A woman may be concerned that her feminine attributes, such as her chest and buttock area, will lose volume while on a weight loss regimen. Though there is no such thing as spot training – or cutting fat in a specific area such as the midsection or inner thighs without losing fat elsewhere – it is possible, with proper training, timing and nutrition, to trim excess body fat but still retain or create curves. Contrary to popular belief, lifting weights will not make you bulky. Due to a woman’s propensity to store fat and lack of testosterone in comparison to her male counterpart, the correct training method will only yield a firmer, feminine figure.
Training for Beginners
Commit to a preparation period for the first several weeks by doing full-body strength-training sessions two to three times a week, emphasizing major muscle groups. The National Academy of Sports Medicine recommends that beginners start with free-weights as opposed to machine-weights with which you can do at least 15 to 18 repetitions; you’ll need to train your body as an entire unit to activate your muscles.
Remember to keep your posture aligned while performing these exercises to avoid injury and strengthen your body efficiently. Keep the shoulders down and rolled back, the chin is tucked and abdominal muscles pulled in toward the spine.
Start to sculpt your hourglass body by splitting your weight training routine into upper body and lower body segments and work on them up to twice a week each. For example, you can do upper body workouts on Monday and Thursday, and lower body workouts on Tuesday and Friday, with the remaining three days used for rest or cardio. Work on your core twice a week as well, either tacking it onto one of your strength-training or cardio days. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends resting a muscle group for at least 48 hours before reworking them.
Shrink your waist by doing core exercises such as pelvic tilts, planks on your elbows and toes, jackknives and back extensions. Complete at least two sets of slow, concentrated movements until your muscles fatigue. Fitness author and TheBiggest Loser trainer Jillian Michaels advises to avoid most oblique work, like side-bends and side-crunches, which will broaden your trunk and add masculine lines. Instead, do lateral twists and woodchoppers with a light resistance to cinch in your sides. Stay away from weighted abdominal machines.
Enhance the illusion of a tapered waist by working on your back, shoulders and chest. Good back exercises include wide lat pull downs and bent-over rows, while upright presses and front raises are great for sculpting shoulders. Though a woman’s bust size cannot be increased through physical activity, she can make her chest perkier by doing pectoral-based exercises such as chest presses and modified push-ups. Use a combination of machines, free weights, cables and bands at a weight or resistance with which you can perform at least two sets of 12 to 15 repetitions.Complete your upper body workout by including exercises for your biceps and triceps as well.
Use heavier resistance and a minimum of two sets of five to seven repetitions to build up your buttocks and thighs. The use of a spotter is recommended. Machines come in handy because they allow you to efficiently work heavier weights with added support to your form and joints. Weighted lunges and squats are good free-weight options.
Women are prone to doing too much aerobic exercise, especially when trying to lose weight. An over-emphasis on cardiovascular training, while great for your heart, will eat away at your muscle, especially when accompanied by a calorie-reduced diet. Cardio exercise should enhance your training efforts but not be the basis of your fat-loss program. Twenty to 30 minutes of moderately paced aerobic exercise, no more than three times a week, is sufficient. Some popular activities include jogging, biking, jump roping or using the elliptical trainer. It’s best to do cardio in between your strength-training days or right after a strength-training workout.
A healthy diet is necessary if you want to see results. While cutting your caloric-intake is important for weight loss, restricting too many calories will compromise your building of lean muscle. Your diet shouldn’t allow you to lose more than a pound to a pound and a half a week – anymore than that and it’s muscle you’ll be losing, not fat.
It’s also a faulty practice to consume protein and severely limit carbohydrates in hopes of preserving lean mass and while burning fat. Adequate calories from carbohydrates are protein-sparing, which means that it helps preserve muscle tissue. To simultaneously cut calories and optimize nutrition for workouts, your diet must be comprised of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and complex carbohydrates in balanced ratios while keeping solid fats, added sugars and other artificial ingredients to a minimum.
Ignore Scale Weight
Especially when weight training, assessing fat loss based on scale weight is not recommended because muscle weighs more than fat, but clearly takes up much less room. Scales cannot discern whether the weight is fat or muscle tissue and therefore a mirror, tape measurer or taking into account the way your clothes fit is much more reliant indicator of success. A way to accurately assess your body fat percentage is through a skin fold measurement test. A healthy range for women is anywhere from 22 to 25 percent, and an aesthetically lean female 17 to 22 percent.
Ellie Whitney and Sharon Rolfes: Understanding Nutrition, Eleventh Edition. Belmont: Wadsworth, 2008.
Jillian Michaels: Making the Cut: The 30-Day Diet and Fitness Plan for the Strongest, Sexiest You. New York: Crown Publishing, 2007.
Michael A. Clark and others: NASM Essentials of Personal Training. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins 2008.
American College Sports Medicine. “Strength Training for Women” (accessed December 12, 2010).
Women’s Health Magazine. “The Best Strength Training For Women” (accessed December 12, 2010).