Most people correlate building muscle with getting bigger or “bulky”, but the two are different. What most women desire is achieving a more toned look . . . one where muscles are defined, but not significantly larger. In many cases, it involves reducing body fat to let the muscles show through. In other cases, it may involve strengthening the muscles for a more defined look.
Building muscle comes from lifting weights, something many women shy away from, thinking they will bulk up. Nothing could be further from the truth.
When you lift weights, tiny micro-tears occur in the muscle. When these tears are repaired by the body the muscle becomes a little bit stronger and larger. But in women the muscle will not get too large due to the reduced amount of testosterone in their system. That difference is why men bulk up and women do not.
Another misconception many people have is that lifting heavy weights builds larger muscles. Generally speaking, the amount of weight you lift does not define how large a muscle will get. The point is to get the benefit from lifting, you have to bring the muscle to “failure” . . . the point where you cannot lift the weight one more repetition. Lifting heavier weights gets you to failure faster.
Reducing Body Fat
The other half to building muscle is getting rid of much of the fat covering the muscles you are trying to build. You could have great muscle definition, but if you have a layer of fat covering them, who is going to see them?
So while weight lifting or strength training at least two days per week should be part of your exercise plan, the other three days should be cardio training – some activity to burn more calories than you take in.
Running, swimming, jogging, bicycling, tennis, racquetball, along with many other sports, all qualify. Keep in mind that you have to burn 3,500 more calories than you eat in a week to lose one pound of weight.
Finally the last part of the equation is eating healthy. It is harder to burn more calories than you eat if the majority of food you are eating is fast and processed food. Concentrate on eating:
- Lean meat
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grain
- Good fats (olive oil, canola oil sunflower/safflower)
By eating right and doing a mix of both cardio and strength training, you can build muscle without bulking up and get the muscle definition that you have always wanted.