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Weight training can reduce body fat.
Many women associate weight training with bulky, grunting, muscular men, but don't realize that this type of training benefits them also. If you're overweight, your risk increases for undesirable conditions such as breast cancer, pregnancy problems, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure and heart disease. Reducing your body fat can improve your health and appearance. In addition to a healthy diet and cardiovascular exercise, strength training is essential to accomplish this.
To Lift or Not to Lift
First things first: Strength training won't give you those often-feared Herculean proportions. This is because you have a great amount of female hormones and lack testosterone, which naturally produces larger muscles. Weight loss ideally comes from fat but can also be a loss of water or lean muscle tissue. Proper hydration and strength training can prevent the latter. Strength training preserves and increases lean muscle tissue, which is essential, because unlike fat, lean muscle is metabolically active; it uses up calories to sustain itself, even when you're sleeping.
Frequency and Intensity
In addition to 150 minutes of moderate cardio, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends doing at least two strength-training sessions per week. It suggests targeting all major muscle groups including your chest, back, hips, arms, legs and abdomen. Schedule workout sessions on non-consecutive days to give your muscles enough time to recover and repair. For variety, use your body weight, resistance bands, weightlifting machines or free weights. Work your way up to doing two to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions per exercises, and always challenge yourself. Use enough weight so you can't do another rep at the end of a set.
Your Strength-Training Workout
If you're new to strength training, a personal trainer can assess your physical condition, put together a personalized, safe and effective workout plan, and ensure that you do the exercises with perfect form. Always start with a five- to 10-minute low-intensity cardio warm up followed by light stretches. Then, begin your routine with one light-resistance, warm-up set and gradually add more resistance. You can include exercises such as chest presses, hamstring curls, leg presses, lat-pull downs, lateral raises, crunches, triceps extensions, and biceps curls. Cooling down for about 10 minutes afterward with low-intensity cardio and light stretching is essential to reduce lactic acid in your muscles -- to discourage soreness -- and promote joint flexibility.
Things to Consider
Strength training is just part of the fat-loss process. It takes a daily deficit of 500 calories to lose 1 pound of fat in a week. Part of this deficit can come from exercise and eating fewer calories. For instance, skip desserts, choose nutritious, low-calorie snacks, such as veggies and fruits, over chips and cookies, and eat smaller portions. Also, see your doctor before starting a new exercise routine, particularly if you're plagued with injuries or health conditions.