While the treadmill likely induces the most sweating, it’s not the only workout you should be getting when you hit the gym. It’s important that women incorporate resistance, or strength, training in their routine at least twice a week. Not only does this make you stronger, but muscles burn more calories when you’re at rest than body fat, making you more efficient at rest.

But, before you hit the weight room, consider these tips. From progressing safely to choosing free weights, you don’t want to lift a single weight without being armed with this information.

1. Progress Slow and Steady

Young woman talking to her fitness trainerWe all know that feeling: you’ve been in the weight room a few times in the last two weeks, you’re feeling strong and you want to try heavier weights. While it’s critical that you increase weight, it’s even more important that you do so in a safe manner.

Start with a weight that’s easy for you to lift, and then do 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps, making sure that your form is correct (poor form is another popular cause of injuries). Once you can do that, slowly move up to the next level, moving five pounds each time. If you’re strength training twice a week, you can move up to a new set of weights every one to two weeks.

2. Choose an Online Program to Follow

For many, the weight room is a foreign place because you haven’t lifted weights much in your workout career, and let’s face, all those beefy jocks can be a little intimidating too. So, instead of avoiding it altogether or going in blind, find a resistance training program online first—leanitup.com is a great resource. Most programs will give you the exercises, and images of each one, so you have a clear idea of what you’re supposed to do.

Not only will this make you feel more confident in the weight room, but it will help you stay productive instead of dilly dallying between moves as you decide what to do next.

3. Less Weight Machines, More Free Weights

woman lifting free weightsWhile weight machines are great—you don’t have to worry so much about form, balance, etc—they’re not your best bet for resistance training. While these are great features, having to balance, note form and be coordinated is great for your muscles: the more work your body has to do, the more muscles you’re involving, the better workout you’ll get.

Free weights are also ideal for working out at home; you can purchase them at the store and then workout whenever time permits—think: during commercials at night or early in the morning before work.

A combination of the two is fine, but don’t shy away from the weight room; you’ll be missing out on some great benefits.

Resistance training is critical for women; it helps build stronger muscles and bones, both of which are critical as women get older. And while all those miles on the treadmill will make your waist smaller, it won’t build tone, and toning makes all your hard work worth it.