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Sharing ST info from Women's Health

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

A Quick Strength Training Guide for Women
Tackle daunting machines and dumbbells with this guide--and burn more fat
Jen Ator; Additional reporting by Alex Kish

Lifting weights has some seriously cool benefits: It increases lean muscle mass, which boosts metabolism and helps torch calories and shed stubborn fat. It also improves the quality of your sleep, wards off back pain, and protects you from disease.

Despite all this, many women dodge the dumbbells at the gym—in fact, only 21 percent strength-train two or three times a week. It may be that the rest are misguided, feel intimidated, or are just plain avoiding it!

Well, the excuses end here. We enlisted top trainers to create this easy-to-follow weight-room cheat sheet. The payoff of pumping more iron will be a leaner, sexier you.

1. Have a Plan
When you enter an unfamiliar situation (say, the free-weight zone), your body will naturally freeze for a moment and only your eyes will move, says body-language expert Patti Wood, author of Success Signals: Body Language in Business. It's an obvious physical sign that you're confused. Decide beforehand what you'll do as soon as you go into the room. For example, make a beeline for the dumbbells. But which ones? Lifting too much too soon can hurt your form and put you at risk for injury, but grabbing two-pounders won't get you results. New York City personal trainer Dan Ownes gives a head-to-toe exercise barometer of just-right weights for beginners:

If you're doing...lateral raises
Start with...2.5 to 5 pounds in each hand

If you're doing...biceps curls
Start with...5 to 8 pounds in each hand

If you're doing...flat-bench dumbbell rows
Start with...12 to 20 pounds

If you're doing...chest presses
Start with...12 pounds (body bar) to 45 pounds

If you're doing...squats
Start (body weight) to 45 pounds

2. Stay Steady
The occasional slam of a weight stack is par for the course when you're using resistance equipment like the cable machine or seated leg press, but causing a storm of noise is a classic newbie doh! And it's more than just bad manners. "Lowering the weight without control can result in injury," says Brad Schoenfeld, owner of the Personal Training Center for Women in Scarsdale, New York, and author of Women's Home Workout Bible. "It can also prevent you from getting the tone you're after, because you don't work through the full range of motion." Lower the weights slowly enough that you can perform every rep of the exercise with good form (and less clanking!).

3. Breathe Easy
Even seasoned lifters sometimes forget to breathe during a tough move. But it's counterproductive. "You starve the body of oxygen, which forces your heart to work a lot harder," says certified strength and conditioning specialist Josh Kernen, owner of Bridgetown Physical Therapy & Training Studio in Portland, Oregon. Exhale during the major exertion in each move, and inhale while returning to the starting position.

4. Break a Sweat
Go full-steam, or you might as well go home. A good way to gauge your effort: Monitor how hard you feel like your body is working. It's called your rating of perceived exertion (RPE), and it's usually measured on a scale of one to 10, with one being very little exertion (like lounging in bed) and 10 being the max (running away from an angry dog). To build and tone muscle, aim for an RPE of at least seven or eight during workouts, says Kernen. "Even if you're happy with your tone, you still have to hit six or seven to maintain muscle mass."

5. Think Total Body
Your muffin top may be the only thing that's motivating you to hit the gym, but it's a mistake to attack just your least-favorite assets. "Spot-reducing exercises simply don't work," says Schoenfeld. Full-body workouts torch fat more efficiently because they build more lean muscle mass, which in turn burns more calories per day. And think about it: Wouldn't you rather eradicate all your jiggle?

The Lingo
Common need-to-know gym terms...defined

A workout format that incorporates strength exercises, performed with little or no rest between each exercise. One entire round of each move is considered one circuit.

The safety mechanism, usually round, that you put next to the last weight on a barbell to keep the weight from falling off during a workout.

The activation of functioning muscle or muscle fiber.

Types of contractions:
• Concentric: The shortening of muscle fibers during the lifting portion of the exercise (e.g., lifting a dumbbell during a biceps curl).
• Eccentric: The lengthening of muscle fibers during the lowering portion of an exercise (e.g., lowering a dumbbell during a biceps curl).

A grasp, hold, or control. Usually refers to the placement of your hands on a bar or dumbbell.

Types of grips:
• Neutral grip: Palms facing each other
• Pronated grip: Palms facing down or back. Also called an overhand grip.
• Supinated grip: Palms facing up or forward. Also called a reverse grip or underhand grip.

Completing an exercise with one main muscle group, followed by another exercise with the opposing muscle group, with little or no rest in between.

Work in
To share gym equipment. Complete a set, let them do a set, and continue alternating until you're finished.

Last updated: December 1, 2009 Issue date: December 2009
You can find this article online at:

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

ASPENJULES 12/4/2009 5:30PM

    I'm pleased to know that I know all of this stuff, with one exception.

I always thought superset was to do one exercise utilizing a particular muscle (quads in a leg press) followed by another exercise working the same muscle (lunges).

Not that the terminology really matters - sometimes I'll work opposite muscles, but if you REALLY want to fatigue a muscle - working two different exercises on the same muscles will do the job, to be sure!

