Many women shun strength training and any exercises associated with building muscle mass for fear of becoming bulky and unfeminine. However, a woman with muscles is still a woman; you can do strength training and build long, lean muscles that create a sculpted look, make you stronger, and define your curves. Strong and healthy can be a sexy look and an appealing lifestyle.
Change Your Workout
Create a weight training routine using the exercises described below. You can focus on a single area, such as upper body or lower body, and alternate your focus with each work out. However, for quick muscle building, it’s better to include exercises for each muscle group during each weight training session. Include at least two exercises for biceps, two for triceps and shoulders, two for chest muscles, and three or four for lower body muscles.
Build up your arm muscles. Start with exercises for biceps, such as barbell curls and alternate dumbbell curls. For barbell curls, stand up and hold a barbell in one hand. Lock your elbows about 1 inch away from your chest (do not press them into your sides) and curl the weight up, squeezing your bicep as it reaches your chest. Slowly return the weight to the beginning stance. Do 10 repetitions for each set, and build up to 3 sets on each arm. For alternate dumbbell curls, stand up with a smaller weight dumbbell in each hand. Keep your elbows locked in at your sides. Lift with one hand so that your arm is perpendicular to your body, twisting your arm as you lift toward your shoulder so that your palm is facing your shoulder at the uppermost point of the lift. As you begin to lower the weight with the first arm, begin lifting with the second. Build up to 3 sets of 15 repetitions. More great bicep exercises include concentration curls, hammer curls and cross body curls.
Continue building arm and upper body strength with exercises for triceps, shoulders, and chest muscles. Include butterflies and tricep dips for the triceps. For butterflies, which target both triceps and chest muscles, lay on your back on a weight bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Extend your arms perpendicular to your body, and slowly lift the weights over your head with your arms fully extended. Do not lock your elbows. Hold for a count of 5, then lower the weights. Build up to 3 sets of 10 repetitions. For tricep dips, stand or sit with your back straight and. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms up and over the back of your head, so your palms are at the back of your neck. Lift the weights up until they are directly over the top of your head, then lower to the starting position. Build up to 3 sets of 10 each. For shoulder and chest muscles, include shoulder presses, seated dumbbell presses and incline dumbbell presses.
Build lower body muscles. Squats are the ultimate leg muscle exercise: with your arms extended at your sides, hold a dumbbell or barbell in each hand, standing with your feet shoulder width apart. Slowly lower yourself until you are squatting just below the point where your knees form a right angle, then lift yourself back to a standing position. Don’t lock your knees. Build up to 3 sets of 10 each.
Follow your squats with lunges: stand up with your feet together and a dumbbell in each hand. Take one step forward, keeping your back straight and bending your knees to get as close to the floor as you can. Step back into the starting position and repeat with the other foot. Build up to 3 or 4 sets of 10 repetitions each. Other great lower body exercises include leg press, leg curls and calf raises.
Do some cardio at least twice a week for 20 to 30 minutes. Activities such as walking, swimming or aerobics will keep you from gaining fat and help you to develop an overall body balance. Focus, however, on developing a serious strength training routine with free weights. You won’t be able to do your routine every day at first; give your body a day to recuperate between sessions. You can build up to more frequent weight training as your muscles develop.
Change Your Eating Habits
Increase your protein intake significantly. Your body builds muscles from protein; not enough protein means that the best free weight routine won’t get you dazzling new muscles. You have to have the raw material available with which to sculpt those new muscles. Cut out the empty calories and increase your protein intake. This doesn’t mean you have to eat a lot of high-fat foods. Go for lower-fat, high-protein options: beans, legumes, lean cuts of meat, fish and low-fat dairy products.
Eat more often. Let go of the three big meals philosophy and opt for six smaller meals. Eating more frequently provides a continuous fuel supply to your body and keeps your metabolism up. Never skip breakfast.
Eat carbohydrate-rich foods before you work out, to provide energy, and have a protein shake after you workout, to provide the necessary proteins for new muscle-building.
Get enough calories. No, don’t gorge on the tub of ice cream after a weight training session, but do include healthy sources of fat, such as avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, nut butters and higher-fat fish in your diet regularly. You’re burning calories as you train to build those muscles, and you need to replenish your supply.
Rest when you need to; eight hours of sleep a night is important for your body to have adequate time to repair and rebuild after intense workouts.