When you step into the gym for the first time as a woman, you are bound to feel a mix of emotions. You might feel completely lost among the wilderness that is iron-wrought and kind of smelly. You might also be intimidated by all the other bodies around you, and this might drive you to a place of sanctuary: the cardio machines.
Let’s be real for a moment, ladies. If you want to get that body of your dreams, you’re going to have to take pride in what you’re doing and get a little sweaty. Don’t stick to what feels safe. To help you achieve your fitness goals, I’ve come up with some beginner workout tips for women and some sample workouts for you to do.
At the end of this, you will have everything you need to start making the rest of your life the best part yet.
Tips For Getting Started
Before getting into the sample workout plans, let’s briefly go over some no-nonsense tips for you to keep in mind:
- Don’t go overboard. In other words, keep it simple. Use machines for now and take group classes, if you want.
- Focus on form and technique. The goal in the beginning is to understand how your body moves and why. Once you get down lifting technique, you can then move onto the more challenging stuff.
- Don’t push yourself too far. All beginners should start out at moderate intensity and go no higher. Sure, HIIT and CrossFit WODs sound great in the beginning, but if you don’t know what you’re doing, you will injure yourself. And no one has time for injuries these days. Also, don’t go too far from your comfort zone. Keep workouts fun.
- Record your measurements and improvements. While it’s not compulsory, consider weighing yourself, taking your waist measurements, and recording what you eat. This will keep you accountable, and it will also show you a neat record of how far you have come.
- Get medical clearance. Any trainer will tell you that you should never begin an exercise program until you have been cleared by a medical professional, especially if you are diabetic, have medical conditions or any recent injuries, or may be pregnant. Make sure you are ready to start lifting and running before stepping foot in a gym.
Workout Plans For Beginners
When you are just beginning to workout, you should be working more physical activity into your daily life. Alongside more walking and stair-climbing and healthy eating, plan your gym time like this:
- Day One: Cardio
- Day Two: Total body strength training
- Day Three: Cardio
- Day Four: Total body strength training
- Day Five: Cardio
- Day Six: Rest
- Day Seven: Rest
Now, Day Six and Seven don’t have to be the weekend, especially if your schedule doesn’t allow you free time throughout the week. So, you might start on Friday and have Wednesday and Thursday off.
Beginner Cardio For Women
Cardio can be fun, especially if you like getting outside and jogging through the park or attending Zumba and other dance fitness classes. You can also use cardio machines, such as:
- Stationary and Recumbent bikes
- Rowing machines
- Stair Climbers
Find a machine that is your favorite and set yourself up for a 30-minute cardio session. Do the following steps:
- Warm-up for 5-8 minutes at a low resistance level with moderate cycling
- Start your workout with 2 minutes at a regular pace, where you might be warm but not breathing heavily. You should be able to maintain this pace.
- Speed yourself up, adding resistance/incline for 2 minutes.
- Continue alternating between regular pace and your challenging pace for 2 minutes each, about 20-25 minutes in total.
- At around 25-28 minutes into your cycling or running, go back to the warm-up speed and cool-down.
Beginner Resistance Training For Women
The same with cardio: starting off means going safe rather than being sorry. In other words, keep it simple and keep it mildly challenging for the first two weeks. Once you get into the third week, you can start making your resistance training workouts a bit more difficult by changing up the weight, volume, and frequency.
For the first two weeks, you work muscular endurance while building some added strength. This means working within 2-3 sets with a rep range of 12-20 for most exercises. During the third week, increase the weight so your rep range falls in between 10-12. You will still be doing the same amount of sets. Then, during the final week of your beginner program (week 4), you increase the weight again to get within the 8-10 rep range and do 4 sets.
Let’s have a look at your beginner strength building sequence:
This is a total body program, working legs, calves, back, biceps and triceps, shoulders, chest, and your core. Here are the exercises:
- Leg press, leg extension, or leg curl (choose one)
- Front pull-down
- Chest press machine
- Biceps curl machine
- Triceps extension machine
- Shoulder press machine
- Calf raise machine
- Choose three abs exercises: V-sits, bicycle crunches, dead bug, sit-ups, scissors, crunch machine, etc. Perform these 3 exercises once through, 15-20 repetitions each.
Note that for most exercises, you are working with a machine. This is to help you get smooth movement patterns down before transitioning to free weight. However, if you think you want to try free weights, don’t be afraid to pick up the dumbbells or a kettlebell. You can easily swap in dumbbell biceps curls or triceps kicks, for example. If the leg machines are taken, grab some dumbbells and do squats or wall-sits.
Beginner Warm-Ups and Cool-Downs For Women
When warming up, don’t hold static stretches, because that will diminish your performance. Instead, do some light jogging in place, easy pace jumping jacks, inch worms into plank, and so on. You should feel warm and lightly sweating after your warm-up. If you plan on lifting, grab a low weight dumbbell and run through some of the same exercises to prepare yourself mentally.
During cool-down, since your muscles are loosened up, you can then stretch and hold for 10-30 seconds each. Here are the best stretches for women:
- Low lunge
- Figure 4 stretch
- Cross-body shoulder stretch
- Downward dog
- Cobra pose
- Child’s pose
- Pigeon pose
- Forward fold
- Seated wide leg forward fold
There you go, ladies! These workout samples are quick and effective—and they will help you get to where you eventually want to be. Remember not to go too crazy right out of the gate. Find activities you enjoy to supplement these workouts. Do that, and you will wonder why it took you so long to get fit to begin with!
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