It’s time to build up some muscles! At the risk of sounding like a broken record, women should not fear weights. We are not genetically predisposed to bulk up like the boys do, and by training the body evenly you can build a strong yet shapely and completely feminine figure. I’ll leave it at that, the benefits of weight training have been touched on in previous articles and there is a wealth of information just an internet search away.
The following guidelines will allow you to mix and match and develop a weight training program to best suit your needs. There are a limitless number of possible combinations; you can modify depending upon your goals and fitness level and change things up at any point with ease.
Some words of advice before getting started:
Always warm up before lifting and stretch afterwards. Perform 5-10 minutes of light cardio, including dynamic movements to warm up the arms. Stretch thoroughly after lifting.
Quality over quantity. Don’t pick too heavy a weight or push through too many reps and sacrifice your form. All you will do is hurt yourself. Start light and heavy up if need be, and don’t feel bad about picking up a lighter weight to finish a set.
Eat before working out; some people claim cardio is better on an empty stomach, but we’re looking to build, not burn fat right now. Eat some whole grains or produce an hour or so before hand, then get some more good carbs and a good dose of protein within a half hour after finishing up. Your body needs that protein to rebuild the muscle you just broke down, so give it the fuel it needs.
Pay attention to what you are doing! Form is everything, if you aren’t doing the exercise properly, you may not even be hitting the right muscle. You could easily hurt yourself if or simply waste your time if you zone out and don’t focus. If you can, work out in front of a mirror. Sure, your husband may walk in and laugh at you for being so vain, but he’ll have it all wrong. What your body feels like it’s doing and what it actually is doing may be a little different; watch yourself through the exercises a couple times until you perfect your form.
Change your exercises occasionally to work your muscles in different ways.
There are two main ways to work your muscles – longer sets with lighter weights to work muscle endurance, or shorter sets with heavier weights to work strength. This topic is a whole article in itself, or even a book. I suggest you research the topic if you want to know more or send an email my way and I will tell you what I can. Basically, if you are looking to add the most muscle, lift as heavy as you can, lift slowly (up and down) and work to muscle failure- that means do as many as you can.
If you are not completely sure of how to perform an exercise, do a search for it. You can follow the links at the bottom of the page to see some demonstrations, or simply look them up on your own.
There will be three programs presented: total body; upper and lower body split; and one part per day. I won’t be discussing cardio, but if you can fit in at least 30 minutes a day, then you will be doing great. Do more for fat loss. If you can, it’s best to split your cardio and weight workouts during the day. OK that’s all.
First pick your program. Then pick your level. Then pick your exercises, remembering to change them up and avoid doing the same thing each time. Then have a go at it! Be safe, be focused, and have fun!
Beginners: 1 set of 12-16 reps; begin with a light weight and move up to what you are comfortable with. Intermediate: 2 sets of 10-12 reps; use the heaviest weight you can with good form, and move up or down in weight based on your first set. Advanced: 3 sets of 10-12 reps, using your personal heaviest weight, adjusting as needed.
Total Body: Perform this routine three times a week with at least one rest day in between. Choose one exercise per body part, changing exercises at least once during the week.
Squat variation, Chest, Back, Lunge variation, Biceps, Triceps, Hamstrings, Shoulders, Calves, Abs.
Upper/Lower Body Split: Perform each routine twice a week; alternating upper and lower on consecutive days is acceptable. Choose two exercises per body part.
Upper Body Day: Chest, Back, Shoulders, Biceps, Triceps, Abs.
Lower Body Day: Squat variation, Hamstrings, Lunge variation, Calf raises, Glute floorwork, Inner thigh floorwork, Outer thigh floorwork.
One Part Per Day: Your workouts will be shorter in length, probably around 20 minutes or so, a bit longer for the legs. For that reason, you can also combine two parts into a single day. This is most effective for more intermediate and advanced exercisers looking to add more muscle. Go heavy, put forth your best effort and remember to stretch afterwards. Pick 3-6 exercises per day, making sure to hit each muscle from every angle. For legs, don’t do 3 different types of squats- work the entire leg, I will leave the planning up to you. You may want to follow the above Lower Body Day schedule.
Day 1: Back, Day 2: Chest, Day 3: Legs, Day 4: Biceps, Day 5: Triceps, Day 6: Shoulders.
To combine it into a 3-day split, combine back & biceps, chest & triceps, legs & shoulders. Alternately, you can do shoulders on one of the upper days and have a leg day alone.
The Exercises: Again, be sure to look these up if you are not absolutely sure how to perform them with proper form. Many can be done with either a barbell or dumbbells, or even a resistance band or tubing. If you have access to other tools, such as a stability ball, that can make things even more interesting.
Chest: Push ups, flat bench press, incline bench press, flat dumbbell fly, incline dumbbell fly.
Back: Supermans, pull ups, one-arm lat row, bent-over row w/narrow grip (underhand or overhand), bent-over row w/wide grip (underhand or overhand), seated row (w/dumbbells or band)
Biceps: Curls, hammer curls, preach curls, concentration curls, incline curls, alternating curls.
Triceps: Lying overhead extensions (“skull-crushers”), seated overhead extension (“French press”), dips off a bench, kickbacks, close-grip bench press, triceps push ups.
Shoulders: Overhead press, side lateral raises, upright rows, front raises, rear delt fly, shrugs, Arnold press, side-lying rotations.
Squat Variations: Squats, hover squats, plie squats, narrow-stance squats, one-legged squats.
Lunge Variations: Lunges, rear lunges (dips), side lunges, walking lunges, static lunges.
Hamstrings: Straight-dead lift, one-leg dead lift, hamstring rolls, standing hamstring curls.
Lower Body Floorwork: Inner and outer thigh leg lifts, glute raises, etc.