Don’t let the fear of bulging muscles distract you from your health goals! Many women avoid strength training because they are afraid to develop big muscles, but that is a myth. According to the Women’s Heart Foundation, high levels of estrogen make it hard for women to become overly muscular. Lifting weights strengthen muscles and develop more endurance rather than increase muscles’ size.
Resistance training, combined with cardio workouts, and a healthy diet, is an excellent way to lose weight and improve your quality of life. Strength training can boost your weight-loss goals because it stimulates muscle growth and contributes to toning up your body, giving you a firm and feminine body.
If you are a beginner, the American College of Sports Medicine, recommends that you practice resistance training two to three times per week, resting for a day between workouts. Don’t push too hard!
6 Tips to Keep in Mind:
- Muscle soreness is likely to happen, so allow time for rest and recovery.
- Consider performing a quick cardio warm-up and dynamic stretches before starting your strength training.
- Don’t get obsessed with results!
- Focus on learning the technique.
- Start with one set of 12 to 15 repetitions and progress to two to three sets in the following weeks.
- If you are already fit, one set of 12 to 15 repetitions is an excellent workout routine to stay healthy and tone up your body.
If you want to work on specific parts of your body, choose isolation exercises, which work only one muscle group at a time. Use your own body weight for resistance to exercise at home, and do pushups and pullups. You can also use resistance tubing (large, colorful rubber bands) to add extra resistance. If you prefer to go to the gym, use free weights such as dumbbells, weight bars, and barbells—you can also purchase this equipment in sports stores. Weight machines help you target different muscle groups—ask for assistance before using them. Do 8 to 12 repetitions of your chosen exercise—add more weight and sets as you get stronger.
Strength-Training Workouts per Muscle Groups
If you work in front of a computer all day, your back might be suffering—it is crucial to strengthen your back to prevent low back pain. Focus on your core muscles, which are the belt of muscles that wraps around your midsection. Planks and side planks are ideal to strengthen your core; these exercises will also help your back.
- Shoulders and Arms
Arm raises help strengthen your shoulders—feeling a slight burn in your muscles while you do this exercise is normal, but you should not feel more than that. To strengthen your arms, you can do bicep curls. If you are looking for a specific weight lifting workout, try the overhead press. Stand with your feet under your hips, and elongate your spine. Hold the dumbbells in front of your shoulders, then press the dumbbells straight up. Lower the dumbbells back to the starting position, keeping your elbows under your hands.
- Legs and Knees
It’s easy to strengthen your lower legs because you can do it anywhere you want, without any equipment. Shin raises strengthen the muscles surrounding the front and sides of the shin bone, while heel step downs work your calves and feet. Squats, like the goblet squat, help strengthen your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. For this exercise, your heels have to be as wide as your shoulders. Turn your toes outward, holding the dumbbell at chest level. Stand tall, then bend your knees and lower your hips until the top of your thighs are parallel with the floor, then stand up again, and repeat.
- Chest and Abdomen
You can do dumbbell press, dumbbell flyes, and chest press, to strengthen your chest. If you want to work your abdomen, do crunches. To do a chest press, lie face-up on an exercise bench or the floor and bend your knees. The dumbbells should touch directly over your chest—press your shoulders down away from your ears. Bend your arms outward and open your hands until your forearms are perpendicular to the floor, then go back to the starting position.
If you want to work all the muscles that you use for your daily movements, try the deadlift. Start with your heels as wide as your shoulders, then turn your toes outward. Stand tall, and hold dumbbells, with your palms facing inward. At the same time, bend forward and push your hips backward, bending your legs and lowering your hips; then stand up again, and repeat.
Every workout should match the specific goals that you want to achieve. A supervisor, or trainer, can help in the beginning—don’t push too hard and listen to your body.
We recommend that you switch your strength training routine every month or so to allow your body to adapt to different training programs. Women can gain many benefits from strength training focused on growth hormone release—it helps with muscles’ recovery, cell reproduction, and regeneration. Following the exercises described above, you can alternate upper and lower body workouts over four training days each week. For example, work the upper body on Monday with chest press, 8 to 12 repetitions. On Tuesday, strengthen your lower body with squats. Take Wednesday off, and on Thursday, go back to work the upper body again. On Friday, lower body—and so on.