Tired of waving goodbye to a loved one, only to have your arms continue to wave once you’ve stopped? Want lean, toned muscles glistening in the summer sun? While creating firm and defined muscles is possible, the topic of weight load selection is among the most misunderstood topics in female strength training. Many women are afraid to lift heavy weights because they think they’ll walk out of the gym looking like a cast member from “300.” While muscle growth is inevitable and beneficial, you mustn’t shy away from fully fatiguing your muscles to create defined, toned arms.
Selecting weight amount for toning, or developing, your muscles is based on your current strength and fitness level. For example, if you’re a beginner the American Council on Exercise suggests performing one to two sets of eight to 15 repetitions. Therefore, select a weight amount to fully fatigue muscles by the end of each set. However, intermediate and advanced-level exercisers may want to perform sets and repetitions based on their fitness goal. Since toning muscle refers to creating powerful and defined muscles, not necessarily large muscles, engage in muscular endurance training. Perform 12 to 16 repetitions within two to three sets. Again, choose a weight to fatigue muscles by the end of each set.
One Repetition Maximum
Whether you’re just starting out or you’re a seasoned exerciser, you will likely come across information regarding your one repetition maximum. Many times, your 1 RM is used to determine weight amount for specific exercises. For example, specific weight training programs decide weight loads by taking a certain percentage from your 1 RM, such as 60 percent of your 1 RM. Basically, 1 RM refers to the weight amount you can lift only one time before fully exhausting muscles. Remember, your 1 RM will likely alter based on muscle group.
If you’ve recently visited a gym, you’ve likely noticed a wide array of training equipment. While dumbbells and barbells are perhaps the most well-known, they are not ideal for every exerciser. If you’re a beginner, forego using dumbbells and barbells at first. Rather, turn to weight machines to tone your muscles. The American Council on Exercise recommends that beginners engage in weight machines for three months before expanding to free weights. Don’t be surprised if your target weight amount is less on dumbbells than weight machines. Because free weights call on stabilizer muscles at a greater degree than machines, muscles often fatigue faster with dumbbells than on machines. Therefore, be ready to adjust your weight amount when you make the switch.
Strength training, of course, is an essential aspect of toning muscles within your body, and while strength training burns fat, it is important to incorporate cardiovascular exercise to help eliminate fat covering muscles. Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderately intense or 20 minutes of vigorously intense exercise five days per week.
- American Council on Exercise: When Strength Training, Is It Better to do More Reps with Lighter Weights or Fewer Reps with Heavier Weights?
- University of New Mexico: 1 RM Strength Testing
- American Council on Exercise: Free Weights vs. Strength-Training Equipment
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
- Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
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