Strength training is essential for women to build bone density, muscle strength and self esteem. And a trimmed, toned body doesn't hurt either. Hundreds of strength training exercises are available, but some exercises are more beneficial to you than others. You need exercises that focus on multiple muscle groups, functional body movements and powerful movements; five exercises fit this bill.
Because of the powerful movement required to perform, chest presses are essential to include in your strength training routine. Upper body strength does not come as naturally for women as it does for men, but a chest press can help you close the gap. Among the chest press variations, a dumbbell chest press will result in better tone. An because each arm needs to work independently to prevent you from dropping the weights, you will strengthen more of your arm muscles. Complete three sets of 12 repetitions of dumbbell chest presses, choosing a weight that completes each set at failure.
Rows strengthen all the upper body muscles a chest press misses, and thus it is an essential part of your strength training. Rows help to pull your shoulders back and improve your posture, making them a confidence-builder. To reap the most benefits, try seated cable rows. They allow you to retract both shoulder blades fully, focus on tall posture and easily adjust and progress your weight. Three sets of 12 repetitions of a weight that results in failure on the last rep is ideal.
Do not neglect your core in strength training; without a strong core, there is no connection between your arm and leg strength. An exercise that works all your core muscles is the cable twist. By doing three sets of 12 repetitions of cable twists, you can improve the strength and tone of your core. Make sure to keep your arms straight as you twist, and lead the motion with your torso rather than your arms. Choose a weight that leads to failure on the last rep, and you will have ripped abs in no time.
Squats and Lunges
Rounding out your five essential strength training exercises are two leg exercises: squats and lunges. Both of these exercises are powerful leg strengtheners that will strengthen every muscle in your legs. Try squats with dumbbells resting on your shoulders or a barbell across your back, completing 12 repetitions through three sets. For lunges, hold dumbbells at your sides and take 10 forward lunges with each leg for three sets. Make sure to move through a full range of motion in both exercises, with your squats reaching near a 90-degree knee bend, and your back knee nearly touching the ground in your lunges.
Scotty Brunning is a Chicago-based health and fitness writer. Having worked with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cooper Fitness Center in Dallas, he has a plethora of fitness experience. He is an ACSM-certified health fitness specialist and a Cooper Institute master fitness specialist. Brunning holds a master's degree in health and fitness.