Getting comfortable with a steady running routine is definitely something to be proud of, but when you're on that cardio grind day-in and day-out, you might be ready to change things up and take on a new challenge. Time to throw some strength training into the mix. It can be a little intimidating at first if you don't know where the hell to start, but understanding the basics can help you feel confident in your refreshed fitness routine.
Tired of sweating all over every piece of cardio equipment at the gym and still getting zero love from the scale? You need more iron. Not in your diet—in your hands. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, a mere 21 percent of women strength train two or more times a week. What you don't know: When you skip the weight room, you lose out on the ultimate flab melter. Those two sessions a week can reduce overall body fat by about 3 percentage points in just 10 weeks, even if you don't cut a single calorie. That translates to as much as three inches total off your waist and hips. Even better, all that new muscle pays off in a long-term boost to your metabolism, which helps keep your body lean and sculpted. Suddenly, dumbbells sound like a smart idea. Need more convincing? Read on for more solid reasons why you should build flex time into your day.
How to do it: "Every woman should do a full-body strength-training routine—such as this one—two days a week," says Perkins. "Then, on top of that, you may add the other components of fitness like yoga, dance, walking, or swimming." (Add one of these 3 new walking workouts that blast fat to your exercise routine.) You can complete all of these moves in one workout, or you can split them up if you're short on time. The key is consistency. Aim to complete 3 sets for each move, and choose a weight that makes it challenging to complete the final rep of each set.
It wasn’t worth splitting apart the young and older subjects to do formal subgroup analyses for hypertrophy outcomes (I like having at least 20 studies to pool), but just looking at simple averages, it seems that men and women gain muscle at a similar rate regardless of age. In the studies on young participants (N=8), the men increased muscle size by 13.1%, while the women increased muscle size by 14.1%. Similarly, in the studies on older participants (N=17), the men increased muscle size by 11.9%, while the women increased muscle size by 11.8%. Both of these differences are clearly trivial.
Men are, in the vast majority of cases, both stronger and more muscular than women. They also gain both strength and muscle mass at a higher absolute rate. That much is obvious. However, relative rates of muscle growth and strength gains are, I think, the more interesting comparison since we largely tend to compare our progress to our own starting points. If a man gets 10% stronger in response to training, can a woman also expect to get 10% stronger after training, or should she instead expect to gain strength at a faster or slower relative rate?
Hold a medium-weight kettlebell or dumbbell at your chest, core tight, feet about shoulder-width apart. Keeping your core tight and chest up, lower into a squat, going as deep as is comfortable. Stand back up, but pause when your thighs are parallel with the ground. Hold for one second, then stand all the way up, squeezing your glutes. That’s 1 rep; do 3 sets.
"I started with seven or eight rounds of P90X, not to get ‘ripped’ but to stay in shape. I have also tried and loved the expansion packs, P90X2 and P90X3. I love that I can switch loads of laundry during a water break, not worry about what kind of weather is outside, and work out while my kids are home. The biggest changes I have seen are in my arms, back, legs, and stomach.” —Wendy Brown, Boise, ID
Men and women do not need to train differently to see results, but what about diet? Should women eat differently than men? Not really. Men’s and women’s metabolisms are very similar except that women burn a greater ratio of fat to carbs than men. This may be one of the reasons women do well on lower carb diets. The main thing that needs to be adjusted is one’s total caloric intake. Women need fewer calories than men because men have more muscle mass and less fat (relative to total bodyweight) than women. The amount of protein, carbs, and fat will be dictated by the amount of calories one eats.
Next, bend your arms and slowly lower yourself until your chest is just about to touch the floor. Hold the position for a second. After holding it, straighten your arms again to return to the starting position. This is one repetition. Continue for up to 12 repetitions. To make it harder, try placing a gym bag or textbook on your back to add additional weight.
You need to eat real foods. And you need to eat enough of it. Honestly, unless you’re incredibly small, I would never recommend ever putting any woman on a diet of 1200 calories. In fact, I don’t recommend women ever dip below 1800 calories per day if they are exercising regularly! I understand that every woman is different, and every woman processes calories differently, but I can’t emphasize enough that quality of food is so dang important!