LINGUVIC: It is pretty impossible to look like Arnold. Unfortunately, that fear holds a lot of women back from improving their bodies. The program in Lean, Long & Strong offers exercises you can do at home to get you stronger and bring out the definition in your body. Women don't have the testosterone to get big muscles. Even if they lifted heavy weights, it's pretty hard to look like Arnold. Actually, it's pretty hard for most guys to look like Arnold.
What she does now: I signed up with a personal trainer to help me learn more about weightlifting and strength training. Sometimes I think people don’t realize the value of having someone holding you accountable and helping you with form, education and motivation. I was determined enough to make the change that I went and purchased several months’ worth of sessions and committed to it. Little did I know that I would fall in love with how lifting made me feel.
That’s unfortunate: On average, a woman over 25 years old who doesn’t do strength-training exercises loses about one-half pound of muscle each year, or roughly 5 pounds in a decade, research has found. That makes you feel weaker and look flabbier, and results in about a 3% decrease in resting metabolic rate (RMR). Over time, this slowing metabolism can lead to an increase in body fat.
Stand with medium-weight dumbbells held at your shoulders, elbows pointing forward, core tight. Keeping your core tight and your chest up, lunge backwards with your right knee, stepping backwards then lowering that knee until it touches the ground or until your left thigh is parallel with the ground. Pause, then drive back up and repeat the process on the other leg. Alternate legs until time expires. Do 3 sets.
“There are so many misconceptions about strength and resistance training,” says Larry Tucker, a professor in exercise sciences at Brigham Young University. “One is that you’ll become muscle-bound”—so bulked up that your body becomes rigid. That myth was somewhat dispelled when athletes who started strength-training saw that they could hit a ball farther, jump higher and run faster, Tucker says. “Gradually we started realizing there are benefits beyond sports.”
Thank you for this article, it was great to read one that explained so well the myths surrounding women lifting like men. I’ve been lifting heavy for a few years now and the only time I felt that I was bigger than I would’ve liked was when I had a layer of fat covering my muscle! (often women seem to mistake this for lots of muscle bulk) Once that was lost though, with a small deficit and while continuing to lift, I loved the results! Muscle tone, looking strong, looking healthy. I wish more women would realise the benefits – next time I have a female friend complain about how they’re not getting “toned”, I’ll be sending them a link to this! 😀
Why: "The chest muscles (pectorals) for all women are particularly weak and underdeveloped," says Perkins. "By increasing the mass in this muscle group you are adding a substantial percentage of lean mass towards your overall health. Additionally, the chest muscles are responsible for supporting breast tissue. This move will bring a bit more lift to your chest."
The nutrition section of most weight training guides will try to shove a boilerplate nutrition plan in your face, but that's not how we roll. We want to instill the idea that—metabolically and physiologically—your body is unique. What works for someone else may not work for you. Understanding how your own body works and discovering your dietary needs are important concepts to remember as you form your own nutritional strategy.
How: Lie on the floor with your knees bent at 90 degrees and feet flat. Hold 5- to 8-pound dumbbells directly over your chest with your palms facing each other. Press your shoulders away from your ears and downward toward your hips to stabilize your core. With a very slight bend at the elbows, open your arms out to the sides until your upper arms touch the floor. Do not fully release the tension in your arms, or allow your wrists to touch the floor. Contract the muscles in your chest to return the dumbbells back to the starting position. That's one repetition. Aim to complete 12 to 15 reps.
Why: "The best way to maintain and improve bone density is through exercises that involve your entire lower body," says Perkins. "This move is considered a weight-bearing, compound, complex exercise, and is number one for bone health. In addition, the majority of age-related falls and bone fractures involve the pelvis. This move specifically targets and strengthens the muscles and bones of the pelvis." (Here are 4 more strength-training exercises you can do with a chair.)
Calorie counting should not be a life-long endeavor. It just doesn't effectively work in the long term. Studies show that calorie counting is prone to inaccuracy by upward of 25 percent—even if you triple-check your calculations and sources! The discrepancy arises from measurement errors on food labels, serving sizes and measurements which are impossible to reproduce consistently, different food quality, and a whole lot of guesswork.
Former ballet dancer and Ballet Beautiful founder Mary Helen Bowers has serious fitness cred thanks to training Natalie Portman for her role in Black Swan. With this free workout video, she takes her expertise outside the dance studio. The 15-minute mat workout will help tone your lower body with graceful ballet-inspired movements like bridge variations.
For an effective workout, select a weight or resistance level that fatigues your muscles after 8 to 12 repetitions. You can begin with a single set and work up to two or three sets as you become stronger. For instruction with specific types of weights and lifts, seek assistance from a trained instructor at a gym, health center, or local community center.
We didn’t start with the fear that they felt was holding them back, we broke the fear down, and found lots of little obstacles that had been deemed as “life” and “unchangeable” and “that’s just the way it is” by developing awareness to the little steps on the road to their obstacles to happiness and success they were able to tackle them in a different way.
