Women eventually need to use barbells and dumbbells in the gym to strengthen joint-stabilizing muscles. Paul Chek of the Corrective High-performance Exercise Kinesiology Institute advises says that the predominant use of machines by women has led to an increase in injuries because of weak stabilizer muscles. While machine weights are a legitimate means for rehab and reentry into weight training, you need to use free weights more often than machine weights.
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Beginner’s Aerobic and Stretching Routine
Ease into your workout program if you have not done any exercise in the last few months. Start with aerobic and stretching exercises to improve your cardiovascular fitness. A treadmill is a safe place to begin your exercise session. Walk at a slow pace to warm up for five minutes. Step off your treadmill and stretch your major muscles and joints, holding each stretch for about 10 seconds: quad and hamstring stretch, chest and back stretch, biceps and triceps stretch, trunk and calf stretches and neck and shoulder stretches. A warm-up increases blood flow to your muscles, joints, heart and lungs in preparation for more difficult exercise.
Walk for 15 minutes, slowing down during the last two minutes to cool down. Start at a slow walk, gradually increasing your speed while maintaining your ability to talk comfortably. Do your stretches for 30 seconds each stretch to increase your flexibility. Build up to three sets of each stretch. If you are pregnant, be extra careful during your stretches, as your joints are more flexible during pregnancy.
Complete this walking program every other day for three days your first week of walking. Increase your walking duration to 45 minutes over the course of two weeks.
Beginner’s Weight Training Routine
Once you have completed two weeks of cardio training, strengthen your muscles with progressive resistance exercises. Use machine weights to improve your strength, then graduate to mostly free weights. Do your weight training on two alternate days from your cardio.
Use machines which are close together. Do three sets of each pair of exercises: inclined chest press with seated back rows, leg extensions with leg curls, biceps curls with triceps extension, shoulder press with double crunches. Increase the amount of weight you use once you can perform 15 reps for each session.
Make the mind-to-muscle connection and ensure that the weight you are using is challenging, especially when you do triceps and back exercises. For most women, these areas tend to be flabby.
Intermediate Free-Weight Routine
After a month of training with machine weights, use primarily free weights. Pair exercises you can do within the same area of the gym, typically using a bench with barbells or dumbbells: flat bench press with one-arm dumbbell rows, body weight squats with dumbbell shoulder presses, alternating dumbbell curls with two-arm dumbbell triceps extensions, and leg curls with sit-ups. Do four sets of each pair of exercises, increasing the amount of weight you use once you can perform 12 to 15 reps per set.