mass and increase weight.

Achieving a healthy weight makes you feel strong, improves your appearance, boosts your confidence, and lowers the risk of health issues.

Weight gain or loss primarily depends on your calorie intake. You’ll have to consume more calories than your body needs every day for a while to gain some pounds.

Moreover, you’ll have to start lifting weights to increase lean mass, build strength, and improve body composition.

Exercising helps develop muscle mass, increases hunger, encourages you to consume more calories, and helps you increase weight.

In this article, I’ve shared the 20 best exercises that will help you build muscle and gain weight over time.

I’ll also hand out a PDF of a gym workout plan to gain weight for females. You can download that for using it offline.

Can Exercises Help Women Gain Weight?

Yes, exercising helps a normal or underweight woman put on mass and increase her weight.1 Lee, I-Min et al. “Physical activity and weight gain prevention.” JAMA vol. 303,12 (2010): 1173-9. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.312 – National Library of Medicine

Resistance exercises work better than bodyweight training when it comes to building muscle.

A study published on the National Institute of Health website has shown that ten weeks of resistance training may increase lean weight by 1.4 kg and reduce fat weight by 1.8 kg.2 Westcott WL. Resistance training is medicine: effects of strength training on healthCurr Sports Med Rep. 2012;11(4):209-216. doi:10.1249/JSR.0b013e31825dabb8, 3 Willis, Leslie H et al. “Effects of aerobic and/or resistance training on body mass and fat mass in overweight or obese adults.” Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985) vol. 113,12 (2012): 1831-7. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.01370.2011

Weight training not only increases lean mass but also bolsters your bones and joints, improves posture, and enhances your lifting and endurance.

You can integrate some of the best lifts into your training program to maximize healthy weight gain.

20 Best Gym Exercises to Gain Weight for Females

From the chest, back, and arms to legs, glutes, and shoulders, I’ve shared the twenty best exercises that females of all fitness levels can perform.

It includes 12 exercises for the upper body, six for the lower body, and two for the core.

Doing them all will help you build muscle, strengthen bones, and improve your body composition.

Here’s a quick list of all the exercises:

  1. Smith Machine Incline Bench Press
  2. Flat Dumbbell Bench Press
  3. Pec Deck Fly
  4. Overhead Press
  5. Cable Lateral Raise
  6. Rear Delt Fly
  7. Tricep Dips
  8. Rope Pushdown
  9. Overhead Triceps Extension
  10. Dumbbell Rowing
  11. Cable Rowing
  12. Front Lat Pulldown
  13. Cable Bicep Curl
  14. Hammer Curl
  15. Dumbbell Squat
  16. Deadlift
  17. Leg Press
  18. Lunges
  19. Smith Machine Hip Thrust
  20. Leg Curl

Let’s see how to perform each exercise step-by-step.

1. Smith Machine Incline Bench Press

Weight gain gym exercise for female
Target MuscleForce TypeLevelEquipment Needed
PectoralsPushBeginnerSmith Machine

The bench press is a compound exercise that bolsters multiple muscles simultaneously and helps develop lean mass.

It works on the shoulder, triceps, and especially the pectoral muscles and helps improve upper body strength and appearance.

Steps to perform a Smith Machine incline bench press:

  1. Set the bar at an appropriate height and put the desired weight into it.
  2. Place a bench under the bar and adjust it to 30 30-degree incline.
  3. Lie on your back and grab the bar with your elbows bent and pointing diagonally.
  4. Keep your feet flat on the ground, brace your core, and create a slight arch in your lower back.
  5. Inhale and slowly press the bar upward until your arms are straight, then exhale.
  6. Pause for a moment at the top, then return to the starting position. That’s one rep!
  7. Do the three sets of 10-12 reps each with a couple of minutes rest between the sets.

2. Flat Dumbbell Bench Press

Weight gain exercise for women
Target MuscleForce TypeLevelEquipment Needed
PectoralsPushBeginnerDumbbells and a Bench

The dumbbell bench press targets the chest and helps build a firm torso. It will help you thicken your pectoral region and increase the weight of muscles around it.

