Fitness clubs and personal trainers stress the importance to female clients of combining weight training with their cardio workouts and a healthy diet to achieve a stronger, sleeker, more sculpted body. Often, you’ll receive a customized workout card as part of your gym membership with a list of recommended exercises, including machine settings, weights, repetitions and sets, which combine to make a workout routine. The workout card also has columns where you set your schedule.
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You can work out Monday and Wednesday or Monday, Wednesday and Friday, for a total of two to three workouts a week on alternate days, according to exercise physiology professor Patty S. Freedson of the University of Michigan in “Strength Training for Women.” If you're a novice, do two to three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions. After two weeks, advance to three sets of 10 to 12 reps and increase your weights by 2 to 5 lbs.
Visit all your weight stations and perform all the exercises on your workout card on weight training days, Freedson advises. If you're an advanced lifter, do from 3 to 15 repetitions and conduct more frequent sessions. If you're experienced at this type of exercise, exercise alternate muscle groups on different days, such as doing the lower body exercises on Monday and Wednesday and the upper body exercises on Tuesday and Thursday.
Work out for an hour or less per session, and leave Tuesday and Thursday free for cardio workouts. Revise and edit the workout every 8 to 10 weeks to include different exercises or muscle groups.
Organize your three days of weight training to work on two muscle groups each day; choose from chest, back, shoulders, legs, biceps and triceps. Give yourself a day in between weight-training sessions and take off one or two days a week for rest and recovery.
Go from compound movements, which involve multiple muscles, to simple movements employing only a few muscles, recommends the Women Fitness website: do your bench press, deadlift, squat or pull-ups first.
If you are pressed for time, with only your lunch hour or early morning free for your weight-training schedule, look for a gym with stacked-weight machines organized in a circuit. Life Fitness, a fitness equipment manufacturer, offers gyms an 11-station circuit series of weight machines, including a chest press, biceps curl and seated leg press, to work deltoids, hamstrings, biceps, triceps and other muscles in 20 minutes. Gym staff can show you how to set up circuit equipment, fill out a workout card and teach you how to increase the weights to greater resistance every two to four weeks.