Most women I know and read about have a fear of using a significant amount of weight while working out because they don't want to get big or look too muscular. I understand this. First you must define what you think is "big" or "too muscular". But keep in mind that it's just not likely to happen, IF you're following a sound nutrition plan, not to mention our lower natural levels of testosterone to support it. My quads tend to get too big if I am not watching what I eat. So it's a balance, because if you're working to pack on muscle you'll be eating more calories. If you're working toward fat loss your calories must be balanced and as clean as possible. So, in fact, lifting weight remains critical strategy in fat loss, and coupled with the right eating, it works for you and you will like the way you look and feel.
The yellow model is fat and the red model is muscle, each weighing 5 lbs. Which do you think is going to look bigger on your body? Some people think that you can turn fat to muscle or muscle to fat. This is not true, they are two different types of tissue. But the goal is to decrease the amount of fat on your body, which makes it smaller and shows your muscle definition more, and to build muscle, creating the look of fitness, and better yet, actual fitness. I truly think this is the look that many women are going for, but they are afraid to do it with weight, and unfortunately so because moving weight is a very important component if this is what you want to achieve.
I used to read any kind of "fitness" magazine I could buy. You know the typical ones on the newstands, ladies. Well, I can tell you that there is no way on earth my body was going to transform into one of those cover models doing the workouts they suggest. I realized I was going to have to do a lot harder work than that and I can also say I don't want the skinny-fat look either. It wasn't until I started tapping into more of the resources geared to men that I really began challenging myself, increasing my weight during workouts and seeing changes in my body. Jason Ferruggia, of Renegade Strength and Conditioning, LLC in New Jersey, says it well: "You need to challenge yourself and give your body a reason to actually change. Kickbacks with a couple soup cans ain't gonna cut it."
Just say no.
In order to do this, you first need to step away from the pink dumbbells. I'm not saying go pick up something heavy off the rack when you are learning a new exercise and take a chance on an injury. But the sooner you work away from the pink and into the black the better in terms of fat loss and muscle growth. Ferruggia suggests the following in his newsletter today: lift heavier weights, (moderate heavy weight training burns far more calories than high reps with light weights), use compound free weight and bodyweight exercises, and follow the rule of progressive overload. What he means by progressive overload is to continually challenge your body out of what it's adapted to, meaning increase your weight, increase your sets, change your rest periods, etc.
If you've never challenged yourself with weight (any at all or heavier weight) before, you will see your fat decrease, your muscles look more defined and your inches go down; yes, even in your butt and thighs. And for those of you who want some nice looking shoulders and arms, the same tactic is true. So bottom line is to work with some real weight. Many times people forego weight training until they get their scale weight down with cardio. I'm an advocate of personal trainers who can safely get you started and monitor you, and of formal programs that are designed well, but there is no need to wait. Weight training can and I think should be a part of the strategy from the very beginning.