Exercise and Weight Maintenance for Women
The Best Workout Routine Includes Weights and Cardio
Weight maintenance, especially after dieting for fat loss, is extremely important for women. Exercise and diet both play a role. Throughout the ages, women have believed that cardio is the best exercise for themselves. The myth of bulking up or building muscle is a scare as women want to slim down and tone up. Therefore, they avoid any kind of weight or resistance training. However, women are built differently from men. The chances of any woman bulking up is nearly impossible without illegal sports substances, over-the-counter sports enhancing supplements, or a high testosterone level.
Testosterone is a steroid hormone, usually associated with males, and is responsible for inducing and maintaining male secondary sex characters. Characters include growth in sexual organs, body hair, and facial hair. Changes in skeletal and muscular stature (i.e., broadening of the chest and increased strength), as well as deepening of the voice, also occur.
Though testosterone is normally thought of as a male hormone, women also have testosterone for bone and muscle maintenance, sexual libido, and other quality-of-life issues. Testosterone levels in women are only a portion of that in men though. Compared to men, women only have about five to 10 percent of this hormone. Because of this low percentage, they cannot make massive gains in muscle development as men.
This is good news for women who don't want to build bulky muscles! The truth is that weight and resistance training is important for all women in getting slim and toned. Below you will discover the benefits of weight training for women. Additionally, the types of workouts and how often you should workout as a woman will be discussed.
Osteoporosis is a debilitating disease where bone density is lessened due to loss of protein and mineral content, particularly calcium. Over time, bone mass and strength weaken resulting in fragile bones that may break easily. Even a sneeze could break bones. According to the Journal of Bone Mineral and Research, 45 percent of white women over the age of 50 have some form of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis can be prevented with strength training.
Benefits of Strength Training for Women
Strength or weight training for women has several benefits:
- Strengthens bone density. Weight training strengthens bones, thereby cutting the risk of osteoporosis. One study done by McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, found that bone density increased by 9 percent in postmenopausal women.
- Burns glycogen stores better. Glycogen must be burned to lose body fat. Unfortunately, women don't burn glyogen stores as well as men do. Weight training helps.
- Stimulates muscles. Instead of fat cells storing carbohydrates, weight training triggers muscles to store them.
- Amplifies metabolism. Chronic suppression of the thyroid hormone, T3, is facilitated with long durations of cardio workouts. Weightlifting actually boosts T3, and calories continue to burn for several hours after exercise is completed.
- Sculpts the body. Strength training can shape the body beautifully, whereas cardio only burns calories. Strength training also preserves muscle mass, where cardio can endanger the body of muscle loss.
Challenge Yourself With Compound Exercises
Weight Training Routines for Women
Weight training routines for women will not only provide a beautiful body, but they will provide a strong body along with self-confidence. Many in the bodybuilding or strength training world may tell you to "train like a man." Be careful with what you're encouraged to do. For women, the selection of exercise, as well as sets, repetitions, and frequency must be respected. Though women can't build muscle like men due to testosterone levels, they can still screw up their body proportions if they don't follow certain guidelines. Most women who desire the bikini body with curves in all the right places rarely want a thick torso or legs. Therefore, they must be careful on how and where they load up.
The best weight lifting routines for women include full-body or half-body workouts. Total body workouts consist of exercises that include upper body pushes, upper body pulls, and leg movements (i.e., squats, deadlifts, and lunges). A half-body workout consists of splitting workouts with exercising the upper body one day and lower body another day. A half-body workout has the same benefits but to a lesser degree. It's not as demanding on your metabolic system, but it is good to build a lagging body part that is out of proportion.
Sample Exercises for Women
To your upper right are three full-body movements that target several major muscle groups. These are challenging exercises but kills several birds with one stone by utilizing several muscle groups at the same time. Challenge yourself with these compound moves! However, be careful with your weights as you don't want to hurt yourself. Use enough weight to where you can possibly push one or two more repetitions after a normal set of 12 to 15. Repeat one to two more times. Incorporating this movement with a few more movements, even in a circuit fashion, will complete a full body workout.
