Weight lifting is a common form of exercise for men, but strength training also has great benefits to women. Some people enjoy going to the gym, but strength training can be done as an at home workout as well.
Disclaimer: I am not a licensed exercise specialist or personal trainer. This article is for informational purposes only. This material is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before undertaking a new exercise regimen. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of the information given here.
Benefits of Strength Training
Weight lifting has health benefits, but there are some less obvious benefits to strength training as well. These include:
- Building muscle: As you age, your muscle mass naturally decreases. Weight training can slow or even reverse this process. Increasing muscle mass increases the amount of calories you burn while resting, so it can also help you control your weight.
- Weight Loss: Building muscle increases your metabolism and makes it easier for you to burn calories, which can help you lose weight. Weight lifting also has the advantage of helping tone and reshape your body.
- Stronger bones: According to Harvard Health Publishing, after age 40, bone mass starts decreasing at a rate of 1% per year. Weight bearing exercise puts stress on bones and can not only slow bone loss, but can actually build bone mass. Additionally, strength training targets the areas that commonly fracture when we age: wrists, spine, and hips.
- Chronic conditions: Obesity, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and back pain symptoms can be reduced by strength training. (Mayo Clinic)
- Strength training can also improve balance, joint flexibility, and quality of life.
Strength Training Tips
Consult your doctor before beginning a strength training program, especially if you are over 40 years of age, have a chronic condition, or haven’t been active recently.
Correct technique is important for strength training. A personal trainer or fitness specialist can teach you correct form and help you avoid injury.
Always warm up your muscles before strength training.
Don’t hold your breath. Your muscles need oxygen to lift, and your blood needs oxygen to get rid of the waste in your body. Generally, you want to breathe in when you lower your weight and exhale when you push/pull the weight up.
Start by selecting your weight so that your muscles fatigue after three sets of 12-15 repetitions. If you can easily lift additional repetitions, you may need more weight. To progress from there, seek a fitness expert.
Listen to your body, and stop if you feel any abnormal or sharp pains. You may need to use less weight, or give your body a few days before trying again.
After exercising a muscle group, give it a full day to recover before strength training that muscle group again.
The exercises shown in this article use body weight and free weights (dumbbells). If you don’t have dumbbells, you can use cans of soup. Alternatively, you could also use barbells, resistance tubing, or weight machines if they are available to you.
Upper Body at Home Workout
Bent Over Dumbbell Rows
Start by standing with a dumbbell in each hand, feet about shoulder width apart. Hinge forward from the waist, letting the dumbbells hang straight down from your shoulders. As you exhale, bend your elbows toward your rib cage and squeeze your shoulder blades together until your weights are level with your chest. Inhale as you lower the weights back down. Repeat.
Stand in a comfortable stance with a dumbbell in each hand slightly in front of your thighs, palms forward. As you exhale, bend your elbows to lift the weights toward your chest in front of you. Inhale as you lower the weights back down. Repeat.
Stand in a comfortable stance with a dumbbell in each hand to your sides, back of your hands facing out. As you exhale, lift both arms to the side, keeping your elbows straight and your shoulders down, until your weights are level with your shoulders. Inhale as you lower the weights back down. Repeat.
Overhead Tricept Extensions
While standing, grasp a single dumbbell with both hands in front of you, then raise it above your head with your elbows straight, arms by your ears. As you inhale, bend your elbows, keeping your arms by your ears, to lower the weight behind your back. Exhale as you straighten your elbows to lift the weight above your head, keeping your elbows in. Repeat.
While standing, grasp a dumbbell in each hand and raise them just above your shoulders, elbows bent and out to your sides, squeezing your shoulder blades together. As you exhale, straighten your elbows to lift the weights straight above your head. Inhale as you lower the weights to the starting position. Repeat.
Lower Body at Home Workout
Start standing with your feet together. Step your right foot in front of you (big step), bend both knees, keeping your right knee behind your right toes, until your left knee is a few inches above the ground. Straighten both knees and step back to stand with both feet together. Take a big step forward with your left foot. Bend both knees, keeping your left knee behind your left toes, until your right knee is a few inches above the ground. Straighten both knees and step back to stand with both feet together. Repeat.
Start standing with your feet about shoulder width apart, a dumbbell in each hand in front of your thighs. Keeping your back flat, your chest up and your knees soft (not locked), hinge forward at the waist. Lower the weights to at least knee cap level before coming back to standing position. Repeat.
Start standing with your feet together. Step your left foot straight behind you (big step), bend both knees, keeping your right knee behind your right toes, until your left knee is a few inches above the ground. Straighten both knees and step forward to stand with both feet together. Take a big step backward with your right foot. Bend both knees, keeping your left knee behind your left toes, until your right knee is a few inches above the ground. Straighten both knees and step back to stand with both feet together. Repeat.
Start standing with your feet about shoulder width apart. Keeping your chest up and your weight in your heels, bend your knees to lower your body. Keep your knees behind your toes. Straighten your knees to return to the standing position. Repeat.
Core at Home Workout
Start on your stomach with your forearms flat against the ground, palms facing the floor, shoulders over elbows, and toes curled under. Squeeze your abdominals to lift your stomach off the floor until your shoulders, stomach, and glutes are parallel to the ground. Start by holding for 30 seconds and advance to 1 minute if 30 seconds is easily performed. Lower back down. Repeat.
Side Plank Leg Lifts
Start on your side, feet and one forearm flat against the ground, the other arm extended directly above you, shoulders over your elbow.. Squeeze your abdominals to raise your hip off the ground. Tightening your muscles to retain your balance, lift the top leg to your side up in the air. Lower the leg and repeat. Do this for both sides.
Strength training has many benefits for women including building muscle, weight loss, and increased bone strength. Consult your doctor before beginning a strength training program, and work with a personal trainer or fitness specialist to learn the correct form and avoid injury.
Reviewed and edited by Benjamin Wong, DPT, CPT, Certified Yoga Instructor, and Fitness Instructor on 1/14/2022