The Ultimate Shape Up Guide For The Ladies!

Girls, you’ve read all the articles aimed at men telling them how to
build muscle, or how to burn fat, but you’ve always wondered what YOU should be
doing to build muscle or burn fat, because girls and guys are different so you
must eat and train different.

 

Not true!

 

Muscle is muscle and fat is fat. It doesn’t matter if it’s on a guy or
a girl; it still acts in the exact same way and is built/burnt using the same
methods. The only difference is the end result. Guys will naturally always have
the ability to build more muscle mass and hold less fat, whereas girls will
struggle for every pound of muscle and will generally have a higher level of
body fat due to a difference in hormone ratios.

 

I rarely see girls lifting heavy
weights, not because they aren’t capable of doing so, but because they’ve been
told not to. A lot of gyms have specific ‘Ladies sections/rooms’ which are
filled with cardio machines, yoga mats, exercise balls, 2kg dumbbells and hip
extension machines. At best there might be a lat pull down bar, but there’s
never a squat rack, pull up bar or heavy dumbbells. This is all in the belief
that girls should stick to light weights and isolation exercises otherwise they
will end up looking like a female version of Arnie.

This leads to too many girls sticking to light weights and high reps
in order to ‘tone’ their muscles, but what they fail to realise is that muscle
is only built when it is put under enough stress in order for it then to be
rebuilt bigger and stronger. If you’ve never forced your muscles to work hard,
you will never have built any muscle in the first place. And there’s a reason I
put ‘tone’ in inverted brackets. You never hear guys saying they want to ‘tone
up’ or have ‘toned muscles’. It’s only girls that want to be ‘toned’. The word
doesn’t (or shouldn’t) exist. I understand what girls mean when they say it;
they want muscle definition, and don’t want to have big, bulky muscles. FEAR
NOT! Girls, you can’t build big bulky muscles. Simple as, no if’s, no buts, you
are not different, it will not happen. By lifting light weights, or even worse by
doing no weights and simply doing just cardio, will NOT give you muscle
definition. Quite the opposite in fact. If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it,
and cardio/baby weights will give your body no reason to retain, never mind
build any muscle.

 

If you want muscle definition you need to do one of two things; either
build the muscle (you can’t define what’s not there!) and/or lose the fat which
is covering the muscle. Ideally you need to do both, firstly concentrate on
building the muscle, and then lose any fat to help define the muscle. Lifting
heavy weighs helps do both. Obviously the weights you start with may be
(relatively) light but that doesn’t matter; as long as your muscles are continuously
being challenged by increasing the weight over time you will see results. This
is called progressive overload and is essential in ensuring your progress
doesn’t stall...one of the main reasons girls don’t achieve their goals is
because they don’t continuously push themselves.

 

Even the girls that do know they
should be doing strength training think they should be using different
exercises and using techniques to males. I see girls wasting time doing
pointless isolation exercises that no guy would ever dream of doing, and as a
result they don’t get the body they are trying so hard to achieve. But it
doesn’t help that guys are often under the same belief that girls and guys
shouldn’t be doing the same workouts. Why not?? As stated near the top of this
article, muscle is muscle and so requires the exact same stimulus for growth.
Visually the results will be different, but the process involved is exactly the
same.

I once heard a guy say girls shouldn’t do Bench press because they
don’t need to and they don’t want big chest muscles. That statement couldn’t be
further from the truth! Bench press is a great chest exercise that uses a range
of muscles (pecs, shoulders, triceps) which will help build upper body strength
which is not only transferable to many daily tasks, but neglecting your chest
will cause muscle imbalances which will lead to bad posture and possibly
injury. Secondly, why would a girl not want to build her chest muscles? The
muscle sits below the breast tissue and so increased chest muscles will improve
the look of her chest and possibly make it bigger without the need for surgery!
The same applies to Deadlifts and Squats. They will give you a strong, yet
feminine physique with curves in all the right places. No one wants a flat
saggy ass (think marathon runner) but everyone does want a small pert ass and
for that there is no better exercise than Squats.

