If you've ever tried to ditch the saddlebags and ended up a bra size smaller instead, you know that where you lose is as important as how much. As great as it might be to see the numbers on the scale go down, when you're on a strict cardio-only program your victory is likely to be empty. A recent study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham compared dieters who lifted three times a week with those who did aerobic exercise for the same amount of time. Both groups ate the same number of calories, and both lost the same amount—26 pounds—but the lifters lost pure chub, while about 8 percent of the aerobicizers' drop came from valuable muscle. Researchers have also found that lifting weights is better than cardio at whittling intra-abdominal fat—the Buddha-belly kind that's associated with diseases from diabetes to cancer.
There's a longer-term benefit to all that lifting, too: Muscle accounts for about a third of the average woman's weight, so it has a profound effect on her metabolism, says Kenneth Walsh, director of Boston University School of Medicine's Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute. Specifically, that effect is to burn extra calories, because muscle, unlike fat, is metabolically active. In English: Muscle chews up calories even when you're not in the gym. Replace 10 pounds of fat with 10 pounds of lean muscle and you'll burn an additional 25 to 50 calories a day without even trying.
"You will never get bored," said one tester, with the push-yourself workouts in the 21 Day Fix—seven 30-minute sessions ranging from high-intensity cardio-strength circuits to Pilates. Each routine "amps up familiar moves" to crank your calorie burn. Another tester was wowed that "so many different modifications and options were shown to help me switch up my workout." There's an included diet plan for those on a mission to trim.
With that being said, it’s certainly possible that there were differences in real-world training status that are basically impossible for a study to account for. For example, if the men tended to train like hardcore powerlifters or bodybuilders, and the women tended to do the sort of lighter, higher-rep “toning” workouts that are often recommended to women, it would make sense that the women would gain strength faster. In other words, “research tends to indicate that trained women still gain strength quicker than trained men, but I’m concerned those studies are hampered by methodological limitations, so I’ll continue to assume the null (similar relative rates of strength gains) until research on a more representative population is conducted” is also a very defensible position.
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.
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!
This entire site is awesome. I have very little fat on my body besides my boobs and butt, and I’ve been wondering whether I “need” cardio or not to help build muscle/tone since losing weight is not something I need or am interested in. It sounds like I do NOT, which is what I wanted to hear. I’m down with dancing around and walking around the block and doing cardio “naturally”, but treadmills and other machines bore me to death and always made me feel like a quitter. I’m so glad to know I can basically skip that crap and just focus on weight training. I’m going to send this article to every chick I know.
The first option is bodyweight training. With bodyweight training you need minimal equipment (or none at all), and you can train from anywhere. It doesn’t matter if you’re at home, in a hotel, at a playground, in your office at work, or traveling around the world, as long as you have enough space to move around, you can get your workout done (and fit it into a busy schedule).
The following workout will give you 10 excellent exercises that women over 50 can concentrate on during their workouts. Several exercises are going to include single leg moves or stability ball moves. These were intentionally incorporated to help improve balance and coordination, both of which decline with age. You will need a pair of 5-8 lb hand weights (move to heavier weights as you get stronger) and a stability ball.
"I make my own home workouts from YouTube videos, online articles, and magazines. Most of my moves include high-intensity interval training, military exercises, and yoga. Working out at home is perfect for me because I hated the feeling of having to 'perform' at the gym, and I felt too intimidated to try new moves and equipment. Now I try new stuff all the time. I had neck surgery years ago, and my workouts have helped me regain my fitness and increase my endurance. I went from barely being able to walk to doing a Tough Mudder race. I'm also so much stronger—I can do pullups and handstand pushups now. I'm so proud of the way my body looks and performs." —Betty Nordengren, Aurora, IL
There were 53 comparisons of lower body strength gains, encompassing 2,287 subjects. In these studies, men got 28.47% stronger, on average, while women got 30.64% stronger. The average difference was 2.17%, with a 95% confidence interval from -0.92-5.26%. This was nearly a significant difference (p=0.087), but probably isn’t practically relevant and would be considered a trivial effect (d=0.08; 95% CI: -0.03-0.19).