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CASSIOEPIA 12/2/2009 6:12PM

    This is great info Penny - especially the part about how much to lift if you are just beginning. So many people start out grabbing too much, and then thinking they've failed cause they can't do it, or worse, they hurt themselves.

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Onward and downward to week 4

Monday, November 09, 2009

Challenges for this week:
Maintain the first two week's challenges (tracking, water).
Try a new workout.
Add 15% more minutes to your cardio total.
Strength train! do a little something at least 3x this week.

Last week was a write-off all around. I wasn't allowed to run and I was feeling bad for myself. I had four days where I consumed over two thousand calories. That made my average intake 1955/day. Sad. Very sad.

Days in range: 3
Calories consumed: 13,687 (1955 avg)
Calories burned through exercise: 863
Fitness minutes: 108
Water: 1/7 days - HOLY CRAP!!
Fruit & veggies: 5/7 -this I can live with.

Well now I feel even worse. The thing that gets me is, this week was about as opposite as I could get from the prior two weeks where I maintained or gained weight. And yet, I lost a pound. AND I have pms.... weight-loss is so friggin' confusing.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

ETTEZEUS 11/21/2009 7:13PM

    OH gosh! I can totally relate on the weight loss confusion! I also ate crazy one week, I went on a binge fest and still ended up losing! Then the week after, worked out like crazy and stayed in range and lost nothing. Sometimes it makes one want to give up but yet we still keep pressing forward!

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MOMMICOCO 11/19/2009 7:55PM

    same thing here! two wks ago, worked out every day and loss 1 1b. This wk. no exercise and ate crazy, 2lbs down.

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CASSIOEPIA 11/15/2009 1:27PM

    I'm going to subscribe to your blog. We can cheer each other on as we ramp up our training for February. Thanks for stopping in on my blog today. I like that "back to the barn syndrome". Coming from my farm background, I know exactly what that's all about!

As for this blog, it's all in the past. A fresh start. What new workout did you try?

And I have to agree on the weight loss frustration. I'm doing the Calorie Deficit on HTC team, have been doing awesome over the two weeks, and this morning stepped on the scale to the tune of a 1.5 pound GAIN. But giving up is not an option. Gotta Believe!

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GEOGIRL 11/9/2009 10:14AM

  Its a new week, you know what you need to do so get out there and run run run!

Cheers to a better week :)

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WONGERCHI 11/9/2009 10:03AM

    I don't have any words of "wisdom" to add but I'll just say...

What KEAKMAN said x1 million.

And this week's a new week.

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ASPENJULES 11/9/2009 9:40AM

    Well, I can empathize. Ok, so I was able to exercise/run, but I didn't on Thursday, Friday or Saturday because of scheduling issues, and my food those days was also crazy. The downside for me was that my weight definitely went UP. I agree that weight loss is very confusing and frustrating. However, Keakman is right. We have to focus on the things we do right.

Now, how are you feeling and are you good to run yet?

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KEAKMAN 11/9/2009 9:27AM

    I learned a valuable lesson this weekend....instead of focusing on the places where you failed, focus on the places where you succeeded. Tell yourself: Hey, I was restricted from running and it made me feel like crap. Sure, I overate, but I still got in my veggies for the most part. And now I know that if this happens again I need to be prepared for how my brain/heart/spirit is going to take this running ban and adjust.

You lost weight and even more importantly, you didn't quit! THAT is cause for celebration! emoticon

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Heading into week three...

Monday, November 02, 2009

Focus on getting your water intake to the minimum 8 glasses/day.
Track your calories.
Give up one thing that might be holding you back from your weight loss goals.
Get plenty of sleep each night.
Try a new workout.
Add 15% more minutes to your cardio total from week two.
Strength train! do a little something at least 3x this week.

These are my challenges for this week. Since I didn't lose OR gain last week, I have GOT to get serious this week. Or more serious. So here is what I'm going to do..
I will maintain my water intake.
I will continue to track my calories.
I will get at LEAST seven hours of sleep. This also ties into what I'm giving up this week: late night tv. I WILL be in bed by no later than 10:30. I can record whatever I want to watch if it goes later than that.
I will add 15% to my 242 minutes of cardio from last week. = 278.3 minutes
I will do a minimum of 20 minutes of strength training ever other day.
~need to find a new workout to try~

Here's to a productive week! Go team AMETHYST!!


  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

GEOGIRL 11/2/2009 3:49PM

  Well not gaining or losing is something I do need to learn how to do, I'm usually up down and all around so I never even know where I "should" be. Halloween always throws a wrench into it all so now that week three had begun just kick some A##! You can do it!

Yay team Amethyst!

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KEAKMAN 11/2/2009 2:01PM

    When I get bored with my ST workouts, I go to and search for some new ones in their archives...just a thought.

I like how you phrased your goals as positive statements - I hope that helps you to stick with them and to feel good about what you are doing for you. Getting into HTC is a big motivator for me.....the Portland Marathon was so far away that saying I need to drop weight before then seems like forever, but HTC moves it up two months (I know, really just 6 weeks, but don't tell me that!)

