These exercises are extremely effective for women!
By Nicole Nichols, Managing Editor and Fitness Expert at SparkPeople
There's dinner to make, homework to help with, and so many other tasks on your to-do list! Who has time to spend hours in the gym? Ever wonder if the exercises you're doing are going to give you the best results for your body? Well look no further! These three moves offer body benefits--and they don't require a gym membership or fancy equipment. Make them part of your fitness routine on a regular basis and you'll be looking and feeling better in no time.
#1 Exercise for Women: Squats
Why they're effective: Squats are the go-to move for everyone who strength trains because they engage more muscles than any other move. Squats work the thighs (quads, hamstrings, outer thighs), glutes, and core (abdominals and the muscles that support your spine). You don't need any equipment to perform squats, but always have the option of adding dumbbells and/or a stability ball to add challenge. Perform 1-3 sets of 8-15 repetitions.
Stand with your feet wider than shoulder width apart and your toes slightly turned outward.
INHALE: With your abs pulled in tight and your weight in your heels, slowly lower by bending at the knees and slightly from the hips. Keep your back as upright as possible (don't lean forward from the waist). EXHALE: Straighten legs and come up to the starting position to complete one rep.
Make sure your knees don't cross the plane of your toes. Try to lower until your thighs are parallel to the floor. If you have difficulty performing this exercise you can also use a chair or wall to help with balance and the movement until you build sufficient strength.
#2 Exercise for Women: One-Arm Dumbbell Rows
Why they're effective: Did you know that the easiest way to look longer and leaner is to improve your posture? Rounded shoulders are common among women when the weight of the breasts pulls the shoulders forward and upper back muscles are weak. Most people only train what they consider to be a "problem" or what they can see in the mirror (muscles on the front of the body. But strengthening your back muscles, particularly the lats (which give your back its "V" shape), can help improve posture. This exercise also targets several other muscles at once: the biceps, shoulders, and other back muscles (traps and rhomboids), which will help improve your overall upper body strength. Aim for 1-3 sets of 8-15 repetitions.
Grasp one dumbbell in your right hand, palm facing the body. Step forward with your left leg as if you were going to lunge. Bend the left knee and straighten your right leg back. Rest your left elbow your forward (left) leg. Try to create a flat back. Keep upper body steady with the abs pulled in tight.
INHALE: With the right palm facing the body, "row" the dumbbell up as high as possible (towards the armpit) as the elbow points backwards. EXHALE: Slowly lower dumbbell back down until arm is straight, but elbow does not lock, to complete one rep. Finish one set and switch sides.
Keep your spine in a neutral position. While lifting focus on the muscles in the back, visualizing your shoulder blade moving towards the spine, and coming back out as you release the weight down.
#3 Exercise for Women: Bicycle Crunches
Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent, in line with the hips. Place hands behind your head and neck for support. Pull the naval in towards the spine throughout this movement.
Bend your left knee in towards your chest while you crunch up and twist, bringing your right elbow towards the knee. Without resting, lower the left leg back down to the floor as the right knee comes in, twisting to the opposite side to bring your left elbow towards your right knee to complete one rep. Repeat continuously until you complete one set.
Breathe steadily throughout this exercise.
Why they're effective: There has been a lot of research on the effectiveness of various abdominal exercises. Most experts agree that while crunches are good, adding some simple elements can make them even better. That's where the bicycle crunch comes in. Based on EMG tests of muscle activation, the bicycle crunch is one of the most effective core exercises there is, working the abs, obliques, and hips. You may want to lie on a mat, but no equipment is necessary. Aim for 1-3 sets of 8-15 repetitions.
Remember that there is no such thing as "spot-training." While these exercise will help strengthen and tone the muscles that they target, only cardiovascular exercise will burn the layer of fat that covers those toned muscles in the first place. Try this program 2-3 times per week, resting at least one day in between each strength workout, in combination with a moderate cardio program (30 minutes a day, 3-4 days per week). You'll notice you'll feel stronger, stand taller and look better in as little as three weeks!
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