Women, don’t fear the muscles!

Twenty years ago, in the 1980s, it was very unusual for the “average” woman to be involved in weight training. Oh, there were such women, usually professional athletes who knew the benefits of it, but the “average” woman thought that “weight training” equated with “body building”, and that if she so much as lifted a weight or two she’d end up looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

While it is possible for women to bulk up that way – only body builders who want to compete, and take muscle-building supplements and train three times a day to achieve that super-hypertrophied look.

Today, the misunderstandings about the use of weight training for women have largely vanished, and thousands of women around the world have embraced it. Indeed, practically every professional female athlete includes weight training in her regimen, and needs to, of course, if they want to be at the top of their game.

But weight training is not just for the professional athlete. Everyone can benefit from lifting weights. Think of it not as “body building” or even “weight training” but rather as “body sculpting.”

With weights, it’s possible to target practically every part of your body to strengthen it, and to turn flab into muscle. (And, as an aside, since muscles burn calories more efficiently than fat, you can eat more (within limits, of course!) and not put on weight.

There are two types of weights, free weights and machines. Typically, you find machines in YMCAs and gyms, and free weights in the home. Indeed, it’s pretty easy to fit out an inexpensive home gym using free weights.

In order to set up a home gym, you’ll need:

1. A weight bench.

As is the way of things, of course, you’ve got multiple benches to choose from. There’s the simple “utility bench”, which is just a padded bench. (Whatever else you do, always get a bench that’s padded.)

An adjustable bench is divided into two parts, so that you can raise the top portion of it to various angles, which enables you to perform bench presses at an “incline,” which targets different muscles.

Then there’s benches that also come with a built-in rack, where you store your barbells when not in use.

Then there’s the bench that also comes with the Leg Extension option. You really want to have this, because it enables you to do leg extensions and leg curls easily.

2. Barbell

Regardless of how much weight you eventually want to be able to press or lift at any given time, you need as strong a bar as possible, for safety’s sake.

Most home accidents happen when the plates you’ve put on either end of the ball fall off because they have not been properly secured, so make sure you get first class “collars” to use, and always snug them up and make sure they’re properly set.

Plates come in a variety of weights, and you want a variety, so that you can scale up the amount of weights you work with, both for your legs and for your arms.

Then there’s dumbbells. Here again, you have a choice. You can purchase (or find, at garage sales) dumbbells which are already made to a certain weight – from 1 pound upwards, typically in one pound increments, or you can buy what look like miniature barbell bars, and you put plates on them to achieve the weight you want.

The average woman will probably not need dumbbells much above fifteen pounds, and will probably want to stick with the ten pound weights, anyway. This is because there are two types of weight training – for strength and for endurance. The lighter the weight, the more reps you can do, and thus, the more endurance you build.

As with any activity, if you lift weights incorrectly, you can injure yourself, so even if you’re going to be working out at home and not at a gym, make sure you learn how to do each exercise correctly.