By Sean Seale
You want to look toned, sculpted and not too bulky, right? Well it is no surprise to me because you are not alone.
It is the most popular request I get as a trainer.
You want to look sexy and feel confident in your body. You want to look strong yet feminine and take your physique to the next level. Every article on the internet tells you to start lifting weights, but you’re afraid you’ll turn into the hulk.
So you look for alternatives.
But will they give you the sculpted body you crave?
Some friends tell you that cardio is the way to go. As great as this is, cardio will only help you lose fat to reveal the muscle you already have. If you’ve never spent time building muscle before, there won’t be anything to show. No curves. No definition. You’ll just be skinny.
'Dieting' is an even worse idea. You risk doing more damage than good. A very low caloric intake can cause very serious health problems and it'll never make you look toned. It'll just make you look sick.
Your fear of lifting weights is grounded on one thing: a lack of education. And it’s not your fault! You’ve been told your whole life that men belong in the weight room and women should stick to treadmills and pink dumbbells. How times have changed!
Let me to show you the 3 things you NEED if you want to achieve that sculpted body.
1) Practice Strength Training
My hope is that by reading the benefits listed below, you’ll see how powerful this tool is when trying to achieve your physique goals.
Strength training is a great way to burn fat. Because of how hard you train, your metabolism stays elevated for 24 to 72 hours AFTER you workout . This means that if you train just twice per week, you will be burning extra calories for 2 to 6 extra days! Compiled over a few months, this will have a tremendous effect on how your body looks and feels.
You will build muscle. Don’t run away just yet. I know you’re scared of muscle, but don’t let myths and hearsay steer you in the wrong direction. You NEED to build muscle if you want definition. And please don’t tell me that you “build muscle too fast” so you’d rather not lift weights. That’s just a cop out. Every bit of muscle mass you gain is a sign of success and should be celebrated, not feared! People spend years working on improving their physique. To think that you’ll just get “too big” after a few months of training is ludicrous. Unless you’re a genetic freak, or take anabolic steroids you’ve got nothing to fear.
You will burn more calories each day and for the rest of your life. Your muscles use more energy at rest than your fat mass (at least 3 times more). By increasing the amount of muscle you have through strength training, you will elevate your basal metabolic rate, allowing you to burn more calories and fat, even when you sleep. Think about revving the car engine when you’re parked: you’ll use more fuel than if you kept your foot off the gas pedal. Talk about a fat burning machine!
Strength training will increase your confidence. Once you learn the appropriate progressions and can use proper technique on all the exercises you’re performing, you won’t fear the gym anymore. You’ll be excited each time you have a workout scheduled because you KNOW what to do and WHY it’s so good for you. By then, you’ll start seeing and feeling the benefits it brings you and how it has the power to transform your body. This confidence will also transfer to all other areas of your life, making daily tasks feel like a breeze to you.
In a 2001 study, K. Häkkinen and co demonstrated that after a 6 month training protocol aimed at increasing both strength and power, the women’s maximal strength increase by 35% (versus 27% for the men) and their explosive strength increase by 32% (versus 21% for the men) . This goes to show that women adapt very well to strength training. With a few months of serious training, you could out-lift most of then men in your gym. Imagine how much of a confidence booster this would be!
You will have more energy. It doesn’t matter how good you look if every day you feel like you haven’t slept in a week. By adapting to the demands of strength training, your body will be ready to take on much more than it ever had before. This will allow you to enjoy your new body fully each day, instead of feeling tired and beat down all the time!
Decrease your risk of injury. A lot of people still believe that strength training is dangerous when in reality, if done right, it will actually decrease your risk of injury. In day to day activities, you only use a very small fraction of the muscle you have. By strength training, you teach your body to recruit more muscle fibers. This could save you in case of a fall, because now you have more muscle available to work with. This can make the difference between catching yourself by reacting fast enough, or falling and getting hurt because you couldn’t actually use the muscles that you have.
If you’re now using your fear of barbells to get out of it once more, I’ve got news for you: you shouldn’t be using barbells until you’ve built up your lifting skills with simpler tools such as dumbbells, kettle bells and even your bodyweight. Get a competent trainer to walk you through the progressions for your level. This will give you the best results possible.
Now that you know the facts and are ready to take on strength training, I need to address a point that most women usually get backwards when they start lifting weights!
2) Eat enough of the right foods
You probably already know what the right foods are: real foods.
-Anything you can cultivate or raise on a farm.
-Foods that will rot if you leave them on the counter for a couple of days.
-Foods your grand mother used to cook with.
-Whatever your can find on the outside perimeter of the supermarket.
Any of those one-liners can serve as quick mental checks when you’re shopping or debating whether you should eat something or not.
Now you know WHAT to eat and you’re wondering HOW MUCH of it you need to eat. Unfortunately, I’m going to disappoint you. I won’t give you a meal plan or portion sizes or macros to follow. There are no absolutes in nutrition. But if you follow the guidelines outlined below, you will have the majority of your bases covered.
Eat enough calories to support your body’s daily energy needs and your level of activity.
Eat enough protein to promote muscle gain and optimize recovery from your workouts.
Eat the majority of your carbs around your workouts.
Eat vegetables at every meal.
Don’t forget healthy fats.
If you want precise numbers for all of these, contact a qualified professional or a nutrition specialist to help you out.
And remember one thing: if you fail to eat enough, you will never see the improvements you wish for.
3) Be patient
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from both my professional and personal life, it’s this:
Nothing good comes easy.
You don’t look down at your stomach expecting to see a six pack after you had a salad, so don’t expect to see incredible changes in your physique after a week of strength training.
The truth is, you probably won’t see anything for a few weeks. But what I can guarantee is that you will FEEL much different after a few sessions. Your confidence in the gym will increase, your body will start to feel tighter and stronger and you will feel energized and able to take on life’s challenges better than ever before.
Give yourself at least two to three months before you really judge your progress. And if your trainer is doing a good enough job, you should start to feel like a different person after just 4-6 weeks.
To help you out, I’ve designed a simple beginner plan that you can follow. You can get more info here.
If you’d like to learn more about me and what I do, be sure to join my private Facebook group where I post daily on all things strength training, fitness and health.
 - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11882927
 - http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1365-201X.2001.00781.x/abstract;jsessionid=06D18AA65E26CE2869C3ABF2686ED083.f02t02?userIsAuthenticated=false&deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=