Women and Weights

Women and Weights

I’m a woman and in my late 20s. At the suggestion of my boyfriend, I decided to start lifting weights. I don’t know where to start. My boyfriend is no help, even though he lifts all the time. Could you outline a program for me? – Kelly A., Email

It’s great that you are adding resistance training to your lifestyle. Resistance training has many benefits to include building muscle strength, burning calories and, most importantly as you mature, preserve your bone health. Women’s bone mass does peak during their 20s and early 30s, and resistance training is the ticket to success when it comes to preventing future osteoporosis.

Though resistance training is extremely beneficial at any age, the sooner you make it a habit, the easier it is to reap its rewards for the short- and long-term. Nonetheless, to get off to a great start I recommend you higher a certified personal trainer and have him or her teach you how to perform a basic, yet total body workout that you can eventually perform on your own.

After you have performed resistance training for four to six weeks, the approach you take to training is based on the outcome you want. For instance, if you want to release fat, your approach to resistance training will be different than how you build size.

Assuming that you don’t want to build size, but instead release fat and improve your body composition, consider the following when creating your program:

  1. Perform three to four sets of 8 to 12 repetitions per exercise.
  2. When performing resistance training take twice the amount of time to lower the weight to the starting position as you did to lift it. For instance, if it takes two seconds to lift the weight, take four seconds to lower it. Don’t let the weight just drop to the starting position. It is to your benefit to deliberately lower the weight. This part of the exercise is more important than the lifting phase. It’s during the lowering phase that greater stress is put on the muscle and greater gains are made.
  3. Rest for one to two minutes between each set.
  4. After training a muscle group (i.e., back, legs), do not exercise that muscle group for a minimum of 48 hours.
  5. To maximize weight loss, perform compound exercises first instead of isolation. What this means is that there is a greater benefit to performing exercises that engage more than one muscle (i.e., free squats, push ups) instead of isolation exercises like biceps curls and inner-thigh adduction for instance.
  6. Be consistent.
  7. Rest when you are tired, and this will help you avoid the common pitfall of over training.

It is also to your benefit to perform cardiovascular exercise on days that you don’t perform resistance training. Just make sure your cardiovascular exercise isn’t too intense on days following or preceding your resistance training workouts.

As well, nutrition is very important in helping you release fat, keep your energy high and speed up your recovery after exercising so that you can perform optimally in your next work out. And because your goal may be to release fat, it is essential that calorie intake is less than what’s necessary to maintain your weight, but no lower than 1,200 calories a day to prevent the loss of lean muscle tissue.

Let me know how you are doing. Good luck!


Robert Ferguson is the Health Ambassador of Stayhealthy, Inc., founder of Diet Free Life, nutritionist, fitness professional and Board Member on the Presidential Task Force on Obesity for the National Medical Association. He’s been dubbed the “America’s Fat Loss Coach and is considered a leading voice on wellness and weight loss.

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