Are Certain Exercises Better for Women ? The Answer is Yes and No
The best exercises for women are not the same as the best for exercises for men only for one reason. Women generally have different goals than men. While men usually want to build certain muscles, women want to tone.
Toning is the simultaneous reduction in body fat and the maintenance of muscle. While this is possible for some people, toning is not going to happen with toning exercises unless you have a low body fat percentage.
Unless your body fat percentage is on the low end of ideal or lean, the best exercises for women are most likely the same as the best exercises for men.
Multi-joint exercises which work large muscle groups are best to increase your metabolism and tone up. These multi-joint exercises should be the base of weight training for men and women alike.
Top 5 Myths Associated with the Best Exercises for Women
Women's Exercise Myth 1:
Women should lift high reps with light weight to tone, because heavier weight and less reps will bulk.
Whether a weight is heavy or not is a matter of perception. The truth of the matter is in order for an exercise to be effective your muscles should fail within the rep range which you are aiming for. If you perform a weight training exercise and perform 20 repetitions when you could have did 50 the exercise will not be effective regardless of who who you are.
Women's Exercise Myth 2:
Women should only perform the toning weight training exercises in women's magazines, not any exercises men do.
This couldn't be further from the truth. Exercises which work large muscle groups such as the bench press are necessary in any successful fitness program for women. Isolation exercises such as biceps curls are meant to build a certain muscle.
Multi joint exercises such as seated row work many different muscles. You wouldn't want to do 10 sets of bench press though. The best exercises for women can be any exercise with the right set and rep scheme.
Women's Exercise Myth 3:
Women who want to lose weight should not participate in weight training or high intensity activities.
The main purpose of exercise in a weight loss / toning goal is to elevate metabolism. To burn calories during cardio is not as important in the long run as the maintenance of a high metabolism. The activities which will effect metabolism significantly are high intensity activities such as interval cardio, sprints and weight training.
Women's Exercise Myth 4:
Women should always do cardio before weight training.
This really doesn't matter. The best exercises for women before or after cardio will have the same benefits. A good rule of thumb is to do what you least like to do first, so you won't skip out on it.
If you have a specific goal, such as running times, you should probably do your cardio first. If your goal is to do 5 pull ups, you should tackle the weight training first while you have the most energy. There are benefits and drawbacks to doing either first so do what makes you happy.
Women's Exercise Myth 5:
Pregnant women should not lift weights.
Lifting weights is very good for pregnant women. Some say it eases the birth. There are certain things which pregnant women should avoid such as the Valsalva maneuver which is the straining motion associated with holding the breath.
After the first 3 months of pregnancy pregnant women should also avoid all exercises which are in the supine (lying on back) position. First and foremost pregnant women should ask their doctor before starting a weight training program.
Who can Benefit from the Best Exercises for Women ?
The best exercises for women assume that you are trying to lose weight or tone up. They assume that you are not very skinny with a body fat in the lean category for women for your age group. If you are already in the lean category, certain toning exercises will help you tone your muscles. Toning exercises are isolation movements which concentrate on a certain muscle.
The best exercises for women are total body, multiple large muscle group exercises. They exercise a lot of your lean mass so they will benefit you if you are looking to lose weight, tone up and even build muscle.
What are the Best Exercises for Women ?
Since you are most likely not looking for hulking muscles the best exercises for you and women alike who are looking to tone up are combination exercises.
Combination exercises are multiple exercises performed at the same time. These are the best exercises for women because they will allow you to work multiple muscle groups, and get more overall work in during your workouts.
More overall work means extra calories burned, which means a higher metabolism, which means you will be more likely to burn fat, tone up, lose weight, and be lean. Here are some examples of the best exercises for women. This does not mean that all exercises anybody can do will not benefit you. As long as you have a healthy diet, perform cardiovascular exercise and try to live a healthy active lifestyle all exercises are beneficial.
Here are a Few Examples of Combination Exercises
Lunges with Shoulder Press
Lunges with shoulder press is an exercise which works your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, inner and outer thighs, shoulders, and triceps. Lunges are definitely in the top 3 best exercises for women because they work the muscle group which is usually a problem area for the majority of women.
Start: You can either perform the lunge with press from a stationary position or walking. If you have about 20 feet of clear space you can perform walking lunges with press. If you don't have space to walk, you can simply perform either stationary lunges or pushback lunges.
Begin the motion: Hold the dumbbells at your side. Begin walking lunges. After you complete a lunge, either balance on one foot or stand on both feet and perform a shoulder press, pushing the dumbbells above you head. After you are finished with the press, lower the weights back to their original position and repeat the lunges.
Modifications: There are many modifications you can do. You can use kettlebells, body bars or any form of resistance for this exercise. If you do not know proper lunge form please visit the lunge page.
Step- ups with Curls and Press
Step ups with biceps curls and shoulder press work your thighs, hamstrings, glutes, inner thighs, outer thighs, biceps, triceps and shoulders. You will also work on your balance.
Start: Have a pair of dumbbells or any form of resistance. You should have a step which is completely stable to begin for safety reasons. The height of the step depends on your level of training.
Begin the motion: With your arms at your side step up to the top of the step. Make sure you step up with the back 2/3 of your foot not your toes. Your knee should not pass your toes as you step up. You can either balance on 1 foot or put your other foot on the step. Curl the weights up to shoulder level and them perform a shoulder press above you head.
Modifications: You can perform all the motions separately or you can do the curls as you step up. The latter is more difficult. You can also perform these stepping up to the side. This will be a great way to get your stabilizer muscles working, in this case the muscles of your inner and outer thighs. They will be working mainly functionally to stabilize your knees.
Squats with Rows
Squats with rows are a great exercise for your butt, hamstrings, thighs, biceps and all the muscles in your back. Many trainers consider these to be one of the best exercises for women because they exercise 2 muscle groups which seldom work together.
Start: Either use a free motion machine with 2 cables, a low cable with a triangle bar or a resistance tube. Grab the resistance and take a couple steps back. Keep your arms straight as you will use them as a counter balance during the squat.
Begin the motion: With your arms completely straight, but your shoulders and back in neutral alignment perform a squat. Since you have the counter balance of the resistance you can really squat your butt backwards and form a complete 90 degree angle with your legs. Squat back up and perform a row with the cables as you reach the top of the squat. Make sure you squeeze your shoulder blades together in back without elevating your shoulders.
Modifications: You can stand on an unstable surface such as a BOSU balance trainer to modify this exercise and increase the difficulty. You can also pause at the bottom of the squat and perform rows while you contract your legs isometrically (muscle contraction with no movement).
Stability Ball Squat with Lateral and Front Raises
Stability ball squats are one of the best exercises for women which can be used in combination with many different exercises. Lateral and front raises isolate the side and front of your shoulders while the squats work your glutes hamstrings and quadriceps.
Start: Have a stability ball against the wall in the small of your back. Position your feet forward so when you squat down your legs form a 90 degree angle. Keep your core tight, and your back in neutral alignment for the duration of this exercise.
Begin the motion: Bring your hips back and down with the ball. As you squat perform a lateral raise, raising the dumbbells to the side. At the bottom of the squat you should pause for a second with your arms out to the side. As you squat up, lower the weights back to their original position.
Modifications: You can also perform front raises during this motion. You can do them separately or alternating with the lateral raises. You can do a combination of both (see video.) It is best if you perform the concentric (lifting up) shoulders exercise on the way down with the squat. This will eliminate momentum and cause your body to work your stabilizer muscles more with isometric contractions at the bottom of the squat.