In most gyms, females gravitate toward the cardio section while males dominate the weight room floor. Although cardio exercise is an important aspect of fitness, weight training is essential for strengthening and shaping your muscles. Weight training tones muscles by using external resistance, such as dumbbells and barbells, to stress muscles to increase their strength and size. Muscles adapt in the specific way they are trained. This means if you want firmer glutes or sculpted shoulders, you need to target those exact muscles in your weight-training routine. You should select a variety of exercises that target all major muscle groups for full-body toning.
Weight training can strengthen and tone muscles without making you look bulky. The change that occurs in the muscle is an adaptation called hypertrophy. Hypertrophy results when the weight lifted or the number of repetitions performed adequately stresses a muscle. A woman's body has too little testosterone and too much estrogen to make you look like a bodybuilder from weight training. Weight training two to three days per week for 30 to 60 minutes will help you achieve a toned physique. You should lift a weight heavy enough to fatigue your muscles in eight to 12 repetitions.
A single-arm dumbbell row primarily strengthens your latissimus dorsi. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand and place your left hand and left knee on a bench. Keeping a neutral spine and slight bend in your right knee, pull the dumbbell up to the right side of your body to waist height. Slowly release the dumbbell back to its starting position to complete the movement. Finish all repetitions on the right side before switching to the left. Bench presses work your chest. Lie on a bench holding a barbell above your chest with straight arms and a two-hand, palms-down grip. Slowly bend your elbows to 90 degrees while lowering the bar toward your chest. Reverse the movement by extending your arms and returning the barbell to its starting position.
Dumbbell squats target your glutes and quadriceps. Stand with your feet parallel, a neutral spine and one dumbbell in each hand. Slowly hinge your hips back, sending your glutes toward the wall behind you while bending your knees to 90 degrees. Press your heels into the floor while driving your hips forward to return to standing. Keep your chest lifted and your core tight throughout the entire range of motion. Barbell stiff-legged deadlifts train your glutes and hamstrings. Stand with your feet hip-width apart holding a barbell across your thighs with a two-hand, palms-down grip. Keeping your spine neutral and a slight bend in your knees, slowly hinge your upper body forward at your hips while lowering the barbell toward the floor. Keep your eye gaze forward to maintain a lifted chest. Contract your glutes and hamstrings to return the body to its standing position.
Medicine ball twists strengthen your rectus and transverse abdominis. Sit on the ground with your knees bent 90 degrees, your spine erect and your heels pressed into the floor. Keeping your core tight hold a medicine ball with both hands slightly above navel level. Maintaining the ball position, slowly rotate your torso to your right side, back through center and then to your left side. Inhale as you rotate your torso and exhale as you return to center.
Increase the intensity of your workout by merging two exercises together. Compound exercises work more than one joint and more than one muscle group simultaneously. An alternating forward lunge with a dumbbell bicep curl is a compound exercise. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, core tight and a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing up. Step forward with your right foot dropping your hips toward the floor and bending both knees to 90 degrees. When you reach the bottom of the lunge, contract your biceps to curl the dumbbells toward your chest. Release the dumbbells to their starting position and push off the right foot to return back to standing. Repeat the movement on the other side.
- University of California, San Diego Muscle Physiology: Hypertrophy
- ACE Fitness: Exercise Library: Barbell Exercises
- ACE Fitness: Exercise Library: Dumbbell Exercises
- MayoClinic.com: Weight Training: Improve Your Muscular Fitness
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Be Active Your Way: A Fact Sheet for Adults
- ACE Fitness: What Exercises Should I Perform if I’m Trying to Gain Weight?
Amanda McVey has been teaching fitness and personal training since 2008 in the San Francisco, New York City and Seattle markets. She is an ACSM certified personal trainer, AFAA certified group fitness instructor and UGI master trainer. McVey has many credits to her education including indoor cycling, pre- and postnatal, TRX, rip training, and trigger point therapy.