If you’re a woman wanting to get fit, you need to know this first:
Follow the bulk of mainstream diet and exercise advice and you’re going to wind up skinny fat.
Seriously. It’s that cut and dry.
Popular magazines, bloggers, and trainers, as well as clueless men and ridiculous social standards all want you to work and starve your ass off (literally) until you look like a shivery tree brutalized by a hard winter.
- Heavy weightlifting, they say, is strictly verboten. Unless, of course, your goal is to look like a Minecraft character.
- Food is basically your enemy, they say. A necessary evil that must be tamed through dietary asceticism.
- This is your Stair Stepper, they say. There are many like it, but this is yours. It is your life. Without your Stair Stepper, you will be forever flabby.
The bottom line is do exactly as they say and you’ll melt away muscle, sap strength, crash your metabolism, and poleax your hormones.
Well, I don’t want those things to happen to you so I decided to write this article. In it, I’m going to discuss the five most important things women need to know about working out and getting in shape. By the end of it, you’re going to know exactly what you need to do to build a lean, toned, shapely, and healthy body, and what you absolutely don’t want to do and why.
Let’s start with a bang…
Table of Contents
If there’s one lie that causes more harm to women’s physiques than any other, it’s the warning that heavy weightlifting makes you “bulky.”
At first glance, it sounds plausible. Heavy weights are for the boys that want bulging biceps, right? Why would women, who want long, lean, “toned” muscles, train in the same way? Apparent proof of this myth can be found at any local CrossFit box, where you’ll see at least a few women with builds that would make a linebacker jealous.
Well, the first thing you should know it’s very hard for women to build a big, bulky body. It doesn’t happen by accident or overnight. It takes years of intense training and eating to look like a dyed-in-the-wool weightlifter.
Trust me–even if you wanted to get big, bulky muscles, you’d have a hell of a time actually doing it. Men have about 10 to 15 times as much testosterone as women and even we have trouble getting big and bulky. That means it’s damn near impossible for you.
This heavy weightlifting fallacy is so detrimental because heavy weightlifting is actually the only way to get the look most women are after: athletic, tight muscles with curves and lines in the right places.
If this is your goal, you’re going to have to build muscle, and heavy weightlifting is great for doing just that.
The key to building muscle and not “bulk,” however, is staying lean. The more muscle you have, the more you have to pay attention to your body fat percentage.
Take an athletic woman with an enviable body. You know, shapely legs, curvy butt, tight arms, and flat stomach. Add 15 pounds of fat to her frame, however, and you might be surprised how “blocky” she looks.
This is because fat accumulates inside and on top of muscles, and the more you have of both, the larger and more amorphous your body looks. Your legs turn into logs. Your butt gets too big for your britches. Your arms fill up like sausages.
Reduce your body fat levels, however, and everything changes–the muscle you’ve built is able to shine. Instead of looking flabby and malnourished, you look lean and toned. Your butt is round and perky. Your legs have sleek curves. Your arms look defined.
What types of body fat percentages am I talking about, you’re wondering?
If you want that lean, defined, athletic look, you’re going to need to maintain a body fat percentage between 15 and 20%.
I’ve worked with thousands of women and the “sweet spot” for most seems to be around 17 to 18%. This is where they can lift weights and build muscle and look both feminine and fit, and it isn’t so low that health or lifestyle is impaired.
(If you’re not sure how to reliably reduce body fat levels and stay lean, check out this article on meal planning.)
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If you think certain foods make you fat…
If you feel guilty every time you eat carbs…
If you think people that have “cheat meals” just have no willpower…
If you think obsessing over eating “clean” is the only way to ever look and feel good…
Then I’m jealous. You get to learn how diet and nutrition really work and have your mind blown.
You have the lean, sexy body you want and you maintain it by eating foods you like every day, including treats normally considered off limits. You never feel starved or deprived and thus rarely feel the urge to binge or even overeat. You do this for the rest of your life and live happily ever after. The end.
My storytelling skills might need some work, but that’s no fairy tale. It’s how millions of women are living their lives, unplugged from the Matrix of mainstream bullshit diet advice, and you can join them right now.
You don’t need an eating disorder to look great. In fact, you can become “that skinny bitch that gets to eat whatever she wants.” You don’t need outstanding genetics, either. Genetic windfall makes it easier for some people to get fit but nobody is genetically doomed.
So, are you ready? Here we go (click on the links to learn more about each point):
- Your diet can be far more flexible than “experts” want you to believe. No foods are off limits.
