I have been surprised lately to find that there’s still a bit of confusion surrounding how to properly choose and utilize weights when people engage in resistance training to tone muscles and lose body fat. On almost a weekly basis some woman will approach me and say that they only do cardio because they don’t want to bulk up, yet they’re frustrated at the lack of downward movement of the scale.
As I’ve stated many times here in my blog – resistance training (weight lifting) is the key to successful fat reduction. While cardio burns calories, unless you are a career marathon runner, or at the least pay close attention to stay in the fat-burning zone with your cardio as well as what, how, and when you eat, cardio will only trim off a small percentage of fat before you plateau.
Now the confusion about resistance training is in the idea that if a woman lifts heavy weights she’ll turn into “he-man.” Well I’m here to tell you first hand, that it takes a lot of very heavy lifting, and ingesting a massive amount of protein, for most women to really bulk up muscularly. However, if your frame is already large, and there’s a lot of fat surrounding your arm and leg muscles – heavy lifting could definitely make you appear bulky – but once again, its all about understanding how and what to lift.
Most people with any fitness awareness already know that heavy weight + low repetitions = increase in muscle size vs. light weight + high repetitions = toned and trimmed muscles. But there’s a bit more to it. First of all, using only one of these equations can still cause you to plateau (i.e., if you do not switch up your weight levels and lifting patterns you will cease to see results). Secondly, your specific body type and your body’s inherent muscle type (fast twitch or slow twitch) directly affects how your body responds to different types of lifting.
So at the risk of confusing anyone further, let me just state things simply:
Lifting heavy weights will NOT make you bulk up
Lifting light weights a lot of times does not always help you to loose more body fat
“Then what do I do” you ask? The answer is you can either consult a trainer (like ME), or do some experimenting. Change up your routine weekly: lift light, fast and repetitive for one week, followed by heavy, slow and lower in reps the next.
The most important element that makes resistance training actually work is to fatigue and breakdown (not injure) your muscles on a regular basis. No matter how much weight you work with, you’ve got to find the right recipe of repetition vs. intensity vs. weight to successfully exhaust your muscles. Then feed them well (lots of water, protein, and rest), and do it all over again. This is truly the best and most efficient way to lean up your total body.
Please please please believe what I scream to the world almost every day — do not judge your goals by a scale! (You could lose 2 lbs of fat and gain 3 lbs of muscle and if the scale is your focus, you’ll be discouraged at the 1 lb gain!) Remember that muscle weighs more than fat.
Now go lift!
Although the abdominals (abs) seem to be the most obsessed over muscle group of late, the second most anguished body area is the butt and legs. On a weekly basis, I get women begging me for routines to lift and tone the butt, and sculpt the legs (in particular the inner thighs).
Why is our lower region needing so much help? Because, ladies, that’s where our bodies store fat the most and quickest. If you have a sedentary job, if you gained weight during pregnancy, if you have a dysfunctional nutrition plan – all these things separately or combined will put thickness in your trunk.
But here’s the good news. Our legs contain big muscle groups. Big muscle groups will consistently burn calories all day long if you train them properly. The other good news is that while leg routines feel more strenuous than upper body workouts, it’s relatively easy to get results with less time spent exercising. If you do it right.
Right off the bat, let me stress: less is more! When I see women at the gym performing a vice grip squeeze of 100 lbs between their inner thighs on the Adductor Machine I cringe. All you’re doing is building a bicep-like muscle up underneath the fat. Your thighs will swish together more than getting leaner if you build up those adductor muscles. You’ll never see a ballerina performing that exercise!
Toning and sculpting legs for the average woman is simply a matter of high reps, low weight, and multi-directional movements, combined with high-intensity aerobic activity (which does not have to be high-impact). Whether you choose 10-20 minute intense lower-body sessions three times a week, or a slow and deliberate one-hour muscle torture twice a week, you will see results if you approach your workouts with less weighted resistance.
I am often asked what one single exercise would I recommend to lift the butt. As a trainer, it’s hard for me to suggest only one exercise, but to appease all of you who still do not embrace the benefits of total body workouts – here it is: lunges lunges lunges. But please pay attention to your knees. If lunges are done improperly (which they are more often than not), you can do some serious tweaking to your knees.
So if you need a kick in the butt, to tone your butt, follow my advice here, or contact me if you need a more personal butt kicking!