Read these 17 Women's Strength Training Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Womens Fitness tips and hundreds of other topics.
There are many things to be wary of when starting a strength training workout. To make sure you get the all the benefits of your exercise routine, watch out for these things:
There are a myriad of benefits you can get from strength training. Not only do arm exercises, back exercises, leg exercises and core exercises make you stronger, they also increase bone density, which decreases your risk of osteoporosis. As you do more strength training and start to focus more on exercise and fitness, your basal metabolic rate, or the amount of calories you burn while inactive, will increase. This means that you will burn more calories all day long. Each pound of muscle gained is a pound of fat lost. You also burn between 35 and 40 more calories per day for each pound of muscle gained, so if you gain three pounds of muscle, you will burn an extra 120 calories per day. This can add up to a weight loss of 10 to 12 pounds in one year!
The most important aspect of strength training is the self-confidence you gain. When you know you can lift those groceries or move that furniture around on your own, it is empowering. If you feel good about yourself, your overall outlook on life is more positive and rewarding.
As a woman, you don't have enough testosterone to get the big bulging muscles that body builders get. So stop worrying about bulking up and pick up some heavier weights at the gym. Weights that are too light for you will not magically shape and tone your body. To find out what weight is right for you, start by picking a weight you know you can lift 10 times, but no more than 12 times. As you get used to this weight and you can start to do more repetitions and sets, move the weight up by a few pounds. If you want to see results, you need to choose a weight that will tire out your muscles within 10 repetitions.
Don't be intimidated by the equipment that men traditionally use. You pay for that barbell with your gym membership just as much as he does. Use a barbell to do squats or try lifting for your arm exercises twice per week with one of your friends as a spotter.
Leg exercises are just as important as arm and back exercises. Strong legs support your core and can actually help eliminate lower back pain. Here are some exercises that will tone your legs and get you looking sexy for summer:
Mountain Climbers: This exercise can double as a cardio workout. Start in a push-up position and then lift your right foot, bringing your knee to your chest. Touch your right foot to the ground and return to start position. Repeat with your left leg. Do this move at a high pace for a certain amount of time rather than a certain amount of reps.
Buddha Lunges: Stand with your feet together and step forward with your right leg and bend your knee until your front foot forms a right angle. Hold this position for five seconds and then push off your forward leg back into your starting position. Repeat 10 times on each leg.
Step-Ups: You will need a bench or sturdy chair to do this exercise. Stand in front of the chair and simply step up onto it with your right foot. Let your left foot touch the top of your right foot and step down to starting position. Repeat 10 times on each leg.
Weighted Squats: Using the stairs or another type of step (you can use a sturdy chair if you are tall), step up with your right foot. Bring your left foot up to touch the right foot and then step back down to start position with both feet on the floor. Repeat with your left leg. Do 24 repetitions on each side.
Progressive resistance is crucial to any women's strength-training program. Once your muscles adapt to a given exercise, you need to increase either the resistance or the number of repetitions to promote future gains. Begin with a weight that allows you to do a minimum of eight repetitions of a particular exercise. Once you are able to complete 12 repetitions with that weight, you should increase the weight by about five percent. At this point, drop back to eight repetitions with the heavier weight. Once you've worked up to 12 repetitions with the heavier weight, you increase it by another five percent.
The recovery process between training sessions takes at least 48 hours. Because of this, your strength -training sessions should be scheduled no more frequently than every other day. If you enjoy training more frequently, avoid hitting the same muscle group on consecutive days.
Now that we have established that a well-designed fitness plan works all of the muscles in the body while encompassing all aspects of fitness, there is something else that needs to be considered. Today, everyone is talking about "functional fitness." But what does this mean? Unfortunately, the phrase is often over used. Many programs that are called functional training simply involve exercises that can only be described as "stupid human tricks."Standing on a stability ball is a good example of this type of "trick."
Exercise programs that are truly functional serve to support and enhance the movement skills that we use in daily life and athletic pursuits. This form of training is solidly grounded in movement science research that tells us that our brains think in terms of entire movement patterns. It's a far cry from theories that tell us that we need to isolate individual muscle groups in order to improve movement skills or rehabilitate from injury. In fact, we once thought that all we needed to do to improve motor skills was to strengthen muscles that were weak, and stretch muscles that were tight.
However, physical therapists and sport coaches were dissatisfied with the results of this form of training. They found that even if muscle imbalances were corrected, many faulty movement patterns had become habitual. The functional training movement was developed as a means of teaching people new movement patterns that were more efficient.
There are specific criteria that allow a program the honor of being designated "functional."
Your skill at specific activities is partially determined by your ratio of muscle fiber types. Slow-twitch fibers (Type I) are resistant to fatigue. They are associated with long duration aerobic activities. Fast-twitch fibers (Type IIa) are capable of quick muscular contractions. These fibers are moderately resistant to fatigue. Fast-twitch fibers (Type IIb) also produce quick muscular contractions. However, they are associated with activities requiring quick bursts of energy, such as sprinting. In general, marathon runners have a higher percentage of slow-twitch muscle fibers, whereas sprinters have more fats-twitch fibers.
The ratio of muscle fiber types is genetically determined. Therefore, it will vary in each individual. However, both types of muscle fiber can improve their metabolic capabilities through strength training. Keep in mind that your core muscles are considered slow-twitch muscle fibers, since they are responsible for maintaining posture and balance against the forces of gravity. As such, training the core is an important part of any weight training workout.
