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There is a common misconception among women that lifting weights will give them a “bulky and masculine” appearance, which they would rather not have. As such, many of them flock to cardio and light weight, high repetition training in their quest to “tone” and firm up their muscles.
First off, let it be known, that “toning” does not exist. When most people say that they want to tone up, what they are referring to, is a look. And all it takes to achieve this look is to build muscle, and be lean enough for said muscle to show.
That being said, how exactly do we grow muscle? The process is the same, regardless of whether you are male or female. First & most important:
1. You MUST train using progressive overload; improving your performance in the gym over time e.g. by using heavier weights and/or performing more sets and reps.
2. You MUST train with a high enough intensity of effort in order to force your muscles to adapt and grow. This is done by taking ALL your sets 1-2 repetitions shy of form failure (the point at which you are unable to perform another repetition of an exercise using proper lifting technique).
3. Majority of your training should include multi-joint, compound movements e.g. Squats, Hip Thrusts, Bench Presses & Barbell Rows. These exercises have the greatest propensity to build the most strength and muscle in the least amount of time.
Now, for the women reading this saying that they don’t want to build “TOO MUCH” muscle. Understand that, even for men, who have the added advantage of having much larger amounts of testosterone coursing through their bodies, will take many years in order to build appreciable muscle mass. Therefore women, who have very little natural testosterone, will have to fight tooth and nail to get too big. And even then, it probably will not happen.
What will happen instead is that all the muscle you put on will actually give you the “toned” look that you desire. If you want to have “toned” arms? Build muscle in your arms. If you want “toned” thighs, build muscle in your thighs.
Cardio does not build muscle ladies! It only burns calories. If all you are doing is cardio and NO resistance training then you will not look toned, you will instead look soft and frail.
So the next time you are at the gym, opt for the squat rack instead of the treadmill (you can do that after :P) and you will finally get the results that you desire.