You might spend hours swimming or running, but you still do not have the curves you hope for. Weightlifting is a good way to get cardiovascular exercise, and it tones and builds your muscles. Weight machines offer controlled, smooth resistance, which helps avoid injury. Free-weights are good for building the smaller supporting muscle groups that machines do not target. Join a friend when starting a weightlifting routine to keep you motivated and on track.
Women participated in athletic and strength building exercise in ancient times, but for centuries afterward, the trend died back. Weight-lifting women were the antithesis of the Victorian ideal of womanhood. Upper-class females were pale and frail, and tight corsets prompted episodes of fainting, which drew the attention of suitors. The social liberation of women in the 1920s and the emancipation of their outfits led to increased female participation in sports. Weightlifting remained an outlier activity, though, and it remained a cultural oddity indulged by those on the fringes of society. As late as the 1950s, Muscle Beach in Venice, Calif., was an isolated enclave for women who lifted weights.
Weightlifting pits your strength against gravity. You move weights in repetitive controlled motions and build lean muscle tissue in the process. Weightlifting burns calories and, when combined with a moderate calorie reduction and healthy diet, burns off excess fat. Reducing abdominal fat is particularly important, says MayoClinic.com, because women suffer higher rates of cardiovascular disease and diabetes when they accumulate adipose tissue around their mid-section.
Women often suffer from brittle bones or osteoporosis as they age. You build up bone strength in your youth from dietary calcium and weight-bearing exercise. Optimizing bone strength in your 20s, helps avoid problems later in life, advises the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Weightlifting exercises build strength in young women and help stave off loss of bone strength in mature women.
Women benefit from the same type of weightlifting and resistance exercise as men do. Customizing workouts by reducing the amount of weight you lift, and increasing the number of repetitions you perform, builds strength without straining muscles or causing injury. Use free weights or machines to target the back of your arms, or to strengthen the back of your thighs and firm up your backside — among many options.
Even today, some women hesitate to do weightlifting exercise, fearing hypertrophy or exaggerated thick muscles. Because women have little testosterone, though, becoming bulky and muscle bound is unlikely for the average female gym-goer. Professional female bodybuilders dedicate themselves to hours spent at the gym, and grueling workout routines. The 30 minutes spent at the gym daily advocated by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is enough to tone you up, not bulk you out.