A myriad of misconceptions surround the world of weight training, including the idea that only men need to lift weights or heavy dumbbells will cause a woman to get “bulky.” Some of these myths might be why you haven’t tried weight training in the past, but forget the excuses. Women benefit from weight training just as much as men and doing so consistently and properly will help you to become stronger and healthier, not bulky. As a beginner, start slow and focus on form – you’ll progress quickly without the risk of injury.
Weight-training benefits include stronger muscles and bones, weight management and reduced risk of arthritis and injuries when performing day-to-day activities. But to reap these benefits, weight training needs to be done consistently -- ideally, incorporate it into your routine two to three nonconsecutive days per week. Consider starting out with the assistance of a certified fitness professional, who can teach you both safe techniques and effective exercises. At the beginning of your training regimen, aim to lift weights for one set of eight to 12 repetitions. As you progress, increase to two to three sets per exercise, eventually increasing the size of the weight by 5 to 10 percent when you can effectively do three sets of 12 reps.
Free Weights Vs. Machines
If you choose to join a gym to begin your weight-training routine, you’ll have to make a choice -- free weights or machine weights (or neither, as body weight is effective, too). For beginners, machines are typically a better choice, according to the American Council on Exercise, because they follow a set path and force the user into proper form. Additionally, they allow you to isolate and strengthen specific muscles before moving onto free weights, which require both a better knowledge of form, coordination and stronger muscles and joints. If you only have a set of dumbbells available to you, don’t worry -- talk to a fitness professional, who can help you lift the available weights safely.
The most standard of weight-training exercises have been around for a long time for one reason – they’re effective. An exercise doesn’t have to be complicated to work, so incorporate at least one simple exercise to target each body part for a full-body strength session. Some effective upper-body workouts include shoulder and chest presses, bicep curls, triceps extensions and upright rows. To work your lower body, try squats (done with or without weights), lunges, heel raises and step-ups. Finally, don’t neglect your core -- although crunches have their place in a workout, other exercises, such as planks, are gentler on your lower back.
Everyone makes mistakes, but certain ones can be avoided when it comes to weight training. This includes the classic case of overtraining, inspired by the idea that if two or three strength sessions a week produce results, then five, six or seven sessions must produce even more. In weight training, that’s simply not the case – your muscles need time to rest and repair the torn fibers in order to grow stronger. If you desperately feel the need to lift weights nearly every day of the week, split your exercises up into smaller body parts during each session. At least one day a week, take a full break from the weights -- your body will thank you for it.
Kelsey Casselbury has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Penn State-University Park. She has a long career in print and web media, including serving as a managing editor for a monthly nutrition magazine and food editor for a Maryland lifestyle publication. She also owns an Etsy shop selling custom invitations and prints.