Beginner's Full-Body Workout Routine for Women

Beginner's Full-Body Workout Routine for Women

It really is not true that women are "the weaker sex." While it is true that women, in general, can't lift as much weight as men in absolute terms, that is when adjustments are made for differences in muscle mass, exercise site ExRx.net points out that men's and women's weight-lifting ability is about equal. Consequently, a beginner full-body workout for a woman won't be much different from that for a man.

Major Muscle Groups
A full-body workout means hitting all the major muscle groups. These are the pectoralis major in your chest; the latissimus dorsi in your midback; the front, side and back deltoids of your shoulders; the quadriceps and hamstrings in your legs; the biceps and triceps in your arms; and your core muscles. In addition, you should work the erector spinae muscles that run along your spine. You can do them all in one day, but if you need to build stamina, you may want to split your upper- and lower-body workouts. Whichever you choose, you should allow 48 to 72 hours between working the same muscles to allow them to recover. As a beginner, you may need the longer recovery time.

Resistance
Building muscle requires working against some resistance. Beginners often do better starting out on gym machines for exercises such as the chest press, leg press, cable lat pulldown and shoulder press. This is because machines help you maintain proper form. Some gyms also have machines for working your biceps and triceps and anterior, or back, deltoids. If not, you'll have to use free weights for biceps curls, triceps extensions and reverse flyes. As a beginner, go with dumbbells over a barbell, as you'll have more control and weight options, and try to do them in a chair against which you can support your back, or lying face down on a bench for reverse flyes. Proper form generally means keeping your head, back and pelvis aligned and not locking your joints.

Weight, Reps, Sequence
While the standard is two sets of eight to 12 repetitions for each exercise, in the beginning it's best to do just one set of 12 to 15 as you learn what you can handle. The idea is to choose a resistance at which you can do 12 reps with some difficulty but without breaking form. Gradually increase until you can do 15 at that weight, then progress to a new weight or a harder exercise. Because working your larger muscles often requires assistance from your smaller muscles, try to work your pecs, lats, shoulders -- front, side and back -- and your legs first. Follow this with exercises for your biceps and triceps and then your core.

Core Work
Core work is one instance where you should avoid machines at first, as they can be hard to master, and you'll end up either not working the muscles properly or even injuring yourself. In addition to the rectus abdominis that runs down your middle, and your obliques that define your waist, you should focus on the deeper tranversus abdominis. You can start with simple hollowing, done lying on your back with your knees bent and lifting your shoulders and pelvis just slightly off the floor while trying to pull your navel toward your backbone. Progress to crunches with your hands behind your head and twist crunches for your obliques. Do as many as you can without breaking form. Turn over and lift your shoulders and chest off the floor to work your erector spinae. Finish with front planks, done in a standard pushup position but resting on your elbows to start, and bridges where you lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, then lift your midsection while rising on your shoulders until your body forms an even slope. Hold these for as long as you can in good form, working toward 60 seconds.

Cardio and Stretching
While strength training is important, be sure to get at least 150 minutes of moderate cardio -- exercise that increases your heart rate -- each week. You can put this at the beginning, middle or end of your routine, or even on different days, but always get five to 10 minutes of moderate activity to warm your muscles before doing any strength training. In addition, make sure to stretch every muscle you worked either immediately following the exercise or at the end of your routine. Stretching is especially important for beginners to minimize soreness.