If you are a woman and want to gain muscle and improve your shape and curves, then you are going to have to lift heavy weights. This means that instead doing endless reps with light weights, as the media often prescribes women to do, you need to lift some heavy weights and really challenge yourself! While performing high rep sets (15-20 reps) does have some benefit, it is not optimal to adding muscle mass.


Start in pushup position, hands directly under your shoulders, feet slightly wider than shoulder-width. Raise your hips high, bending at the waist. (Shift your feet forward if you need to.) Keep your legs straight as you do this, stretching your hamstrings, and try to form a straight line with your arms and torso. Return to pushup position. That’s 1 rep.

As we said before, women need to lift heavy, challenging weights in order to gain muscle. Lifting heavy weights will not cause women to get big and bulky like men because women produce a fraction of the testosterone that men do. When women begin working out, their goals are to tone up and gain shape/curves and following this program will accomplish just that! In this 12-week program, you will decrease the number of reps you complete and increase the load you lift as you progress. The number of sets per exercise stays the same, but the rep range changes.
This cardio could be done on the treadmill, elliptical, bike, running track, etc. We usually recommend the elliptical machine as it is low impact and easy to change speeds. We also recommend doing the Stubborn Fat Cardio Protocol separate from weight training, either first thing in the morning (if training in the evening) or on off days from the gym. To start, we recommend doing the Stubborn Fat Cardio Protocol 2-4 times per week.
How: Begin with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Contract the muscles of your core and stabilize your pelvis and shoulders. Shift your balance onto your left knee and your right hand. In one movement, extend your right leg back behind you and your left arm outin front of you. Extend both as far as possible and hold for 2 seconds. Slowly release both back to the starting position. That's one repetition. Immediately switch sides and perform the same with the left leg and right arm. Continue alternating sides for a total of 20 reps.

In a 2011 opinion poll reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), less than 20 percent of women contacted said they accomplished the CDC’s recommendations for 2 1/2 hours of aerobic exercise and two periods of strength training weekly. Yet the benefits speak for themselves. Inactive adults experience a 3 to 8 percent loss of muscle mass per decade. Resistance training may increase resting metabolism by about 7 percent and help minimize muscle loss.
When you finally muster the courage to try some resistance training, you'll likely head over to the machines. You'll choose an open one, read the directions, and then try to copy whatever the model is doing in the pictures. "WTF am I doing?" you may ask yourself as you go through the motions. "Is this even right? I swear those directions don't make any sense. Good God, I hope no one is watching me!"
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Second, women may recover from training a bit faster than men (one, two, three).  When I’ve mentioned this in the past, the counterargument I typically hear is that women don’t create as much force, so of course their muscles won’t sustain as much damage, and will therefore recover faster.  However, that doesn’t make much sense when you think about it. For starters, I’m not aware of any evidence showing that people who are stronger or more muscular at baseline experience more muscle damage, more soreness, or larger/longer performance decrements than people who are weaker or less muscular, all else being equal.  More importantly, what each of your muscle fibers “feel” is the tension on that specific fiber; the contractile force of the entire muscle shouldn’t matter, as long as each fiber is being recruited to a similar degree and experiencing a similar amount of tension. I think the more likely explanation is that estrogen may exert a protective effect on muscle, limiting damage and potentially accelerating repair.
Want to lose fat and achieve a toned looking physique? Fantastic! To achieve those results you must improve your strength training performance every time you repeat a workout. As a beginner strength trainee, getting stronger must be your sole priority in the gym. For the first several months you should (a) perform more reps with the same weight, (b) increase the weight, and/or (c) perform more sets for each exercise.
2) I think how often you go to failure should primarily depend on a) how frequently you train a muscle/exercise and b) how much fatigue/soreness an exercise causes. If you’re just doing an exercise/training a muscle once per week, you can probably go to failure a bunch and be just fine. If you’re training the same muscle again 48 hours later, it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to go to failure very often. If you’re doing an exercise that causes a lot of soreness and fatigue (like DLs), you probably shouldn’t go to failure very often. If you’re doing an exercise (like biceps curls) that doesn’t cause much soreness/fatigue, you can probably go to failure more often.
Thank you so much for explaining this in such a clear manner. I am also sick to death of most women’s negativity towards weight lifting created by their stupid beliefs which you have discussed here; The ingrained fear that lifting weights will make you bulky/manly! Lifting weights it the best thing I have ever done for my body and I could not be happier with the results I have achieved. The internet can be an excellent tool for research and source of information about training and nutrition. Sites such as yours are truly valuable and ones I turn to very often for guidance! So thanks again, it’s appreciated.
Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, holding a light-to-medium-weight dumbbell at your right shoulder, core braced and chest up. Keeping your chest up, bend at the knees and push your hips back, lowering into a squat; squat down as low as is comfortable or until your thighs are parallel with the ground, whichever comes first. Work to keep your shoulders square and balanced as you do this. Pause for a moment, then stand back up. As you stand, straighten your right arm upwards, pressing the dumbbell overhead. That’s 1 rep. Repeat reps until time’s up. Do 2 sets per arm.
You need to strength train your whole body. I know you might be thinking, OK, I'll just do lunges, because Wini said lunges are the best lower body exercise. However, when you work your whole body you increase your metabolism and you burn more body fat and it's key as you're getting stronger and defining muscles that you, at the same time, have your body fat drop so that you can see those muscles. So you need to do a strength training workout for your whole body. You can certainly focus on your lower body. In Lean, Long & Strong we have a lower body concentration where you work your lower body a little bit more, yet you still need to work your whole body.
I just encountered this article while looking for references to support my argument with someone on a website that their fears of becoming huge were unfounded. She is one of those women who does tend to put on a little more muscle than many of us, and she linked to a page loaded with images of steroid-chunked women as a an example of what she was afraid of.
Muscle is denser than fat, meaning it takes up less space on your body. By losing fat and gaining muscle, you can stay the same weight – or even gain some – but actually be slimmer than you were before. Think of weight training as an investment that pays serious dividends down the road. The more muscle you have, the more calories (and fat) your body can burn over time.
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