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The issue of women who simply never start any kind of weight training due to a fear of becoming ‘too bulky’ is far too big and widespread. Women have the perception that the weights area in a gym is full of men, and therefore assume that weight training is for men.  If it were that easy that simply lifting weights turn you into some muscle bound freak we would have queues down the road with guys wanting that exact goal. The truth is that it’s really not that simple and it can take years of training to pack on serious amounts of muscle mass.

You have to understand that lifting weights is not a macho, ego boosting activity. It’s not all or nothing. There are a ton of different ways to go about doing it: there are varying levels of resistance, theories and philosophies on repetition, specific plans to greatly increase bulk muscle, to become lean, to get stronger without a huge change in physical appearance, and many more. Lifting weights is not simply about gaining muscles. Try your best to keep that thought out of your head as much as you possibly can.

The key when training women is to build lean muscle which happens from making small, specific adjustments to your body, not doubling up its muscle mass to look like the bodybuilders you see in magazines. Tightening up, not bulking up — ensuring that your body functions better, whilst being tighter, stronger, leaner, and more toned.

Women have little to fear when they start weight training as research shows that women do not produce enough testosterone to build much muscle mass and to build an increased amount would require the use of anabolic steroids. Researchers also found that unlike men, women typically don’t gain size from strength training, because compared to men; women have 10 to 30 times less of the hormones that cause muscle hypertrophy.

When I ask women what they are currently doing to lean out their arms, they mostly say the same thing: they have been doing triceps push downs or biceps curls with 2-4kg dumbbells. They lift light weights because they don’t want their arms to get too big…..so they claim. The amusing thing is that you then see them leave the gym, bicep curling their 10kg gym bag, or hook it on their arm while the arm is bent which loads the arm muscles quite intensely. So in theory, if you can carry a heavy gym bag, you shouldn’t be afraid to lift heavier weights in the gym.

OK, now you know what you won’t get from weight training, I’m going to talk about what you will get from training with weights.  One thing I find is that many women want to get rid of their bingo wings, bat wings or lunch-lady arms (your words not mine!). Lifting weights at the correct intensity can go a long way to achieving leaner, firmer and smaller arms coupled with the correct nutrition. To highlight this below is an exact replica showing 5lbs of body fat compared to that of 5lbs of lean muscle. The muscle is much smoother and smaller, and generally a lot better looking, I think you would agree.

The more muscle you have, the more insulin receptor sites you have, and the more sensitive they will be. Increased muscle prevents diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Translation: the more muscle you have, the easier it is to have low body fat.

Generally for every kilo of lean tissue gained, there is an equal loss of weight in body fat. This is how body composition can be changed dramatically. For example, a female with a 60 kg bodyweight with 20 % body fat has 12 kg of fat. If, in 10 weeks, she gains 4 kg of lean muscle and loses 4 kg of fat, her body fat will now be 13%. With these body composition changes, not only will she feel more confident, but her body will look fantastic!

While weight training may not burn as many calories in those 20-30 sweaty minutes pounding away on the treadmill, training with weights slashes more calories 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 after their workout 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.

Ready to start “Pumping Iron”?

Doing specific arms exercises are great……if you already have muscles. What I would suggest if you want to have lean arms is to follow a total body conditioning programme that will reduce body fat, and then focus on direct arm work. I suggest starting with three weight-training sessions each week, for the greatest body composition change. Aim for total-body workouts that target your arms, abs, legs and back, and go for moves that will hit several different muscle groups at a time, having short rests in between no more than 60-90 seconds.  For example, squats, call on muscles in both the front and back of your legs as opposed to machine based leg extensions, which isolate the quads.  When you choose a weight for six, eight, ten, or twelve repetitions, make the intensity so hard that on the last repetition you are struggling to complete the set. Training like this will cause maximum metabolic disturbance to the body making sure that it is in fat burning mode.

Remember to fuel your workout properly. Too many people who make sudden changes to their diet make the fatal error of cutting back on crucial muscle maintaining protein when they want to slash their overall calorie intake. The counterproductive result is that they lose muscle along with any fat that might have melted away. The more muscle mass you have the faster your metabolism works, not the bulkier you get.

So are you ready to make serious changes to your body and turn yourself into a lean, mean, calorie burning machine? Then go get pumped!