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Bench Presses For Upper Body Strength Development In Women

It’s tough for a guy  to build a fitness website without it looking one-sided. But here I want to make it clear that the female audience is just as important and will benefit just as much or more than men. What better way to express that than with a page dedicated to the standard exercise to develop upper body strength for anybody.

Bench presses work for women the same as they do for men.

While many people believe that the bench press is primarily a pectoral development exercise, that is not the case. The bench press works the shoulders and triceps primarily, the pectoral muscles secondarily.

Consistent bench pressing will provide women with strong, supple shoulders and firm, athletic arms. The pectoral development will be in the form of somewhat increased and firmer muscle just below the collar bones. Bench presses are second to nothing in developing upper body strength.

Grip the bar or handles outside the width of your shoulders for standard bench presses.  The grip should feel natural and your arms and shoulders strong under the bar. It can be widened or narrowed to work muscles at different angles and depths. But at the beginning, stick to the standard grip.

Woman bench pressing with free weights

  • On a bench with free weights push the bar off the supports to a position above your chest to begin. Let the bar down to touch your chest in a smooth movement.
  • As soon as it touches your chest, push the bar back up until your arms are straight. This completes the repetition.
  • When finished with a set it is a good idea to have a “spotter” ready to assist in getting the weight back on the bench pegs.

My daughter Jacquilyn is demonstrating the bench press on our standard weight bench machine.

Jacquilyn demonstrating a bench press

  • On a machine like the one shown, the handles are in the press position to begin. Press the handles up until your arms are straight, letting it back down to the starting position for a completed repetition.
  • With either bar or machine, begin with a weight that you can do 8 -10 repetitions without severe strain. A couple of sets should be enough to begin.
  • Vary the exercise with added weight, sets and grip width as you gain strength and experience.

Just a Note: Neither of the women here have turned masculine from bench pressing. It won’t do that to you either.

Women of all shapes and sizes will benefit from bench presses, either with free weights or on a machine. The difference is in balance and stability during the lift.

Great strength and muscle shaping can be accomplished with either. Power specifically for lifting weight in cases where balance is required is an added benefit of free weights.

A good actual weight machine like the one shown will work best for most women, though if bars and weights are what is available, that will also produce excellent results. Use either with confidence that it will result in the strength and development you need.

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Learning To Love Exercise By Hiking With Ladies In Motion

As a child, teenager and young adult, I was never an athletic or outdoors type.  I loved being in the sunshine and water, but that was about it. Through the many years I struggled to incorporate exercise into my life. I would have viewed the talk here about “loving exercise” as ridiculous.

But the best advice I received was from a doctor who said, “Find some activity you enjoy and it won’t be exercise, but your choice of recreation.” 

It was late in coming, but I finally found an activity that I love – HIKING.  Because hiking is my choice of recreation, I mark it on the calendar and schedule around it.  Since I greatly  look forward to the activity, there is the added incentive of keeping it a priority.

Hiking – A Friendship Activity With Serious Goals

Hiking is not an activity that should be done alone because of safety concerns, so I invited a friend to come with me.  She got hooked as well…and so we were off.  We began with easy, short hikes and increased the length and difficulty as our fitness level increased.hiker group

The second year I began logging our hiking trips and after a few months decided to set a goal of hiking 100 miles by the end of the year.  It would require some focus and priority, but to hike 100 miles was very doable.  We would need to hike about 8 ½ miles per month.

Our goal could be accomplished with two hikes per month at a little over 4 miles for each hike.  At this writing, we’ve accomplished this 100 mile goal 2 years in a row and working on our 3rd year.

Our women hiking proves that fitness built around achievement and fun is contagious.

As we began talking with other women about our activity, word spread and we soon had ladies contacting us about joining one of our hikes.  It was then I decided to start a group and named it Ladies In Motion.

hikers stopping to lookOur approach to hiking was not just trekking the miles, but taking the time to appreciate the beauty, whether a grand waterfall or a simple wildflower.

While our hikes are challenging, they certainly are not considered extreme by most standards.  This makes it appealing to ladies, wives and mothers who do not have time to condition for extreme activity, but want to enjoy an active lifestyle.  Everyone in the group is over 40, with ages ranging from mid-40’s to mid-60’s.

Most of our hikes are 4-6 miles, with the trails rated moderate to strenuous.  Our longest hike has been 8 miles in a day.

We have taken a 2 day trip and hiked a total of 12 miles.  However, since we are not extreme, we did not camp overnight in the woods. Instead we stayed overnight in a beautiful cabin.

Motivation for fitness is training for a passion in life.

Hiking is a great motivator in staying focused on my regular exercise program.  I no longer approach exercise as routine or optional, but rather as “training” for my hikes.hikers taking the trail

On the days I don’t feel like walking, I remind myself I will not be able to trek up the side of a mountain if I don’t regularly walk hills. I won’t be able to last through difficult stretches of trail, hills and rocks without committing to weight workouts in between the hikes.

This change in attitude has kept my dedication to a regular workout consistent, enjoyable and rewarding.

Ladies In Motion tag line is: “Dedicated to an active lifestyle, so the body can keep up with the heart’s desires”.

Our heart’s desire can be as big as hiking 100 miles in a year or as small as energy to complete daily errands.  Certainly, a big part of our heart’s desire is to have energy to play with our children and grandchildren.

Leading an active lifestyle increases physical strength and endurance, so we can participate in the life activities we enjoy.