Tone Up, Slim Down

Fire up a slow metabolism—and lose weight—with simple strength-training moves.

Tone Up, Slim Down
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JENNIFER ENKOFF-WRIGHT, 37, started lifting weights two years ago to help improve her yoga and running, and experienced two unexpected benefits—a stronger mind and toned body. “I’ve tried other workouts, but I feel especially empowered after a weight-lifting routine,” says the Fort Wayne, Ind. resident. “Plus, I’ve slimmed down and gained definition, especially in my arms,” she adds.
BUILD MUSCLE. As Enkoff-Wright discovered, strength training can help boost a stalled metabolism—a benefit that becomes more important as we age. Every decade, our metabolism slows about 3 percent, and we lose five to seven pounds of muscle while gaining 15 to 17 pounds of fat. Because fat doesn’t burn calories as efficiently as muscle, we end up gaining weight. The best way to offset that? Strength training, says Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Mass., and coauthor of Get Stronger, Feel Younger (Rodale, 2007). “Lifting weights is the best way to prevent or reverse muscle loss,” he says.
BURN CALORIES. Studies show that within three months of regular strength training (15 to 20 minutes a day, two to three times a week), people gain three pounds of muscle, which increases their metabolic rate by 7 percent and helps burn an extra 105 calories a day. Get going with this simple move from Westcott.

1. PICK THE RIGHT RESISTANCE. Use too little resistance, and you won’t challenge your muscles enough to gain strength. Choose too much, and you could injure yourself. You shouldn’t be straining, but you should feel fatigued by the last few repetitions.

2. SLOW DOWN. Fast movements increase your risk of injury and aren’t effective at building strength since your muscles don’t have to work as hard, explains Westcott. To pace yourself, take two seconds to lift and four seconds to lower.

3. BREATHE PROPERLY. Restricting your breath during strength exercises makes the moves more difficult—and can even raise your blood pressure. Remember to exhale on the contraction (the hardest part of the exercise) and inhale as you release.

Chest Press
Strengthens chest, shoulders, triceps, abdominals, and thighs.

A | Sit on a stability ball with your feet flat on the floor, shoulder width apart. Hold a 6-pound body bar or 3- to 5-pound dumbbells at your waist, palms facing down. Slowly walk your feet away from the ball and lower your torso onto it. Roll down until your head is resting comfortably at the top of the ball and your shoulder blades are touching it (your lower back should not be touching the ball). Your shoulders should be in line with (or slightly higher than) your knees so your body forms a tabletop. Make sure your knees don’t extend past your toes. Contract your abdominals and bring the body bar or dumbbells directly above your chest, in line with your shoulders, palms facing away from you.

B | Straighten your arms and lift the body bar or dumbbells straight out from your chest. Bend your elbows and bring your hands back to the starting position.

Repeat 8 to 12 times.