Many women are comfortable with cardio exercise, but feel intimidated to begin weight training. Lifting weights is not just for men or body builders! In fact, it is one of the best things you can do to develop strength and muscle definition, toning your body and increasing your metabolism. Using either free weights, weight machines or your own body weight, you push against the force of gravity and increase muscle strength, endurance, size, and shape.
In today’s busy world, many women feel they do not have time to exercise. Fortunately, weight training is one of the fastest and most effective workouts that women can do. Perform one of the following simple weight training routines specifically designed for women and you’ll be well on your way. Just three times a week for 20 minutes is all you need to increase your strength and flexibility, boost your metabolism, have better posture and muscle tone, and achieve a more relaxed state of mind.
Weight training is especially beneficial for women due to the many ways it can improve your health, specifically by reducing your risk of osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. In addition, by performing a regular weight training routine, it will help you sleep better, decrease your PMS symptoms, lower your stress and anxiety levels, improve your immune system function, and reduce body fat.
Starting a Weight Training Program
When beginning any type of a weight training program, it is important to build up slowly. Some of your muscles may be comparatively stronger than others and you do not want to risk injury. By building up slowly, you allow all of your muscles to develop appropriate strength relative to each other and reduce the amount of muscular soreness. In addition, it is absolutely essential to learn the proper form that is required to execute the exercises correctly in order to train the desired muscle group. Without good form you may be susceptible to injury or fail to meet your weight training goals. Although some soreness is expected, a significant amount of pain during your workout may signal an injury. Stop immediately, rest, and continue only if the pain completely subsides.
Always start your workout with a warm up, such as jogging or marching in place for a few minutes, until your heart rate picks up. Then lightly stretch. Choose weights that you can lift comfortably for a set of 10 repetitions. Lifting the weights should not be effortless, but if you can not lift them 10 times, the weight is too heavy. Women normally start out in the range of 2 to 5 pounds, depending on the exercise. When lifting, you should lift and lower the weights in a slow, controlled manner. Exhale as you lift and inhale as you lower the weights. Take a brief rest between each set. Cool down after your workout by slowly stretching all of your muscles and allowing your heart rate to come down.
The following three weight training routines are each designed to target one of the following muscle groups: arms, legs, and abdominals. They can be performed using either free weights or weight machines. If using weight machines, follow the instructions on the machines for proper form or utilize the services of a personal trainer. Each routine should take a minimum of 20 minutes to complete. These routines can be performed in various combinations as your schedule permits to achieve your specific weight training goals. For example, you can perform all 3 routines in one workout session, 3 times a week, or alternate the arm and leg routines for a shorter daily routine. Please note that it is vitally important to the health of your muscles that you do not perform the arm and leg routines on two consecutive days, because these muscle groups can not be worked two days in a row. The arm and leg muscles need to rest at least 1 day before being worked again in order to rebuild. The abdominal routine can be performed daily.
Begin by performing 2 sets of 10 repetitions of each exercise. If you can not use proper form and comfortably complete 2 sets of an exercise, decrease the amount of your weights for the exercise, or use no weights at all. If you can easily perform 2 sets with little effort, increase the amount of your weights. As your muscles strengthen, you’ll want to gradually work up to 3 sets and continue to use heavier weights as needed to challenge your muscles.
Routines Targeting the Main Muscle Groups
Bench fly: Lie on a bench or the floor, hold weights straight up over your chest, lower your arms until weights are level with your chest, lift weights up.
Lateral raise: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, hold weights at your sides, lift weights out to shoulder level, lower weights.
Upright row: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, hold weights at your sides, left weights up to your collarbone, until elbows are shoulder level, lower weights.
Triceps extension: Support one knee and hand on a bench or chair, hold one weight at the side of your chest, bend your arm so that your elbow is behind you, extend weight, lower weight.
Bicep curls: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, hold weights at your sides, curl weight up to your chest, lower weights.
Squats: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, hold weights at your sides, keep your weight on your heels, bend knees to a 90 degree angle while lifting weights straight out to chest level, return to standing position.
Calf raises: Stand with the balls of your feet on a step, rise on your toes, then lower your heels as much as possible.
Hamstring curls: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, use a chair for support as needed, bend 1 knee and place dumbbell in bend of knee, lift weight, lower weight.
Front leg extension: Sit on the edge of a bench or chair, hold onto sides, feet flat on the floor, keep feet together, lift your legs to hip level, lower, (add ankle weights as needed).
Lunge: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, hold weights at your sides, keep toes pointed forward, step forward 2 to 3 feet with one leg, bend other leg until your knee is at a 90 degree angle, return to standing position.
Abdominal crunch: Lie on the floor with your legs bent, feet flat on the floor, place hands on the back of your head, lift your shoulder blades off the ground, squeeze abs, lower shoulder blades.
Oblique crunch: Lie on the floor with your legs bent, feet flat on the floor, lift your right shoulder blade off the ground, point right elbow towards your left knee, squeeze abs, lower shoulder blade, repeat on other side for 1 repetition.
Lying leg raise: Sit on bench or chair, hold onto sides, extend legs straight out, pull knees into your chest, squeeze your abs, lower legs.
Hanging leg raise: Grab an overhead chin-up bar, place hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, feet off floor, raise your knees into abs at a 90 degree angle, squeeze abs, lower legs.
Plank: Start on your knees, place the elbows on the floor shoulder width apart, place feet up on your toes, lift knees, maintain a straight body line, hold as long as you can while maintaining good form, lower knees back to the floor, (once you able to hold form for entire length of set, add leg lifts).
MayoClinic.com: Strength training: Get stronger, leaner, healthier - https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/strength-training/HQ01710
Women’s Heart Foundation: Strength Training for Women - https://www.womensheart.org/content/Exercise/strength_training.asp
Images Courtesy of: WikiMedia Commons – GeorgeStepanek