In my career as a personal trainer, I heard the same story time and time again. Women would come to me who had been exercising off and on for years, walking, running, swimming, spinning, but none of them had considered weight lifting. For a lot of them, the idea of venturing over to the weights side of the gym was just too intimidating. All those aggressively grunting men were an understandable deterrent. For many, they had absolutely no idea where to begin.
Weight lifting is a critical component for women’s health and fitness. The benefits of strength training, when done correctly, are far reaching and can serve women well as they age through menopause and beyond. Strength training has been shown to help in the fight against bone density loss and incorporating a weight lifting routine into your regular workout is a great way to improve muscle tone and help prevent injury.
Another benefit of weight lifting is the build-up of lean muscle. As you increase your lean muscle mass, you will also increase your resting metabolism burning more calories a day. Some women fear that they will become too bulky if they start lifting weights, but this is an unfounded fear. Even most men find it difficult to achieve the kind of pumped up images seen on the covers of body building magazines, and women who lift free of the chemical supplements are at no risk of becoming bulked up.
So where to begin? It is important when beginning any new exercise to be sure that you are medically and physically able to perform the workouts safely. If necessary, check with your doctor. Once you are cleared for takeoff, the next step is to accept that there is no such thing as a quick start when it comes to weight lifting. Low and slow is the rule of thumb and the best way to ensure that you do everything possible to prevent injury. Start with weights that are comfortable to lift, even if they feel light for the first few reps, by the time you have completed several sets you will likely notice they seem decidedly heavier. Move up in weight slowly, this should be a long term project not an attempt at instant gratification. Here are a few basic upper and lower body exercises to get you started.
Basic Dumb Bell Bicep Curl:
Stand with your feet straight and shoulders width apart. Hold a dumb bell in each hand with your palms facing out. Keep your elbows locked close to your body. Using a controlled motion, curl one dumb bell up toward your shoulder keeping your elbows locked. Lower back to start position continuing to use a controlled motion and repeat on the other arm. Complete three sets of 10-12 alternating repetitions.
Shoulder Around the Worlds:
Choose a set of light weights, about 3-5 pounds each. Stand with feet straight, shoulders width apart with one weight in each hand with arms lowered, hands in front of your thighs, palms facing out. Keeping elbows straight, sweep arms out and over your head so that weights touch in the middle. Lower back down to start position before repeating. Complete three sets of 10-12 repetitions.
Dumb Bell Goblet Squat:
Choose one dumb bell of moderate to heavy weight (depending on your own comfort level). Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulders width, toes facing out at about a 45 degree angle. Hold the weight at chest level by one end with both hands so that the other end dangles down. Think about how you might hold a large goblet, or wine glass. Using a slow, controlled motion, squat down pressing your backside out as you lower. Avoid letting your knees drift over the line of your toes. Return to upright position and repeat for three sets of 10-12 repetitions.
There are so many great strength training exercises out there that are well within reach for any skill level. Just remember to start slow, and consider hiring a professional trainer at least to get you started. Here’s to a strong and healthy lifetime!