Ladies, it’s time to step away from the two pound pink dumbbells: if you want to build sexy curves, lift heavier weights. You’ve already heard that strong is the new sexy, and it’s not just because being strong is awesome (which it is), but it’s also because strength training will totally transform you body in a good way. That is, it’s good if you like being lean and toned with sexy curves!
Many women start working out because they want to get toned. But what the heck does ‘toned’ really mean? For most people, being toned means being lean and having tight, firm muscles with good definition. A commendable goal, but how do you go about getting from where you are to the lean, toned and sexy sexier (you’re already sexy) body you want?
You grab the small pink dumbbells and bust out a thousand reps, right? Wrong, wrong, oh so wrong. You can do a thousand hours of cardio and no doubt about it, you’ll burn a lot of fat, but it isn’t going to get you toned. You need muscle to get muscle tone and as you know: cardio ain’t going to give you muscle! No muscle, no muscle tone (a.k.a. toning), no sexy curves!
Why are so many ladies scared to step away from the pink dumbbells? It usually boils down to a few things: fear of bulking, fear of the weight room and lack of knowledge. Some people may also be scared of becoming too sexy, but we’re not sure about that one.
I don’t want to get big and bulky!
We can just imagine the scenario: “Oh no! I did some heavy squats yesterday and now look at me! Muscles bulging from every inch of my bah-dee…. aghhhhhhhhhhh!”
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on who you ask) it just doesn’t work that way. We covered this in our fitness myths but it bears repeating: women don’t have anywhere near the amount of testosterone that men have, which means that even when they lift heavy weights for a long time, they still won’t get as big and muscular as a man.
The women you see who have absolutely huge muscles are professional bodybuilders, which means they: train for about 4 hours in the gym per day, often use performance enhancing drugs (human growth hormone, steroids, etc.) and are often genetically predisposed to muscle growth (which is rare in most populations). Even with all of that, it still takes tremendous discipline and focus to achieve those kind of extraordinary results.
In other words, you’re not going to get big and bulky from lifting weights. If you did put on more muscle than you wanted, all you’d need to do is switch to lighter weights, more reps and more cardio and voila, the muscle would decrease in size – it isn’t magically set in stone.
If you hit the free weights, lift heavy enough (progressive overload) and eat clean, instead of looking like She-Hulk, you’re more likely to end up looking (with dedication) like this.
We don’t know about you, but we think she looks pretty good! And that awesome physique was attained with a clean diet, lifting heavy weights and believe it or not, no cardio! We still think you should include cardio into your workouts because studies show that resistance training combined with aerobic training works the best for fat loss
I’m scared of the weight room!
Many women (and frankly, a lot of men too) are intimidated by the free weight section of the gym. We don’t blame you: big, sweaty, muscle-bound dudes slinging weights around, few (if any) other women, and stacks of weights with no instructions – no wonder people get intimidated!
Fortunately, there are a number of ways for you to feel a lot more confident in the free weight section of your gym. The most important way is to be competent with the exercises. Like the saying goes: knowledge is power. There’s nothing that boosts confidence more than knowing exactly what you’re doing.
So how do you get to the point where you know what to do? The best way is to hire a good personal trainer for a few sessions (they can also give you an workout plan to follow). Of course, good personal trainers can be expensive and not everyone has the money to spend on doing that.
Lucky for us, living in the 21st century means you can watch videos on practically every exercise: how to do them, what to avoid, common mistakes etc. Best of all you can practice in the comfort of your own home (in front of a mirror if possible to check your form) before you hit the gym. Even better, there are only a few core exercises which you need to know to get started (we’ll cover those below).
Which brings us to another point: these days it’s cheap enough to set up your own home gym, that you don’t really need to sign up to a gym at all. Sure, you won’t have all the cool little extras, but by setting up your own small home gym, you’ll save a ton of money in the long run.