 

Compound exercises (Squats, Deadlifts, Bench press etc) involve working
large muscle groups simultaneously which will give you proportionate gains and
fast results.

It takes a huge amount of effort and energy to lift a heavy weight
only a couple of times. The result is lots of calories burned which can help
with fat loss and a stimulus for your body to retain muscle to help you get the
look you’re after. Spending too much time on isolation exercises with light
weights is wasting your time and will get you nowhere. Cardio may burn a lot of
calories, but it will not have a positive effect on your muscles and therefore
body composition. Again, think about the body of a marathon runner...get my
point?

 

If you’re still unsure about
heavy weight lifting, I’ll make a deal with you; you lift heavy for a few
months and if you build too much muscle you can stop. ..Trust me, it won’t
happen. Putting on muscle doesn’t happen by accident and weights will not make
you look like a man because you are not a man. You produce too little
testosterone to build the physique of a male so stop worrying. I have genuinely
never met or heard of a girl that has regretted starting strength training.

Still need convincing? Other
benefits of weight lifting include increased metabolic rate, stronger bones,
less chance of injury and improved self confidence.  You will not only be physically stronger, but
mentally stronger as well, and that mental strength will help you in all
aspects of life.

Always remember that regardless of the exercise you’re doing and
whatever weight you are lifting, make sure you’re pushing yourself. Don’t do 6
reps if you could have done 10, and don’t stop when it starts to hurt – that’s
when the reps really count. If you stop before it becomes challenging then you
won’t ever improve. For a muscle to grow, it has to first be damaged in order
for it to then repair bigger and stronger. Always aim to keep rest periods as
short as possible. This will further increase the intensity of your workout and
force your body to work harder.

 

But what
about cardio? Should girls still do cardio? Yes, and No.

Not only have girls been mislead when it comes to strength training,
but they have also been ill-informed about cardio. The main reason most girls
do cardio is to help lose body fat. Some also do it to improve their fitness,
and others do it just because it’s what they think they should be doing.

 

However, not many people know the correct way to perform cardio when
trying to lose fat whilst maintaining muscle. It is very common to see girls
(and guys) get on a treadmill and run, and run...and run for 30, 40, 50 minutes
and next week do exactly the same, and the next month they’re still doing
exactly the same, and they still look exactly the same, and so carry on doing
exactly the same in the hope that one day the fat will drop off and they will
be left with the ‘toned’ (their words not mine) body they desire. There’s a
simple reason why this method doesn’t work. Long duration cardio doesn’t train
your body to burn fat, but actually the complete opposite. How? Why? Because
your body is adapting to the stimulus and in this case you body realises that
it needs to be more efficient. It does this by making your muscle fibres
smaller and burns muscle so that it has less weight to carry (muscle is more
dense than fat). It doesn’t end there though; aerobic training also raises
cortisol levels which encourages your body to store more fat, especially around
the waist, and as a final blow, long aerobic cardio increases oxidative stress
which along with many other things, causes damage to cells which will make you
look older than you actually are. You may be shocked at what I’ve just told you
because you’ve always been told that cardio is good for your health and so the
more the better, and whilst this is true to a degree, it is not the most ideal
way to lose fat whilst retaining muscle.

 

What you should actually be doing is High Intensity Interval Training
(HIIT). This is short bursts of maximum effort followed by a rest period and
the cycle repeated for no longer than 20 minutes. An example would be sprinting
for 30 seconds, walking for 1 minute, sprint for 30 seconds, walk for 1 minute
repeated a total of ten times. The advantage of this kind of cardio is that it
burns A LOT of energy in a relatively small amount of time without the negative
effects experienced during long duration cardio. And the high demand of energy isn’t
just limited to the duration of the exercise; its effects continue for several
hours after. This is commonly referred to as EPOC (Excess Post Exercise Oxygen
Consumption). This is the energy that your body requires to remove any built up
of lactic acid, hydrogen ions and any other recovery that is necessary. I
should however warn you, there is a negative to HIIT...you will get very sweaty
which I know some girls don’t like. It may not be pretty, but it will get you
results so give it a go.