How: Stand with your feet shoulder-width distance apart and your toes turned out slightly. Extend your arms forward and keep them parallel to the floor throughout the movement. Bend your knees and reach your hips back as if to fully sit down on the chair. Lower your hips until you feel the chair underneath you, but don't fully sit. Touch the chair with your butt, then immediately press into your heels and stand back up to the starting position. That's one repetition. Aim to complete 10 to 15 reps.
For each exercise you do, try to perform three sets of 10 to 12 reps with a weight heavy enough that by your last rep you can't eke out another one without compromising your form. To spark further muscle building, William Kraemer, Ph.D., a professor of kinesiology at the University of Connecticut, suggests alternating moderate-intensity workouts of 8 to 10 reps with lighter-weight 12- to 15-rep sets and super-hard 3- to 5-rep sets. (For a more detailed fat-blasting workout, check out "Do This at Home," below.)
Question: Can you get a solid abs workout from yoga? Answer: Hell yeah! Kathryn Budig, author of THe Women’s Health Big Book of Yoga, teaches a core-blasting yoga series in this 20-minute video. She directs you through strengthening poses all while giving tips on form with the type of encouragement and reassurance you’d get if you were actually in class. (Bonus: The serene backdrop helps put you in a yoga mindset.)
Get in position for a kettlebell swing, except this time, as you hike the weight back, take a small step to the right with your right leg. Shift your left leg as well. As soon as the left leg lands, forcefully drive your hips forward, initiating the kettlebell swing. Repeat the pattern, this time taking a step with your left leg. Alternate reps on both sides. Do 3 sets.
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.
Most people dread the word "diet" because it dredges up images of celery stick buffets and long lists of no-no foods. While it's hard to shake this negative association, it's important to learn that "diet" isn't a bad word. Before the media beat its true definition to a bloody pulp, a diet was simply any and all foods consumed by a person. Your diet, or the food you eat, is a crucial aspect to supporting your fitness goals.
Some of my acquaintances at the gym were actually startled when I abandoned the cardio equipment in favor of the ugly dumbbells and weight plates. I have been asked the “aren’t you afraid of bulk” question more times than I care to think about. When I am standing right there, clearly not bulky, this question seems a bit disingenuous. I haven’t really figured out why people keep asking. Having to explain how it is physically impossible for me to ever build enough muscle to be bulky has gotten a bit old. I think from now on I will simply refer them to your article.
I appreciate such a thorough synthesis on this topic. As a systematic reviewer, my main concern would be a lack of systematic assessment of risk of bias in the individual studies. I see you did a funnel plot to see any bias by study size, but there are so many other things involved in study quality (study design, selection of participants, statistical adjustment for potential con founders, etc). I would be interested to see how many of these studies were fair or better quality (there are several well accepted quality rating tools available for various study designs). I would also be interested to see a sensitivity analysis to see if the pooled results differ when high risk of bias studies are eliminated, for example. Thanks for an interesting read.
Strength training is a good idea for everybody. For the best results, try intermixing the strength training exercises with bodyweight exercises, and do them three times a week at most. More isn’t necessarily better when it comes to strength training – in fact, too much training can damage your strengthening process. If you also want to improve your cardiovascular health or lose weight, consider adding cardiovascular exercise, such as walking or running, which helps you burn fat.
I have a few amazing clients I’m working with right now who would describe themselves as life long worriers, or pessimists. In the past that has served them well, enabling them to keep safe, steer clear of risks and even develop strategies in the event of disasters. However, now they find it’s becoming hard to break the cycle and they really want to because it’s holding them back.
How her body has reacted: Besides losing 8 pounds (which I couldn’t do before for the life of me with just jogging) in just three weeks, I’ve noticed I am starting to look cut again. There is definition in my abs and arms, which I’ve not seen in a long time. I feel tight, and my skin feels better all over, has better texture. I’ve also increased my normal running speed on the treadmill from 4.2 to 5.5 miles per hour in just three weeks. I feel stronger all over, and can run up and down the stairs in my house just doing chores!
Cardio history: Before I started lifting, I did many endurance events. Once I stopped playing soccer in college, I began to run and completed 10 marathons, including qualifying for and running the Boston Marathon. Running eventually led to triathlons, including three full Ironmans. During this time, I was running five days a week, anywhere from 5 to 20 miles, biking three to five days between 60 minutes and three hours, and swimming three days for about an hour.
If you work out in a crowded gym, venturing to the free weight area may be intimidating. To make this easier you can recruit a friend to work out with you and you two can support and encourage each other. If you work out solo, load your favorite music onto your phone and listen to it while you train so you can focus on why you’re there and what you’re doing, and drown out everything else around you. You’ll still have to deal with the stench of stale sweat and cheap cologne, but at least you won’t have to hear men grunting as they flex in the mirror.
I realized in order to get results, though, I would need to start thinking about what I ate. I became hyper-focused on eating clean, and soon was obsessing over everything I ate. If it wasn’t a “clean” food, there was no way I was going to eat it. Eating a piece of chocolate cake would mean all my perfect eating every other day that week was worthless.