[The following article is a sponsored post]
Once upon a time, gyms were primarily dominated by men. If you were to Google images of gyms from the 1970s, you will be inundated by pictures of Arnold Schwarzenegger-like men flexing and doing 200 kg bench presses. This image has evolved dramatically over the years, and how there is enough demand from female trainers to even warrant the rise of women’s only gyms. Why should men have all the fun? Women too would like to burn some fat and tone up, and there’s no better way than hitting the weights.
“I don’t want to look bulky”
The above is probably one of the most commonly uttered phrases by women who have recently started training. The rationale to this is understandable, especially because some of the more athletic women can appear to have slightly larger frames than their untrained counter parts. This is not actually a result of them having hulking muscles. Instead, it’s a result of the tendency for women to have a higher percentage of body fat. Without adequate dieting, muscle tissue is built underneath fat tissue, which when combined, can give women a slightly bulkier look. However, this is not a reason to avoid weight training. Rather, it places emphasis on clean eating, in order to reduce body fat. Combining weight training with a clean diet is an excellent way to develop toned, feminine curves.
From here on, some women will make the argument that female bodybuilders have low body fat and yet still look bulky. In this case, it is important to note that a body like that does not happen without the help of anabolic steroids. Unlike men, women lack the amount of testosterone needed for a bulky, male-like frame and muscle development. So without the use of anabolic steroids, it doesn’t matter how hard they train, or how much protein they take, women are unable to look like bodybuilders.
“I want to look toned”
When women hit the gym, it’s safe to say this is possibly always a primary goal. Looking “toned” is a mix between having well developed muscles and a body fat percentage low enough for those muscles to be visible. There is really only one way to achieve this, and it’s through weight training, not cardio. It does not matter how much low intensity cardio someone does, there will never be any significant “toning” that occurs. Cardio is a good way to burn calories and lose weight, but doing only cardio can give a “skinny fat” or soft look.
Benefits of Weight Training
Heavy resistance training has many benefits. Not only is it functional, by increasing strength, but it does wonders for physique too. By using heavy weights, muscles are encouraged to grow. This muscle growth is what gives a firm, slender look. Not only that, but muscle tissue is also the most metabolically active body tissue. This means that having well developed muscles is actually a good way to ramp up the body’s ability to use energy and burn fat, even outside of the gym.
Another benefit of weight training is far more long term. Bone health is extremely important for mobility and quality of life. After menopause, women are more prone to disorders such as osteoporosis, which can be a crippling disease. Constantly performing weight bearing exercises is a good way to increase and maintain bone density to help prevent osteoporosis. Consequently weight training is not only recommended for young women, but also those well into their senior years.
How Should Women Train?
Funnily enough, despite the differences between men and women, they can both benefit from the same types of exercises. Free-weight compound exercises using heavy weights are best for increasing strength and tone. Focus on exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and rows to target the larger muscle groups. Aim for a weight that will allow for around 6 reps to be performed per set. If you are able to do dozens of reps, the weight is far too light to provide the same benefits.
Let’s also not forget about high intensity interval training. This form of cardio training incorporates short bursts of very intense sprints with longer periods of slow steady jogs. This can also be done on cycles and other such equipment and is far more effective than traditional steady state cardio for burning fat. Combining this with weight training is a sure way to give the best firm yet feminine body.
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