Strength exercises women should include in their routines

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A change of season is the perfect time to revisit your current fitness plan. As you contemplate this, keep in mind that it’s important to cross train to avoid overtraining and overuse injuries, sore muscles and fitness boredom.

Endurance athletes spend a lot of time engaging in cardio sessions, whether it’s running, biking or swimming. These are excellent, but it’s useful to include strength training sessions into the week as well. Unfortunately, some women tend to shy away from weight lifting for fear that they will bulk up.

The truth is that women cannot bulk up the way that men do without assistance because they do not have enough testosterone to do so. While it’s possible for women to become female body builders, females lack the testosterone needed to add muscle the way men do. Generally speaking, weightlifting for the average woman will help her look more toned and defined. As an added bonus, strength training helps you burn more calories after you finish your session because your metabolism is functioning at a higher pace for longer.

“When you do weight-bearing exercises, you start revving up your metabolism – and it keeps burning for many hours after your workout,” Dr. Wayne Westcott, director of fitness research at Quincy College, told Prevention.

If you’re interested in adding strength training to your workout routine, here are a few options to consider:

Walking lunges

Adding forward movement to lunges adds a cardio aspect to this strength exercise. It’s also a functional move, which it mimics something you do in everyday life – walking. Lunges are great for working out your hip and knee extensors, according to ACE Fitness, and they help build up your quads, calves and hamstrings. To do walking lunges:

  • Start standing with both feet together
  • Step forward with your right foot so that both knees can bend to 90 degrees, then lower your back knee toward the floor
  • Stand back up, keeping your weight in your front heel, step together and repeat on the left side

Squats

Squats are great for achieving a better butt, but this exercise also helps prevent knee pain and shape the muscles of your lower body. It’s a good idea to master the form of a squat before adding any weight. To perform a squat:

  • Stand with feet hip-distance apart, toes pointing forward and abs tight
  • Keeping your chest lifted, lower your hips down and back as if sitting in a chair
  • Drop to about 90 degrees then, keeping your weight in your heels, stand back up

Weighted punches

Sometimes we all feel like punching something, which is why kickboxing and boxing are so great for stress relief. To make punching a strength exercise, you can add light weights. Start with 1 to 3 pounds, after you’ve mastered the correct form of a punch, and then you can increase to 5 pounds when you’re ready. To perform weighted punches:

  • Hold one weight in each hand with your hands up by your chin (like a boxer)
  • Step your dominant foot slightly in front and tighten your abs
  • Punch your dominant hand forward first, retract quickly, then repeat with the other hand

Stability ball roll-out

This exercise takes the plank to a more challenging level. Its important because core work strengthens your stabilizer muscles, which improves your posture and helps realign your spine.
There are two ways to complete the exercise:

  • Knee roll-out
    • Lie belly down on the stability ball and roll yourself forward so the ball is under your shins, your back is flat and your hands are under your shoulders
    • Squeeze your abs, then pulls your knees toward your chest, rolling the ball in, then roll back out, keeping your body steady
  • Elbow roll-out
    • Place your elbows on the ball so that they are under your shoulders
    • Make sure your back is flat as you rest of your knees for feet in a plank position
    • Squeeze your core then roll the ball forward using your elbows so they come in front of your shoulders, then return to the starting position

Following exercise, it’s always important to cool down. This can include stretching and massage to keep muscles loose and flexible and help prevent knots from forming.

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