When I ask my clients what their health and fitness goals are, almost every single one of them says that they want to lose fat and tone their muscle. But when I ask what their current training regimen looks like, it’s cardio, light weights, yoga, barre, etc. These examples are great things to incorporate into your exercise routine for mobility, cardiovascular health, flexibility, etc. But even with a healthy diet, you still might not achieve the results you’re looking for unless you add weight training.
Why not? Because a lot of people don’t have a very developed muscle base to begin with, so there isn’t much to tone. What they’re really asking for is to look more athletic and build lean muscle mass, which can be achieved through two things: (1) a balanced diet rich in protein, and (2) weight training and compound lifting.
A lot of people think that weight training will make them big and bulky. I have been utilizing weight training for the past 4 years and at no point did I ever get bulky. Instead, I was able to burn more fat and build a sexier, more feminine physique. It would take a great deal of testosterone and drugs, and a good amount of overeating, to start looking like a man. Quite frankly, we are just physiologically different than men and aren’t as capable of putting on as much muscle as them (yes, even if we trained exactly like them).
So please, save yourself some time, and stop being afraid of getting big & bulky. Stop avoiding the weight room or only doing light-weight and super high-reps so that you don’t put on “too much muscle.” I hate to tell you, but you are wasting your time. Those 5 lb. dumbbells may be great for isolated exercises or cardio training, but they are not going to give you the toned look you desire. If you know someone that this is working for, chances are they have incredible genetics! The most effective way to burn fat and gain lean muscle mass is heavy lifting with moderate reps. I promise you will start seeing the results you want!
Here is a list of the most effective and basic compound movements that can be done with free weights. I have provided a few examples of each.
- Push Movements – bench press, shoulder press, chest press, overhead/military press, push press, incline press, Arnold press, tricep dips, dumbbell shoulder raises, etc.
- Pull Movements – pull-ups, lateral pull-downs, seated rows, one-arm isolated dumbbell rows, reverse grip bent over barbell rows, bent over dumbbell rows, cable tricep extensions, etc.
- Lower Body Exercises – squats (front and back), Romanian or straight-leg deadlifts, lunges, step-ups, leg-press, sumo deadlifts, sumo squats with kettle bells, dumbbell thrusters, etc.
I recommend 4 sets of 3-4 exercises with 10-15 reps per exercise. Start with a moderate weight and work your way up. After the first exercise, move onto the next. Take 30 second rests between each set. Here is an example:
4 x 15 (4 sets, 15 reps each)
Dumbell Shoulder Raises, alternate front and side
Bent Over Dumbbell Rows
Rest 30 seconds
Remember to focus on your form! There are some great videos on YouTube, and remember, your gym has trainers and staff for a reason! Don’t be afraid to ask. Slow it down. You should feel out of breath and tired if you are lifting a challenging amount of weight. If you start compromising your form, reduce the weight until you have more control.
Bonus Tip: If you enjoy running, try incorporating sprints (both flat and uphill) into your routine. Sprinting engages more muscles than jogging and will build a more defined physique while increasing your metabolism and aiding in fat loss. More to come on that, later!
Most of all, you should enjoy your exercise routine. Find balance by incorporating weight training with other fun exercises like yoga, pilates, bike riding, etc. Have fun with it, and set personal goals and challenges!