You can perform dumbbell bench press on a flat, incline, and decline positions to hit your pecs from all angles.

Steps to perform a flat dumbbell bench press:

  1. Grab one dumbbell in each hand and lie on a flat bench.
  2. Hold the dumbbells at your sides at chest level. Keep your feet flat on the ground.
  3. Brace your core, inhale, and start pressing the weight upward until your arms are fully extended.
  4. Hold a second at the top and return your arms to the starting position, then exhale. That’s one rep.

3. Pec Deck Fly

Machine Chest Fly
Target MuscleForce TypeLevelEquipment Needed
PectoralsPullBeginnerPec Deck Machine

The pec deck fly is an isolation exercise that targets the chest muscles without putting unnecessary stress on the shoulder muscles. It helps improve muscle definition and the shape your upper body.

Steps to perform a pec deck fly:

  • Adjust the seat and handles on the pec deck machine to your height and comfort.
  • Sit down and grasp the handles with a neutral grip.
  • Press your back firmly against the seat, keeping your feet flat on the floor.
  • Start with your elbows slightly bent and hands at chest level.
  • Pull the handles together until your arms are straight against your chest.
  • Inhale and slowly return to the starting position, allowing your chest muscles to stretch.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps, focusing on controlled movements and proper form.

4. Overhead Press

Gym Exercises To Gain Weight Fast For Females
Target MuscleForce TypeLevelEquipment Needed
ShoulderPushBeginnerDumbbells/Smith Machine

The overhead shoulder is one of the best exercises for upper body muscle gain.

It increases the strength and the size of the shoulder muscles.

It also engages the core and tricep and builds up a solid torso.

You can perform overhead presses in multiple ways. The best ones for a female are the dumbbell and Smith machine overhead press.

Steps to perform an overhead press:

  1. Grab one dumbbell in each hand and sit on the bench with your back resting on it.
  2. Bend your elbows and hold the dumbbells to your shoulder level.
  3. Keep your back straight and chest up, and maintain a tight core.
  4. Press the weight over your head until your arms are fully straight.
  5. Hold for a moment at the top and lower the weight back to the initial position.

5. Cable Lateral Raise

Target MuscleForce TypeLevelEquipment Needed
ShoulderPullBeginnerCable Machine/Dumbbells

The lateral raises is a shoulder strengthening exercise that strikes the medial delts and improves your posture.

You can perform lateral raises with dumbbells and cable machines. However, the cable machine is safe, provides stability, and helps you target your muscles more precisely.

The one-arm lateral raise also allows you to hit each side of the shoulder individually and improve muscle imbalance.

Steps to do cable lateral raise:

  1. Set the pulley to the lowest position, adjust the weight, and attach the D-handle to the hook.
  2. Stand beside the machine and grab the handle with a neutral grip.
  3. Stand upright with a slight bend in your elbow, keeping your feet shoulder-width apart.
  4. Slowly lift the handle to the side, keeping your arm straight and raising it to shoulder height.
  5. Pause briefly at the top, then lower the handle back down under control.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of reps, then switch to the opposite side.

6. Rear Delt Fly

Target MuscleForce TypeLevelEquipment Needed
Posterior DeltPullBeginnerPec Deck/Cable Machine

The rear delt fly targets the rear deltoid muscles, build up define and healthy shoulders, correct posture, as well as srengthens the upper back.

Steps to perform a reverse fly:

  1. Adjust the seat and handles on the pec deck machine to your height and comfort.
  2. Sit down and grasp the handles with a neutral grip with chest agaist the seat.
  3. Grab the handles and take your arms together until your posterior delts are fully engaged.
  4. Pause for a moment, then return to the start. That’s one rep.

7. Tricep Dips

dips workout at home
Target MuscleForce TypeLevelEquipment Needed

The dip helps strengthen and tone triceps muscles, increase pushing strength, as well as enhance wrist mobility.

