Weight training helps you looked toned and taut while ensuring that your metabolism stays fired up and that you can perform daily activities with ease. It'll also help you maintain bone health, enhance your mood, ward off chronic disease and combat pain. Women do not need to fear bulking up as a result of weight training and should instead embrace weights as an essential part of any healthy exercise program. Consider hiring a certified personal trainer for even a few sessions to help you learn proper form and design a program tailored to your needs. If you prefer not to hire a trainer, learn what you need to do to get started on your own.
When you first start training, do only body-weight exercises. This will help you hone your form and prevent you from overdoing it in the first few weeks. Once you can easily do 12 repetitions of body-weight exercises, move on to weight machines, which allow you to use more resistance, but learn a specific movement correctly without cheating. Over time, incorporate free weights, such as dumbbells, kettlebells and barbells in your weight-training routine. Free weights provide more versatility and help you engage stabilizing muscles that you might miss if you stick to machines alone.
Designing a Program
A comprehensive strength-training program addresses all the major muscle groups, including the hips, abdominals, back, chest, legs, arms and shoulders. When starting out, train two or three days per week; do not train on consecutive days, though, as your muscles need at least 48 hours to recover between strength workouts. In your first workouts, plan to perform just one set of 10 to 15 repetitions of each body-weight exercise. When you add resistance in the form of machines, and then again with free weights, you'll start with one set of eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise in your program. Over the course of a few weeks, you can add another set or two as well as increase the weight. The last two to three repetitions in each set should feel challenging to complete with good form.
Exercises to Include
Fill your first workout sessions with body-weight exercises such as squats, pushups -- modified against a wall or on your knees -- triceps dips, spinal balances, lunges and crunches. After you feel comfortable doing multiple repetitions of these exercises, move on to machine exercises such as the lat pull-down, seated chest press, leg press machine, leg curl machine, military press machine, cable biceps curls and triceps cable press downs. After four to six weeks of training on machines, begin to add in free-weight exercises. For example, use a kettlebell to perform a three-point row for the back; use a light barbell for bench presses to target the chest; hold a weight plate at your chest as you perform squats and hold dumbbells for biceps curls and triceps kickbacks. Overtime and as you learn new exercises, you can shift your entire routine to one that includes just free weights.
Change Is Key
Before you get too comfortable with one weight-training routine, change it. Beginners see gains relatively quickly, explains the American Council on Exercise. As training becomes part of your weekly routine, though, those gains slow down. To keep from plateauing altogether, change your workouts every four to six weeks. This change could be as simple as performing the exercises in a different order, increasing the weight by 5 or 10 percent and decreasing the repetitions performed, or adding in a few entirely new moves.