4 Day Weight Lifting Routines for Women
- Monday and Thursday - Upper Body
- Tuesday and Friday - Lower Body
- Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday - Rest
- Monday - Upper Body
- Tuesday - Lower Body
- Wednesday - Rest
- Thursday - Full Body
- Friday - Rest
- Saturday - Full Body
- Sunday - Rest
How Often Should Women Workout
Depending on how much time and when you can train will determine how often you should workout. If you only have two to three days to workout, then you should do full-body workouts since all other types of workouts will not provide you with enough training for each muscle group. Space out your workouts as evenly as possible throughout the week. If you only have two days available during the week, you can make Monday and Thursday or Tuesday and Friday your workout days. If you have three days, you may opt for workouts on Monday-Wednesday-Friday or Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday.
If you have more than three days to workout, then you have a few different options. You may opt for half-body workouts or a combination of half-body and full-body workouts. Half-body workouts are great if you have two days in a row to workout. Whatever you decide, just allow at least 48 hours in between workouts for the same body parts. Your muscles need time to rest and repair before you work them again. To your right are a couple of different scenarios on weight lifting routines for women.
If you are dedicated and consistent, you can't fail on a three day full-body workout (a good diet needs to be in check as well). If you still feel you need to trim or build your legs or another body part after 8 weeks, then switch to four days of half-body workouts as you will be able to focus more on those body parts.
Ladies! Be careful with how much you load on side bends, squats, and deadlifts!
It may be vogue to tell women to train like a man. Though women can't build muscle like men due to testosterone levels, they can still screw up their body proportions. Women who desire the bikini body with curves in all the right places rarely want a thick torso or legs.
Choosing the Best Exercises for Women
If you are looking to have the dream bikini body, your selection of exercises is important. In planning your weight lifting routine, execute a few simple steps. Below are steps for planning full-body workouts:
- Choose 2 Upper Body Pull Exercises (i.e., lat pulldown, dumbbell row)
- Choose 2 Upper Body Push Exercises (i.e., chest press, shoulder press)
- Choose 1 Lower Body Exercise (either squat or deadlift)
- Choose 1 Lower Body Lunge Exercise (i.e., reverse lunge, lateral side lunge)
If you are doing three full-body workouts for the week, try to plan a different workout for each of those three days. By doing this, you will ensure that all your muscles are worked. Repeat the same workouts on the same days each week for six to 8 weeks before switching to a new routine.
A Great Abdominal Exercise
What Exercises Women Should Avoid
Avoiding exercises you don't need is a must. If you want to keep your waistline narrow, you should definitely avoid the side bend exercise, especially with weights. In fact, abdominal exercises are not necessary if you are doing full-body compound exercises as you will get core work with these exercises. If you want to do abdominal work, the best exercises are plank, side plank, and reverse crunches.
Other exercises to avoid are those targeting specific body parts that are already overly developed. If you have muscular legs, you definitely don't want to use heavy weights with squats and deadlifts. If you have muscular calves, then avoid calf raises. Instead, challenge yourself with exercises that target your lagging body parts.
Keep your body from adapting to cardio!
- Week 1: Do 2-3 sessions of 20 minutes steady state cardio at medium intensity.
- Week 2 to 6: Add 5 minutes to your cardio sessions each week for a total of 25 to 45 minute sessions.
- Week 7: Rest from cardio sessions completely.
- Week 8: Begin routine again or switch up to another cardio routine.
Cardio Exercises for Women
Full and half-body workouts done in circuit fashion need no extra aerobic exercises attached as they provide great cardio workouts in and of themselves. However, individual cardio workouts are great for exercising the heart muscles, getting oxygen to flow throughout the body, as well as lose body fat. You may add a couple of sessions onto your weight training plan. However, the body adapts quite quickly to cardio workouts. Therefore, it's a good idea to do a variety of them throughout the week. If you rather enjoy a steady flow of cardio, then switching up your routine every four to six weeks is a good idea. To keep your body from adapting to cardio, a sample routine is provided for you to the right.
More Great Exercises for Women
You don't need to hold yourself hostage to the gym or elliptical to maintain your. Instead, try other activities such as walking, hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, rowing, swimming, and more. Be adventurous and find what you enjoy. When you do, maintaining your weight will not seem like such a chore.
About the author
Abby Campbell, BSc, SFN, SSN, CPT, is a leading professional fitness and nutrition expert, researcher, and published author. For the past 10 years, she has coached thousands of women locally and online to lose body fat and lead healthy lifestyles. Her clients have lost thousands of pounds, reclaimed health, and call her “Coach No Gimmick.” She is from Northern Virginia but now resides near Charlotte, North Carolina. Abby has been married for 20 years and has three grown daughters, one of which is autistic. She is a 19 year cancer survivor.