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Women and Weight Training

In the past decade, more and more women have decided to include lifting weights as part of their workout routines. Their reasons vary – from the desire for more toned bodies, to the health benefits of greater strength, to the feeling of accomplishment that comes from achieving a new goal.

Whatever form the motivation takes, personal trainers and other experts say that the health benefits of weight training for women are extensive. Women who incorporate weight training into an exercise program can expect to enjoy:

– Stronger bones – because muscles used in weight training will pull on bones and make them stronger;

– Faster metabolism – because lean muscle mass increases basal metabolic rate;

– Better functional strength to do everyday tasks;

– Lower incidence of back pain – because their body’s core (midsection) has been strengthened;

– Better BMI (body mass index), thus lower risk of metabolic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

Unfortunately, many women are intimidated by the idea of weight training. They fear that they can’t do the strenuous routines, or that the men in a weight room will make them uncomfortable. Some women fear that if they work especially hard, they will become muscle-bound and look less feminine.

These fears are overblown and exaggerated. The truth is that any woman of any age can start weight training, as long as she does exercises that are appropriate, and as long as she does them with proper form. Also, a visit to the weight room at the gym isn’t necessary to begin a weight program. The exercises described below by can be done at home with inexpensive equipment that can be purchased at any sporting goods store.

These five weight training exercises are recommended by Gina McNeal, an American Council for Exercise-certified trainer in Silver Spring, Maryland. For each repetition of the following exercises, take two seconds to lift the weight and two seconds to lower it. Ms. McNeal recommends starting gradually, and working up to being able to perform 12 repetitions of each exercise (but only 6 for the V-Sit).

1. Squat (works the thighs and rear end): Bend knees and push your rear end out behind you as if to sit on a chair. Stand back up, pushing through heels. Do not let knees go past your toes. Hold a dumbbell in each hand to increase intensity.

2. Dumbbell Press (works the chest): Lie face up on the floor with knees bent. Hold dumbbells in hands, palms facing away from you, forearms perpendicular to the floor and elbows bent. Straighten elbows as you press dumbbells toward the ceiling, bringing the dumbbells together at the top of the move. This can be done with light hand weights instead of a dumbell.

3. Step-Up (works the thighs and rear end and improves balance): Stand in front of a set of stairs. Step up to the second step with one foot, then step up with the second foot. Lower the second foot back down to the ground and then bring the first foot back down. Repeat with the same foot until all reps are completed, then switch legs.

4. Exercise Band Row (works the upper and middle back): Wrap an exercise band or tube around a column, a heavy sofa leg, or other strong anchor, with one end in each hand, arms straight out in front of you. Walk back until you feel tension in the band. Squeeze shoulder blades together and bend elbows, pulling them behind you.

5. V-Sit (works the abdominals and low back): Sit on the floor with knees bent and heels about two feet in front of you. Sit up straight and tall, and then lean back, keeping back straight, until you feel tension in your abdominals. Hold position for ten seconds to start, increasing time as you get stronger.

Begin with these exercises, and you will notice the difference in as little as two weeks. After you have gained comfort (and strength), find a trainer who can help you take the next steps to super health and fitness.