Strength training might once have been the realm of hulking males aiming to build as much muscle as possible, but active adults now recognize that strength training is beneficial to men and women alike. In fact, strength training can be especially beneficial to women, helping them develop and maintain strong bones and thereby reducing their risk for osteoporosis, a medical condition that afflicts more women than men and is characterized by weak or brittle bones.
Though women over 50 are most susceptible to osteoporosis, women of all ages can benefit from strength training. Those who are unfamiliar with such exercise may be hesitant to dive right in for fear of injury or due to the sometimes intimidating nature of strength training sections at fitness centers. But the following tips should help women overcome any such fears as they adapt to fitness regimens that include regular strength training.
• Work with a trainer initially. Strength training is great for the body, but women who have never before lifted a weight might want to employ the services of a personal trainer until they are comfortable enough to go it alone. Personal trainers can ensure you are performing exercises correctly and not in a way that can cause injury. In addition, trainers can answer any questions you might have and help you establish strength training goals.
• Begin with light weights. When starting a strength training regimen, use lighter weights, only increasing the weight once you are confident you have the motion of an exercise down pat and need a greater challenge. If you don't want to add too much weight, you can increase the number of reps so your workout stays challenging.
• Expect some soreness, but take stock of any aches and pains. You should expect to feel some moderate soreness after your first few strength training sessions. That soreness likely stems from your body never before engaging its muscles in the way strength training does. But any persistent aches and pains should be taken seriously. It's important to take note of where the pain is coming from, which can indicate whether or not you are performing exercises correctly. For example, your shoulders should not be inflamed or aching during or after a biceps workout. If they are, your form is probably off and you should consult a trainer to help ensure your form is correct and you are not risking injury.
• Work the entire body. Adequate strength training targets various muscles in the body, not just the arms. Women should make sure their strength training regimens include exercises for their shoulders, back, chest, arms, and legs. Focus on one or two muscle groups each workout.
• Spice things up from time to time. Many people eventually grow bored with their strength training regimens. Women can spice up their regimens by adding repetitions and lowering weights every four to six weeks or routinely looking for new muscle-specific exercises to replace exercises that have grown boring.
Strength training might be most often associated with men, but women can benefit from lifting weights in the immediate future and for years to come.