The notion of gaining weight can be terrifying. Images of an overweight version of yourself with wobbly bits and excess skin start to manifest in your brain. But gaining weight doesn't have to mean gaining fat. Adding lean muscle mass can help balance out a skinny frame, increase definition and tone, and help you achieve those perfect curves so many women strive for.
Before you reach for the dumbbells or hit the treadmill, you've got to think about your diet. The main reason most women don't achieve the curves they desire is because they're underweight. You don't have to go mad and start eating everything in sight, but you do need a slight calorie increase to gain weight. Active women should eat between 2,200 and 2,400 calories per day to maintain weight, according to United States Department of Agriculture guidelines, so start with a slightly higher amount than this for lean, steady weight gain.
Government guidelines state that to keep healthy you need 75 minutes of vigorous or 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each week, along with two strength-training sessions. To gain weight, though, your focus needs to be more on strength training. Start with three total-body sessions every week, each containing three lower-body and three upper-body exercises. Full-body workouts burn more calories, hit more muscle groups and are far superior to body-part splits, notes Rachel Cosgrove, author of "The Female Body Breakthrough." You can still do cardio, but make sure it's high intensity -- none of this incline treadmill walking or steady jogs. Go for three cardio sessions each week and alternate between short periods of maximal-intensity work, interspersed with slightly longer periods of moderate-intensity work. Put in the effort, and you'll be done in 20 to 30 minutes.
There are several key areas to the perfect curvy body. The hips, glutes, stomach and arms all need to be tight, toned and defined. You can either add in extra exercises for these body parts to your full-body session, or perform one dedicated curves session per week. For your glutes and hips, do glute bridges, hip thrusts, leg curls and reverse lunges. Stick to planks, side planks, cable woodchops and Swiss ball crunches for your core, and hammer your arms with pushups, biceps curls, cable pressdowns and chinups, using an assisted machine if you need to.
It's easy to freak out if you see changes on the scale and in your physique, which is why small adjustments to your diet and training are vital. You can increase your calorie intake slightly each week if you're not gaining, or reduce it a little if you're adding unwanted fat. Likewise with training, if certain body parts aren't playing ball, hit them with a few more exercises, or if other parts are starting to get big and bulky, just cut the amount you do for them or reduce the weight.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.