The benefits of regular strength-training are numerous – it can help burn more fat, keep your mind and body young and build stronger bones, just to name a few. A 2001 study published in “Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise” found that women who trained twice a week – the recommended amount for adults over 18 – improved their physical performance. For women who have never lifted weights before, it’s never too late to begin a weight-training routine.
Weights should be incorporated into your workout routine at least twice a week, although three times is optimum. More than three sessions a week runs the risk of not giving your muscles enough time to recover. For maximum benefit, devise a full-body workout for each session that uses your arm, ab, leg and back muscles. Do combination exercises, which work multiple muscles at one time, such as squats, which target the muscles in both the front and back of your legs. Each move you do, such as one squat, is called a repetition. A series of repetitions, ideally eight to 12, make up one set. By the end of the third set, the weight should feel so heavy that you’re barely able to do one more repetition without compromising proper form.
Weights Versus Machine
When a woman begins a training routine, she often wonders if she should lift free weights or utilize strength-training machines available in the gym. They both have advantages and disadvantages – using free weights allows you to incorporate combination exercises and target the stabilizing muscles you use in everyday life. However, if you don’t know the proper form, you’re more likely to injure yourself. While machine weights isolate muscles and generally are more limited in their use, it’s easier for beginners to perform exercises with proper form. When beginning, the American Council on Exercise recommends using machine weights for the first 10 to 12 weeks of the program so your body can adjust to lifting weights.
The biggest misconception about women lifting weights is that it could cause her to get big and bulky like male bodybuilders. However, because most women have lower amounts of testosterone, it's unlikely a woman will bulk up unless her genetics make her predispositioned to do so. Additionally, women who do gain eye-popping muscle mass typically require hours in the gym to do so -- something most busy women don't have time to do these days.
When beginning a weight-training routine, it’s important to maintain a nutritious diet so your body can build muscle. Women need to eat 1 gram of protein for every pound of body weight that does not come from fat, according to an interview with the author of “The New Rules for Weight Lifting,” Cassandra Forsythe. This means a woman who is 140 pounds and has 25 percent body fat needs 105 grams per day of protein, which can include lean meats such as poultry or fish, eggs or vegetarian protein such as soy products. If you cut your calories too much, you might lose muscle along with the fat you’re trying to burn.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: Effect of Resistance Training on Women's Strength/Power and Occupational Performances
- Oprah.com: The Genius of Weights
- American Council on Exercise: Free Weights vs. Strength-Training Equipment
- U.S. News and World Report Health: 8 Strength Training Tips for Women
- Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images
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