Building strong muscles does more than help you tone your body. It can also help you lose as much as 3 percentage points of body fat in just 10 weeks, reports “Women’s Health” magazine. Though some women worry that working their muscles will make them big and bulky, but a woman’s naturally low levels of testosterone make the risk of turning into a muscle-bound hulk low, says Alwyn Cosgrove, coach, gym owner and co-author of “The New Rules of Lifting For Women,” in “U.S. News & World Report.”
Plan three strength-training sessions a week, recommends Cosgrove. Fewer than that, and you’re not likely to see significant benefits; more, and your body won’t have the recovery time it needs to build muscle.
Start with a weight that you can lift 15 times in a row, recommends Columbia University’s Health Services. Keep in mind that you may be able to lift more weight standing than sitting and more weight with your legs than with your arms.
Do exercises like squats, presses, rows, and pull-downs that target muscle groups instead of individual muscles to get the biggest muscle-building bang from your workout, recommends Joe Dowdell, founder and co-owner of the New York City gym Peak Performance, in “Women’s Health” magazine.
Increase the amount of weight you lift over time as you build strength. If you can comfortably lift a weight more than 10 times with perfect form, it’s time to add a few pounds to your routine, says Cosgrove.
Make sure you get a healthy amount of protein every day, usually between three and five servings, depending on your weight. Sports nutritionist Cassandra Forsythe, co-author of “The New Rules of Lifting for Women,” says you need at least 1 g protein for every 1 lb. of body weight that’s not fat to prevent workout-related muscle loss.
Include 30 minutes of aerobic exercise on your non-strength-training days to burn calories and fat. Burning fat doesn’t increase muscle definition, but it does make defined muscles easier to see.