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How to Start Weight Training (for Women)

Weight training is something many women steer clear of their whole lives. Misperceptions about 'bulking up' are one reason. Concern that you don't have the strength or stamina to lift weights is another. Fear that it will be painful and difficult. These are myths.

Just so you know, weight training is the same as resistance training and strength training. Women don't gain size from weight training. They sculpt their bodies and strengthen them. Women can use this to decrease fat, develop muscle tone and definition. Women also increase strength by 30-50% with weight training and protect their bones better against osteoporosis.

There are compelling reasons to lift weights as part of a fitness routine. Better health, appearance, strength and confidence are just a few. And then there's this: if you add muscle to your body, you will be able to eat more without gaining weight!

Women of every age should give weight training a try. Here's why, how to get started, and some resources that might help.

Instructions
Things You'll Need:

  1. A trainer or friend who is experienced in beginner level weight lifting OR a DVD/cable show to get you started
  2. Access to free weights and equipment is ideal but not mandatory
  3. Patience to learn proper technique and how to progress with more weight and/or more repetitions

MOTIVATE YOURSELF by knowing the BENEFITS

  1. Lifting weights will increase lean muscle tissue and increase your resting metabolism for 24 hours or longer after your exercise session.
  2. You will build stronger connective tissue and improve the stability of your joints. This helps reduce the risk of injuries.
  3. You'll improve coordination and balance.
  4. You will reduce heart disease and diabetes risks. If you already have diabetes, vigorous exercise and resistance training will help you drop your blood sugar levels.
  5. You'll improve bone density and reduce or even reverse bone loss or osteoporosis.
  6. You can reduce depression.
  7. You will be able to do aerobic/cardio exercise or perform athletic activities more vigorously.

GET READY

Do you know how/why weight training (also called resistance training) works? It's a process of challenging your muscles with extra weight, gradually and in increasing increments or repetitions. It actually builds strength by creating tiny tears in muscle tissue, which rapidly repairs itself, becoming bigger and stronger in the process. If you combine stretching with (or right after) your strength training work, you'll develop even more strength.

If you are new to weight training, you should 'approach with caution' and get some training from an experienced friend, a gym instructor or a cable program or DVD. A 30-minute session with 5 minutes of warm up is what you should aim for.

If you can, hire a personal trainer for a few sessions to 'show you the ropes'. This is a great way to begin and ensures you start slow and work smart. You can get guidance on specific areas of your body and the lifts or stretches designed for them. You can learn what not to do, how to avoid injuries. If you belong to a gym or fitness center, you can probably get instruction or assistance there. Learn how to use free weights before moving on to machines. Have your instructor make sure you are breathing properly during exercise; on exertion.

If you can't hire a trainer or join a gym, don't let that stop you. Really. You can learn at home and use your own weight along with inexpensive free weights (at Target, Walmart, etc). You can even use common household items. There are cable TV shows, or you can buy/rent DVDs that will walk you through how to start weight training for women.

Always warm up for at least 5 minutes before lifting weights. Learn the right way to lift weights and the wrong way. Practice proper technique and posture. Learn how many repetitions you need to do and how many sets for each activity. Set goals for yourself. Aim for weight lifting two or three times a week for about 30 minutes, with one or more days 'off' in between.

LEARN to WORK ALL THE MAJOR MUSCLE GROUPS

Make sure you at least try working all your major muscle groups. Even if your abs or arms are your chief concern, it's good to run through a complement of exercises that will benefit your whole body.

Upper body exercises: Include shoulders, chest, upper back, neck, and front/back of your arms.
Torso Exercises: Include abdominals, sides, and lower back.
Leg Exercises: Include front and back of thighs, buttocks and calves.

GET SUPPORT

Six weeks of FREE online beginner's strength training exercises are at http://exercise.about.com/cs/exbeginners/a/begstrength1.htm

If you're not sure the technique you're using is correct, maybe it doesn't feel or look right, there are ANIMATED EXERCISE TECHNIQUE on-line. One source is http://www.exrx.net.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has a great web site. If you click on 'Information for the Public', you can find fitness brochures, newsletters, resources on finding credentialled trainers, etc.

FUEL YOUR WEIGHT LIFTING SESSIONS

Make sure to get sufficient sleep the night before, and take care of your body's energy needs during weight lifting. Have a bottle of water handy to stay hydrated. Think about an energy bar, piece of fruit or sports drink before exercise.

Tips & Warnings
Rest and recovery days (between weight lifting sessions) are important and weight training will help you sculpt and strengthen like no other activity.

Please consult a physician before starting any diet program.

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