Odds are you don't want to bulk up like a body builder and tear shirts with your biceps -- you'd probably rather tone and strengthen your muscles so you look and feel sexy. To do this, start with the right body divisions, areas of the body to focus specific exercises on. Rather than using traditional bodybuilding body divisions for weight training, use them based on function and movement to accomplish your goals.
Upper Pusher Muscles
The first division for your workout can be the arm muscles that help you push. Any exercise in which you push something away from your body, be it a weight, another person or yourself, qualifies.You can push yourself by doing pushups, or push weights by doing chest presses, shoulder presses and triceps extensions. Upper body pushing exercises primarily work the chest, shoulder and triceps muscles, and will be important in your mission to tone your upper body. Grouping these exercises together also reduces your risk of bulking up since you aren't focusing specifically on certain muscles like a bodybuilder. Choose two to three pushing exercises to add to your routine, and complete two to three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions of each.
Upper Puller Muscles
If you are not pushing something away, you are pulling it toward you, thus the second workout division is arm pulling. For these exercises, you pull something, whether it be yourself or weights. Pulling exercises include biceps curls, pullups, rows, lat pulldowns and reverse flies. These exercises work your back muscles, and pair nicely with the pushing exercises to help tone your upper body. This body division is also important for women because it helps to improve your posture and give you that wonderful confidence you get from standing upright. For that reason, include three to four upper body pulling exercises into your routine -- more than the pushers. Complete two to three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions of each exercise.
Lower Pusher Muscles
Whether you are standing up out of a chair or walking up stairs, you often use your legs to push yourself up. Lower body pushing exercises occur when you either push yourself away from the floor, or push a weight away from you. Many common movements like squats and lunges are leg pushers, as well as some machines, like the leg press and leg extensions. These exercises focus mainly on your thighs and calves, and thus can help you get sleek, toned legs. Choose three exercises from this division for you workout, and complete two to three sets of 12 to 16 repetitions of each. This division is one of the most functional and is important to include in your routine.
Lower Puller Muscles
This division doesn't make as much sense visually, but is one of the most important for women because it focuses on hip health. Lower body pulling exercises involve movements in which something is pulled by your hips or legs. Examples include leg curl machines, any form of deadlift -- whether one leg or two -- stability ball leg curls, adductor machines and bridges. These exercises work mainly your glutes and hamstrings, muscles that help to maintain your curvy hips. Maintaining this hip alignment will decrease your chance of injury. Finish off your workout with two to three sets of three exercises, 10 to 15 repetitions of each.
- ExRx.net: 4 Day Split Workout
- Fundamentals of Anatomy and Movement; Carla Z. Hinkle
- Core Performance; Mark Verstegen
Scotty Brunning is a Chicago-based health and fitness writer. Having worked with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cooper Fitness Center in Dallas, he has a plethora of fitness experience. He is an ACSM-certified health fitness specialist and a Cooper Institute master fitness specialist. Brunning holds a master's degree in health and fitness.