Everyone has a different attitude about how they approach the gym. While some ladies love to log a 45-minute run on the treadmill while watching the latest Real Housewives, others are more class-prone, crushing HIIT routines on the regular. Regardless, there’s one place a lot of women breeze by: the weight rack. While we can’t hate on you for wanting to avoid grunting men and an occasional whiff of poor body odor, fact is that you could be missing out on some serious total-body benefits by ditching the dumbbells. Strength training, or practicing loaded movement with the intent of increasing quality, health, and muscle development, is essential. Not just for helping you feel like a total badass (look at you, Wonder Woman, eyeing that 15-pounder) but also for your body.
Don’t just take our word for it; research agrees. Within a few days of beginning a strength-training plan, research shows that women may notice a raise in their resting metabolic rate. “Developing muscle increases the body’s efficiency on many stances, one of which is a healthy metabolism,” said David Otey, Equinox Sports Club personal training manager. “This aids in everything from better posture and movement quality to performance of everyday activities.”
But wait, there’s more. Lifting weights also helps to build muscle and increase bone density. Been down in the dumps? Adding regular strength training to your routine can boost your mood. The best part: the weights don’t even need to be Arnold Schwarzenegger status. Lifting lighter weights can be super effective at building muscle. Just make sure you’re still causing muscle fatigue. For newbies just starting to incorporate strength training into their exercise routines, try adding some strength work three or four days per week for up to 40 minutes at a time.
Ready to get lifting? Try this easy arm-specific strength workout, courtesy of Otey. A word to the wise: don’t forget to incorporate rest into your routine (about 48 hours before training the same muscle group twice). Rest days are essential for three reasons: they give your body time to repair and get stronger, help prevent injury, and offer you a mental break.
Instructions: Complete all sets of each before moving on to the following exercise. Start with 8-pound dumbbells, and increase from there depending on your comfort level with the movements.
Do: 4 sets, 15 reps
Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and pick up the weights, holding the dumbbells so your palms are face down. Lift up your weights until they are at your shoulders, palms facing forward, with elbows bent at a 90-degree angle.Raise your arms until elbows are extended, moving weights until they almost touch above your head. Slowly return back to starting position for one rep.
Do: 4 sets, 12 reps
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with arms down at your sides holding dumbbells, palms facing in. Keeping your palms facing in, bend your elbow to raise one arm to shoulder level then lower it back to waist level (think of using a hammer). Repeat with the other side to complete one rep.
Do: 4 sets, 15 reps
Holding a dumbbell in each hand, hinge forward from your hips, bending the knees slightly. Bend your elbows behind you. Straighten your arms behind you with your palms facing in. Your arms should be parallel to the floor. Squeeze your triceps, and then return to the starting position for one rep.
Here are some examples of other strength-training workouts: