The metabolism of a 25-year-old. Jeans that fit. The ability to bend and move, with confidence and without pain. If you’re interested in any of the above, you need to be lifting weights. Right. Message received. But…now what? Which moves should you really be doing, and how often? Holly Perkins, author of the new book Women’s Health Lift to Get Lean and founder of Women’s Strength Nation is on a mission to clear up the resistance-training confusion.
The happy news: you don’t have to go to a gym and feel all-awkward in the weight room, and it doesn’t have to be a major time suck. “Every woman can get in phenomenal shape by doing these 5 simple moves right at home,” says Perkins. “Not only will they strengthen your muscles, but they’ll also help you get healthy, lean, confident, and happy.” And who wouldn’t want that? Aim to 3 sets of 12 reps for each move twice a week.
The Goblet Squat
Why: Squats are important for building strength throughout your entire lower body including your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, and many women find the Goblet Squat easier than a standard squat. Lower body strength supports all of your daily movements and ensures optimal mechanics, which means less risk for injury.
How: Begin with your heels as wide as your shoulders, and then turn your toes outward so they’d point to 11:00 and 1:00 if you were standing on a clock. Hold the end of a dumbbell at your chest, being sure to keep your hands in contact with your chest. Stand tall, then bend your knees and lower your hips until the top of your thighs are parallel with the floor. Keeping your chest high, drive into your heels to stand up and return to the starting position.
Why: This is one of the best overall exercises to strengthen all of the collective muscles that dictate your daily movements, from bending over to standing up. It’s also great for bone health as it’s a compound, weight-bearing exercise.
How: Begin with your heels as wide as your shoulders, and then turn your toes outward so they point to 11:00 and 1:00. Stand with a long tall spine to incorporate your core for support, and hold dumbbells so that your palms are facing inward, directly in front of your thighs. Simultaneously bend forward at the waist and push your hips backward as you bend your legs and lower your hips like a squat. Allow your arms to separate so that the dumbbells move downward and end outside of your feet, just in front of your toes. Keep your chest lifted high, and press into your heels to return to the starting position.The Band Row
Why: This move is key for developing upper body strength for pulling movements, as it strengthens your back muscles, core, and arms. Because your feet are next to each other, this move really challenges your balance and core control.
How: Attach a resistance band to a sturdy object or doorframe. Holding the handles, step back so that you’re facing the band with your arms straight and tension on the band. Place your feet 4 inches apart with knees unlocked, and release your shoulders down away from your ears. Pull your arms back, pulling the band until your hands touch your rib cage. Pause for a moment and squeeze the muscles in your upper back. Slowly release back to the starting position.
The Chest Press
Why: The Chest Press improves the overall upper body pushing mechanics, a muscle group that’s often weak in women. This move also strengthens your triceps.
How: Lie face-up on an exercise bench or the floor with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Begin with the dumbbells touching directly over your chest, and press your shoulders down away from your ears, keeping them locked in this position. Bend your arms outward and open your hands until your forearms are perpendicular to the floor and your elbows are just below your shoulders. Your upper arms should be opened at a 45° angle from your sides. Contract the muscles of your chest to press the dumbbells back up to the starting position.
The Overhead Press
Why: This move builds upper body and core strength to support your normal daily movements by targeting the deltoids of the shoulders, which are often weak in women. If this muscle group isn’t strong, you’ll transfer stress and strain onto your lower back.
How: Stand with your feet directly under your hips. Elongate your spine and begin with your hands holding dumbbells just in front of your shoulders, elbows under your hands. Keeping your shoulders anchored downward toward your hips, press the dumbbells straight up. Arc back slightly so that you end with the dumbbells directly over the mid-line of your head. Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position, keeping your elbows under your hands.