Weight training is a brilliant way to tone and sculpt your body. Not sure where to start? Here’s how to choose the right weight for your goals.
First let’s address the juiced-up elephant in the room: We’ve said it before and we’ll keep saying it – lifting weights won’t make you huge or turn you into a dude. Most women just don’t have enough testosterone to build that kind of muscle size, which is why bodybuilders follow a strict diet and supplement regime that’s way beyond what us average women would consume day to day. What strength training will do for you: Sculpt the kind of sexy muscle tone that looks so hot in shorts, strapless tops and slinky cocktail dresses. Not sure where you should even start? These three steps will you show you the way.
STEP 1: Free weights or machines?
If you’ve never done strength training before, machines will help you get used to the sensation of moving against resistance while locking into a range of motion that’s safe. Because they isolate muscle groups, they could also be a good option if you’re specifically looking to shape one body part. But if you want to build an overall strong, proportioned body, free weights are more functional in that they mimic how your body moves in everyday life and sculpt several muscle groups at once. You do need a bit more balance and coordination to use them, though, so start light.
STEP 2: How heavy should the weight be?
If you’re just starting out, your first priority should be nailing the form of the exercise. So start with a very light weight until you’re comfortable with the movement. Once you have the form down, choose a weight that you can easily do between eight to 12 reps with. The last few reps should feel challenging, but not so hard that you have to lose form in order to complete them. Also consider your goals: If you want to build strength (say, being able to lift your seven-year-old above your head easily), lift heavier weights but keep your sets to between one and five reps. If you want to build muscular endurance (carrying that seven-year-old around the supermarket without your arms giving in) choose a lighter weight, but increase your reps to around 15 to 20 per set.
READ MORE: 5 Common Weight-Lifting Myths – Busted!
STEP 3: When is it time to start upping the weight?
When you feel like you’re getting through all your reps of every set easily – in other words, you’re not straining like you used to and you actually feel like you could keep going – that’s when it’s time to go heavier. Follow this rule of thumb: If you can perform two extra reps in two back-to-back workout seshes, add more weight. Feel good for the first set, but you’re already dying halfway through your second set? Decrease your reps by two for each set (e.g. If your first set was 12, do 10 the second set and eight for your last set).
Want to get lean and toned, but not sure what to do at the gym? Sign up for the 12-week Women’s Health Lean Body Blitz exercise and diet programme – and watch your body transform!