One of the things I’m often asked is whether it’s really worth lifting weights. If you haven’t done it before, the idea of it can be pretty scary and, of course, we’ve all seen those photos of women who are professional body builders. I like being trim, taut and terrific but I think most of them look ridiculous, if not dreadful.
But weights are fantastic for any woman to do as they help get your metabolism moving, they help keep your bones strong and healthy and they do help tone your body.
Here are three weight exercises you can do at home that will benefit you, and which will give you a taste of what weight-training is like. Even if you don't feel like joining a gym, if you can maintain a regime of these three exercises 2-4 times a week, you'll feel better and you'll be doing yourself a lot of good.
1. Goblet squats
You’ll need a dumbbell or some type of weight. Depending on your experience with weights, I’d start at about 5kg. You don’t want it to be too light so it’s really easy, but you don’t want to do yourself an injury either if it’s too heavy.
This move strengthens your quads and glutes and engages your biceps and core.
You hold the dumbbell at chest height. Keep your back straight and squad, pushing your butt back as if you’re about to sit in a chair. On this occasion, don’t worry about how far it sticks out – it’s actually good! Make sure you keep your knees facing straight and your body still faces the front. You may feel a little puffed after this exercise because it also has a cardio benefit from using so many muscles.
Do three sets of 10-15 repetitions (reps).
2. Ledge rows
You’ll need a weight of some sort – a bit lighter than the one you used in the squats and you need something sturdy like a kitchen bench or a window ledge.
Step into a short lunge and lean forward from the hip to rest one hand on the bench or ledge. Holding the dumbbell or weight in the other hand, bend your arm to a 90 degree angle. Keep it very close to your body and raise it to your armpit. Make sure you squeeze your arm and shoulder blade as you pull your arm back. If you know one side is weaker than the other, start with that side.
Do three sets of 10-15 reps on both sides.
3. Chest press
You’ll need two weights or dumbbells of around 4kg each (depending on your experience) and somewhere where you can lie on a fairly firm surface. A bed is not likely to be firm enough, but the floor is good.
Starting with your arms bent at a 90 degree angle held out from your shoulders (in an ‘L’ shape), simply lift the weights simultaneously from your shoulders into an overhead position until your arms are locked slightly in front of you – not directly overhead. Then slowly, and with control, bring the weights back down to shoulder height.
Do three sets of 8-10 reps.
It’s always tempting to try to do more reps or more sets. If you think you can do that, then you have the wrong weight. It needs to be do-able but also challenging towards the last 2-3 repetitions. But if you can master these at home, you’ve got the building blocks for a weights workout and you can take the next step – to a gym or with a personal trainer – with confidence.