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Building muscle is stereotypically more of a male activity than a female pastime, but women who don't include strength training in their exercise routines are missing out. Building muscle can boost your metabolism, help you burn calories more efficiently and strengthen bones to stave off disease. It's also easy to do -- weights aren't necessary, and you can progressively work up to exercises that are more and more challenging.
According to MayoClinic.com, women naturally gain body fat and lose muscle mass as they age. Their bones also tend to shrink and weaken, which can increase the risk of developing osteoporosis. Practicing strength training and building muscle can help combat all those obstacles, however. In fact, the American Council on Exercise notes that after strength training for just a few months, most women will experience a 20 percent to 40 percent gain in muscular strength. Building muscle also enables women to burn more calories when they're not exercising, since lean muscle mass burns more calories at rest than body fat.
Working with your own body weight is a fantastic way to gain muscle and get in shape if you don't have access to a gym or fitness equipment. To create a 30-minute workout, alternate intervals of muscle building exercises with cardio intervals. For the first five minutes, jog in place or on a treadmill to warm up. Spend the next five minutes working your arms with alternating sets of pushups, triceps dips, shadow boxing and arm circles. Return to cardio for five minutes, and then work legs for five minutes with sets of squats, lunges, stair stepping and kicks. Do five more minutes of cardio and finish with core and back exercises - crunches, the plank pose, mountain climbers and the Superman exercise.
Using weights is an inexpensive and efficient way to tone and build muscle. Structure a workout with weights in the same way you would a weightless workout, alternating cardio intervals with strength intervals. After five minutes of cardio, work arms with bicep curls, tricep kickbacks, reverse flyes and lateral raises. After five more minutes of cardio, perform sets of weighted squats, lunges, curtsy lunges and deadlifts. Finish with five minutes of cardio and weighted reverse crunches, the Russian twist, weighted side planks and chest flyes.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that women strength train two or three times per week. While it's not at all dangerous for a healthy woman to lift weights, it's always important to use proper form to avoid injury. If you haven't done an exercise before, get a personal trainer or fitness professional to demonstrate it before attempting it. Finally, get clearance from your doctor to start any workout program, especially if you have a medical condition.