What do hard-body superstars Janet Jackson, Britney Spears and Angelina Jolie have in common with Russian shot-putters Svetlana Krivelyova and Nadezhda Ostapchuk? Both groups spend hours every week lifting weights and working out, but project radically different images. Fit, lean celebrities exude beauty and sexuality and represent role models to legions of women around the world. Shot-putters, on the other hand, often convey the image of bulked-up, stodgy behemoths. Even though the shot-putters are some of the strongest, most powerful and most skillful athletes in the world, most women don’t want to look like them.
Unfortunately, many women avoid weight training because they don’t want to get any bigger than they are now. They are so repulsed by the image of burly, rotund power athletes that they shun weight training all together. If they lift weights at all, they do high-repetition, low-weight workouts and never increase the load. Training this way is practically worthless; you won’t improve muscle tone or get rid of the fat that is covering your legs, butt, abdomen or arms. Poor weight training programs are preventing you from looking lean and fit. The truth is that you can improve muscle tone and lose fat and inches by doing an intense weight training program— without gaining bulk.
Weight Training Won’t Cause Bulky Muscles in Women
The image of the incredible muscle development of women bodybuilders, weightlifters and throwers makes many average women turn up their noses to weight training. Few women want to have tree trunk legs, bowling ball calves or bulging biceps. These concerns are not justified. In fact, intense weight training will help you lose fat, burn calories and make your muscles look firm, lean, fit and sleek. Behemoth women strength athletes often get that way because they have more male hormones than normal or they take muscle-building drugs, such as anabolic steroids or growth hormone.
Scientists began studying the effects of weight training in women more than 30 years ago. Every one of the studies showed that women do not build large muscles from weight training. Rather, they lose fat and gain only some muscle. Weight training makes you look smaller, firmer and toned— not larger and bulkier. Muscle is denser tissue than fat. When you lose fat and gain muscle, you lose bulk because dense muscle tissue takes up less space than less dense fat.
Muscle stokes up your metabolism and that helps you use more calories. Most studies show that women who weight train while dieting maintain muscle mass and prevent the decrease in metabolic rate that generally accompanies weight loss. Women who lose weight and either don’t exercise or do only aerobics often look drawn and somewhat flabby because they lose muscle. Muscle is what makes you look healthy, toned and fit.
Losing weight through diet alone— even when you do aerobic exercise— slows down your metabolism and makes it easier to gain weight again. That is less likely to happen when you train with weights when trying to cut body fat. Weight training prevents muscle loss when dieting. Muscle works like a metabolic furnace to help you burn calories all day and all night long. Also, intense weight training burns as many calories during a 24-hour period as when you practice moderate intensity aerobic exercise for 30 minutes.
Men have bigger muscles than women because men have higher levels of testosterone in the blood. Testosterone levels are more than 10 times higher in men than in women. Young men have between 400-1,000 nanograms of testosterone per 100 milliliters of blood, while women have 30-150 nanograms. Women produce another “male” hormone called androstenedione that can be converted to testosterone. Scientists from Drew Medical College in Los Angeles have shown that muscle growth depends on blood levels of testosterone. The higher the level of the hormone, the more muscles grow. Women have low levels of testosterone, so they don’t gain very much muscle tissue when they train with weights. Rather, they train their nervous systems to use existing muscle. The muscle they gain makes the upper and lower body look firmer, leaner and shapelier.
Some women have high levels of testosterone and androstenedione and will gain muscle faster than normal. If you have larger muscles than other women, you might have high testosterone levels. However, even if you are one of these rare people, gaining muscle and strength will make your body look better.
Train Intensely for Health and Beauty
Make intense weight training part of your exercise program. Stop using light weights and never progressing. Weight training will not build bulky muscles, but it will contribute to your health and improve the way you look. Training intensely has more benefits than producing a shapely body:
· Weight training increases strength, which will make daily activities easier. Simple tasks like carrying groceries, opening sticky jar lids and waxing the car will become effortless. Strength training improves joint health that will help prevent back, hip, knee and shoulder pain.
· Weight training improves athletic performance. Strength is the basis for powerful movements. Improving the strength of major muscle groups will help you move more powerfully, run faster and jump higher when you play sports like skiing, tennis, golf, or basketball.
· Weight training builds bones and prevents osteoporosis. Bone mass peaks when you’re 20-30 years old and then decreases after that. Weight training, along with adequate calcium intake, will help you maintain bone mass and develop a strong, healthy skeleton that will serve you well for the rest of your life and will be less likely to fracture.
· Weight training reduces risk of heart attack and stroke. This type of exercise improves the function of the cells lining the blood vessels, which helps them fight disease and maintain healthy blood flow throughout the body. Weight training also reduces the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes that have been linked to high blood pressure, high blood fats, blood clotting problems and abdominal fat deposition.
· Weight training improves mental health by preventing depression and enhancing self-esteem. Mental health professionals are finding that weight training is often as effective as drugs in treating mental disorders.
Getting the Most from Your Weight Training Program
Weight training will help you develop stronger, shapelier muscles without getting bulking-looking legs, butt, abs or arms. Do one to three sets of 10 repetitions of eight to 10 exercises that build the major muscles in the body. Do this program two or three days a week along with aerobic exercise and you will make great strides toward getting the body you want. Weight training exercises may include:
- Bench press (3 sets X 10 repetitions)
- Dumbbell raises (3 X 10)
- Bent-over rowing (3 X 10)
- Lat pulls (3 X 10)
- Curl-ups (3 X 10)
- Back extensions (3 X 10)
- Lunges (3 X 10)
- Knee extensions (3 X 10)
- Leg curls (3 X 10)
- Calf raises (3 X 10)
Try to increase the amount of weight you use at least once every two weeks. If you train hard consistently, you will improve the way your body looks and get the health benefits that weight training provides.
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