In the past, weight lifting was something that was thought of as being a strictly masculine form of exercise. The very idea of it instantly conjured up images of bulging biceps and Conan the Barbarian, but the truth is that weights aren’t just for men anymore. Over the past 20 years, more and more women have been adding weight training to their exercise routine and living healthier, more active lives as a result. Women don’t tend to develop large muscles from weight lifting, due to the fact that they produce far less testosterone than men do, but there are many other benefits associated with even basic weight exercises that make them an essential part of the health-conscious woman’s fitness routine.

INCREASE AND MAINTAIN STRENGTH

Weight training not only strengthens muscle tissue, but tendons and connective tissue as well. It also encourages bones to become stronger, thicker, and denser. Stronger tendons and muscles are far more resistant to common injuries and a stronger skeleton means bones are less prone to breakage and deterioration. Working with weights regularly also eventually results in benefits such as increased flexibility, better balance, and more energy.

HELP MANAGE YOUR WEIGHT

The more you work with weights, the more muscle tissue your body will develop. Muscle tissue requires more caloric energy than fat tissue does, so the more muscle you build, the more calories you burn even when you’re not actually exercising. Every extra pound of muscle you develop adds up to approximately 50 extra calories burned each day, helping you stay slim, trim, and strong so that you can feel and look your best.

HELP PREVENT DISEASE

Since weight training helps build bone density, it helps a woman guard against the onset of osteoporosis – especially after menopause when her level of estrogen production decreases. Since weight training also helps prevent obesity, a woman lowers her risk of developing breast cancer, diabetes, and other serious conditions for which obesity is a major risk factor.

You can get started by adding a few simple weight lifting exercises to your routine at first. If you have a gym membership, they can be done with the help of some of the equipment or with the help of a trainer, but these exercises can also be done at home with dumbbells. Don’t overdo things at first. The idea is to do enough reps so that the muscle begins to feel fatigued. You can increase the weight of your dumbbells and the number of reps as your strength increases.

CHEST PRESS

Lie flat on the floor or exercise bench, making sure the soles of your feet are flat against the surface. Next position your arms so that the dumbbells are at your shoulders. Your palms should be facing forward, and your elbows should be forward of the shoulder line at a 45 degree angle. Press dumbbells upward, using a smooth, fluid movement.

ARM CURL

Begin by holding a dumbbell in each hand with your arms straight down. Your palms should be facing inward toward your body, and you should be standing with your feet slightly apart. Bend elbows to bring the dumbbells up toward the shoulder, rotating your arm as you lift so that palms face the ceiling. This can be done either by alternating arms or by doing the exercise with both arms at the same time.

OVERHEAD PRESS

Stand with feet slightly apart and hold dumbbells at your upper chest with your palms facing down toward the floor. Lift the dumbbells over your head, extending your arms fully, but taking care not to lock your elbows suddenly. Slowly lower the weights back to the starting position and repeat.

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