Home gyms have a lot of advantages over traditional gyms if you have the budget up-front and the space: convenience, cost (in the long run) and most importantly being able to do all those weird looking exercises you’ve always wanted to try, but were too embarrassed to do at the gym.
If you are going to the gym, the first time you step foot in the free weight section, you will feel a little awkward, but that will quickly fade as you get to know your way around – it will become so familiar that you won’t even remember that moment. As a woman walking stepping into the weight room, you will get some looks from guys, but as long as you’re there to work out, don’t just use the 5lb dumbbells and know what you’re doing (not expert level), then most of the time it will be out of respect. And the rest of the time it will be, well… ’cause they’re guys.
You could also buddy-up, which makes things a little easier. Whatever it is, do what you have to do to get yourself lifting, because the awesome results you’ll get are worth the initial awkwardness.
Why Lifting Heavy Is Awesome
Most people already know that resistance training is good for you. But if you’re not lifting heavy enough, then it isn’t resistance training – it’s cardio.
The question is: what is ‘heavy’? It’s another one of these words which, like toning, can mean different things to different people. You’ll see people talk about ‘heavy’ as being a percentage (70% – 80%) of your one rep max, but perhaps an easier way to think about it is: the weight which is challenging to you.
In other words, ‘heavy’ is the amount of weight which makes it a challenge (but not impossible) for you to reach the number of reps (e.g. 8 – 12) in a set. It’s all relative to you and what you’re currently capable of.
Now, why would you want to put yourself through challenging workouts like these? Simple: because you’re awesome! Not enough? Okay, here are a few more reasons:
Burns a lot more fat than cardio alone.Increases metabolic rate (i.e. burn more calories even when you’re not working out).Build sexy curves (i.e. muscle = curves).Maintain and strengthen bone density (i.e. help combat osteoporosis).Get some sweet muscle definition.Functional strength for when you need it (we’re not saying zombies…)Feel great, endorphins, serotonin, better mood.Many other health benefits (like a healthier heart).Booty, legs, abs and guns!Raaaaaaawr!
Those are just a few of the reasons, we’re sure you can find more (let us know in the comments).
The 7 Essential Resistance Training Exercises
The most important thing to get right as a beginner is your form. You want to get your form as good as possible using bodyweight only, a barbell or a broomstick. Once you’ve got good form without weight, you want to slowly start adding weight and making sure your form is still good. Slowly increment the weight to the point where you’re able to maintain good form and just reach your rep range. Exercise form is something you should keep coming back to and improving no matter how experienced you are.
It’s also important to remember that you won’t use the same weight for each exercise (that’s pink dumbbell thinking), but instead switch it up according to what you can or can’t do; remember, the idea is to lift as heavy as you can safely lift in order to hit your rep range – if you can do more reps, then you need to increase the weight; if you can’t reach the rep range then decrease the weight.
For example: most women can squat far more than they can bench press; which means you have to use a heavier weight for squats if you want to get great results. In addition to this, you need to keep the concept ofprogressive overload in mind; this is simply a fancy way of saying you need to keep challenging yourself with the amount of weight you lift.
Another example: if you’ve been squatting 70lbs for a month and you can comfortably do 3 sets of 12 reps, then it’s probably time to increase the weight. How much you increase it by is up to you, but it’s probably a good idea to go by 2.5lb – 5lb increments. Increase the weight to the point where you’re just able to reach your rep range; decrease it a little if you can’t.
Having said all that, there are only a few essential exercises that you need to learn in order to get started lifting. Here they are:
- Overhead Press
- Bench Press
- Bent Over Row
That’s just for starters, there are dumbbell variations, cable variations, isolation exercises (the above are all compound exercises; i.e. they work multiple muscles at once, thus making your workouts more efficient) which you can dig into when you’ve got a bit more experience.
Once you’ve got those fundamentals under your belt, you’ll know enough to get started building sexy curves, burning away fat like never before (combine with cardio & clean eating) and building the best body you’ve ever had!