Women are at an increased risk for osteoporosis and obesity over men, but exercise can reduce the risk for these and the associated ailments. Women can do the same workouts protocols as men and should not avoid strength training for fear of "bulking up."
Options for Workout Routines for Women
While cardio is good for your heart's functioning, strength training is particularly important for women to preserve muscle mass and slow bone loss.
Strength Training Workout for a Woman
If you are new to strength training, start with light weights and focus on your form before moving on to heavier weights. You'll know it's time to increase your weight when your reps feel easy. It's important for women to realize that no women get unintentionally "bulky like a man." Women with that physique have worked intentionally toward it, so increasing your lifting weight will only result in a stronger, fitter body.
- Start with a warm up to prepare your body for the workout.
- Do three sets of 10-12 weighted squats.
- Do three sets of 10-12 alternating weighted side bends.
- Do three sets of 10-12 alternating weighted lunges.
- Do a 60 second plank.
- Do three sets of 10-12 biceps curls.
- Do three sets of 10-12 overhead triceps extensions.
- Do three sets of 10-12 weighted calf raises.
- Do three sets of 10-12 weighted overhead presses.
- Either go through and repeat the sequence, or if you feel sufficiently fatigued, cool down and stretch.
Workout Routine for Women at Home
- Start with a warm up.
- Do jumping jacks for 60 seconds.
- Do three sets of 10-12 bodyweight squats.
- Do high knees or tuck jumps for 60 seconds.
- March in place (or lightly jog in place) for 60 seconds or until your heart rate comes back down a bit.
- Do three sets of 10-12 push-ups; you can start with these on your knees but aim to get toward a full push-up eventually.
- Do three sets of 10-12 crunches or full sit-ups.
- Alternate side planks for 60 seconds.
- Hold a plank for 60 seconds (your shoulders should feel fatigued by now - don't stop if you're shaking as long as there's no discomfort).
- Repeat the sequence, or if you feel sufficiently fatigued, cool down and stretch.
Exercises by Body Part
It's important to understand that so-called spot training (targeting one body part for fat reduction) doesn't work. Women also need to keep in mind that a higher fat percentage than men is normal - the female body is designed to hold on to fat stores for pregnancy and lactation, even if a woman doesn't get pregnant. So any woman wanting to rid herself of womanly curves (hips, thighs, glutes) should work on overall fat reduction through strength training and nutritional changes. Here are some common exercises and the body parts they strengthen - mix and match them into your workout regimen based on what part of your body you want to strengthen:
Lower Body and Legs
Women are typically stronger in their lower body than their upper body. Take advantage of this strength by adding heavy weight to these exercises.
- Frontal and rear lunges
- Calf raises
- Narrow squats
- Hamstring curls
Getting a big, curvy butt requires two things: strength work and calories. Genetics can help, too.
- Wide stance squats
- Hip extensions
- One-legged dead lifts
- Donkey kicks
Ab muscles won't appear if your abs are covered in a layer of fat, but strengthening your abdominal muscles yield important strength, stability, and balance benefits.
- Bicycle crunches
- Straight leg raises on bench
- Crunches and reverse crunches
- Back extensions
- Lat pulldowns
- Dumbbell front raises
- Biceps curls
- Triceps dips
- Push ups
Not only is cardio great for your heart, but it can also help you lose weight through burning excess calories. Do cardio at least three times per week for a minimum duration of 30 minutes. No cardio format is off limits for women - boot camps, boxing, and mixed martial arts, which were once considered "manly," are all open to women and great ways to get your heart pumping.
Building strength now will allow you to age gracefully and enjoy your independence. Since women traditionally outlive men, it's important to have a functioning body as you age.