It’s pretty common to hear women say, “I don’t want to lift weights because I don’t want to get big.” But the reality is that hitting the weights is the most effective way to accomplish most fitness goals – from getting lean and toned to losing weight. Tired of sweating all over every piece of cardio equipment at the gym and still getting zero love from the scale? We don’t blame you. You need more iron. Not in your diet—in your hands. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, a mere 21 percent of women strength train two or more times a week. What you don’t know: When you skip the weight room, you lose out on the ultimate flab melter. Those two sessions a week can reduce overall body fat by about 3 PERCENT in just 10 weeks, even if you don’t cut a single calorie. That translates to as much as three inches total off your waist and hips. Even better, all that new muscle pays off in a long-term boost to your metabolism, which helps keep your body lean and sculpted. Suddenly, dumbbells sound like a smart idea, right?
Begin with three weight-training sessions each week, recommends Joe Dowdell, founder and co-owner of the New York City gym Peak Performance. For the greatest calorie burn, aim for total-body workouts that target your arms, abs, legs, and back, and go for moves that will zap several different muscle groups at a time—for example, squats, which call on muscles in both the front and back of your legs.
For each exercise you do, try to perform three sets of 10 to 12 reps with a weight heavy enough that by your last rep you can’t eke out another one without compromising your form. To spark further muscle building, William Kraemer, Ph.D., a professor of kinesiology at the University of Connecticut, suggests alternating between moderate-intensity workouts of 8 to 10 reps with lighter-weight of 12- to 15-reps and super-hard of 3- to 5- reps.
TORCH CALORIES 24/7
Though cardio burns more calories than strength training during those 30 sweaty minutes, pumping iron slashes more overall. A study in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that women who completed an hour-long strength-training workout burned an average of 100 more calories in the 24 hours afterward than they did when they hadn’t lifted weights.
At three sessions a week, that’s 15,600 calories a year, or about four and a half pounds of fat—without having to move a muscle.
There’s a longer-term benefit to all that lifting, too: Muscle accounts for about a third of the average woman’s weight, so it has a profound effect on her metabolism Specifically, that effect is to burn extra calories, because muscle, unlike fat, is metabolically active.
Replace 10 pounds of fat with 10 pounds of lean muscle and you’ll burn an additional 25 to 50 calories a day without even trying.
FUEL YOUR WORKOUT
Eat one gram of protein for every pound of your body weight that does not come from fat. For instance, a 140-pound woman whose body fat is 25 percent would need 105 grams of high-quality protein.
That’s roughly four servings a day; the best sources are chicken or other lean meats, soy products and eggs
– Lauren Aaronson, Women’s Health