Having children is one way to develop strong muscles: after you’ve hauled baby, car seat and diaper bag around every day for a few weeks, you’ll notice stronger arms. And that’s the key to developing strong muscles at any point in life; no, not having children, but using your muscles consistently and in a way that challenges them, so that they stretch and grow in order to be able to perform what you ask of them.
Eat nutrient-dense foods, says Kathy Smith in her book “Feed Muscle, Shrink Fat Diet.” Nutrient-dense foods offer a high amount of vitamins and minerals, which are necessary to build up muscles, but a low number of calories, which feed fat cells. By incorporating more nutrient-dense foods into your regular meal plans, you give your muscles appropriate fuel without increasing your body’s fat stores. Nutrient-dense foods include lower sugar fruits (apples, berries, kiwi), dark green vegetables, and fiber-rich foods, such as whole-grain bread, oatmeal, and flax seed.
Walk for 20-minute stretches and find paths that take you uphill and downhill. Walking, says Smith, can intensify the results of a strength training routine. It also helps you to warm up your muscles before a strength training session, which is important in order to keep from damaging your muscles as you train them.
Do squats with dumbbells or light weights. Squats incorporate your core muscles; Kathy Smith points out that it is necessary to develop strong core muscles in order to be able to do strength training moves effectively. Strong core muscles also create a toned, strong midsection, which can be a particularly difficult area for women to get into shape. There are various types of squats that can incorporate light weights. The basic idea is to stand with feet shoulder-width apart and then take a big step with one leg. You can move forward or to the side, and as you lower your body into the squat, your raise the weights with your hands, either over your head, to shoulder level as you extend your arms perpendicular to your body, or straight out in front of you to chin level.
Make the most of your strength training moves. The way you do squats and other exercises is just as important as the fact that you do them. Focus on the muscles you are working with each move, and keep both your abdominal and gluteal muscles tight and engaged as you perform the various exercises. Breathe deeply through each exercise.
Use a body ball or an exercise ball for exercises that you would otherwise perform lying on the floor, such as butterflies or crunches. Smith recommends a body ball for these exercises, as it intensifies your workout. It forces you to use more muscles in order to maintain your balanced position on the ball while performing these workout moves.
Keep your muscles challenged. Don’t always do the same workout at the same time, in the same place, in the same way, says Smith. The muscles quickly learn the routine, adapt just enough to go through the moves easily, and then cease to grow stronger. To keep building stronger muscles, you need to add variety to your workouts by keeping things different. Mix up the exercises. Work one group of muscles one day (upper body) and another the next (lower body). Add weights, do more repetitions, or start incorporating spurts of cardio such as walking, jogging or doing jumping jacks. All of the variety keeps your muscles challenged and engaged.