Excess weight can make exercise difficult, but there are some best exercises for overweight women that can help make your workouts easier.
Whether you’re new to fitness or an athlete getting back into the game, it’s tough to know where to start, let alone which exercises are right for those of us carrying some extra pounds. Rest assured, no matter what your size or fitness level, you can get in a good workout.
First things first: Don’t be intimidated if you’re just starting out. While the gym may seem like a meat market to scrutinize bodies, it’s really just a place filled with like-minded people working towards their goals. We are all in this together; everyone is just at a different stage in their journey. That muscle-bound woman pounding out pull-ups in her sports bra? She may have started out even heavier than you.
Ok, so now you know you belong, but how to begin? Which exercises should you focus on?
There are modifications for every exercise no matter what your size, so never limit yourself, but safety should always be a number one concern. Excess weight adds impact on the joints. For some overweight people, this does not affect their workouts in the slightest; but for others, it can be a real hinderance. If anything hurts at any time, be it your knees, ankles or back, stop the exercise immediately.
The benefit of carrying excess weight is that it makes everything physically harder to do. Of course, this isn’t ideal in daily life, but in terms of exercise, it’s like two workouts for the price of one (imagine wearing a weighted vest during every workout!). You burn a higher amount of calories doing the same exercises as someone who weighs less. This built-in resistance means that you don’t need to add too much resistance, but rather, maintain a focus on keeping your body moving to burn the most calories possible.
Bodyweight exercises and compound movements that use multiple muscle groups, combined with consistent cardio, are going to be your best bet for fast and permanent weight loss.
In addition, studies show that both exercise and a proper diet are needed to achieve the results you want. Exercise helps build muscle and burn calories, while a clean diet decreases body fat and leads to overall better health. Pairing the two together is crucial.
How To Exercise If You Are Plus Size
The exercises below are low-impact and perfect for plus-size women, as they will put minimal pressure on joints. And remember, minimizing stress throughout the weight loss process (if that is, indeed, your end goal) is just as important as exercising itself. Be kind to yourself, work hard and listen to your body.
Squats use the largest muscles in your body and can be used as a base for every compound exercise: squats with shoulder press, squats with rows, etc.
Start with placing your feet shoulder-width apart. Keeping your chest high and balancing your weight on your heels, bend through the knees to drop your hips as if you were sitting on an imaginary chair. Get as close to 90 degrees on your knees as you can, then return to a standing position.
Modification: If you can’t get to 90 degrees, try squatting with a stability ball pressed between your lower back and a wall. The ball will support your bodyweight and roll with you for assistance. If you still feel unsure of your knees, place a chair behind you. Practice squatting down until your butt taps the chair and sit. Keeping your chest up and your weight on your heels, drive through your heels to stand. The chair will catch your weight at the lowest point, but allow you to strengthen the same muscles you need for an unassisted squat.
Doing pushsups against a wall allows you to work the same muscles without putting your entire bodyweight on your wrists. Find a wall and extend your arms, placing your hands on it, directly in front of you at shoulder height. Take a step back from the wall. To begin, simply flex through the elbows, pulling them back like a cricket instead of out in line with your shoulders. Lower until your nose touches the wall then extend to return to start.
Modification: The wall is easiest because you are basically standing perpendicular. As you get stronger, transition to a counter, a bench or a step. The closer to horizontal your body, the tougher the exercise, but also the more weight that will be placed on your joints.
Medicine Ball Slams
Plyometric exercises and explosive movements will blast the most amount of fat, but since we are avoiding impact, we need to find some similar alternatives. Medicine ball slams are explosive, skyrocketing your heart rate, but only use your arms, thereby reducing stress and harm.
Grab a medicine ball and raise it over head. Slam the medicine ball down on the ground as hard as you can, using your whole body on the downward movement. Pick it up and repeat. (This workout is a great stress reliever, too.)
Circuits are simply a set of specific exercises done back to back to keep your heart rate up. Decide on a set of exercises to do ahead of time, gather all the equipment you need, and commit to it. That way, you can move from one exercise to the next, seamlessly, to keep the intensity of your workout high and to burn the most calories in the least amount of time. Just keep moving!
Building muscle mass is important to keep your metabolism high, to become physically stronger and to sculpt your physique, but to shed excess weight, cardio is key. Low-impact cardio like walking, swimming and boxing are perfect for when you’re starting out. Once you start shedding the weight, you’ll be amazed how quickly your body can handle higher-impact cardio like running.
Don’t put limits on yourself just because of your size. Having said that, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind:
- Flexibility and range of motion may be an issue during your workouts. Your body will purposely limit the flexibility in your joints to protect them from the stress of your extra weight. Don’t force your joints into positions they resist against.
- Skip the weight machines. Weight machines typically aren’t built with much larger people in mind, so you may have trouble using them. Some cardio machines also have a 300 pound limit, but cable machines, free weights and functional equipment like medicine balls and kettlebells have none, so focus on incorporating this equipment into your workouts.
- Exercise is going to be uncomfortable. If it’s not, you’re wasting your time. Push through those hard workouts and short-term discomfort to reap the rewards of feeling strong and confident.
- 6 Tips for Training an Overweight or Obese Client
- How To Give Your Overweight and Obese Clients The Best Chances For Success
This article was originally published on Oct 3rd 2015 & was updated on July 4th 2016.