Strengthening the triceps helps you perform various compound exercises, such as bench presses, push-ups, and bar dips.

Steps to perform Tricep dip:

  1. Sit on the edge of a flat bench with your arms straight beside your hips and feet flat on the ground.
  2. Firmly grip the edge of the bench with your palms facing down.
  3. Spread your legs in front of you, heels touching the ground, and toes pointing toward the ceiling. That’s the start.
  4. Bend your elbows and lower your body as deep as you can. And then press back until your arms are fully straight. That’s one rep.
  5. Ensure your elbows are tucked at your sides so they don’t flare outward.
  6. Do three sets of 10-12 reps each with 2-3 minutes rest between the sets.

8. Rope Pushdown

weight gain exercise for women
Target MuscleForce TypeLevelEquipment Needed
TricepsPushBeginnerCable Machine

The rope pushdown isolates the triceps and increases the size of your arms.

Steps to do a rope pushdown:

  1. Set the rope to the higher section of the cable machine.
  2. Set the desired weight according to your strength.
  3. Grab the rope firmly and stand upright in the shoulder-width stance.
  4. Slightly lean your torso forward, and hold the rope at your chest level. That’s the start.
  5. Now, squeezing your triceps muscle, push the rope down until your arms are fully straight.
  6. Hold for a moment, and then return your arms to the start. That’s one rep.

9. Overhead Triceps Extension

Target MuscleForce TypeLevelEquipment Needed
TricepsPushBeginnerCable Machine/Dumbbells

The cable overhead triceps extension trains the triceps muscles and increases the size of your upper arms.

Steps to do an overhead triceps extension:

  1. Attach a rope handle to the high pulley of a cable machine.
  2. Stand facing away from the machine, hold the rope with both hands and position it behind your head.
  3. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and your core engaged.
  4. Extend your arms upward until your elbows are extended, and your triceps are fully engaged.
  5. Lower the rope back behind your head to return to the start.

10. Dumbbell Rowing

workouts to gain weight for females
Target MuscleForce TypeLevelEquipment Needed
BackPullBeginnerDumbbells and a Bench

Dumbbell rowing is a free-weight exercise that targets your shoulders, arms, and especially back. This will help you build a strong back, improve posture, and gain muscle mass.

To perform the dumbbell rowing, you need a bench and a dumbbell. You can do both incline and flat dumbbell rowing exercises because both are good for muscle and weight gain in females.

Steps to perform one-arm dumbbell row:

  1. Grab a dumbbell in any of your hands; place your other side’s knee and hand on a flat bench.
  2. Keep your other feet on the ground and maintain a neutral spine position.
  3. Keep your arm extended below your shoulder. That’s your starting position.
  4. Drive your elbows and pull the dumbbell to your side until it reaches abdomen level.
  5. Hold for a second, then slowly lower the dumbbells to the starting position. That’s one rep.

11. Cable Rowing

weight training exercise to gain for female
Target MuscleForce TypeLevelEquipment Needed
BackPullBeginnerLat/Seated Row Machine

The seated cable row hits the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and rhomboid and helps thicken back muscles. It also enhances your pulling strength and improve your posture.

Steps to perform cable rowing:

  1. Set your desired weight on the weight stack and attach the handle to the seated row machine.
  2. Position yourself on a flat bench and grasp the handle with a neutral grip, your arms fully extended, palms facing each other.
  3. Keep your back straight, your feet flat on the ground, and your knees under the pad.
  4. Driving your elbows, pull the weight toward your stomach by pulling your shoulder blades back.
  5. Hold for a second, and then slowly let the weight return until your arms are extended. That’s one rep.

12. Front Lat Pulldown

workout to gain weight fast for females
Target MuscleForce TypeLevelEquipment Needed
BackPullBeginnerSeated/Pulldown Machine

The pulldown is a back workout that works primarily on the latissimus dorsi. It helps forge back muscles and improve the upper body appearance.

