1. You have all the muscle fiber you will ever have by the time you’re in your early teens! You can make the fibers bigger (more toned) or they can shrink, but once damaged they cannot be replaced.
2. You have as many muscle fibers as the biggest body builder guy you can think of. His are just bigger. :)
3. The term ‘ripped’ is derived from the process that makes your muscles grow. When you hurt yourself, your body sends cells to repair the damage (like a scab). When you work your muscles, you cause tiny little tears (ripping them). Your body sends cells to help heal these tears, causing the formation of proteins which increase the size of your muscle. (This is why protein is so important for your muscles!) No pain, no gain. Literally.
4. Fast & slow twitch fibers do different things for your body. Fast twitch muscles are the ones you use for quick, short bursts of exercise or power (sprints, plyometrics etc.). Slow twitch fibers don’t produce much power, but are perfect for longer, endurance based activities (think long distance running). If you’re looking to train for endurance, think lighter weights & more reps. For power? Heavier weights & fewer reps.
5. Your muscles don’t have memory… they have efficiency. Every movement you make, your brain sends signals to the muscles involved to contract. As you repeat movements over and over, the communication between your brain & muscles becomes more efficient: you become more coordinated. That’s why riding a bike feels so natural after years, or why you get better at dance moves the more you practice them. This applies to your workouts too. Moves that require coordination will get easier with practice.
6. For once and for all, lifting weights will NOT make you bulky. Men gain muscle more easily because of their hormones; hormones women don’t have. Female body builders spend hours in the gym every day, training intensly & heavily (think using 100+lbs), often take supplements for size & eat very specifically for YEARS to get that look. Picking up a 10lb dumbbell will NOT make you bulky. Or a 25lb dumbbell. Or a 45lb barbell. Relax.
7. Where you’re likely to tone up first? Your shoulders. Women don’t have a lot of fat in that area, so you’ll see definition there first. Having wider shoulders will also make your waist appear smaller: a little trick from the supermodels.
8. There are NO muscles in your fingers! The muscles that move them are in your palm and mid-forearm: they are attached by tendons that run up to your fingers, making them move when the muscles contract (like a puppet).
Stuck at a plateau? You might want to remix your workout. Try the Hip Raise also!
If you’ve been doing the same routine over and over, it’s time to switch things up a bit. Aside from staving off boredom, you’ll get more bang from your workouts over time. Just like our brain, our muscles get better and better at tasks the more often we practice them. This is good and bad: you’ll gain confidence by being able to complete reps more easily but you can slow your results since the muscles are not working nearly as hard to do the moves. Again, like our brains, our bodies need to be challenged to grow.
If you’re not ready to try a new class or style, start by throwing in 1-2 new exercises per week. They should be challenging, focus on more than one muscle group, are unfamiliar & done with good form. Typically, you should aim for 12-15 reps of each exercise for 2-3 sets, mixed into your routine. (15 reps should be pushing it! If not, you need to pick a different exercise or bump up the resistance)
See instructions after the jump!
I love this butt toning exercise. Really hits the obliques too. It’s challenging, but not complicated. Try it if you haven’t already! Nothing to lose but your muffin top. :)
1. LIE ON THE FLOOR on your left side, knees bent 90 degrees and left leg in front of you. Lean on your left forearm, elbow aligned under shoulder, and rest right hand on hip.
2. PLACE A WEIGHTED BALL behind your right knee and raise leg to hip height, foot flexed and slightly higher than your knee. (you can also do this with no weight, a tightly squeezed dumbbell, a resistance band (looped around your bottom leg) or with ankle weights).
3. KEEP YOUR SHOULDERS and hips square as you lift your right leg a few inches. Lower leg to hip height and repeat. Switch sides to complete set.
Do 12-15 per side. Repeat 2-3 times.
Intensity Challenge! Too easy? Try doing this move in side plank. Straighten your lower leg and raise your hips off the floor. Keep your elbow on the floor below you, or straighten your arm and come up on your hands.