If you are like many women, you long for that toned, lean body with nary an ounce of flab. That last part may not be totally possible, but the former certainly is. But again, if you are like many women, you may have a fear of getting too bulky, so you're reluctant to strength-train, and you just stick with cardio. Or perhaps you want to do some resistance training, but you just don't know where to start and you need a bit of guidance.
Exercise can be intimidating when we don't know a lot about how to do it properly. There are many advantages to strength-training. Not only will you get a more toned, sculpted look, but greater muscle mass also means more calories burned, and it's an awesome way to promote healthy, strong bones. For all the ladies who are looking to get their pump on, here are a few tips to get you started.
DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE HEAVY WEIGHTS
If you really want to see changes in your body, you can't just stick with the five-pound dumbbells. A lot of women are afraid that heavy lifting will make them look like a dude, but it doesn't work like that. The amount of weight lifted is not what determines muscle size; supplements, diet and body type are. Higher amounts of body fat also create a bulkier look.
Lifting heavier weights produces all sorts of positive changes in the body that go far beyond creating more muscle mass. It makes bones stronger and denser, improves hormone regulation (which can make for more regular and easier menstrual cycles) and makes the central nervous system more resilient to stress, among other things. Many women think that high numbers of reps with lighter weights will help them tone up, but if the weight is too light there isn't enough resistance to build muscle, which is what tone is. It will simply increase your muscle endurance and, while that is beneficial, that is probably not exclusively what you are aiming for.
VARIETY IS IMPORTANT
When you first start out, you don't need to develop a complicated strength-training routine with a dozen different exercises. For the first six months or so you can stick with the basics: power cleans, dead lifts, bench presses, squats and the overhead press. But, once your body becomes acclimated to regular strength training, you will need to mix things up a bit to keep achieving gains in your strength. This will keep you from plateauing. And there is an added benefit in keeping your mind more engaged, keeping you more interested in working out.
LEARN PROPER FORM
Learning proper form is crucial for women who want to get the most out of strength-training. It's much better to learn it from the start, rather than get into bad habits and then try to break them months into your routine. It would be well worth it to book some sessions with a strength-training coach or invest in some good videos. Proper form is not only important for maximizing the benefits of your workout, but for safety reasons as well. You can get seriously injured when you lift weights improperly.
SET PERFORMANCE GOALS
If you want to get the most out of your strength-training, setting performance goals will be your best bet. No matter what your reasons are for wanting to get into better shape, or how related they may or may not be to your strength and performance, the best way to reach your goals is to set your sights on constantly upping your game with the weights. These tangible targets will be much easier to reach, and it will be much easier to stay motivated as you reach them and then set new ones. So, if you can't do more than five push-ups — the real ones, not the lady ones — set a goal to perform 10. If you are having trouble lifting more than 100 pounds, set a goal to be able to lift 110.
DON'T FORGET TO TARGET YOUR WEAK SPOTS
When it comes to strength-training, everyone has their stronger and weaker points. It's really fun to work on your strengths, but you can't forget to work on your weaknesses. For women, the weak spots tend to be the inner and outer thighs, mid- and upper back, shoulders and triceps. To strengthen these areas, do weight exercises that cater to these specific areas twice a week. Most women don't have a lot of upper body strength and it is crucial to train this area of your body at least twice a week...don't skimp on that second day.
Hopefully, this post made you a bit less intimidated by the thought of getting pumped up with weights. Just take things slowly at first. Make sure you follow a workout designed for beginners. You may start seeing changes in your body in as little as one week, which will motivate you to keep going.