Strength training will bring out definition and get you stronger but will not increase bulk. The key is the correct exercises combined with a sensible diet and a serving of aerobics. The exercises that women most commonly do to bring out definition don't really work. They do hundreds and hundreds of repetitions, spend hours and hours on the treadmill and wonder why their bodies don't change. So it's time to try strength training.
Celebrity fitness instructor Tracy Anderson (clients include Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jennifer Lopez) offers six 10-minute, total-body dance workouts in this DVD. The first lesson covers basic steps, while the other routines have titles like "Cardio Party" and "Sweat Fest." Don't worry if you have two left feet though, as Anderson says even novice dancers can master these moves.

If so, then there was simply no deficit present during that time. If you would have said this went on for just a couple of weeks, I would have told you there was likely some water retention going on (maybe it was even a certain time of the month). But that would have only been a temporary short-term thing at most. To go 2 months straight with no change whatsoever in scale weight or measurements, it’s pretty safe to say fat just wasn’t being lost. Either that or there was something inaccurate happening in the way you tracked your weight and measurements.

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.
Grab a pair of kettlebells, and set up with your feet just outside both bells. Hinge at the hip so you’re able to grab the handles of both bells; this should put you in a position similar to a deadlift position, and your hips should be lower than your shoulders. Tighten your glutes slightly and brace your core. Working to keep your back flat and rotating your hips only slightly, lift the right kettlebell and row it toward your lower chest, while still gripping the left kettlebell. Return the right kettlebell to the ground, then repeat on the left side. That’s 1 rep. Do 3 sets.
But frankly I don’t dare to do them in the gym, I get weird looks and/or regular comments on how manly I will be soon, likee you said, overnight. 🙂 So I do them on my doorway pull-up bar. Short-term goal is chins for reps with a 20kg kettlebell… long term goal is the same with an overhand grip. And no, I’m not huge/bulky/manly. 🙂 Maybe by tomorrow morning! :))
In the first few minutes, Leslie Sansone’s programs feel reminiscent of cheesy 1980s workout videos full of ever-present smiles, constant beats and tightly synchronized movements. After completing one of her 45-minute videos and probably working up a sweat, you’ll quickly realize that her walks are so much more than meets the eye. By incorporating interval training (even if not expressly stated) and keeping participants moving for the entirety of the practice, Walk at Home provides a full workout with zero equipment. It’s perfect for people who may be dealing with various physical limitations, or just want to find an alternative form of cardio to the classic options. For beginners, we recommend the shorter, one mile walks; to kick it up a notch, try the weighted videos for added strength training.
In medical school, she’d counsel patients on the importance of exercise and feel like a hypocrite, she says, since she did little but shuttle from home to the hospital, spending her rare free time catching up on sleep. “My body didn’t feel good, and my mind didn’t feel very good either,” she says. But once she started taking her own advice, as a resident at Loyola University Medical Center, Dena quickly became a hard-core strength-training fanatic. Within a month of learning how to lift weights, she noticed she had more energy without needing as much sleep, she felt far less stressed out, and she saw her body tone up fast.
Moderate-intensity cardio is also important because it helps you build a solid aerobic base, which is critical to performing your best. Moreover, numerous studies has proven that low-to-moderate intensities of cardiovascular exercise 3-5 days per week for 30-50 minutes are sufficient to reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
However, the role of testosterone may be overstated.  My friend James Kreiger recently published a super thorough analysis (note: paywall, but totally worth it) on all things testosterone and muscle growth, including analyses of cross-sectional research on people with different testosterone levels, studies comparing men and women, studies where people are given exogenous testosterone, and even studies where people were put on drugs to totally suppress testosterone production.  The main takeaway was that testosterone levels can dramatically affect the amount of muscle you start with, but they don’t really impact relative rates of muscle growth.

Fast forward to myself as a 30 something “skinnyfat” office worker/couch potato, I got into beginner level workouts with weights (body pump classes and kettlebell workouts). I worked out 3 times a week for 30 minutes, barely even that, did NO cardio and didn’t really diet (just upped my protein a bit and watched the carbs). The result after 7 weeks – the best body I ever had in my life, exactly the kind of dancer’s physique “girly workouts” claim to create. Better than on my dancer’s regimen.


