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Saturday August 18, 2018

So you want to lose weight and Shape Up! (Part 3)

Written by Elise Howard "Chocochick"

How to Lose Weight and Shape Up - part 3

So you want to Lose Weight & Shape Up! (Part 3)

Part 3 of a 3 part series on how to finally lose weight and get in the best shape of your life.

by Elise Howard

This is the 3rd and final segment ties it all together by explaining why women need to lift weights. Everything from diet and nutrition to training and frequency are covered in this extensive fitness article for women.

Part 3 – You’ve Got to Lift Weights!
Click here to go back to part 1

I talked about the three components of a shapely, healthy body in part 1. They are nutrition, weight lifting and aerobic exercise. Unfortunately many people, especially women, put them in reverse order, making cardiovascular exercise the cornerstone of their program. This is wrong. I know, I know – you’ve read countless magazine articles in which cardio was emphasized. In addition, you’re worried that if you lift weights, you’ll end up getting bigger or bulky. Trust me, it won’t happen. It doesn’t even happen all that easily for men, who are blessed with way more of the muscle-growing hormone testosterone than you are.

Debunking Some Myths

The first idea I’d like you to get out of your head is the one that says that weight lifting will turn you into a she-man or some such nonsense. It won’t. But it will make you look smaller (yes, smaller), increase your metabolism, improve your health, give you curves in the right places, and help you to stave off osteoporosis (and even grow new bone), to name just a few.

Let’s look at these claims one by one.

Having Muscles Will Make You Look Smaller

Muscle is much denser than fat, so five pounds of muscle takes up much less space than five pounds of fat. So even if you didn’t lose a pound but instead replaced ten pounds of fat with 10 pounds of muscle, you’d likely lose a dress size or two and your friend would all swear you’d lost weight.

Muscle Increases Your Metabolism

Muscle has a metabolic rate about four times faster than fat. This means that the more muscle you have, the more food your body needs to maintain its weight (read: the more calories you can consume). This is why it is so important to fix your nutrition such that you are losing fat, not muscle. When you lose muscle, the scale will go down, which can be gratifying for a while. But in time, as your metabolism slows in response to the reduction in muscle, you’ll find that you need to keep cutting calories further and further in order to remain at a maintenance level. Few people have the willpower to do this, especially since your body doesn’t get less hungry just because you lose some muscle.

Weight Lifting Improves Your Health

You’ve no doubt heard that being overweight puts you at risk for many diseases, particularly heart disease. But did you know that the actual risk factor is not being overweight but being over-fat? Here’s what The American Heart Association has to say:

Obesity is defined simply as too much body fat. Your body is made up of water, fat, protein, carbohydrate and various vitamins and minerals. If you have too much fat -- especially in your waist area -- you're at higher risk for health problems, including high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. (

More muscle means less fat and less fat means less of a chance of health problems.

In addition, researchers have linked exercise to a host of other health benefits ranging from improved mood to greater sexual enjoyment. You can’t go wrong!

Muscle Gives You Curves in the Right Places

While spot reduction is not possible (read that twice), you can use weight lifting to create the illusion of curves where you want them. If you’ve always had a flat butt, for instance, squats and lunges can pull it up and round it out. And widening your shoulders can create the illusion of a smaller waist for those who have always had more of a straight up-and-down shape.

Weight Lifting Staves Off Osteoporosis

I know, you’re not old enough to worry about osteoporosis. Actually, if you’re over the age of 29, that’s not true. Osteoporosis occurs when new bone is not made fast enough to replace old bone that is being broken down. Without enough new bone growth, the old bone becomes porous and weak, which can lead to fractures later in life. By the time you turn 30, bone breakdown outpaces new bone growth, setting the stage for the beginning of osteoporosis. You already know to incorporate calcium-rich foods in your diet. But you may not know that weight bearing exercise actually builds bone (Virginia Mason Medical Center,

Getting the Most Out of Weight Lifting

So now that you’re convinced you need to be lifting weights, here are some general guidelines to follow. Of course, before beginning any new exercise program, be sure to get your doctor’s ok.

1. Work each body part once a week with the exception of abs and calves, which can be worked twice if you like.

2. Rest at least 48 hours before you work the same body part again.

3. Start with big muscle groups and then move to the smaller ones. For instance, work your chest before your triceps, your back before your biceps, and so on.

4. Make sure your form is perfect. Practice with light weights in front of a mirror until you are sure you are doing the movement the rigt way. A site with good pictures and videos of exercises (and which also has some sample routines) is:

5. Aim for 3-4 exercises per part for the large muscle groups (chest, back, legs, shoulders) and 2-3 exercises for the smaller groups (arms, abs, calves).

6. Lift in the range of 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions (not including your warm-up sets… and do be sure to include 1 warm-up set per body part). Pick a weight in which the last rep or two are very hard. You might not even be able to complete all your reps on the last set – this is fine. Keep with it until you can complete all three sets at the desired number of reps and then increase your weights and start over. As you progress, look into periodization and other techniques that will help you keep growing.

7. Take 1-3 minutes rest between each set. In general, the heavier you lift, the more rest time you should allow between sets.

8. Design your training split based on your goals but also take a realistic look at how many days a week you can go to the gym and how long you can spend there. As a newbie, you may find a full body workout to be effective for the first 6 weeks or so. After that, you will probably see better gains on some sort of split that limits you to 2 body parts per session.

9. Do your cardio after lifting. The reason for this is that when you first hit the gym, your muscles are full of glycogen, which you want to use to build more muscle. If you burn through this glycogen on cardio, you won’t have any energy source to bring to your weight lifting. In contrast, if you burn through your glycogen in your lifting session, your cardio session will burn more fat.

10. Don't go nuts with cardio. The most important element in your program is your nutrition, followed by weight lifting. While cardio has a place in a well-designed program, it should never be the cornerstone of your program. Spend some time learning the difference between steady state, interval and HIIT cardio. Allocate about 3 days a week to cardio.

Summing Up

Muscle takes up less space than fat.

Weight lifting will speed fat loss and won’t make you bulky

Lift heavy (for you) in the range of 3 sets of 8-12 reps.

Pay attention to your form. Poor form leads to injury and slower gains.

More is not better. Growth occurs outside of the gym, when your body is at rest. Resist the temptation to be in the gym 7 days a week.


Till then, Elise Howard


Back to Lose Weight & Shape Up Part 1


Lift for Natural Bodybuilding & Fitness

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