After a tough sweat, it's important to rehydrate your body: "Drink lots of water and thank your body for what it was just able to accomplish," says Davis. A balanced post-workout snack is also a good idea. Go for one with carbs refuel your glycogen stores (one of your body's main energy sources) and about 10 to 20 grams of protein to help build and repair your muscles. "Don’t overcomplicate it," says Davis. If you're lifting and weight loss is one of your goals, though, it's still important to keep calories in mind—a post-workout snack shouldn't be more than 150 to 200 calories. Here's a guide to how many calories you should be eating for weight loss.
Your cardio will come in a couple different forms. On each day you train with weights, you'll do 20 minutes of high-intensity intervals. Choose an interval scheme that's challenging, but not impossible. Thirty seconds of all-out work, followed by 1 minute of recovery is usually a good place to start. One day per week, you'll do 30-45 minutes of low-intensity cardio. On these days, you can jump on your favorite cardio machine for some extra fat-burning.
In this case, most of the comparisons were nonsignificant, so if there are more unpublished null results floating around out there, they’d just reinforce the main finding here (and, in point of fact, there were; I also came across about a dozen studies stating that there were no significant differences between men and women in either strength or hypertrophy, but they didn’t report enough number or have figures to actually make a quantitative comparison). And for the significant differences, I don’t mind too much if they’re potentially overestimates because a) I’m very confident they’re true differences (I calculated how large of a true null would be needed to get below the significance threshold – it would take a study with anywhere from 3,000-11,000 subjects, depending on the comparison) and I’m not too hung up on the actual magnitude and b) I think the differences are probably only applicable for short-term training responses anyways (no differences in studies lasting 20+ weeks) so a misestimation of magnitude for short-term differences wouldn’t impact long-term implications to any real degree anyways.
I have a question that I’m pretty embarrassed to ask in person so I’d like your opinion on it. I am a woman who prefers wearing men’s clothing. My current measurements make me fit a men’s XS. Even though I am a woman and it’s harder to build muscle, is it realistic for me to expect to bulk up at least to reach a size S or will results never be that big? I guess my question is, how much can a woman bulk up naturally by doing weight training? Thanks so much.
Of course, cardio is an important part of fitness too, but the benefits of strength training are major. Strength training helps build muscle, and lean muscle is better at burning calories when the body is at rest, which is important whether you're trying to lose weight or maintain it. It also helps strengthens joints and bones, avoid injury, improve your muscular endurance, and will help you give it your all during your other workouts, whether that means setting a new PR if you're a runner or pushing (and pulling) a little harder with your legs during your favorite indoor cycling class.
The good news is that this doesn’t have to happen! The word “sedentary” is key. Strength training is important for everyone, but after 50 it becomes more crucial than ever. It ceases to be about big biceps or flat abs but rather takes on a tone of maintaining a strong, healthy body less prone to injury and illness. The important benefits of strength training after 50 include:
You may have heard hardcore lifters talk about things like "leg day," but when it comes to a beginner strength workout that's only a few days a week, a full-body workout is often the way to go (rather than splitting your days up by body part). "Full-body workouts maximize your caloric burn and the muscles worked each session," says Davis. The best way to do this is to pair one upper body exercise with one lower body exercise. "This way, the lower body has time to recover while the upper body works and vice-versa," says Davis. You should also aim for a balance between movements that feel like pulling and ones that feel like pushing. For example, Davis suggests pairing these exercises together:
The narrowing of the gap as competitiveness increases suggests that women may truly continue gaining strength at a slightly faster relative rate across their training careers. Similarly, a 2014 study of elite athletes in a variety of sports found that the women had about 85% as much lean body mass as men; before training, women tend to have ~60-70% as much lean body mass as men, suggesting that women may actually gain relatively more muscle than men long-term (though, for all of these comparisons, you can’t assume causation from cross-sectional analyses).
If someone is offering to spot you on an exercise (like the bench press), don’t assume they think you are a newb. Probably the opposite – they just want to help. If someone asks you to spot them and you’ve never spotted someone before, tell them that you would love to help but haven’t done it before so you could use some pointers. They will tell you what they want you to do.
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.
