If you’re like most gym-going girls, you believe that lifting any weight above 10 pounds will make you too bulky. There’s a fine line between looking toned and looking like superwoman — no one wants biceps that will make people think you’ve been chugging Muscle Milk. However, according to fitness experts and a recent study carried out at the University of Arizona, this fear of heavy dumbbells is unwarranted.
In order to develop bulky muscles, you need to be consuming an excessive amount of calories (i.e. more than the recommended 2,000 per day for most adults) in addition to pumping serious iron. If you use heavier weights without consuming those extra calories, however, you will actually see more results in less time than with those dinky little baby weights.
The trick is to do sets of 8 reps at 70 to 80 percent of your ability three times a week. This means that while your arms will be aching by the end of each exercise, you should be able to finish each set without cheating. The scientists who led this experiment followed a group of 122 women for six years, and found that the people who stuck to this exercise routine lost more weight than women who completed more repetitions with lighter weights.
Of course, if you’re trying to seriously beef up your arms, this may not be the best approach. But for women who are lifting weights simply to tone up and slim down (since we all know that muscles continue to burn calories even when your body is at rest), the combination of challenging weights and fewer repetitions will burn the most body fat — especially in the intra-abdominal region.
Since we’ve officially approached bikini season — it was 80 degrees in Boston on Wednesday, and the academic quad at Tufts turned into a beach — toned arms are essential. Need some help? All you need is a set of dumbbells and a barbell (which looks like a three-foot long dumbbell and is available in any gym) to complete these 3 easy routines.
1. Barbell bicep curls: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and curl the barbell so that the weight is in line with your shoulders. Keep your elbows still at your sides. Lower the barbell down and repeat. (This can also be done with dumbbells, and can be done using one or both arms at a time.)
2. Barbell bench presses: Lie on a bench and hold the barbell at your chest. Extend your arms, lifting the barbell up so that your arms are almost straight. Don’t lock your elbows. Lower slowly and repeat.
3. Dumbbell tricep presses: With both arms extended towards the sky, hold one dumbbell in both hands. Slowly lower the dumbbell behind your head, bending elbows gently. Raise arms and repeat.