What Your Weight in Muscle Means
Most people are aware of the fact that muscle weighs more than fat. Lifting weights regularly leads to a slight increase in weight. Generally speaking, training 2 to 3 times per week leads to a gain of 1 pound of muscle per month for approximately 6 months.
During that time, you are approaching your genetically determined potential, and once reached, increases in muscle mass begin to plateau. Similarly, this early portion of your workout program produces significant results, but eventually the rapid weight loss plateaus as well.
You shouldn’t worry too much about the additional weight that lifting adds. Increases in muscle mass are very beneficial. According to studies, every 3 pounds of muscle results in a 7% increase in resting metabolism. Practically speaking, if your baseline of caloric use discounting movement, particularly exercise, is 1200 calories per day, then 3 extra pounds of muscle will burn an additional 84 calories per day.
Women tend to avoid progressing past 2-3 pound dumbbell weights for fear that doing so will cause them to appear bulky rather than toned. If you are satisfied with your strength and muscle tone, it is appropriate to use 5 pound weights as part of your maintenance strategy.
If your goal is to strengthen, even 8-10 pound weights can be used without causing bulk. It is very unlikely that these heavier weights will lead to a significant increase in muscle size. Furthermore, the hormone testosterone is a key factor in building large muscles, and females naturally have a low level. In other words, to achieve significantly larger muscles a woman would have to use substantially heavier weights than their male counterparts.
Instead of progressively overloading the muscles by gradually increasing weights, you also have the option to increase repetitions in an effort to tone muscle. Executing more repetitions with lighter weights effectively tones muscle while increasing strength and endurance. This type of routine will not produce any substantial increases in muscle size.
When lifting weights, it is important to focus on the motion and use proper technique. Visualize the contraction of each muscle by reminding yourself to squeeze during each exercise. By doing this, you maximize the results of your work, much more so than simply going through the motions.