Adding a weight workout to your fitness routine will do your body and your confidence level a world of good. Not only does strength training give you lean, toned muscles, but building your muscles also helps you burn more calories even when you're not working out. With that kind of motivation, you're probably already on the floor doing some crunches. Before you start, though, find out how much strength training you should do to get your body in the best shape possible.
The basic guidelines for strength training from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state adults should perform muscle-strengthening activities two days a week. The sessions should include every major muscle group. This means your legs, arms, back, abs, chest, shoulders and buns. During your workout, you should do one set of 8 to 12 repetitions of each exercise. For even better results, work up to two to three sets of each exercise.
Working in Workouts
If it sounds like it's going to take too long to work two long strength-training sessions that target every muscle group into your schedule, it's OK to break up the workouts into smaller chunks. Your goal should be to put every major muscle group through one to three sets of exercises two times each week. For example, you can work your legs, arms and abs on Tuesday and Thursday, then work your buns, chest, back and shoulders on Monday and Wednesday. The key aspect of the guidelines is to work each muscle group twice a week to see the best benefits.
If your first thought of strength training is hooking yourself up to a gym machine, think again. Strength training takes a variety of forms. It's up to you to find out which one appeals to you, your budget and your schedule. You can go to the gym and use machines or weights, but this requires paying for a membership and getting to the gym. Still, many women find gyms motivate them to work out.
At home, you can use your own body weight to build muscles with exercises such as pushups, squats and crunches. As you gain strength, you can add in resistance bands and light hand weights to your routine. You can also do yoga or Pilates, either with a DVD at home or in a group class.
Keep Up the Cardio
In addition to your strength-training regimen, it's important get aerobic exercise to stay fit, strengthen your heart and burn fat. The CDC recommends adults get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, 75 minutes of intense activity or a mix of the two each week. As with your strength training, this time can be broken up into short workouts throughout the week. For you to see benefits, the short workouts should last at least 10 minutes at a time. As you get in better shape, you'll really improve your health if you double your aerobic activity.
Based in Portland, Ore., Tammie Painter has been writing garden, fitness, science and travel articles since 2008. Her articles have appeared in magazines such as "Herb Companion" and "Northwest Travel" and she is the author of six books. Painter earned her Bachelor of Science in biology from Portland State University.