 

Alternatively you can try Steady State Cardiovascular exercise (SSCV).
This is very low intensity cardio such as walking or cycling at a speed at
which you can still hold a conversation. The benefits of this type of exercise
is that it causes less oxidative stress and is possible for everyone to
complete regardless of fitness level and weight. It won’t burn as many calories
in the same amount of time as HIIT but on the plus side it can be carried out
every day whereas HIIT sessions should be spaced at least 72 hours apart to
allow full recovery. Please note that running flat out for 30 minutes on a
treadmill is not SSCV or HIIT, it is simply CV and that is what you should try
to avoid when trying to retain muscle and burn fat.

 

Now on to diet. You will have heard about the high protein diets that
guys follow, and all the supplements that they take to aid with muscle
growth/fat loss and the same applies to girls. As I’ve now said twice before,
muscle is muscle regardless of sex and so you need to be consuming enough
protein to ensure muscle growth and repair. This means at least 1.5grams of
protein per pound of body weight. Protein powders? Yep, they are for girls as
well. They don’t contain steroids (a common belief held by a lot of girlfriends
and mums!) and they will NOT have an effect on your testosterone levels! It
sounds silly to me to even think that some people would think that but I know
it happens. There are products designed to naturally increase testosterone
levels in males, but should you accidentally take them (unlikely) they will
have zero effect because they work on the HPTA
(Hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular axis) which girls don’t have so can’t
stimulate. Girls do produce some testosterone but via a totally different
pathway. Nothing you can buy over the counter will affect a girls testosterone
levels. The only way you can increase your testosterone levels is by directly
ingesting it (steroids) and you will not get your hands on it unless you go
searching for it; it is not readily available in shops/mainstream supplement
websites.

 

Females are renowned for following low calorie, quick fix diets that
are often advertised in magazines.  The
problem with these diets is that they will NOT give you the strong, healthy
physique you want. In order to build and retain muscle, you need to be
consuming enough protein, carbohydrates and fat to allow your body to do so.
This does not mean low calorie diets and it does not mean eliminating carbs
and/or fat from your diet. Once again, girls need to take note of how most male’s
diet. This means that instead of trying to eat as little as possible, or obsessing
with how many ‘points’ and ‘sins’ food contains, you should look at the
nutritional information and EAT to lose weight, not starve to lose weight. Starving
yourself will be disastrous to your goals. Just because a diet may make you
thin (in the short term in most cases), it does not mean you are toned and it
definitely isn’t healthy. In order to lose fat whilst retaining muscle, you
need to ensure you eat every couple of hours and not skip meals as this will
only make fat loss harder. You need to eat in order to fuel workouts and for
recovery. If you fail to do this then everything else you do will be in vain.

 

If anything, you may find that you need to increase calorie intake
because building muscle requires a surplus of calories. You also need to take
into account that you will be burning a higher number of calories during your
workout, along with an increased metabolic rate after for repair and growth and
the new muscle you have built will also require energy as muscle is metabolically
active.

 

Guys track progress by looking in the mirror (sometimes too often) and
also scale weight. Girls on the other hand often solely go off scale weight to
measure progress. This is often very misleading because scales do not take into
account what any weight gain/loss was the result of. If you’ve lost weight, was
it fat or was it muscle? If you gained weight was it fat or was it muscle?  The best way to know what you are
losing/gaining is by taking measurements, looking in the mirror (take regular
photos) and noticing how your clothes fit. It is very possible that you may be
heavier on the scales, but be physically smaller. This is what you want as this
shows fat loss and muscle gain.

 

It’s not often I say this, but when it comes to Bodybuilding, girls
need to listen and follow guys advice when it comes to diet and training.  They have it right, a lot of girls get it
terribly wrong.

 

 

 

About the Author

Post a Comment

Please wait...