Girls Can Lift Weights Too: Trim and Toned Thursdays With Cara

Longing for long, lean muscles like Maggie Gyllenhaal and Jessica Alba? Strength train!

Strength training does not have to be about “bulking up.” Aside from building lean muscle, there are countless benefits to lifting weights, including:

* Speeding up your metabolism

* Strengthening your bones (something very important for us women!)

* Helping you avoid injuries

* Enhancing the immune system

* Improving coordination and balance

* And of course, boosting your confidence and helping you to feel comfortable in your own skin!

A University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine study found that women who lift weights twice a week can prevent or slow down weight gain and reduce the increase of abdominal fat in middle aged women. Say bye bye to belly fat!

Never lifted weights before? Neither did I until two years ago. I stayed in shape by swimming competitively throughout high school. Due to the rigor of the program, academics, and the other activities I was involved in, I had never been to the gym or a weight room. When I went to college, I decided not to swim on the team. I swam on my own once a week, but wanted to supplement it with some other exercises. I decided to try the elliptical (which is still my favorite form of cardio, aside from swimming).

When I came home for October break, I went to the gym with my brother, Louie. He told me I needed to start lifting weights or I would lose all of the muscle and tone I had achieved from 12 years of swimming. To be honest, I was nervous about going to the “guy’s” side of the gym to use machines I did not know how to operate. Louie took me under his wing and showed me how to operate and adjust the machines (I’m only 5’ 4’’ and most of the machines are set for people much taller than I am!). It is much simpler than I imagined and now I try to incorporate some simple weights every time I go to the gym.

Moral of the story: don’t be afraid to try something new and ask for help! Many gyms have trainers on duty who can answer questions and give you a brief tutorial. There are also workout videos and even videos online that can show you proper form (so you get the most out of your workout and prevent injuries).

Here Are Some Tips For Beginners:

* You should be lifting enough weight so that you can only complete the number of desired reps (with good form and without strain).

* To avoid plateaus, you should be increasing your intensity regularly.  This can be achieved by increasing the number of reps, increasing the amount of weight lifted, or changing the type of resistance.

* Always warm-up and stretch. This helps to prevent strains and injuries.

* Breathe! This is something I always forget to do!

* Stand up straight while using free weights. This will improve your balance, engage your abs, and protect your spine.

* Lift and lower weights slowly. You want to be using your muscles rather than momentum to lift.

* Don’t overwork yourself! Rest is just as important as working out because it allows your muscles to recovery. Do not work the same muscles groups two days in a row.

*Cara’s Craving of the Week: Resistance Bands

Resistance bands increase coordination and balance because you must stabilize your body while using the bands. Moreover, they are cheap (between $6 and $20), add variety (you can change positioning and work multiple muscle groups), and great for all levels of strength trainers! Resistance bands are portable, so they can even travel with you! (And don’t forget the amazing $8 Body Sport resistance bands in our Makeover Momma Shop. They have sturdy handles so you can lift, twist and pull without straining your wrists).

*Stay Tuned: Next week we will discuss exercise and staying active during pregnancy!

Want to get outside, feel fit or find new ways to tone your body? Cara Murphy will help you tap into your inner athlete, no matter where you are at in your life. To submit your own questions, comments and suggestions, please contact Cara at

Credit: © People

Makeover Mommaâ„¢ occasionally receives cosmetic products for review, with no obligation to positively promote or cover said brand. Receiving products has absolutely no influence over our recommendation of any particular product.

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