When best friends and trainers Karena Dawn and Katrina Scott created Tone It Up, no one could have predicted the success of the company’s long-distance coaching methods just a few years later. Unfortunately, a few key factors are not free, such as the highly-praised nutrition plan and yearly workout DVDs. However, it is still possible to be incredibly successful with the shorter—but still dense—workout videos and recipes posted on YouTube. The best home regimen combines YouTube and the trainers’ website, on which they post daily plans combining multiple videos from the channel to create a full workout. To take it a step further, connect with the TIU community on Instagram for daily check-ins and challenges—such as the yearly Bikini Challenge.
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.
Start in pushup position, with your hands directly beneath your shoulders. Tighten your core and glutes and perform a pushup, lowering your torso to an inch from the ground. Press back to the start, and as you do this, remove your right arm from the ground and touch your right hand to your left shoulder. Pause for one second in this position tightening your core and trying to keep your hips level, then return to the starting pushup position. Repeat the process on the other side. This move will challenge you, but you’re continuing to build core stability. Alternate reps on each side for 3 sets. During Week 5, do the move for 40 seconds during each set, then rest for 20. During Week 6, work for 50 seconds, then rest for 10.
In his new P90 DVD set, the supertrainer Tony Horton drops the "X" for an all-levels-welcome version of his wildly popular 90-day program. The 10 workouts—including total-body and core on the floor routines—are mapped out for you in a follow-along schedule. The modification options to the mix of cardio and resistance moves "make every set possible" for a gymlike intensity, testers said, all in 25 minutes. "It doesn't get much better than that," one reviewer raved.
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.
What she does now: I’m really new to the weightlifting, and I love/hate it. I hate it because it is so foreign to me, and I have all sorts of preconceived ideas about who should really be doing weightlifting. Since it’s new to me, and I’m already experiencing a significant shift in the body in terms of inches, I have cut back on my other workouts. I’m doing hot yoga to stretch out and continuing with the swimming.
And while cardiovascular exercises such as walking, jogging or biking are important for heart and lung efficiency, it is strength training that provides the benefits that keep your body younger, stronger and more functional as each year passes by. If you want to be vibrant and independent for many more years, this strength-training workout will help you achieve just that.
How: Using 8- to 15-pound dumbbells, stand behind a chair. Place your feet under your hips and fold forward so that your head can rest comfortably on the chair or surface. Keep your knees slightly bent and your neck relaxed. Begin with your palms facing each other directly under your shoulders. Bend your elbows and pull the dumbbells towards you until your palms are next to your ribs. Draw the shoulder blades together at the top. Pause for two seconds, then slowly release back to the starting position. That's one repetition. Aim for 12 to 15 reps.
Now bring yourself into a standing position by simultaneously straightening your back and legs. Remember to keep your back straight – do not let it slouch, as this can cause injury. Once assuming the straight stance, stick your chest out and contract your shoulder blades. This is one repetition. Do at least five repetitions to build strength and muscle. Once you can do these repetitions easily, add weight to the bag.
The express route to a two-piece starts here: Bikini Body: Absolution. The pair of 20-minute workouts take the burn-and-firm approach to cinching with a cardio-focused session of jumps, squats, lunges and planks, then a toning series of what a reviewer described as "new-to-me ab exercises that kick the typical crunch's booty." Get ready for the wood-chopping arabesque move, one tester jokingly warned. So sore but so sleek!
Stand holding medium-weight dumbbells at your sides, feet hip-width apart, core braced, knees slightly bent. This is the start. Hinge at your hips and push your butt backward, lowering your torso. Hinge until you feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings; focus on keeping your core braced as you do this. From this position, squeeze your shoulder blades and row the dumbbells to your ribcage. Pause, then lower the dumbbells and stand up, squeezing your glutes. That’s 1 rep. Do 3 sets.
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.
"I find I have so much more success when I work out at home. You don't have to worry about what you're wearing, what your hair looks like, or what anyone will think of you. It's also my only alone time during the day. I do high-intensity interval training workouts from FitnessBlender.com. For my strength-training workouts I use Body Pump from Les Mills on demand. And sometimes I just make up my own lifting workouts based on things I've read online and podcasts I listen to. After I started working out at home, I also switched to a Paleo diet. The changes have been slow, but I've lost more than 20 pounds and put on some serious muscles. I can actually feel the muscle in my arms now." —Ami Paulsen, Denver, CO
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.