There are a number of conflicting ideas about how men and women respond differently to exercise. While both men and women should be combining cardio with strengthening exercises, is important for women to choose the types of movements that are most effective for them.
Your own fitness level is also a key factor when it comes to designing a work-out plan. Whether you are an absolute beginner, or you are seeking to turn your routine up a notch, all women can benefit from these basic principles and exercise ideas.
Burn Energy with Aerobic Activities
For most people, the word ‘cardio’ evokes images of a treadmill.
In actual fact, the word ‘cardio’ describes anything that increases your heart-rate, from running and swimming to exercises that challenge your muscles. An effective work-out regime combines aerobic activities with strength-building exercises.
Treadmills and outdoor running are the kinds of exercises most people either love or hate. Luckily enough, there are so many creative ways to get your heart-rate going.
Kick-boxing is a great way to keep your mind and your body engaged with your work-out.
You can do this in group classes, at your local gym or in your house- all you need is a pair of gloves and a punching bag. Repetitions of martial art techniques and combinations will give you a great aerobic work-out while also strengthening the muscles in your arms or legs.
If this isn’t your thing, why not check out the fitness section of the DVD store for a high-impact dance routine? The variation of movements will keep things interesting and you will find yourself genuinely enjoying your work-out.
Build Strength with Dumbbells
One of the biggest myths around women’s fitness is that weight training will result in unexpectedly ‘bulky’ muscle gain. Women generally have 10-30 times less of the hormones that are responsible for muscle-mass. Men and women who have a body-builder physique undergo intense training over a long period of time to achieve that level of muscle gain. You will not wake up after a gym session with disproportionately massive biceps.
What you can do over time, however, is build enough muscle to help you burn fat faster and work toward a more toned body. Here are a couple of basic weights exercises to try.
Deadlifts: Stand on your left foot with a pair of dumbbells. Raise your right leg behind you, bending your knee. Slowly bend forward from the hips, holding that position for a little while before returning to the starting pose. If you are a beginner, start off doing 5 reps per set and slowly work your way up.
Squat to Overhead Press: This is like doing squats with the addition of weights. As you come up, press the weights over your head. 10-15 reps is recommended.
Note: When squatting, make sure your knees do not bend past your toes.
Performing a lunge with weights in your hands is a great way to get the most out of a simple movement, targeting the hamstrings, glutes and quads. With one weight in each hand, step forward with one leg, bending to a 90 degree angle. Lower yourself down, allowing your back knee to lightly touch the floor, before standing up.
As your build up strength, you can increase the reps and eventually start to use slightly heavier weights.
Target Your Abs
Strengthening your abs can help to avoid developing back pain in future as well as boosting your agility.
There are many different variations of this exercise, all targeting different muscles and catering to a range of fitness levels. While the plank appears in many yoga and ab workout routines, it is a highly effective exercise in itself.
- The easiest way to get into a plank is to begin in a push-up position.
- Lower your forearms so that they are flat on the ground and curl your toes behind you.
- If you maintain this position and keep your body straight, you should feel this in your abdominals and glutes.
Try to keep track of how long you can hold this position and aim to gradually increase this time.
- This exercise starts in the regular crunch position, with your hands behind your head, raising your legs to a 90 degree angle.
- Bring your right elbow to your left knee, holding for two seconds.
- Bringing your left elbow to your right knee. Continue to alternate.
Aim to increase the amount of reps each day.
- Lie on your back with your legs in tabletop position
- Exhale and lift your back off the floor. The bottom of your shoulder blades should be touching the floor, just bearly.
- Straighten your legs out to a 45 degree angle. Raise your arms off the floor, reaching toward your feet.
- Pump your arms up and down, using small, rapid movements. The idea is to inhale for five pumps and exhale for the next five. Aim to reach 100 pumps.
Strengthen Your Core with Yoga
The popularity of Yoga owes to its many different benefits to the body and mind. Here are some of the yoga poses that are particularly effective in building core strength.
- Lie on your stomach with your legs hip-width apart and your arms placed down beside your head.
- Relax your shoulders, resting your forehead on the floor
- Press your forearms against the floor, raising your chest and head.
- Exhale, lowering back to the floor. Repeat 3 times.
- Start on your hands and knees in a neutral position.
- Lift and straighten one leg and hold it parallel to the floor while extending the opposite arm.
- After five counts, alternate, breathing deeply throughout each repetition.
Half Moon Pose
- Turn to the left, stepping your feet wide apart. Extend your arms out to the sides.
- Rotate your right foot to a 90 degree angle.
- Reach your right hand toward your foot, raising the left hip. Aim to rest your right hand on the shin or ankle. For a more challenging pose, place your fingertips on the floor.
- Bend your right knee and draw your left foot toward your right foor.
- Lift your left leg and aim to bring it parallel to the floor.
- Extend your left arm, pointing the fingertips toward the sky.
- Once you are comfortable, turn your head toward your left fingertips.
Ideally, hold this for one minute before attempting the other side. This is a fantastic exercise that involves balance and strength throughout your body.
If you intend to repeat your work-out plan throughout the week, it is important to target as many different muscles as possible. The aerobic exercises, weights, ab-workout and core strengthening movements mentioned above are great for any women seeking to get a more wholesome work-out.