Updated June 7, 2008:
FACT: You must perform resistance training to change the shape of your body!
To sculpt a lean, ‘toned’ and defined physique/figure we need to change our body composition (fat to muscle ratio). To achieve this, we must partake in some form of resistance training. It’s unfortunate that many women shy away from lifting weights in the belief that it will cause them to “bulk up” or get ‘big’. Building lean muscle is not an easy thing to do, but it is a NECESSARY component in the process of changing your body shape. Women do not have significant amounts of testosterone, a required hormone in the muscle building process. Therefore, without the use of steroids, women will not end up with overly muscled physiques.A simple pound or two of additional lean muscle, combined with body fat loss will completely reshape your body.
The majority of women I do see in the gym are afraid of lifting heavy weights or pushing themselves in the weights room – usually for the above reasons.
We often underestimate our strength in the gym, looking at a weight and believing “that’s too heavy for me”. You will be surprised at what you can lift, if you attempt it. Of course, be smart, be safe, but do aim to get out of your comfort zone – weights SHOULD feel heavy - that’s how we get results! The last few repetitions of a set should be very difficult to perform (whilst using proper technique).
When we resistance train, it’s important that, over time, we gradually increase the load that is imposed on our system; otherwise our body doesn’t really have any reason to adapt in a manner that will be favorable to use getting stronger, faster, or leaner. So, we must always train with intensity and change our training programs regularly.
Cardiovascular training is an important addition to resistance training if decreasing body fat is your goal. However, many people believe cardiovascular training (walking, running, aerobic classes, cycling etc – anything that requires the use of the aerobic energy system), to be the ’be all and end all’ for achieving their weight loss/body fat loss goals. If performed excessively, particularly when dieting, cardiovascular training can eat into your valuable muscle tissue and this is not conducive to fat loss and therefore, shaping your body.