We live in a world where it is impossible to ignore the staggering obesity rates and the health implications associated with being overweight. Medical professionals attribute conditions such as diabetes, cancer and even depression to general deficiencies in well-being which include both a lack of exercise and healthy diet.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to a third of all Americans are obese with only 26% of adults in the USA participating in vigorous activities more than 3 times a week. While many unhealthy individuals are very aware of the fact that they need to incorporate exercise and healthy eating into their lifestyles, many are cautious that they will not get the desired results.
Lifting weights, when done in conjunction with a healthy diet and cardio, will improve your overall health and give a lean and toned appearance, without bulking you up. Although various factors, including duration, frequency, age, gender and genetic makeup will determine how your body responds to the weight-lifting – there's no doubt about the benefits of weight-training.
Be methodical and consistent in your approach. While you can always adjust your routine if you feel that it’s not working for you, the important thing is to start and stick with it.
Using weight-lifting to tone instead of bulking up
The following steps will guide you towards getting a lean yet toned physique.
Step 1: Engage in a full-body workout twice a week. Where possible, space your workouts so that there are between 48 and 72 hours between each session – to ensure that your muscles have enough time to recover. It is important to work all your muscle groups, or you will be left with an unbalanced physique. Exercises that focus on certain muscle groups include dumbbell rows, leg presses, triceps extensions and chest presses.
Step 2: Aim to pair every weight exercise with an exercise that works your abdominal muscles such as lying leg raises or bicycle crunches. You can, for example, do a set of chest presses followed by a set of leg raises. Repeat a combination such as this for 3 rounds before you move on to the next exercise duo.
If you want to tone your body without adding bulk, you need to focus on using lighter weights, completing 3 sets or more, of between 10 and 20 reps.
Step 3: Eliminate rest between sets within a pair of exercises. Rather rest for 1 minute while transitioning from one pair of exercises to the next.
By doing cardio 3 to 4 times a week, you will keep your body fat levels down. This contributes to reducing an otherwise bulky appearance as a result of weight-lifting.
If you don’t incorporate cardio while consuming increased amounts of calories, there will be a tendency to bulk up from increased muscle and fat levels. Muscle requires a surplus of calories to bulk up from lifting weights. By including cardio in your fitness program, you're far better placed at getting desired results.
The take-home message
As important as it may be for us to look good by hitting the weights, doing our cardio and eating right – 'feeling' good should never be neglected, or taken for granted.
That's why living a healthy, balanced lifestyle will leave you with sustainable, long-term results that far outlast the temporary satisfaction gained from fad diets and over-exertion in the gym.
And remember, take care of your body and your body will take care of you for many years to come.