Weight lifting for women has become very popular in recent years. Once considered to be solely the domain of men, nowadays we don’t bat an eyelid seeing women lifting weights.
Along with improving our appearance, weight lifting enables us to become stronger and experience the other benefits this form of exercise can deliver.
And it’s not just young adults who are taking it up. Weight lifting is also becoming increasingly popular with older women and men who want to experience its advantages.
Improving our muscle tone and strength, weight lifting can help to prevent falls. And being a weight-bearing exercise, it can build stronger bones.
In this article, we will discuss the facts and the myths of weight lifting for women. We will also look at some of its benefits and three exercises, that when combined, will give you a total body workout.
The Myths of Weight Lifting for Women
The most prevalent myth surrounding weight lifting for women is that it will cause us to bulk up and look like men. While it is possible for women to achieve a high degree of muscle mass with specific training if they want to do so, this doesn’t just naturally occur, because our hormones are different to a male’s hormones.
Hormones aside, ask any bodybuilder, and he or she will tell you just how much effort went into increasing their muscle mass. Bodybuilders do long workouts, often daily, for many months or even years using heavy weights. They follow strict and specific diets. Some also take dangerous steroids.
Another myth concerning weight lifting for women is that we should only ever lift “light” weights to avoid injury. It’s true that females do not usually start out with the same natural upper body strength as most males.
Sensible weight lifting routines for women take this into account. They recommend that we start with weights that will work our muscles without overstressing them, gradually progressing to heavier weights as our strength improves. Working out this way limits the likelihood of sustaining a muscle tear or other injury.
With regular workouts, you will be surprised at just how quickly your body will become accustomed to the weight you are using. When this occurs, you can use a heavier weight to keep your muscles challenged if desired.
What are the Benefits of Weight Lifting for Women?
The benefits of weight lifting for women are numerous. As part of a full-body workout, the added resistance and exertion of lifting weights can help to speed up weight loss due to increased calorie burn.
Another of the weight lifting benefits for women is that it is excellent for maintaining and even increasing bone density. As we women age and lose estrogen, our bones can lose density. When this happens, they become more fragile.
A loss of bone mass can also lead to the development of osteoporosis, which leaves our bones susceptible to breaking. Weight-bearing exercise, such as that provided by strength workouts, greatly reduces the risk of this occurring.
A good weight lifting program focuses on the whole body, providing the added benefit of improving the immune system. This benefit comes about as a result of the movement made during workouts stimulating the lymphatic system which is dependent on muscle contraction to work efficiently. The lymphatic system helps to remove toxins from our cells, and it is an essential part of fighting infection and viruses.
Short beginner level weight lifting for women routine
Weight Training Programs for Women Versus Those for Men
There are two main differences between weight training programs for women and those designed for men. Taking into account that women usually have less upper body strength than men, many weight training programs for women focus on upper body workouts.
On the flip side, women tend to have more leg strength than men. Due to this inherent imbalance in body strength between the genders, it’s common to see guys obsessing over squats at the gym, with women concentrating on working their triceps.
What are the Best Weight Lifting Routines for Women?
Most of the best weight lifting routines for women are the same as those for men in many ways. Every individual should focus on the areas they would most like to improve.
When doing cardio, women, especially those over the age of 35, usually have more stamina and endurance than men. Many weight lifting routines for women take advantage of this by incorporating extra movement into the exercises to burn more calories.
A lot of the best weight lifting routines for women target more than one muscle group.
Here are three exercises to try:
- Decline Sit-Up
The Decline Sit-Up is great for the abs.
Lie with your back resting on a decline bench or over an exercise ball, holding a dumbbell in each hand. With your hands behind your head or resting against your chest (whichever is the most comfortable), do sit-ups.
Repeat for the desired number of reps.
Tip: Add a slight twist as you sit up, to work your obliques.
- Lunge & Curl to Press
Lunge & Curl to Press works the core, legs, and upper body.
Start by standing with a dumbbell held in each of your hands. Lunge forward with your left leg, lowering yourself until your right knee is just above floor level. Return to your starting position. At the same time, with your palms facing upwards, curl the dumbbells towards your shoulders until your elbows are fully bent. Rotate your arms out to the sides, then press the dumbbells overhead in a smooth movement before slowly lowering them.
Repeat the sequence for the desired number of reps.
- Chest Press and Fly
Chest Press and Fly is an excellent exercise that targets the entire upper body.
Using a recline leg bench or lying on your back on a stability ball, hold your weights at chest level with your palms facing each other. Straighten your elbows, pushing the weights straight up, being careful not to over-extend. Open your arms wide, allowing the weights to lower to the sides, slightly behind your body. Your arms should now be almost parallel with the floor. Reverse the move, returning to your starting position.
Repeat for the desired number of reps.
Weight Lifting Program Considerations
A safe and efficient weight lifting program requires some basic considerations. Included among these is diet. Healthy eating and portion control are necessary to provide the proper fuel to support muscle recovery. Without this, injury and exhaustion can occur.
Your lifestyle is also important, and efficiency is key. Many seemingly good fitness plans fail because they are impractical, not taking into account that few people can spend hours at the gym each week. Formulate your program so that it can be done in under 45 minutes, and create a second, shorter program for those times you can’t fit in a full workout.
Beginner Weight Lifting Program for Women
If you are looking for a beginner weight lifting program for women, it’s a good idea to hire a personal trainer for at least one session. He or she will customize a program that is specific to your needs and shows you how to use the relevant machines and weights safely.
If you can’t afford a trainer, ask around. Many will help without charge, and gyms often give new members a free hour-long session with a trainer. If neither option is available to you, check out the fitness site called Spark People. There you will find lots of free workout advice that has been validated by professionals for health and safety.
Another option is to buy a book on weight lifting for women or to Google or search for routines on YouTube.
Final Thoughts on Weight Lifting for Women
If you’re a woman looking for a way to gain strength and improve your muscle tone, I highly recommend weight lifting. If you are consistent, weight lifting for women as well as men will quickly deliver results.
Hand weights are relatively inexpensive to purchase, and they don’t take up much space. People of any age can use them to improve their muscles tone and strength and help guard against bone thinning. And, with your own weights, you will be able to work out at home, whenever you feel like it.
Another bonus with weight lifting is that it will help you lose weight. This is due to the workout itself burning calories. Also, people with good muscle tone and a low percentage of body fat burn more calories, even while at rest, than people with a high body fat level.
These are just some of the many benefits of weight lifting for women. To burn even more calories and to increase your cardio health, try combining HIIT and weight training. (Click the previous link to find out how.)
For more information on the various aspects of weight lifting for women, click the link to the right to read A Guide to Weight Training for Women.