It all depends what you’re strength training goals are. The rules are the same for both men & women. I wrote a blog post about this a couple of months ago – http://homeworkoutguy.com/strength-training-for-women-some-classic-myths… I know that was shameless of me, but it’s relevant to your question. Good luck Darra.
Also, wanted to add (again, starting off simple), that you should work your muscle groups from largest to smallest. Your smaller muscles assist (example tricep) with the larger muscles (example chest) and if you work them first they will be fatigued when assisting larger ones.
That being said, there are many ways to strength train, with varying rep and set ranges as you become more advanced and your goals change. If you are new to strength training, 2 sets of each exercise may be a good place to start.
I will also try find a few good articles for you. 🙂
I am assuming you are looking to start a program for yourself based on your question.
I personally don’t see a difference in how women and men should strength train, with the exception being that men may lift more specifically for bulk. Women simply do not have enough testosterone to “bulk up”. I train women every day in strength training, and most are simply amazed at not only how much they can lift, but how amazing it is for body definition. Strength training is the best way to truly define your body, make you stronger, and decrease that risk of osteoporosis. It is very empowering and will change the shape of your body (along with a good diet and some cardio, of course).
Here are a few simple guidelines for general strength training:
1. You want to lift heavy–heavy enough for your own abilities, and again, please know that you will not “bulk up”. To choose a weight in simple terms, choose one that truly fatigues the muscle in about 12 reps (to the point where you cannot do another few reps in good form). If you can easily keep going, then your intensity is not great enough.
2. You always want to keep your muscle groups balanced. For example, if you work chest (push exercise) make sure to work back (pull exercise). If you work your hamstrings (pull exercise), make sure you work your quadriceps (push exercise). This will keep your body strong, balanced, and reduce your risk of injury.
3. How often you strength train will depend on your goals, but make sure to work all major muscle groups 2-3 times per week–giving yourself a day in between any muscle group before you work it again. Rest and recovery are equally important as the workout itself.
Hope this helps and good luck! I am truly an advocate for women and strength training–I’ve seen amazing changes!