Many women spend hours every week lifting weights and working out, but some project radically different images. Fit, lean celebrities exude beauty and sexuality and represent role models to legions of women around the world. Some athletes like shot-putters, on the other hand, convey the image of bulked-up, stodgy behemoths. Unfortunately, many women avoid weight training because they don’t want to get any bigger than they are now. If they lift weights at all, they do high-repetition, low-weight workouts and never increase the load. Training this way is practically worthless; you won’t improve muscle tone or get rid of the fat that is covering your legs, butt, abdomen, or arms. Poor weight training programs are preventing you from looking lean and fit. The truth is that you can improve muscle tone and lose fat and inches by doing an intense weight training program – without gaining bulk.
Lean, Not Bulky
Weight training won’t cause bulky muscles in women. Intense weight training will help you lose fat, burn calories, and make your muscles look firm, lean, fit, and sleek. Behemoth women strength athletes often get that way because they have more male hormones than normal or they take muscle-building drugs, such as anabolic steroids or growth hormone.
Scientists began studying the effects of weight training in women more than 30 years ago. Every one of the studies showed that women do not build large muscles from weight training. Rather, they lose fat and gain only some muscle. Weight training makes you look smaller, firmer, and toned – not larger and bulkier. Muscle is denser tissue than fat. When you lose fat and gain muscle, you lose bulk because dense muscle tissue takes up less space than less dense fat.
Muscle stokes up your metabolism and that helps you use more calories. Most studies show that women who weight train while dieting maintain muscle mass and prevent the decrease in metabolic rate that generally accompanies weight loss. Women who lose weight and either don’t exercise or do only cardio often look drawn and somewhat flabby because they lose muscle. Muscle is what makes you look healthy, toned, and fit.
Losing weight through diet alone – even when you do cardio – slows down your metabolism and makes it easier to gain weight again. That is less likely to happen when you train with weights when trying to cut body fat. Weight training prevents muscle loss when dieting. Muscle works like a metabolic furnace to help you burn calories all day and all night long. Also, intense weight training burns as many calories during a 24-hour period as when you do moderate intensity cardio for 30 minutes.
Men have bigger muscles than women because men have higher levels of testosterone in the blood. Testosterone levels are more than 10 times higher in men than in women. Young men have between 400-1,000 nanograms of testosterone per 100 milliliters of blood, while women have 30-150 nanograms. Women produce another “male” hormone called androstenedione that can be converted to testosterone. Scientists from Drew Medical College in Los Angeles have shown that muscle growth depends on blood levels of testosterone. The higher the level of the hormone, the more muscles grow. Women have low levels of testosterone, so they don’t gain very much muscle tissue when they train with weights. Rather, they train their nervous systems to use existing muscle. The muscle they gain makes the upper and lower body look firmer, leaner, and shapelier.
Some women have high levels of testosterone and androstenedione and will gain muscle faster than normal. If you have larger muscles than other women, you might have high testosterone levels. However, even if you are one of these rare people, gaining muscle and strength will make your body look better.
Train Intensely for Better Health
Make intense weight training part of your exercise program. Stop using light weights and never progressing. Weight training will not build bulky muscles, but it will contribute to your health and improve the way you look. Training intensely has more benefits than producing a shapely body:
Weight training increases strength, which will make daily activities easier. Simple tasks like carrying groceries, opening sticky jar lids, and waxing the car will become effortless. Strength training improves joint health that will help prevent back, hip, knee and shoulder pain.
Weight training improves athletic performance. Strength is the basis for powerful movements. Improving the strength of major muscle groups will help you move more powerfully, run faster, and jump higher when you play sports like skiing, tennis, golf, or basketball.
Weight training builds bones and prevents osteoporosis. Bone mass peaks when you’re 20-30 years old and then decreases after that. Weight training, along with adequate calcium intake, will help you maintain bone mass and develop a strong, healthy skeleton that will serve you well for the rest of your life and will be less likely to fracture.
Weight training reduces risk of heart attack and stroke. This type of exercise improves the function of the cells lining the blood vessels, which helps them fight disease and maintain healthy blood flow throughout the body. Weight training also reduces the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes that have been linked to high blood pressure, high blood fats, blood-clotting problems, and abdominal fat deposition.
Weight training improves mental health by preventing depression and enhancing self-esteem. Mental health professionals are finding that weight training is often as effective as drugs in treating mental disorders.
Workout for Stronger, Shapelier Muscles
Weight training will help you develop stronger, shapelier muscles without getting bulking-looking legs, butt, abs or arms. Do one to three sets of 10 repetitions of eight to 10 exercises that build the major muscles in the body. Do this program two or three days a week along with cardio and you will make great strides toward getting the body you want. Weight training exercises may include:
Bench Press – 3 sets x 10 repetitions
Dumbbell Raises – 3 x 10
Bent-over Rowing – 3 x 10
Lat Pulls – 3 x 10
Curl-ups – 3 x 10)
Back Extensions – 3 x 10
Lunges – 3 x 10
Knee Extensions – 3 X 10
Leg Curls – 3 x 10
Calf Raises – 3 x 10
Try to increase the amount of weight you use at least once every two weeks. If you train hard consistently, you will improve the way your body looks and get the health benefits that weight training provides.
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