Many women shy away from strength training because they want to avoid developing large, bulky muscles. But that’s a common misconception that can cost women access to a key component of overall health and fitness.
Strength training is ideal for increasing muscle definition and developing long, lean muscle mass. In addition, women who perform strength-training exercises preserve muscle mass, reduce their risk of injury, and decrease their risk of osteoporosis.
The key to strength-training as a woman: perform the right strength-training exercises and combine them with a sensible diet and aerobic activity. For best results, women should perform strength-training exercises three days per week for between 15 and 45 minutes. Beginners can perform strength-training exercises two days per week for as long as is comfortable.
Our physical therapy director, Peter Tonsoline, PT, ATC, recommends the following exercises. He also states that a consultation with a physical therapist or strength and conditioning coach would be helpful for proper demonstration for beginners.
Here are our top 5 strength exercises for women:
Squats & Lunges
Squats and lunges are closely related, basic exercises that come with enormous benefits. Squats are a great conditioning exercise that work your quads, your glutes, your hamstrings, and your lower back — all in a single movement. Lunges work your quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, and core muscles. And both exercises will help improve balance and coordination.
Single-leg training exercises, like step ups, can help strengthen the muscles that stabilize your body and can help even out imbalances (if, for example, your right side is stronger than your left). As you work, you’re building lower body strength and improving balance and coordination. To perform the exercise, step up onto a box or other surface and drive your other leg up so that your knee reaches waist height. Lower your leg and return to starting position with both feet flat on the ground.
Plank & Variations
The plank, a yoga pose that is one of the most widely-known exercises, is ideal for strength training. In addition to strengthening the arms and wrists, planking also tones your abdominal muscles, strengthens and stretches your spine, and improves balance and coordination. There are several variations, including ones that involve lifting one arm or leg while holding the pose and side plank poses.
Pushups are great for building strength in the chest, shoulders, and triceps. And as an added bonus, they’ll strengthen and stabilize your torso and lower back. If you’re experienced with pushups, try a few variations, such as one-handed or one-legged versions. You can also elevate your feet for added benefit.
Don’t Overdo It
Remember that building strength is something that happens over time. To avoid injury, focus on mastering the form. Add repetition slowly — and only add hand weights once you’re comfortable with an exercise. Finally, as with any exercise regimen, check with your doctor before you get started and be sure that any underlying medical issues or old injuries have been addressed.
Unfortunately, caution won’t protect you from every injury. If you suffer an injury, it’s important to consult an orthopaedic specialist for proper diagnosis and treatment. For expert evaluation and treatment of sudden injuries, choose UB OrthoCare.