Many women worry that weight training will somehow transform them into Hulk-ettes, so they spend hours doing cardio in order to maintain their "feminine" figure. The truth is, women just don't have the hormonal support to gain muscle mass like men. The hormone testosterone is responsible for large increases in muscle mass. Women's testosterone levels are a fraction of men's. That means you can bench press without concerning yourself about how much chest hair you might grow.

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.


Move more during non-exercise activity. Studies have shown that overweight and obese people tend to move less during everyday activities. This may be a result of the excess weight, or it may be a cause of it. In either case, it’s likely a vicious circle. Extra incidental movement throughout the day is a key factor in establishing a basis for weight loss.
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.
Want to be strong, healthy, and happy, and feel 10 years younger? Then it's time to pick up the weights. "Strength training is no longer about being buff or skinny," says trainer Holly Perkins, founder of Women's Strength Nation. "It's as critical to your health as mammograms and annual doctor visits, and it can alleviate nearly all of the health and emotional frustrations that women face today. And it becomes even more critical once you hit 50."
How her body has reacted: Since adding in weights, I feel leaner and stronger — physically and mentally. Yoga is incredibly soothing and replenishing for me, but I wasn’t 100 percent happy with my physical appearance. I just wanted more of a body. I’m a petite woman with no curves, which can be daunting in today’s booty-obsessed world. Overall, sweating and detoxifying through working out has made me a happier, kinder and all-around better person. I now have the ability to channel my angst into something positive, benefiting myself and everyone around me. Lifting weights makes me feel like a strong, independent woman, while yoga gives me peace of mind and confidence.
So what is the best form of strength training? Realistically, it’s the one that you will actually do. Barbell training may be optimal in terms of strength, but if you don’t see yourself actually driving to the gym three days a week, choose a different plan. Likewise, bodyweight training might seem convenient, but if you don’t actually motivate yourself to workout at home, you might have been better off with a different option.
Thank you for this article – it confirms what I’ve read a few times, though sadly not often enough. I had this discussion with my sister that was at an all-girls gym – they ONLY have crappo machines, and you’re only allowed to use the free-weights if you’re working with a PT!! I shit you not… ANYWAY, I digress. I did have a question to ask – with regards to progression training, at what point do you decide to maintain, rather than constantly upping the intensity, or is that a really noob-y question??? =)
The hormone testosterone is responsible for the large increases in muscle mass seen when men lift weights. Women’s testosterone levels are a fraction of men’s testosterone levels. Normal testosterone levels in men are 200-1200 ng/dl while 15-70 ng/dl are normal in women. As you can see, men’s testosterone levels are SIGNIFICANTLY higher than women’s. Even if a man is at the LOW end of the men’s normal testosterone range (200 ng/dl), he still has more than twice the amount of testosterone as a woman at the HIGH end of the women’s normal testosterone range (70 ng/dl). If we look at the median or mid-range testosterone levels in men and women, men = 700 and women = 42.5. So on an average, men have 16.47 times more testosterone than women! It is clear that women do not have the hormonal support (testosterone) to gain muscle mass like men. Therefore, the fear of becoming big and bulky and looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger with a ponytail is unwarranted.
From this we see that active women would benefit from consuming 2 grams/kg of bodyweight, which is about 1 gram/lb of bodyweight. For a 150 lb woman, this means that she needs 150 grams of protein per day. Ideally your protein should be spaced out throughout the day. If you eat five meals a day, this would be 30 grams of protein per meal (continuing with the example above).

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!"
Personal trainer Rachel Cosgrove, owner of Results Fitness in Santa Clarita, California, created a built-to-burn strength-training routine exclusively for Women's Health readers that you can tap into online. Each move works multiple muscle groups, so you'll burn a ton of calories and rev your metabolism into high gear for 24 to 48 hours afterward. For best results, do 10 to 12 reps of each move, breaking just long enough to catch your breath in between; repeat for two to three sets. Get the workout.
“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.”
Keep pushing your butt back as you lift your right arm off the ground; thread it under your left armpit, reaching to the left as far as possible. Pause and feel the stretch, then, continuing to push your butt back and keep your left hand on the ground, reach your right hand toward the ceiling. Pause, then return your right hand to the start position. Repeat on the other side. That’s 1 rep.
If you’re new to weight training, don’t worry. Perkins created this four-week program to help you to build a solid foundation of strength training and shift your body into a new place after all that cardio. The really great news? You only have to do this routine twice a week. Each week, the moves will stay the same, but we'll make the routine harder by changing the program variables (like rest, sets, reps, or load).
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