Why she switched: I switched because I started seeing and reading a lot more about women doing squats and dead-lifting, and they weren’t huge or extremely bulky, and I became very interested in trying this. Then I found Instagrammer Jen Selter (queen of squats) and admired her figure, so I followed her and began doing squats and absolutely loved the results I was seeing. As I get older, or any woman in their 40s, we will start losing muscle and I want to prevent this as much as possible. Squatting and dead-lifting have given my legs and butt a lot of shape and muscle definition.
I’m sure there are some people in a state of mild disbelief as this point. After all, men have more testosterone, and testosterone is anabolic; therefore, men should be at a huge advantage when it comes to building muscle and gaining strength, right? An implication of this analysis is that, assuming a given woman and a given man start with similar amounts of muscle mass and strength, they’d be likely to gain the same amount of muscle and strength if they both started lifting. That just doesn’t sit right with some people.
Cardio history: I started long-distance running in 2008, half and full marathons, which led to half and full Ironmans from 2011 to 2013. That moved to ultramarathons — 50 km, 50-miler, 100 km, etc. — for the past three years. During these periods, I was basically doing cardio in the form of biking, running or swimming for 15 to 20-plus hours a week, with maybe five of those hours as light circuit-style, high-rep weight training — so more cardio than lifting.
Start lying on your back, arms and legs extended. Tighten your abs, pressing your lower back into the floor as you do so. This should lift your legs off the floor; work to keep them straight. Lift your shoulder blades off the floor as well; keep extending your arms back as you do this. Do 3 reps. During Week 7, try to maintain the hollow hold for 40 seconds, then rest for 20. During Week 8, aim for 50-second holds, then rest for 10 seconds between reps. Can’t hold that long? Hold for as long as you can, then come out of the hold and get right back into it until time’s up.
Lie with your belly and chest on an incline bench set to a 40-degree incline, holding dumbbells in both hands, arms hanging naturally. Squeeze your shoulder blades, then pull the dumbbells up toward your lower chest, aiming to drive your elbows as high as possible. Continue to hold the left dumbbell in this position as you lower the right dumbbell back to the start slowly. Then slowly lower the left dumbbell back to the start. Do another rep, this time lowering the left dumbbell back to the start first. Do 3 sets.
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.
I have always loved lifting, but I only started doing it regularly about 9 months ago. I needed to lose a bit of weight (fat), and I had no desire to sacrifice essential body parts to do so. After talking with some guy friends, I decided that lifting might be the answer. It was. I have lost two sizes, and 28 inches over all. I haven’t lost tons of weight, but I look like I have, and I did it without going on an excruciating and unsustainable diet.
While your body naturally produces vitamin D when you're under the sun, you're likely vitamin D deficient, especially if you have an office job or live in a region in which sunshine is a rare luxury. This deficiency affects overall health, and some studies suggest it may even hamper athletic performance and recovery from exercise. If you can't get enough vitamin D from the sun or from your diet, taking a supplement would be the next best thing.
Because of hormonal changes that women experience as they get older, they naturally lose bone density, putting them at increased risk for developing osteoporosis. Routinely lifting weights slows bone deterioration and can help your bones grow stronger, help you maintain strength, and reduce your chance of developing — or slow the effects of — osteoporosis.
How her body has reacted: Since making the switch, my body composition has changed drastically. It is something I didn’t notice right away and I truly still don’t understand how drastically it has changed until I look at pictures and see how much leaner my body is and how much stronger I am. I have more energy outside of training, which leaves me in a good mental space to focus on eating healthfully to fuel my body properly.
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.
Stand tall and look straight ahead, then step your right foot forward and lower into a lunge until your right thigh is parallel to the ground. Keep your core tight and your chest up; your left knee should be on the ground. Raise your arms overhead and clasp your hands together, leaning back slightly. You should feel a stretch in your hamstrings and hip flexors; feel free to shift your torso to the left or right a little bit. Return to the start, then repeat on the other side. Alternate side until time expires; do this drill for 2 minutes.
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:
Poor fat: so misunderstood and neglected. Dietary fats got a bad rap due to a major landmark study from the 80s that—very erroneously—concluded dietary fats promote incidences of heart attacks and other illnesses. As a result of this, the government promoted eating as little fat as possible and corporations rolled out their fat-free and reduced fat foods to save everyone from their exploding hearts.
I was fixated on this path, focusing mostly on HIIT workouts, until Instagram started showing me a different kind of inspiration: More and more girls I follow were getting into weightlifting. It is crazy how the strangers you decide to follow on social media have such an impact on your life. Suddenly, the “Strong is the new skinny” mantra that women were spreading started to really speak to me. Shifting the goal from having a thigh gap to being able to challenge your body in new ways just made so much more sense. I also began to realize that my strategy for eating “clean” was just actually putting my body and mind in a dangerous place.
Sit with both feet about hip-width apart on the ground, feet flat on the floor. Your shoulder blades should be against a bench, arms wide for stability. Lift your right foot off the ground, raising it as high as you can and bending your knee. This is the start. Now brace your core, and use your left glute to press your entire torso off the ground, driving your torso and left thigh so they’re parallel to the ground. Pause here, then return to the start. That’s 1 rep; do 2 sets per leg.
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!