Use it or lose it! That old adage definitely applies to your muscles. Women who don't do strength training exercises at least twice each week risk losing 1/2 pound of muscle every year. Lean muscle keeps your metabolism stimulated because muscle tissue needs more energy than other parts of your body. If you don't keep your muscles strong and toned, you risk getting flabby -- and nobody wants to be flabby! Don't worry about getting bulky. Women don't build muscle the same way men do.
Before you grab a barbell and start pumping iron, get a complete checkup from your doctor to make sure you haven't developed conditions that could make it dangerous to lift weights, such as osteoporosis and high blood pressure. Find a fitness professional to help you develop a workout plan so that you work your whole body. If you aren't already eating a nutrient-rich, low-fat, high protein diet, start now. You need good nutrition to repair and build muscle tissue. Remember to warmup before strength training and cool down when you finish a set. Don't do strength training on consecutive days. Give your muscles at least one full day to repair before working out again.
Working out 30 minutes a day, two days a week can build up your muscles and help prevent the dreaded flab. Bodyweight exercises are ideal for building up your muscles without exercise machines. Grab some dumbbells or a couple of jugs of water if you don't have dumbbells and work your muscles. Do each exercise for four minutes. Rest one minute and then move to the next exercise. Squats work your butt, calves, quadriceps and hamstrings. This exercise also works your back and abs. Pushups challenge multiple muscle groups, such as your chest, triceps on the back of your arms and your shoulders. Use a stair or a sturdy box to do step-ups and tone your calves, thighs and butt. Use a 2- to 5-pound dumbbell or a jug of water to do biceps rows to work your arms and shoulders. Lunges will not only tone your legs and glutes, but also work those hard to tame inner thighs. Finish off your work-out with some crunches to strengthen and tone your abs.
Integrated exercises are workouts that work every major muscle group. Bodyweight exercises, such as inchworms and spider walks are good for head-to-toe strengthening. Do inchworms by standing up straight and bending from the waist until your hands touch the floor. Walk out on your hands until your body is in a full plank position. Walk back on your hands and stand up straight again. Get on the floor on your hands and toes to do spider walks. Stay as close to the floor as possible while you bring your left knee forward and out to the left side of your body. Move your right hand forward. Repeat using your right knee and left hand to creep across the floor. You need to pump a little iron, too. Add some power clean lifts to finish off your whole body strengthening routine. Use a barbell to do power clean lifts. Start with light weights -- about 5 pounds -- and gradually increase the weight.
Exercise machines use weight resistance to work your muscles. Unless you have a full gym in your basement, you'll have to go to the gym or fitness club to use exercise machines. Try doing eight to 10 repetitions on each machine to get full body strength workout. Use cable tower machines to work your upper body, chest shoulders and arms. These machines are easy to use. You stand up straight and pull the cables. Lat pull-down machines target your latissimus dorsi muscle in the back, as well as your abdominal and arm muscles. You can sit on this machine and pull down on the weight bar. Leg presses work both of your legs at the same time, your abs and your glutes. The shoulder press works your upper body, especially your shoulders.
Robin Reichert is a certified nutrition consultant, certified personal trainer and professional writer. She has been studying health and fitness issues for more than 10 years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of San Francisco and a Master of Science in natural health from Clayton College.