Weight training—also called strength or resistance training—has immediate and long-term benefits for women. Resistance training increases muscle strength by making muscles work against an external force or weight. This can be body weight (squats, lunges, planks), free weights (barbells, dumbbells), resistance bands, or weight machines.
The truth about weights and women
But many women don’t add weight to their workouts, thinking it’s unnecessary, that it will take too much effort, or the end result will be bulky muscles. Nicole Mallory, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and special programs coordinator at WellSpan Results Fitness, says the opposite is true.
“Women lack the male hormones needed to pack on muscle,” she says. Instead, regular weight training increases metabolism which makes it easier to lose fat and build muscle— leading to a shapelier physique. Resistance training also equals better bone health and reduced injuries, and helps make everyday tasks easier. The good news: “There’s never a wrong time in a woman’s life to begin a strength-training program,” says Mallory. “Anyone, at any point, will reap the benefits—whether they’re 20 years old or 80.”
A certified personal trainer can take the mystery out of resistance training by customizing a safe and effective program. They’ll demonstrate proper form and help choose poundage for weights. Mallory recommends circuit workouts that elevate the heart rate and incorporate compound exercises that use multiple muscle groups. The American Heart Association says adults should exercise each muscle group at least two times per week, performing one set of eight to 12 repetitions, working the muscles to the point of fatigue. Here’s a sample strength-training workout for beginners:
- 12 bicep curls
- 12 triceps extensions
- 12 chest presses
- 12 dumbbell rows
- 12 bodyweight squats
- 12 stationary lunges
- 12 side lunges
- 12 glute bridges
“Weight training can totally reshape your body,” says Mallory. “But your actual weight may not change. Pay attention to body composition changes and how your clothes fit, not the number on the scale.”