Steps to perform front lat pulldown:

  1. Sit on a bench attached to the lat pull-down machine, place your feet flat on the floor, and adjust your knees under the pad.
  2. Grab the bar firmly with an overhand grip, hands wider than shoulder-width apart, and palms facing downward.
  3. Keep your chest up, your abdominal muscles tight, and your arms entirely straight. That’s the start.
  4. Now, pull the bar down until it comes a few inches off the floor.
  5. Pause for a couple of seconds, squeeze your back, and then return the bar slowly to the starting position by extending your arms completely. That’s one rep!

13. Cable Bicep Curl

Target MuscleForce TypeLevelEquipment Needed
BicepsPullBeginnerCable Machine

The cable biceps curl works on bicep muscles and helps you build strong and toned arms.

  1. Set the rack to the lower section of the cable machine and attach the bar (straight or EZ).
  2. Set your desired weight according to your strength.
  3. Grab the bar firmly with an underhand grip, hands hip-width apart.
  4. Stand straight 10 to 12 inches away from the machine.
  5. Slightly lean your torso backward, keep your arms straight and elbows tucked at your sides. That’s the start.
  6. Curl your arms toward your shoulder until you feel the contraction in your bicep muscles.
  7. Pause for a moment and then extend your arms to return to the start. That’s one rep.

14. Hammer Curl

gym exercises for women
Target MuscleForce TypeLevelEquipment Needed

The hammer curl bolsters the biceps muscles, enhances forearm strength, and develops strength and arm size.

Steps to do a hammer curl:

  1. Holding one dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip, sit on the bench with your arms extended by your sides.
  2. Curl the weights simultaneously, keeping your palms facing inward.
  3. Contract your biceps as you lift the weights.
  4. Pause for one second, then uncurl your arms.

15. Dumbbell Squat

Dumbbell Front Squat
Target MuscleForce TypeLevelEquipment Needed
QuadricepsPushBeginnerDumbbells/Smith Machine

The squat is an important lower-body muscle growth exercise. It doesn’t only tone your leg muscles but also helps you get stronger, attractive, and bigger legs.

The squats have different forms, such as front, lateral, and sumo squats.

Steps to do a dumbbell squat:

  1. Grab a dumbbell in each hand and stand with your feet about hip-width apart.
  2. Brace your core, push your hips back, and bend your knees.
  3. Make sure the chest and shoulders stay upright and the back stays straight.
  4. Get low as down as possible.
  5. Hold for a second at the down, then slowly stand straight. That’s one rep!

16. Deadlift

weight gain workout for female
Target MuscleForce TypeLevelEquipment Needed
Back and LegsPullIntermediateBarbell and Plates

A conventional deadlift alone targets many muscles at once, such as the hamstring, quadriceps, back, arms, shoulder, and glutes.

It helps increase muscle growth, strengthen muscles and joints, enhance lifting ability and endurance, improve heart health, and build an overall stronger physique.

The deadlifts are one of those exercises which help females to gain weight gain faster.

Steps to perform conventional deadlift:

  1. Stand in the hip-width stance with your feet under the barbell.
  2. Bend your knees and hips and lower enough to reach and grab the bar.
  3. Grip the bar with an alternate grip with your arms just outside your hips.
  4. Your palms should face your body. Your hand must be equally far from the ends of the barbell.
  5. Raise your hips and shoulders at the same range while maintaining a straight back.
  6. Keep your core tight during the whole lift. Take a long breath and lift the bar with full strength.
  7. Hold for a second and lower the weight back to the return starting position. That’s one rep!

You can also do several types of deadlifts with dumbbells.

17. Leg Press

Target MuscleForce TypeLevelEquipment Needed
QuadricepsPushBeginnerLeg Press Machine

The machine leg press helps increase the quad size and build firm legs.

