Women often ask how to “tone” their body parts. While lamenting their pudgy midsection or saggy arms, they specify though, that they must avoid “bulking” exercises, especially for their arms; they won’t use heavy weights. It’s a battle of toned vs. ripped. To develop a lean, sexy silhouette with curves in all the right places, however, ladies need to get on board with weight training. Call it a toning workout if that makes it less intimidating.
The Myth of Bulking Up
Weight training does not cause bulking up in women. It’s a myth. Unless you’re using supplements that cause muscle growth or you have high male hormone levels, you will not grow huge muscles as a woman. Even if you lift heavy weights. In order to bulk up, male body builders eat a very specific diet with supplements and follow a strict lifting regimen.
Lifting weights truly does sculpt muscle definition, which is evident in images of ripped abs, bubble booties and tight triceps. But the fact is healthy muscle tissue provides shape around bones, and these feminine curves are achievable with strength-building exercises.
Strong vs. Skinny
The problem with the average “soft-in-the-middle” person is that muscle tone hides under a layer of subcutaneous fat. Therefore, body toning needs to include an overall fat-burning workout twice a week. As you reduce the fat, sculpt areas of weakness with strengthening exercises. Remember, muscle cells burn calories—more calories per hour than fat cells, since these cells are active and require energy. So, pushing some weights a few times a week, even if it’s your own body weight, in addition to aerobic cardio exercise will help sculpt the shape you’re looking for.
Strong is the new skinny. If women would embrace this concept, they would find themselves achieving their goals much more quickly. Even women seeking to regain their pre-pregnancy bodies would benefit from this mindset change.
How to Work It x 10
The following ten sculpting exercises target areas that women are most concerned about: thighs, stomach, arms and butt. The exercises are accessible for all body types, whether you’re a beginner or an athlete. As a beginner though, beware that you may sometimes have to modify how intensely you work each muscle group. Always work to the point of muscle fatigue. When you have difficulty performing a movement with perfect form, move on to the next muscle group. Try to complete three sets of exercises per muscle group.
Also, beginner choices of cardio exercise will be different from an athlete who has years of cardio training. Start with walking or swimming, progress to jogging and biking, then sprints and high intensity plyometrics.
(Can be performed against resistance by holding weights in the hands or against the chest. Note that core muscles, especially the deep transverse abdominis, are also engaged in many other exercises to help with balance.)
- Bicycle Crunch to Crab Crunch: targets the internal and external obliques and the rectus abdominis (6-pack).
- Butterfly Chest Lift: targets the rectus abdominis and the deep transverse abdominis, without tiring the hip flexors or lower back.
- Cable Skull Crusher: targets the triceps.
- Close-grip Barbell Bench Press or Pushup: targets triceps, front of the shoulder and chest.
- Standing Knee Lift to Back Leg Extension (can wear ankle weights for resistance): targets quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and core.
- Plié Slide to Stand: targets inner thighs, quads and gluteus medius and minimus.
Compound Moves Targeting Multiple Muscles
- Hip Lift to Roll Out/Leg Curls (on a ball or mat): targets hamstrings, quads, glutes and core.
- Step Up with Biceps Curl to Overhead Press (on a step): targets biceps, shoulders, quads, glutes and core.
- Kneeling Round House Kick: targets all muscles around the hips, the thighs and the deep transverse abdominis.
- Squat-Plank-Pushup: targets the thighs, core, chest and arms.