If you were asked to give a review of your own body, chances are you'd start rattling off all the things you don't like about it. Your jiggly arms, the roll at your waist, and then there are those thighs. Don't even go there, says Vicki Dellaverson, Ph.D., president of the Center for the Study of Women's Psychology and a Los Angeles-based psychologist, who believes fitness is important to building body confidence. Instead of relating to your body as that imperfect image in the mirror, she says, live in your body and learn to appreciate it.
That lesson is best accomplished through strength training, which, research shows, helps improve a woman's body image better than walking. "Building strength is empowering," explains Dellaverson. "It helps women change the way they view their bodies." Once a woman recognizes her body's capabilities, says Dellaverson, she may see it as a powerful ally rather than an enemy. Reaching this point of acceptance with your body "saves a lot of energy."
The home-based strength-training routine we present here has been designed by Cheryl Milson, a Los Angeles-based exercise physiologist who teaches many of Dellaverson's clients to incorporate strength training into their lives. "This routine works the core muscle groups effectively and efficiently," says Milson. "It will help improve posture and increase body confidence and awareness as well as building strength and power."
Each exercise ends with a focus point. "By concentrating on form you'll be more in tune with your body," explains Milson, and that will allow you to lift heavier weights and get a higher-quality workout. For women who think weight training will leave them looking like Hulk Hogan, Milson says, "We just don't have the testosterone for that." Think of this focused training as a new way to work out and the beginning of a new relationship with your body: appreciating what it can do for you. Being "in" your body and focusing on the movement is the first step toward appreciating it.
The plan: This workout is effective whether you're a novice to weight training or an old hand with the dumbbells. To get the most from this program, use 2 sets of varying weight, anywhere from 5-15 pounds. (So, for example, you might have a set of 5s and a set of 10s.) Use as heavy a weight as you can while still maintaining good form to complete all reps and sets.
How to use the program: Do all 8 exercises in the order listed 3 times per week on alternating days. To get the most out of your training, vary the way you do the workout in the following manner: two days a week, do 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps for each exercise, resting 1 minute between sets. Try to use lighter weights: Do 1 set of all 8 exercise correctly. Aim for 8-12 reps for each exercise and use a heavier weight. Then repeat the circuit 1 or 2 more times. To progress: (1) Increase the amount of weight you're using, (2) lessen the rest time on days you're doing multiple sets or (3) add a third set if you're only doing 2 sets.
Warm-up: Begin with 5 minutes of low-intensity activity. For instance, you could jump rope using a boxer's shuffle, go up and down stairs, take a brisk walk, march around the house, or put on some music and dance.
Cool-down: End this workout by stretching all of you major muscle groups. Hold each stretch for at least 20 seconds without bouncing.
Cardio training: Don't forget cardio! Choose an exercise you love, and move for at least 30 minutes 3-5 days a week. For best results, vary the time,