Begin with three weight-training sessions each week, recommends Joe Dowdell, founder and co-owner of the New York City gym Peak Performance. For the greatest calorie burn, aim for total-body workouts that target your arms, abs, legs, and back, and go for moves that will zap several different muscle groups at a time—for example, squats, which call on muscles in both the front and back of your legs, as opposed to leg extensions, which isolate the quads.
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.)
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I am a 47 year old woman that has been athletic all my life. I love to tinker with my own training – my training goals are somewhat contradictory – faster 1/2 marathon times and stronger lifts. I just discovered your content a few months ago (MASS subscriber as well) and have found it extremely helpful in trying to create plans that achieve both without over training. But I really appreciate the attention and info for female athletes – this article in particular. There is much more work to be done by the research community – but anything that continues to educate women about the value of resistance training is a needed step to a healthier community
A good warm up will also increase your core body temperature and will potentially improve your athletic performance. Warming up boosts circulation, which in turn means more blood flows around the body. This ensures that more oxygen and nutrients can be carried around the body and be fed to the awaiting muscle cells. The more energy they have, the harder the muscles can work when you’re training.
And this is where my fitness journey truly began. That said, I didn’t go from Cardio Fit Bunny to Girl Who Lifts in a week. I eased in by alternating between my HIIT and cardio-focused program a few days a week and weightlifting the others. After a few weeks, loving the way I felt lifting heavier, I gave my up the fat-burn routines and switched to weightlifting exclusively.
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.
Cardio history: I’ve been a runner/jogger/walker the majority of my life. In my early 30s, I did a lot of running races but stopped after I became a mom at 35. Then, my cardio routine depended on what I could get done while tending to a little kid. As my daughter got older, I returned to the gym sporadically and sometimes had trainers help me (but that could never last because of the expense factor). My very recent routine, before I began lifting, was jogging on the treadmill at the recommended “fat burn” rate about two times a week, and walking briskly outdoors about five times a week for about 4 miles each time.
This is important. Lifting weights on stiff or “cold” joints and muscles will make it harder to move, and you’ll increase the risk of injury. If you’re weight training, warm your body up either with some cardiovascular activity that utilizes the muscles you’re going to work, or do a short set with a lighter amount of weight than you’re planning to use for your workout.
In reality, fats demand a rightful spot on your plate; they are integral to maintaining optimal health. After all, they are a macronutrient that your body needs to function. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) like omega-6 and omega-3s help keep you feeling full, cushion vital organs, assist with absorbing fat-soluble vitamins, maintain proper brain cognition and development, and are responsible for a slew other benefits.
These cardio workouts are intended to be tough. If you can't complete your entire cardio session in the beginning, don't get discouraged. Push yourself a bit further each day until you can do the entire session at the pace listed. It may take a few weeks of building endurance to be able to complete the entire session. You know you are working at the right level if you are not able to talk on the phone, or read a book, Dey says.
What about cardio? Get stronger. That is what matters most when it comes to transforming your body. Extra movement is always a good thing, so you can aim for at least 30 minutes of light to moderate movement every day, or just on non-lifting days. You can do traditional cardio activities if you prefer (i.e., cardio machines), but I recommend doing something fun you actually enjoy.
Now that you've got the training part down, it's time to stretch it out. (Can you say ahhh?) Stretching while your muscles are warm can help improve your flexibility, says Davis, not to mention it just feels phenomenal after you've pushed yourself hard. A light cool-down is also great for calming the nervous system. While dynamic stretches should be your go-to during a warm-up, the cool-down is where static stretching comes in—this means holding a stretch for 20-30 seconds. These four passive stretches will do nicely.
Strength training by utilizing some form of resistance is a much better approach than focusing only on cardio if your goal is to achieve a toned, healthy physique, and there’s a lot of science to support it. Research shows that adding resistance training as part of your workout routine is a proven method for increasing Lean Body Mass and reducing body fat for women.