Many women worry that lifting weights will make them look muscular and masculine. Not so! Most women have too little muscle-building testosterone to gain muscle in meaningful amounts without serious bodybuilding workouts. On the contrary, lifting weights can help tone your muscles, improve muscle definition and also strengthen your bones.
This workout is designed to be performed using nothing more than dumbbells and on non-consecutive days, for example; Monday, Wednesday and Friday. If you are unsure how to perform any of the exercises listed, recruit the help of your friendly neighborhood certified fitness trainer.
Perform two to four sets of each exercise and adjust your repetition range and recovery period according to your goals.
For strength: Three to five repetitions, three minute rests between sets. For muscle building: Six to 12 repetitions, two minute rests between sets. For muscular endurance: 13 to 20 repetitions, one minute rests between sets.
Warm up before each workout with some light cardio, dynamic stretching and mobility exercises and also perform one or two practice sets of each exercise. End each workout with a few more minutes of light cardio and stretches for all your major muscles.
Day One: Vertical Push and Pull
Day one is all about working your shoulders and side back muscles, more properly known as your deltoids and latissimus dorsi. For every vertical pushing exercise, you will also perform a vertical pulling exercise to keep your muscles balanced.
Perform the following exercises using your chosen repetition range: dumbbell shoulder press, dumbbell one arm bent over rows, dumbbell side lateral raises, dumbbell shrugs, dumbbell push press, dumbbell pullovers .
For an intensity boost, perform the exercises in alternating pairs; a training system called super sets. This halves your rest periods and saves time. For example, perform one set of dumbbell shoulder presses immediately followed by a set of wide grip lat pull downs. Take a rest and then repeat the pairing. Move on to the next pair and repeat.
Day Two: Horizontal Push and Pull
Day Two workout targets your chest and upper back; that's your pectoralis major and posterior deltoids, middle trapezius and rhomboids. Keeping these muscle groups balanced from front to rear will improve your posture and prevent slouching which is definitely not a good look.
Perform the following exercises using your chosen repetition range: dumbbell bench press, wide grip dumbbell rows, incline dumbbell bench press, dumbbell reverse flies, dumbbell flies, dumbbell external rotations.
As before, get your body ready for exercise by warming up properly. If you want to turn this, or any other, workout into a fat burner, perform the exercises as a non-stop circuit. The push/pull nature of the workout means that you should be able to do all six exercises back-to-back which will drive up your heart and breathing rate and increase energy expenditure and therefore your fat burning potential.
Day Three: Arms
So far, your arms have been involved in each workout but only in a supporting role. In this workout, your arms are the star. To get the most from this workout make sure you focus not just on how much weight you are lifting but how each exercise feels; try to make a strong mind/muscle connection.
Perform the following exercises using your chosen repetition range: dumbbell biceps curls, lying dumbbell triceps extensions, dumbbell concentration curls, dumbbell triceps kickbacks.
To crank up the intensity of this workout why not perform drop sets? A drop set simply means reducing the weight at the end of your set so you can do more repetitions than normal. For example, perform 12 repetitions with 20 pounds, immediately followed by eight reps using 15 pounds and finishing off with six reps with 12 pounds.
- Dumbbell Training for Strength and Fitness; Matt Brzycki and Fred Fornicola
- The Great Dumbbell Handbook: The Quick Reference Guide to Dumbbell Exercises; Michael Jespersen
- Men's Health Muscle: The World's Most Complete Guide to Building Your Body; Ian King
- The Complete Practical Encyclopedia of Fitness Training: Everything You Need to Know About Strength and Fitness; Andy Wadsworth
Patrick Dale is an experienced writer who has written for a plethora of international publications. A lecturer and trainer of trainers, he is a contributor to "Ultra-FIT" magazine and has been involved in fitness for more than 22 years. He authored the books "Military Fitness", "Live Long, Live Strong" and "No Gym? No Problem!" and served in the Royal Marines for five years.