The concept of elastic resistance training is a basic one. As you stretch the elastic band, the resistance will increase. The increased resistance provides a progressive stimulus to the muscle, which in turn builds strength and help increases muscle mass. Elastic resistance training has some unique benefits. It can work single or multiple joints at one time. This makes the exercises more functional and efficient. With traditional exercise equipment such as machines and free weights, gravity is the force that opposes the resistance. The user is sometimes limited to one specific exercise for each machine. In contrast, elastic resistance does not rely on gravity. Instead, its resistance is dependant on how far the band or tubing is stretched. Additionally, a variety of exercises can be performed with a single band or tube. You can progress the resistance by moving to a thicker band.
Unlike traditional machines, elastic resistance exercises can be performed in many planes of movement. This makes them more functional, especially if you are developing a sport-specific training program. Additionally, unlike most exercise machines, elastic exercises provide resistance in both the eccentric and concentric phases of muscular contraction.
Elastic tubing products include resistance tubes, which have handles, therabands, which are flat bands without handles and smaller ankle bands for leg exercises.
When you perform any series of strength training exercises, make sure to perform exercises that involve compound movements for the larger muscle groups prior to performing isolation exercises for the smaller muscle groups. For example, if you fatigue your generally weak triceps prior to performing a bench press, your form will be less than optimal while performing the bench press. This is because the triceps assist the pectoral in performing the press.
The speed of the lifting movement is also an important factor to consider. For best results, count one to two seconds for the lifting portion of the exercise and three to four seconds for the lowering portion of the movement. Avoid fast, jerky movements that rely on momentum, as opposed to muscle.
Strength training exercises are classified as closed or open kinetic chain. In closed chain exercises, the end of the chain farthest from the body is fixed. A good example of a closed chain exercise would be the squat. Your feet are fixed and the rest of the leg chain moves. In contrast, when your perform open chain exercises, the end is free, such as in a leg extension machine.
Closed chain exercises promote joint compression, which will make your joints more stable. In contrast, open chain exercises create shearing forces, which, in some cases, such as the leg extension machine, can actually cause instability.
Closed chain exercises usually engage more than one muscle group. For example, the leg press or a squat will work the quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteals. In comparison, open chain exercises like the leg extension machine usually involve muscle isolation.
Consider this: The hamstring/quadriceps strength ratio should be approximately 60-75%. In other words, your hamstrings should be 60-75% as strong as your quadriceps. Many women come nowhere near this ideal strength ratio. So when you plan your strength-training workout, avoid too many exercises that isolate the quadriceps.
When devising a strength-training program, it is important to be sure that you cover all of the major muscle groups of the body. While women may want to focus on what they consider to be their "problem areas," since we now know that there is no such thing as "spot reduction," it behooves you to work your entire body. These are the major lower body muscle groups that should be included in any women's weight training program.
Perhaps the most dramatic changes in a women's body can be brought about by a female strength training program. How does this work? Consider this: Many women think that they have large hips. What they actually have is a narrow shoulder area. In women, the bones of the hips are often significantly larger than the bones of your shoulders. As a result, they are often buying shoulder pads to make the body look more balanced. But what if we told you that you could develop a permanent set of shoulder pads?
By practicing women's weight training exercises such as the lateral raise, the military press and the front deltoid raise, you can re-define your shoulders, which will in turn make your hips look smaller! But let's not stop here! How much money do you spend on Wonder Bras, push-up bras, etc.? Do you realize that by performing exercises such as the bench press and the chest fly, you can create a sexy cleavage, and even make your breasts appear bigger and firmer? But wait! It gets even better.
Would you like a smaller waistline? When you work the muscles of your upper back known as the latissimus dorsi, they create a "V "shape in your torso, which in turn makes your waistline look smaller. The Lat Pulldown Machine is the best exercise for this purpose. While you are at it, since you've already created a cleavage in the front, why not balance it out with a cleavage in the back? Exercises such as the rear deltoid raise will define your upper back, making you look fabulous in low-back dresses and halter tops. Working your upper back will also improve your posture. Guess what? When you stand up straight, your stomach looks flatter!
These are just some of the benefits of a weight training program for women.
New moves to tone the triceps consistently top the list of requested arm exercises for women. Toning the triceps can be tricky, but the right moves can help you avoid that jiggly arm look and carry kids or groceries with ease.
Try this triceps toner that doesn't even require weights: the One-Arm Triceps Dip.
Cardiovascular exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, but strength training for women is especially important. Studies have shown that working out with weights twice a week improves bone density in women later in adulthood (when they are at risk for osteoporosis) if they strength train consistently over time. You don't need to lift heavy weights, either. Just one to three sets of 10-15 repetitions that feel moderately difficult will make a difference.
Make strength training part of your workout routine and you'll not only build your bones, you'll also reap these benefits:
One of the most commonly asked questions by novice exercisers is "What are the best arm exercises for women?" As you begin to learn more about your body, you will realize that muscle groups work together. So, in considering a workout that focuses on "arm exercises for women," you need to take a holistic approach and work the entire upper body. These are the major muscle groups to focus on:
There are some basics you should know when starting a new strength training workout. Take heed of these tips especially when starting new back or arm exercises.
If you are starting a strength training routine for the first time, it is important to remember that you need to allow your muscles to rest and heal after doing any resistance or weight training.
Here is a sample training schedule for a person who does a moderate amount of exercise each week:
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|