Eight great moves to a leaner healthier you

Weight-lifting exercises for women are presented. Standing Hamstring Curl strengthens hamstrings and gluteals, while Bent Arm Row tones up rear deltoids and triceps. Other exercises include Shoulder Raise, Bicep Curl and Hip Extensions.

Lifting weights helps you lose weight, fight osteoporosis and burn calories

Lifting weights may be the fastest – and smartest – way to keep fit. In just a few moves, you can work your entire body. Although building muscle may increase your weight, it actually helps keep you lean by raising your resting metabolic rate, which means you burn more calories all the time and not just after a workout. Other benefits include increased stamina and overall improved health. More important, women of any age who lift weights can build and maintain bone density, which can help prevent osteoporosis. You don’t have to go to a gym for this no-nonsense workout, and it won’t set you back much – you can pick up free weights for under $20.

You don’t need fancy equipment – not even a weight bench, since a bed will do in a pinch. Best of all, weight training doesn’t take a lot of time. In just half an hour, you can do this routine. And if you do this workout three times a week, you’ll see – and feel – a difference in time for swimsuit season.

1 STANDING HAMSTRING CURL (hamstrings and gluteals)

With feet parallel, abdominals pulled in and tailbone tucked under, bend one knee to a 45-degree angle and lift heel up behind. Place weight inside crook of knee, squeezing to hold. Keep standing leg slightly bent, which makes you work harder to support your body weight and maintain balance, and forces you into good alignment. Begin by pushing lifted heel straight back (while keeping the supporting knee bent) as far as you can go; bring back again and repeat. As well as a free weight, Velcro ankle weights are also an option.

TAKE IT EASY

This exercise is challenging enough without weights.

EXTRA CREDIT

Pointing the toe of the raised foot will activate the calf muscle as well.

2 LUNGE (quadriceps and hamstrings)

Start standing with feet parallel and hip distance apart, arms at your sides or on hips with or without weights. Step one leg behind you, keeping weight on front leg. While keeping abdominals pulled in and leaning torso slightly forward, lower the back knee toward the floor as far as you can comfortably. Make sure front knee doesn’t extend out over the foot, which could stress the knee joint. Raise back knee to straighten the leg. Keep back heel off the floor.

TAKE IT EASY

Beginners can rest weights on thigh or not use weights at all. For a moderately challenging version of this exercise, hold weights at hips.

EXTRA CREDIT

Stepping forward into the lunge requires more muscle control.

3 BENT ARM ROW (rear deltoids and triceps)

With feet parallel hip distance apart and knees flexed, bend over at waist, keeping abdominals pulled in. Start with arms hanging down toward the floor and pull up bending at the elbows as far as you can. To work back harder, as you pull elbows up, try to pull elbows in toward each other and squeeze shoulder blades together.

TAKE IT EASY

For more balance, keep one leg slightly in front of the other.

EXTRA CREDIT

To work middle trapezius and rhomboids, do a wide arm row. Start with bent elbows and move them away from your body and behind you in a C-movement, ending up with elbows pulled in together.

4 SHOULDER RAISE (middle deltoids)

Standing with legs straight and arms out to your sides with elbows slightly bent, lift arms directly away from your sides until they reach shoulder height, lower back down and repeat. Concentrate on squeezing shoulder blades together to keep the shoulder joints in good alignment.

5 BICEP CURL AND LIFT (biceps and arterior deltoids)

Stand tall with feet parallel hip distance apart, abdominals pulled in and gluteals tight. Hold weights close to body, with elbows bent to a 90-degree angle and palms facing up. Then, push or lift the weights (while keeping elbows bent) toward the ceiling until your elbows come level with shoulder; lower and repeat.

EXTRA CREDIT

Once you’ve worked up to it, double up the weights in one hand and do one side at a time.

6 CHEST FLY (pectorals)

Lie back on a bench, with feet spread apart comfortably. Bring weights directly above shoulders with palms facing each other. While keeping elbows slightly bent, open arms out to side and lower to chest level; raise and repeat. (If you don’t have a bench, try this exercise lying across a bed diagonally with your head in the corner.)

TAKE IT EASY

If you find this exercise difficult, bend elbows even more and just come down to the point where you feel comfortable, then bring your arms back to starting position.

7 HIP EXTENSION (gluteus maximus and erector spinae)

Lie flat on floor, with one leg straight and the other bent. Perform a pelvic tilt, pulling the abdominals in to the spine (without flattening back completely to the floor). Hold one dumbbell to the chest, and raise the torso slightly as you raise the straightened leg just off the ground – the smaller the movements, the harder the abdominals work. Lower and repeat.

EXTRA CREDIT

Put the weight behind your head (to work against gravity more). Move the foot of your bent leg away from your body – this lengthens the lever and makes the pelvic tilt harder to hold.

TAKE IT EASY

Keep both legs bent and raise one bent leg just a few inches off floor as you raise torso. You may wish to raise only the torso or the bent leg one at a time.

8 AB CURLS (abdominals including the obliques and rectus abdominus)

Lying stomach to the floor, with head resting on one hand, keep abdominal muscles tight to spine and away from the floor. To help hold abdominals up, place hand in space in between floor and stomach. To hold weight, squeeze in the bend of the knee, raise thigh a few inches off floor, lower and repeat. Be careful not to arch back or let abdominals drop to floor or you won’t engage your gluteals. This also counts as one of the most challenging abdominal moves.

TAKE IT EASY

Skip the weight and concentrate on tightening the buttock muscles rather than lifting the thigh until you build up strength.

DOING IT RIGHT

Check with your physician before beginning any exercise program.

  • A five- to 10-minute warm-up brings blood into the muscles and prepares them for a safe workout. Pedal a stationary bike or march briskly on the spot.
  • Exhale on the exertion.
  • Perform each exercise slowly and carefully. Use a mirror to check your form.
  • Complete eight to 15 repetitions of each exercise, until your muscles feel fatigued. Then, rest 30 to 60 seconds, if need be. Then, do a second or third set, if you can.
  • Maintain good posture – you will use all of your muscles, not just the ones that are moving, and you will get a better workout: stand straight, keep your shoulders back, your head held high, abdominals tucked in, gluteals tight, and knees slightly bent.
  • By not resting between exercises you will help maintain an elevated heart rate, making strength training more aerobic.
  • To keep the workout challenging, vary the order of exercises every few weeks.
  • After your workout, take a few minutes to stretch out all your major muscles and reduce the risk of soreness.

WEIGHT UP

It’s important not to lift too-heavy weights or you’ll risk injury. Start doing exercises with small weights and work up to heavier dumbbells. If you’re just starting, use five-pound weights or less and do one set. For those in intermediate shape, use five- to eight-pound weights and do more than one set. For the very fit, use eight- to 12-pound weights to build strength faster, and do three sets.

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