Have a great week!

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SKOUET 11/2/2009 11:03AM

    Given the treats that were probably surrounding you this week, no gain is quite the achievement! I feel like stealing this post - this is pretty much exactly what I should do this week. Here's to a more serious week!
PS: I went to Superstore yesterday and got those chocolate PMS things. Hopefully I won't need it, but if I turn crazy again, I will for sure try it out! Thanks.

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Let's see if I can finish this before midnight ;-)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Alright, I've been trying to maintain last week's challenges.
The good:
My water has been bang on.
I'm tracking my calories (except yesterday) and I've been keeping my distance from candy.
I've run Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday and TODAY was another "Functional Fitness" class with DB.
The bad:
Too many calories in. Even with the calorie burn(s) I shouldn't be going over on my calories every day.

The ugly:
GAWD, I want chocolate. I was chewing into a wagon wheel wrapper tonight and thought "you'll be letting the team down".... so I threw it back in the snack jar. Decided on a hot chocolate instead. It *kind* of did the trick.
Tomorrow is another day.... I have two goals:
-stay within calories
-stay away from the sweets

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

KAYAKID 10/31/2009 12:06AM

    Good luck with the no sweets! wish me luck too.

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GEOGIRL 10/30/2009 2:02PM

  Enjoy that wagon wheel today when its worked into your calories :) I totally remember eating those as a kid! Believe me, if I wasn't allergic to them now I'm sure I'd have a box of them in my pantry.

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PINKCHICK130 10/30/2009 11:35AM

    Taking one for the team...what a trooper. What did me in last week was the pizza & wings I let hubby talk me into ordering. No excuses this week and besides I'm running 16k on the weekend, that should help.

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SKOUET 10/30/2009 2:07AM

    I wish I had read this sooner Penny, those are very wise words! Thanks for sharing. And thank you for your comment in my blog. It's not usually that bad, but I'll give the chocolate a try :)

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RUNNINGWILD 10/30/2009 1:09AM

    oh but you can bet that I'm working that wagon wheel into tomorrow's calorie count LOL

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KEAKMAN 10/30/2009 1:07AM

    You can do it! HOORAY for you for tossing the treat, and finding a better choice!

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Summing up week one

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

In the first week of our biggest loser battle of LIC, my challenges were:
~Take a starting photo (so you have something for comparison in 10 weeks.
~Make a journal entry with your top ten reasons for doing this challenge.
~Focus on getting your water intake to the minimum 8 glasses/day.
~Track your calories.

The starting photo and the journal entry were easily done (sort of). emoticon My water intake was achieved 7/7 days emoticon I tracked my calories every day with the exception of 4 meals... and I was on track the four full days that I entered everything. emoticon

Cardio - I ran 23.2 kms for a total of 190 minutes
Strength training - did this once but I did it hardcore - 60 minutes with Denise Beatty.
Vegetables - I was a little slack here. I usually aim for 6 servings per day. Last week, I made this goal on only 2 days.

This week's goals (which I stole from Team Sapphire) are:
1) To complete and continue last weeks challenges.
2) Incorporate AT LEAST 30 minutes of cardio at least four times this week.
3) To give up one thing that might be holding you back from your weight loss goals. Try it for the week and see how it goes.
4) To make it through to Halloween with minimal cheating !
5) Get plenty of sleep each night!

For number 3, I'm giving up candy. I actually threw away a chocolate today but I ate three gummy fruits... baby steps. In my defense, the gummies weren't Halloween candy. Not much of a defense, eh? Number 5 is my biggest challenge... and on that note, I'm off to bed.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

GEOGIRL 10/27/2009 12:15PM

  It sounds like you really did have a good week one, I only strength trained once too :)

I hear you on the veggie slow down too, I went to two grocery stores and the veggies (not the fruits) were horrible! I touched a zucchini and it was so mushy that my finger poked right through the skin...ewww,I couldn't find an eggplant and the peppers I bought ended up having black spots on the inside. I am normally about eating in season fruits/veggies but I'm already tired of all the squash I've eaten and frozen veggies just don't do it for me.

Keep up the good work and Team Amethyst will kick some A##!

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RUNNINGWILD 10/27/2009 9:55AM

    There were a couple of reasons for the lack of veggies but what it boils down to is laziness and poor choices. I could have had more on the weekend but it was just "easier" not to.
I'm back at it this week and going for a 7/7.
Plus side, I haven't bought any gummies for home. Probably won't be here so I'm not going to buy ANY candy at all. Mayyyybe when it goes on sale ;)

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KEAKMAN 10/27/2009 6:16AM

    I applaud your ability and willingness to throw away the chocolate! What a great accomplishment!

You did great on your goals/challenges last week. I am curious about the slow down on the veggies...why do you think that happened? Busy? No good veggies to be had? Bored with them? Just curious, that's all...

Best wishes on meeting and exceeding all your challenges this week! Here's hoping you have so many trick-or-treaters that you don't even have a gummy bear left over by the end of the night!

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