- “Clean eating” has its heart in the right place but shouldn’t dictate your life.
- If you want a great body and healthy metabolism, you want a high-protein diet. Period
- Certain foods don’t make you fat. Overeating does.
- Sugar doesn’t make you fat. Overeating does.
- Carbohydrates don’t make you fat. Overeating does.
- Hormones like insulin and cortisol don’t make you fat. Overeating does.
Read the articles linked above and put them into practice, and I promise you, your life will be changed.
Be honest: have you ever seen a marathon runner with an impressive body? Probably not.
Sure, you have the outliers, but on the whole, people that do a lot of endurance training look either emaciated and frail or skinny fat.
This is a direct result of their exercise regimen. And it shows you precisely what you don’t want to do in yours.
If you believe sacrificing inordinate amounts of your life to the treadmill is the price you have to pay to look good, allow me to disabuse you of such nonsense.
You see, when it comes to body composition (how much muscle and fat you have on your bones), cardio is a double-edged sword.
It burns energy and thus contributes to your weight loss efforts. It burns up muscle too, though, which detracts from your ultimate goal of building a lean, toned physique because that requires losing fat and not muscle. This is why so many people that focus on endurance exercise like jogging or cycling have very little to show for it in the mirror.
Should you just forget cardio altogether then? Some “experts” would say yes, you should use only weightlifting and proper calorie restriction to lose fat.
While they’re right in telling people they don’t have to do cardio to get and stay lean, I disagree that it should be shunned.
When used sparingly and properly, I believe cardio is worthwhile. In fact, I actually enjoy it and have been doing 3 to 4 sessions per week for over a year now.
There’s an important footnote, though: each sessions is no more than 25 minutes of high-intensity interval cardio, which is particularly good for maximizing fat loss and minimizing muscle loss.
This simple routine “costs” no more than 1 to 1.5 hours per week and gives me the best of everything cardio has to offer–health benefits, mood enhancement, and accelerated fat loss–with none of the downsides related to muscle loss.
The bottom line is once you know how to diet properly you have no need for long, grueling sweat sessions on the Stair Master every week. Instead, you use relatively short, intense cardio sessions to speed up fat loss and get on with your day.
You can personify elegance and grace outside of the gym, but if you want to build a killer physique, you need to know how to get down and dirty in your training.
Forget the Barbie weights. Don’t worry about looking cute and don’t give a damn what other people might think. Show up every day with one goal in mind–to build muscle and strength–and give every workout everything you’ve got.
Yeah, that means you’re going to make some ugly faces when you grind out those last few reps. You may even let out a grunt or two. Your hair is going to get messed up and you may want to invest in some good moisture wicking clothing.
That’s how progress is made though. One ugly, shaky, sweaty facial contortion at a time.
Your workout routine itself should be just as rugged. Train like a wimp and you’ll look like a waif.
You want statuesque legs, an “Internet melting” butt, and chiseled abs, you say? Then you need to knock off the BOSU lunges, side bends, yoga poses, and Swiss ball crunches.
Instead, you need to learn to love heavy squatting, hip thrusting, deadlifting, and pressing. These are the exercises that build whole-body strength and shape. These are the exercises that take you from “grizzly” to “goddess.”
If you’re ready to train hard and make real gains, here’s the place to begin:
We live in the Age of Impatience. People want 6-minute abs, 4-hour workweeks, and 30-second meals.
Know this: building the body of your dreams is going to take longer than the magazines want you to believe.
No, you can’t lose 30 pounds of fat in 30 days. Nor can you reshape your butt or flatten your belly in a week.
Consistent, healthy fat loss is a slow process. You can expect to lose about a pound of fat per week when you know what you’re doing. As you get leaner and are going after the last holdouts of stubborn fat, it slows down to about 0.5 pounds lost per week.
If you’re new to weightlifting, you can gain about 10 pounds of muscle in a year. That may sound like a lot but, depending on your height, it’s not that significant. Many women find they need to gain about 15 to 20 pounds of muscle (and reduce body fat levels) to have the bodies they really want. That takes a few years.
The bottom line is getting fit isn’t for the weak-minded and weak-willed.
You can’t bullshit iron. It doesn’t care about your excuses or justifications. Your body doesn’t either. The only way to undo skipped workouts is to put your ass in the gym and do the work. The only way to overcome screwy dieting is to stop giving yourself the option to screw it up.
If you can face and fully commit to that–to a few years of dedicated work–then you’ve already won half the battle.