Lifting weights is a highly effective way to build lean muscle definition, lose weight, get stronger and improve your endurance. For many women, though, heading to a gym to lift is simply not an option, either due to a heavy schedule or a lack of confidence in the weight room. Training at home is convenient and allows you to progress at a pace with which you are comfortable in an environment where you are confident.
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Break-Proof Your Space
Whether you are using dumbbells, a barbell and rack or kettlebells, make sure the space you are training in is going to be able to handle it. Put some matting on the floor, particularly if it is floorboard or tile. This will protect it in case you need to drop the weights. Keep your training away from windows as well, especially if you're using kettlebells -- losing your grip can be disastrous near anything breakable, but a little preparation can help avoid this.
Set a Routine
Getting into a stable, predictable routine is one of the most important aspects of lifting weights at home. While gym attendees have the ritual of getting ready, leaving their home or work and then entering the place where they train, you will have to create this routine in a more intentional way. Set a specific time on specific days that you will train, so that you stick to your plan. For example, you might train your upper body on Monday and Thursday at 10 a.m., and your lower body on Tuesday and Friday at 2 p.m., or at a time that consistently suits your schedule.
Work That Upper Body
Train your upper body at least twice a week to see good results. Make sure you leave at least a full day between your upper-body workouts to allow your muscles time to rest and recover. Don't worry about getting "bulky" -- most women don't have the hormonal profile necessary for that. Focus on doing moderate repetition ranges with weights that challenge you; doing 50 reps with a 2-pound dumbbell is going to do very little for you. For example, you might choose six upper-body exercises -- say, chest press, bent over row, shoulder press, bicep curls, tricep extensions and bent-over flies -- then do three sets of eight to 12 repetitions. The weight you use should allow you to complete at least eight reps, but not more than 12 per set.
Bring on the Booty
Working on your lower body should also happen twice a week. Your lower body produces a tremendous amount of force during weight-training sessions, and this can be very taxing on the musculoskeletal and central nervous systems. For this reason, be sure to have at least one day between sessions -- preferably two or even three. Again, choose weights that will allow you to complete at least eight repetitions but no more than 12 in a set. Good exercises to focus on include Romanian deadlifts, goblet squats, walking lunges, single-leg squats, hip thrusters and calf raises.