Steps to perform a leg press:

  1. Sit down on a recline leg press machine with back support.
  2. Place your feet flat on the footplate about hip-width apart.
  3. Make sure your legs form an angle of about 90 degrees at the knees, and your knees must be in line with your foot.
  4. Grab the supporting handle (built at the sides of the machine) for the sturdy position. That’s your starting position.
  5. Brace your core and push the weight away by using your leg’s power while keeping your heels flat on the footplate.
  6. Hold up there for a second and then slowly return to the beginning. That’s one rep!
  7. Ensure your back remains on the pad, and use only your legs to press the bar.

18. Lunges

Target MuscleForce TypeLevelEquipment Needed
Legs and GlutesPushIntermediateDumbbells

The lunges are an incredible exercise that targets multiple lower body muscles simultaneously, including the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves, and improves lower body strength, balance, and coordination.

Steps to perform dumbbell lunges:

  1. Grab one dumbbell in each hand and stand straight in a split stance.
  2. Keep your arms straight at your sides with your palms facing in.
  3. Lower into a lunge until your rear knee touches the floor.
  4. Press through your leading foot to return to the standing position.
  5. Perform eight to ten reps, then switch the side.
  6. Keep your chest up, back straight, and core tight throughout the movement.

19. Smith Machine Hip Thrust

Target MuscleForce TypeLevelEquipment Needed
Glute and HamstringPushIntermediateSmith Machine

The Smith machine hip thrusts target the glutes and hamstrings effectively, improve hip strength and mobility, and reduce lower back strain. This exercise will help shape your glutes and transform your booty.

  1. Set the bar to an appropriate height and weight according to your strength.
  2. Attach a thick squat sponge to the center of the bar and place a bench under it.
  3. Place your upper back on the bench with your feet flat on the floor in front of you, shoulder-width apart. Knees are bent to 90 degrees so your chest and knees are in line.
  4. Put a balance pad on your hip for extra safety.
  5. Grab the bar with an overhand grip, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. And then put the bar on your hips.
  6.  Keeping your core tight, thrust the bar upward as high and fast as you can.
  7. Once you reach your top, hold for a couple of seconds before lowering your hips to the start.
  8. Focus on squeezing your glutes during the entire movement.

20. Leg Curl

Target MuscleForce TypeLevelEquipment Needed
HamstringsPullBeginnerLeg Curl Machine

The leg curl is an isolation exercise that primarily targets the hamstrings – the muscles on the back of your thigh. Sturdy hammies help enhance lifting and athletic performance and give your legs a decent appearance.

Steps to do it:

  1. Sit on the seated leg curl machine with your back resting on the back pad.
  2. Adjust the machine so the back of your lower leg (below your calves) rests on the padded lever and your thigh stays under the lap pad.
  3. Grab the handles firmly and pull the level machine so your hamstrings are engaged.
  4. Once you feel your hamstring contracted fully, return to the start.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

When you don’t have gym access, you can also do a hamstring curl with a dumbbell.

Core Strengthing Exercises for Females

A strong core helps you lift more weight and improve your overall performance.

You can do various exercises, such as sit-ups, planks, mountain climbers, and high knees, to bolster your core.

I’ve already created an abs workout program that involves performing myriad exercises. You can check them out for ultimate exercise options.

Here, I’ve included two important core exercises that you constantly perform, irrespective of your fitness level.

1. Forearm Plank

Planks are for all, whether you’re underweight or overweight, male or female, beginner or experienced. Planks are for all.

The reason behind this is that they are core strengthening exercise and works on several muscles at once, such as the abs, lower back, arms, and hips.

A forearm plank helps you build strong abdominal muscles. It also has several forms, but for you, I would recommend forearm plank once or twice a week.

How to perform a forearm plank

Step 1: Get into a pushup position with your forearms flat on the ground beneath your shoulders.

Step 2: Keep your body straight, brace your core, and be in the same position for as long as you can.

2. Side Plank

The side plank works more on the side stomach-like obliques and strengthens the oblique.

You can do the side plank along with other exercises at least once or twice a week.

The side plank also helps you tone muscles and build attractive obliques.

How to perform Side Plank:

  1. Lie on your right side in a straight position supported by only one arm. Keep your feet and legs stacked on each other.
  2. Brace your core and stay in that position for as long as possible.

