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Many women are concerned that if they start a strength-building exercise regimen they will “bulk up.” Quite the contrary, many women, especially after the age of 35, actually find it difficult to maintain muscle, let alone gain muscle. However, with the right combination of efforts, you can actually maintain a “feminine” form while still developing toned muscle.

Getting “Toned”

If you want a tight, toned look, increase your lean body mass. Lean body mass is a component of your body composition, determined by your total weight minus your body fat. Studies show that resistance training is a proven method for increasing lean body mass and preserving muscle.

Although cardiovascular fitness demonstrates countless benefits such as reducing body fat and reducing heart disease risk, without strength/resistance training, you may be losing muscle mass. Integrating a mix of aerobic exercise along with strength and resistance training helps you maintain muscle while also achieving a toned look. To start, try incorporating body weight resistant exercises like air squats, lunges, sit-ups, push-ups, and tricep dips two days a week.

It is also important to realize, strength/resistance training may result in weight gain due to your increased muscle mass. As you gain lean muscle mass you may notice desirable changes in the way your body looks and feels. In fact, the more muscle you gain, the faster your body burns.

Create and Follow a Structured Muscle-Building Program Specifically for Women

While it’s possible to achieve the physique of a female bodybuilder, that is not necessarily achieved through a resistance/strength training routine. With resistance/strength training, you can safely engage in a muscle-building program while at the same time maintaining your natural curves. Most women have one-tenth the muscle-building hormone, testosterone, than that of men. Which means muscle-enhancing supplementation is essentially always necessary for extreme results.

Over time, you should try to increase the load and volume of your workouts. The load is the amount you are lifting at any given time and volume refers to the number of repetitions. By increasing these factors, you will keep your muscles engaged and growing.

Utilize Smart Caloric Deficit/Surplus Tactics

Those seeking to lose weight need to eat fewer calories per day than their metabolic rate. Those looking to create new muscle need to eat slightly more (protein-rich) calories than they consume. This is why simultaneously losing fat and gaining muscle can be extremely difficult. Essentially, your diet consists of three macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. You need high-quality, healthy sources of these valuable nutrients each day to achieve fat loss and muscle growth. The amount and type of calories you need will depend on several factors including your current weight, lifestyle, and goals.

Manage Recovery and Stress

While there is plenty of emphasis on a workout method, the value of recovery time is often overlooked. Good quality rest is essential for your overall health, including muscle growth. Incorporate a rest day at least once a week to allow your muscles to heal. Additionally, develop a bedtime routine that allows you to wake up feeling rejuvenated.

Be sure to maintain an optimistic outlook when it comes to your mental and emotional health. Stay positive and celebrate yourself. Setting step-wise, attainable goals at the gym and in your personal life can be a useful skill, but try not to fixate or obsess over the end point. Instead, enjoy the process of transforming your body, mind, and soul. The exercise itself can be your stress release!

In short:

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High-intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is short duration and high-intensity exercises that help target muscle groups while burning off excess fat.  For the most efficient training, it is best to do exercises back to back with only a short rest.