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Strength Training 101: with Dumbbells for Women

 Strength Training 101: with Dumbbells for Women
Holistic Lifestyle Fitness Coach, Carol Whitaker
Strength Training 101: with Dumbbells for Women 

I've been a fitness enthusiast for over 20 years! And for good reason, being healthy and fit has improved my quality of life in all aspects of my life, from having a higher self-esteem, more loving relationships, having more energy to increasing my income, and even my spirituality. 

When you love and honor your body, it shows, and others are automatically impressed and drawn to your success, all because you care enough to care for your body as it needs by having a positive mindset, eating a proper diet, and exercising regularly.

Not all exercise is created equal, if you want to be stronger and shape your physique, then you’ll definitely want to incorporate weight lifting into your exercise program. 

If you’re new to strength training, not to worry, I'll share with you how to begin a weight lifting regimen using dumbbells. You can lift weights to tone, sculpt, and reduce your body fat in the comfort of your home.

Why Strength Train 

Weight lifting is an excellent form of exercise that not only builds lean muscles, but it also increases your metabolism—the more muscle you have, the higher your basal metabolic rate (BMR)—resulting in the more calories you burn while resting.

Women often shy away from strength training because they don’t want to get big, bulky muscles and look manly. Fortunately, women don’t have enough testosterone to get large muscles naturally, so you can put that concern to rest.

To sculpt your body, you need to lift heavy weights; training with pink or red “girl” dumbbells simply won’t get the job done. Muscles build, grow, and transform by moving resistance. Moving serious iron is empowering, and it’s essential if you want to sculpt your body and burn more energy while surfing the net or reading a book.

How to Begin

For starters, know when and where you will be working out. Schedule time to work out just as you would an important business meeting, (be sure to honor your commitment and follow through!) 

Then, buy three various sizes of dumbbells to work out with. To know what size to begin with, pick up a 12-pound dumbbell and do bicep curls for 12 repetitions (reps), if your muscles get fatigued after 10 reps, that’s a good weight to begin with, and if it’s too heavy, start off with 10-pound dumbbells.

Typically, for women it’s best to train with 12, 15, and 20-pound dumbbells. Once you increase your strength and stamina, you can move up to the next size of dumbbells or increase the amount of reps for each set. You can also mix it up and start with medium weight dumbbells and end with a heavier weight. I’ve been training with 15 and 20-pound dumbbells doing high reps for years with outstanding results!

You will also need an incline bench or a study chair to use during training, along with a full-length mirror so you can watch your form and concentrated better on the muscles being worked. If you’re new to strength training it would behoove you to buy a workout DVD or use a fitness YouTube channel to follow strength training routines.

Alternate muscle groups, for instance, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, work your upper body (shoulders, biceps, triceps, chest, and back) and on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, work your lower body and back (glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, and abs), rest on Sundays. Your muscles recover during rest so be sure to take at least one or two days off of training during the week, such as Sundays and Wednesdays.

Fitness Tips

Always warm up and stretch your muscles to be worked before and after lifting weights. It doesn’t take much, 5 to 10 minutes is sufficient to ensure your muscles are warmed up and ready to train; doing so will also help to avoid injury.

Be sure to work out in proper exercise clothing. You will need close-fitting exercise clothes and arch supportive exercise shoes. Always dress for success—wear workout clothes you feel good in and will want to wear. And always stay well hydrated, keep a water bottle with you and sip on it throughout your training.

Get your Zzz's.... Your body recovers during sleep, aim to be in bed no later than 10:30 pm each evening and rise early. This will keep your body, mind, and spirit in harmony and help keep you on track with your fitness goals. When you are sleep deprived your motivation and willpower is next to nothing, which will throw you off your game in no time.

When you are well-rested you have more energy to train harder and will desire to eat a clean diet to fuel your awesome muscles. Make it a high priority to get to bed on time each night!

How Many Reps

To create a lean physique requires that you push your muscles hard when strength training, don’t be afraid to give it your all while working out. To create long, lean, sexy muscles lift with medium to heavy weight dumbbells and do high reps (15 to 20) for each set. If building size is your goal, train with heavier weights and do fewer reps (8 to 10) for each set.

You can also use other forms of weights to work muscles differently, such as kettle balls, barbells, free weights and stability balls. Mixing up your workouts is an excellent way to keep your muscles guessing (muscle confusion), which will produce quicker results.

For optimal results, make weekly strength training a must. Strength train three to five times a week, in addition to eating a healthy high protein, low carb diet with plenty of healthy fats and water.

Below is one of my dumbbell workout routines I do in my home gym. You can start out with doing three sets of each exercise and work your way up to doing five sets as listed.

(* If you are new to exercise, consult with your doctor or with a healthcare professional before beginning a strength training regime.)

Carol Whitaker's Dumbbell Workout Routine

This circuit training (going from one exercise to the next with high intensity) home workout routine requires a set of medium and heavy dumbbells, an incline bench, and a full-length mirror. 

Rotate through each exercise as you complete each set. Begin with medium weight dumbbells, then increase to heavier weight dumbbells for the last two sets. Have a water bottle of Liv Sxinney to stay hydrated, and a hand towel to dry off. 

Training Explanation: '5 x 10-12' means completing 5 sets of each exercise doing 10 to 12 repetition. Go through each body part once and then repeat until all sets are completed. Take 30 to 60-second mini-breaks in between each set.

Monday:  Upper body

5 x 10-12 single bicep curls (biceps)
5 x 10-12 triceps kickbacks (triceps) (leaning over back flat, elbows up kick arm back to straighten arm.)
5 x 10-12 shoulder press (shoulders)
5 x 10-12 seated bent over flies (back) (seated bend over lift both shoulders with arms bent raising elbows parallel to shoulders)
5 x 10-12 bench press (chest)

Tuesday:  Lower body & abs

5 x 10-12 side lunge (quads)
5 x 10-12 wide leg dead lift (keep back flat lean over with slightly bent knees down to shins and back up - hamstrings)
5 x 15-20 calve raises: 1st set - feet out, 2nd set - feet straight, 3rd set - feet in
5 x 10-12 alternating back lunges (hamstrings & quads) (step back one leg at a time)
30 3-up crunches (up slowly holding for 1, up again higher holding for 2, up again higher holding for 2), 12 scissor kicks, 12 twists, (rotating each side elbow to knee)

Wednesday:  Cardio intervals 20 to 45 minutes

Thursday: Upper body

5 x 10-12 pushups (chest)
5 x 10-12 bicep curls (biceps)
5 x 10-12 bent over rows (back) (place hand and knee on bench, using other arm lift dumbbell close to body, pulling elbow up parallel to body)
5 x 10-12 bent over triceps kickbacks (triceps)
5 x 10-12 shoulder shrugs (shoulders)

Friday: Cardio intervals 20 – 35 minutes

Saturday (Optional): Repeat lower body training or do cardio intervals 20-35 minutes

Sunday: Rest

Low Impact Training

Monday, Wednesday & Friday: Walk (10,000 steps) for at least 20 minutes of brisk walking.

Tuesday, Thursday: March in place for 10 minutes, then strength train using light dumbbells while sitting down on a sturdy chair:
3 x 8 to 10 reps bicep curls
3 x 8 to 10 reps triceps extensions
3 x 8 to10 shoulder press

Being in shape is so much more than looking good in your favorite pair of jeans, it brings about happiness, confidence, health and vitality. It improves life at all levels, you really can go from living an ordinary life to living an extraordinary life!

If you have favorite workout DVDs or exercise programs that work well for you, please share below.

Happy training! :)
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