The Best Workout Plan to Gain Weight for Females

I’ve created a sample of a 6-day gym workout plan that may help females gain weight

This isn’t a weekly routine, you’ll need to complete the total 6-day routine and then repeat. For example, if you take a rest after every 2 days then on the fourth day you’ll do the workouts of day 3. The rest day depends on you.

Routine Type: Push/Pull/Legs, Duration: 60 Minutes, Rest Between Each Set: 2-3 Minutes

Day 1 (Push Exercises)

ExerciseReps & Sets
Bench Press12, 10, 8 reps
Incline Dumbbell Press12, 10, 8 reps
Overhead Press10 reps x 3 sets
Lateral Raise8 reps x 3 sets
Pushup10 reps x 2 sets
Rope Pushdown10 reps x 3 sets
Tricep Dips10 reps x 3 sets
Weight Gain Workout Plan for Female

Day 2 (Pull Workout)

ExerciseReps & Sets
Lat Pulldown12, 10, 8 reps
Barbell Bent Over Row12, 10, 8 reps
Single-arm DB Rowing10 reps x 3 sets
Seated Cable Rowing10 reps x 3 sets
Cable Bicep Curl12, 10, 8 reps
Preacher Curl12, 10, 8 reps
Wrist Curl10 reps x 3 sets
Weight Gain Workout for Women

Day 3 – Quadriceps, Calves and Core

ExerciseReps & Sets
Deadlift AMRAP
Squat15, 12, 10 Reps
Leg Press15, 12, 10 Reps
Leg Extension15, 12, 10 Reps
Calves Raise15, 12, 10 Reps
Forearm Plank30-60 Seconds
Side Plank30 Seconds
each side
Workout Plan to Increase Weight for Females

Day 4 – Push Workout

WorkoutSets and Reps
Incline Machine Chest Press12, 10, 8 reps
Dumbbell Pullover10, 8, 6 reps
Dumbbell Front Raise10, 8, 6 reps
Upright Row10, 8, 6 reps
Shrug10, 8, 6 reps
Tricep Dip12, 10, 8 reps
Triangle Pushup10 Reps x 2 Sets
Women Gym Workout Plan to Gain Weight

Day 5 – Pull Exercise

ExerciseReps and Sets
Lat Pulldown12, 10, 8 reps
Seated Cable Rowing12, 10, 8 reps
Face Pull12, 10, 8 reps
DB Concentration Curl12, 10, 8 reps
Dumbbell Incline Curl12, 10, 8 reps
Palms Down Wrist Curl12, 10, 8 reps
Weight Gain Gym Workout Plan For Women

Day 6 – Hamstrings, Glutes and Core

ExerciseSets and Reps
Barbell Lunges12, 10, 8 reps
Dumbbell Romain DeadliftAMRAP
Hamstring Curl12, 10, 8 reps
Bulgarian Split Squat12, 10, 8 reps
Barbell Hip Thrust12, 10, 8 reps
Side Hip Raise12, 10, 8 reps
Forearm Plank30-60 Seconds
Side Plank30 Seconds
each side
Female Weight Gain Routine

Weight Gain Exercises Routine for Females PDF

Do Gym Workouts Make You Bulky?

Some females think that workouts make them bulky; normally, bulky means fatty. Usually, women have lower levels of testosterone (the hormone which is responsible for muscle growth) than men and that’s the reason, lifting moderate weights unlikely make females bulky- an article published by WebMD suggested.

Workouts either help you lose weight or build muscles, but not in any way they increase your body fats and make you bulky.

In case if you face any problem because of the exercises, consult a professional because he/she will better assess your fitness and advise you on exercises accordingly. And if any problems with the diet, you need to consult with a nutritionist.

Related Workout for Women:


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Murshid Akram
I'm an online personal trainer, fitness blogger, and fitness enthusiast. I love researching and writing about exercise and nutrition. I share science-based, practical, and logical information that can help you achieve your desired fitness goal.

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