Introducton to Workout Routines and Stretching

Make sure that if you have any medical or physical conditions which may affect your training programme you consult your GP before you begin the workouts featured within this section of MusclesforWomen.com.

You must start every workout with a short warm-up so the muscles you are about to use are relaxed, your joints are more mobile and your temperature and circulation have increased. If you are a complete beginner you may wish to start with the mobility exercises from the Pilates section. After this I would recommend you do some stretching — holding the stretch for about 8 to 10 seconds — on all major muscle groups: quads, hamstrings, calves, hip flexors, chest, upper back. People who already do some exercise may find they don’t need to stretch, and should just go straight on to do some cardiovascular work. Everyone should have a gradual cardiovascular warm-up of about 5 to 10 minutes. You should notice your heart rate increasing, your breathing patterns begin to change, and your body’s temperature begin to rise.

After a session I recommend you cool down gradually to bring the heart rate comfortably back to a normal level. Stretching is then a must for everyone! Repeat the warm-up stretches, aiming to develop the length of each muscle. These developmental stretches should be held for 30 to 45 seconds and are a way of calming the body and rounding off your workout. They should release tension as well as improve flexibility and prevent later muscular soreness from developing!

The workouts in this section, are designed so you can choose and vary your exercise regime. There are three levels to each exercise; remember to consider your body type and level of fitness when choosing the right one for you:

• ectomorphs should mainly work at Level 1

• mesomorphs should mainly work at Level 2

• endomorphs should mainly work at Level 3

Where weights are indicated in the workouts, start with light weights if you haven’t done much exercise and use what suits you if you are already exercising. You should work your legs harder than your upper body, so if you use light hand weights, use medium leg weights. Don’t stay at the same weight when you know you can increase the resistance — make sure you challenge yourself.

• light weights = 1-2 kg

• medium weights = 2-4 kg

• heavy weights = 5-10 kg

Repeat the workout a few times and, when you find it is becoming easier, make yourself work harder by increasing the weights you use, the number of repetitions or the amount of time you spend on each exercise.

STRETCHING

If you are a beginner you should do some stretches as part of your warm-up. If you are more advanced you may feel you don’t need to do this, but stretching is an important part of your programme. In addition to using up calories, stretching lengthens your muscles and helps prevent injury Do these stretches to cool down at the end of your session, too.

Quad Stretch

Stand on one foot and hold the other foot in your hand — hold on to something if you need to. Keep the knees soft. Draw the knee up and the foot back towards the spine until you feel a stretch in the front of the thigh. You can also do this stretch lying on one side with your knees bent up in line with the hips — hold the ankle of the top leg and, keeping the leg bent, draw it back so the knee is moving towards the spine. Stop when you get a stretch. Repeat on the other side. Hold the stretch for 30-45 seconds.

Hamstring Stretch

Lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Lift one leg and put one hand behind the knee (do NOT hold onto the kneecap) and the other hand behind your ankle. Straighten the leg until you feel a stretch at the back of the thigh. Try and ease the stretch a little further, release, and change legs. Hold the stretch for 30-45 seconds.

Calf Stretch

Stand with both hips and feet facing forwards. Step back with – one foot, shift your weight forward so the front leg bends slightly and the upper body comes in line with the back leg. Keep the back heel down on the floor. You should feel the stretch in the back leg. Release and change legs. Hold the stretch for 30-45 seconds.

Upper Back Stretch

Clasp the hands in front of the body. Round the back, don’t lock out the elbows, gently pull the arms forward and drop the chin to the chest. Hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds.

Triceps Stretch

Lift one arm and place the other hand on the elbow. Bend the arm so the hand is coming down between the shoulder blades. Gently push the arm back with the other hand until you feel a stretch in the back of the upper arm. Hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds. Or, take one arm across the body, put one hand just below the elbow and ease the arm further across. Release and change arms. Hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds.

Biceps Stretch

Open the arms to the sides and point the thumbs down. Continue to push the thumbs down as you reach the arms back until you feel a stretch on the front of the upper arm. Hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds. Or, take one arm in front of you with the palm facing upwards. Press downwards with the other hand into the palm of the raised hand. Release and change arms. Hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds.

Chest Stretch

Place both hands in the small of the back. Keep the shoulders relaxed. Pull the elbows backwards until you feel a sufficient stretch across the chest. Hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds. Or, turn and face a wall and lift one arm to shoulder height. Place the hand on the wall and slowly turn the body away from the arm. Hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds.