Next time you hit the gym, take note of the natural segregation between men and women. The men can usually be found lifting weights, while most women do cardio for exercise. Some will argue that this stereotype is merely a stereotype. Plenty of ladies lift. However, according to the National Center of Health, only 20% of women do any form of strength training on a regular basis, while Running USA and ACTIVE Network found that noticeably more women than men participate in cardio-intense running events like marathons. Running is great, but endless cardio with no strength training leads to an imbalance in your fitness regime.
Weight training does more than sculpt your arms and calves; it’s the secret to fat loss and has the power to transform your body. By incorporating some simple exercise moves into your workout routine you can burn, tone, tighten, and build lean muscle. Here’s where to start:
1. Split squat
What woman doesn’t want a strong, shapely butt? This squat variation is effective because it not only focuses on your glutes, but it also hits your abdominal muscles and lower back. Grab a pair of dumbbells and find a bench or stable surface of a similar height. Stand a few feet in front of the bench and bring your right leg back so your toes rest on the surface of the bench while you remain standing on your left leg.
Keep your torso straight and bend your left leg to lower your body straight down. Make sure that your left knee doesn’t bend over your toes. If it does, move your left foot forward. As you lower down, your right knee will bend toward the floor. Before it touches, contract the glutes and quads in your left leg to stand back up. Do three sets of 12 to 15 reps per leg. Slowly increase the dumbbell weight over time to add muscle mass and lift your glutes.
2. One-arm rows
By working on your posture and banishing rounded shoulders, you’ll naturally look longer and leaner. This exercise strengthens your back muscles to improve posture while targeting your biceps and shoulders. Grab a dumbbell with your right hand, palm facing the body. Take a giant step forward with your left leg into lunge position. Bend the left knee and straighten your right leg behind you, coming up on your toes. Rest your left elbow on your left knee and take a moment to straighten your back. Keep your upper body steady as you tighten your stomach and bring the dumbbell up towards your armpit. Slowly lower down until your right arm is straight and repeat eight to 15 times for three sets on each side.
3. Chest press
Compared to men, women often have weak upper body pushing mechanics. This exercise builds muscle where it’s needed with a special focus on your triceps. Grab two dumbbells and start by lying on your back on an exercise bench or on the ground with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Lift both dumbbells above your chest so they touch above you. Press your shoulders down and away from your ears, locking them in position. When you’re ready, bend at your elbows and open your hands until your forearms are perpendicular to the floor. Your elbows will be just below your shoulders with your upper arms opened at a 45-degree angle from your sides. Then, press the dumbbells back up to the starting position.
4. Ball rollout
For strength and stabilization from head to toe, grab a large Swiss ball and give this exercise a try. Come onto your knees and put your forearms on top of the ball. Your knees should be far away enough from the ball so that your shoulders, hips, and knees are in a straight line. Slowly roll the elbows forward on the ball a few inches and return back to your starting position. Once you’ve gotten the hang of this movement, perform the same exercise with your knees off the ground.
5. Stiff-legged deadlift
Incorporating lower body strength training exercises into your routine can increase your metabolism and aid in weight loss. Focusing on larger muscle groups, like your hamstrings, requires more energy and burns more calories. This exercise isolates your hamstrings so well you’ll only need to perform it once a week. Start standing with a barbell set on the floor in front of you. Bring your feet into a wide stance as your toes point outward at a 45-degree angle. Bend at your hips and grasp the bar with a shoulder-width grip. Slightly bend your knees and keep your back flat, bringing the bar close to your shins. Tighten your hamstrings and extend your hips as you bring the bar up along the front of your legs as they straighten. When your body is upright and the bar is in front of your thighs, slowly lower back down and repeat for eight to 10 reps, increasing weight as you progress.
6. Bicycle crunches
The bicycle crunch is one of the most effective core exercises for working the abs, obliques, and hips. Lie on your back with your knees bent in line with your hips. Put your hands behind your head or neck and tighten your stomach muscles. Begin by bringing your left knee in toward your chest as you lift up your torso and twist, reaching your right elbow towards your left knee. Then, lower the left leg a couple inches from the floor as your right knee comes in and your torso twists to the right, as you bring your left elbow to right knee. Repeat continuously, without stopping, until you complete one set of eight to 15 reps. Perform a total of three complete sets.