The Myths Behind the Muscles
The reality is, weight training and bodybuilding exercises will actually subtract inches from your body - not add them - as well decrease your body fat and strengthen your bones and muscles.
The reason behind this is simple biology. Both males and females have the hormones testosterone and estrogen, with testosterone more dominant in males and estrogen more prevalent in females.
As testosterone is primarily responsible for increases in lean body mass, there isn't enough free testosterone in the female bloodstream to build an overly muscular figure, unless it's through external testosterone supplements. To achieve a lean and strong feminine figure, your exercise program should primarily features compound movement exercises - those that cross more than one joint and involve multiple muscle groups. When performed properly, these exercises can burn lots of calories and yield the fastest change in body composition because they use so much of the body's muscle mass at once.
Some great compound exercises include the squat, the dead lift, the dumbbell row, the shoulder press, the bench press, the dip and the chin up. Muscular hypertrophy - an increase in the size of your muscles - can result when you perform exercises with heavy weights under tension (long-duration sets). To minimize hypertrophy while increasing your strength and bone density, you need to pay close attention to the amount of weight you're exercising with and the duration of your workouts. To avoid big, bulky muscles, keep your training volume and the duration of your sets low (e.g., dead-lifting with three sets of three reps, with a two-minute rest between sets, or nine sets of one rep, with a minute's rest between sets).
This will help you build strong bones and muscles with a minimal increase in muscle size. Try a full-body routine with compound movements using heavy weights with relatively low repetitions three days a week to achieve a fitter figure without the bulk. By pairing exercises that work opposite muscle groups (e.g., shoulder press followed by dead-lift), you allow for short rests between sets and full recovery for sets of the same body part. This means your shoulders can rest during the dead-lift, and the muscles used in the dead-lift can rest during the shoulder press. Exercising this way is also very time-efficient. It allows for cardio conditioning and provides enough rest between sets for the same body parts to allow for the complete uptake of muscular ATP (adenosine triphosphate) - the energy source for your cells, allowing for more forceful muscular contractions. That means you'll get stronger, leaner and better conditioned at the same time. Of course, no amount of training can overcome a poor diet - which is why dietary and supplement considerations are particularly important for women. Research shows that North Americans consume far too many “simple” carbohydrates, which is the major cause of weight gain. On the other hand, far too many people go to the opposite extreme and completely remove carbohydrates, including essential complex carbohydrates that the body needs.
For women, this means supporting their overall health with adequate supplementation while addressing the issues of hormonal and mineral balance and bone density. Active women should include calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, a high-quality multi-vitamin/mineral formula and EPA/DHA omega-3 fish oil as part of their supplement regimen. Beyond that, additional supplementation may be required, but should only be taken as recommended by a licensed health care professional. The human body is quite adaptive, and it responds and thrives when it's pushed hard (and intelligently). But in order to achieve continual progress, your body requires an ever-increasing demand. By adopting regular heavy resistance training and brief, intense cardio, you'll achieve optimal health with a stronger, leaner feminine physique. Contrary to popular belief, heavy resistance training and science are indeed a woman's best friends, so embrace them both and adopt some of these ideas into your current training routine. You'll be pleasantly surprised with the results. After all, there's not a woman you'll meet who wouldn't enjoy feeling healthier and stronger.