Later this year my gorgeous little cousin is getting married and she asked me for some training advice on leg toning and shedding fat from the hips, thighs and belly.
Most ladies I chat to would love a lil more definition and a little less fat… so without further ado: here are the key considerations if you’re either just starting with some weights training or if you’ve tried it in the past and haven’t achieved the results you’re looking for.
Or if you want to get lean and fit and you currently believe cardio is your lean bod friend. It’s time to break free from your treadmill trudging because this post is for you too.
Let’s dispel a couple of myths first:
=> Ladies lifting weights will not bulk you up. Eating crap and nurturing that layer of fat over your lovely lean muscle will make you look bulky.
=> Cardio is not the most effective way to shed fat. So many reasons my top 2 are:
1. Your metabolism stays elevated burning more fat for a much longer period of time after an intense weights session. As opposed to cardio which only burns fat during your session.
2. Food is key and you will find it a billion (truth!) times easier to eat the best food if you prioritize high intensity weights training. As opposed to moderate intensity cardio that makes your body crave carbs.
On to the vital components of your weights program:
1. Everything starts from a strong core. It is vital to build your deeper abdominal strength with basic movements like leg lowers and prone holds. Save the fancy stuff for later – abdominal exercises are about strength, stability and support for your back – they do not create a flat belly (please believe me here!) – food creates a flat belly. Again, if you eat crap you’re nurturing a layer of fat over your lovely 6-pack!
2. The less supported your exercise the better. If you’re sitting on that machine – texting as you pump out 20+ reps – you’re not toning your inner thighs, you’re wasting your time. Start with body weight movements like squats and lunges. Progress to dumbbells and when you can’t hold any heavier progress to the barbell. From here there are limitless awesome exercises both weighted and body weight. I always have some sort of squat and lunge variation and from there my Go2LowerBod exercises include Dead-lift variations, Step downs, Plank Leg Raises etc… start with the basics first though.
Once you’re down with the basics I include some more of my favourites here: Trade in Your But’s For Booty Love.
3. Intensity is key. If you have an issue with sweating or getting huffy puffy, move beyond that now! Training is not meant to be ‘comfortable’ or easy… it is meant to get you an awesome result. Ways to increase intensity include, heavier weight, less rest, more repetitions (or most challenging more reps with more weight in less time!). Pairing exercises makes it fun and effective. I love to pair a heavy shorter repetition exercise like a split squat (8 repetitions each side) with a body weight movement like a plank leg raise (20 repetitions each side).
4. Focus. If you can zone out you’re not working hard enough. Yes, exercise is valuable, precious YOU time, however to get the result from this time, energy and money spent it deserves your 100% focus. Focus on the muscle you are working, focus on how you want that part of your body to look and focus on having perfect technique & a full range of motion for every. single. repetition. There is no place for ‘going through the motions’ …that’s what you do when you just throw yourself on a cardio machine for 40 minutes right? Cardio is mindless. Yet another reason it is less effective. Weights are structured and intentional… they are your pathway to Choosing Your Curves.
Now the vital components beyond your weights program:
80% of weight loss comes down to the food you eat. ‘Toning’ to me is 2 part. Yes, it requires building lean muscle mass via weights training… however it also requires stripping the excess fat so you can see your tone – via the fuel your consume. Here’s a link to a post on how to build your ideal fat burning meal.
It’s important you focus on quality fuel rather than depriving your body – mere calorie restriction will lead to enhancing your natural pear shape… Getting progressively leaner up top while maintaining that womanly fat around your hips and thighs.
That’s because hormones are at play.
Our estrogen levels encourage storage of fat in estrogen sensitive areas – yep, hips and thighs ladies. Some of the factors that increase estrogen levels are tough to control, such as toxins in our environment & stress. Some are easier, such as cutting soy from your diet… Yes Soy in not your slim thighs friend!
The good news is cruciferous veg are your slim thighs friends. I highly recommend coming these super veg with every main meal. It’s actually fairly easy:
=> cauli and broccoli in your breakfast omelette. (good with tomato, mushie, coriander, chili and of course a couple of eggs – yolks too, fat is not bad!)
=> cabbage and kale in your lunch salad. (I’m lazy and get red and white cabbage pre-cut and mixed in a zero-dressing coleslaw mix and kale pre washed and mixed with other leaves… then I add around another dozen veg (I like variety!) plus lean protein and good fat.
=> crispy brussels with your lean protein & other veg at dinner. (slice em into rounds 5mm think and spread out on a tray sprayed with coconut oil. Next sprinkle with chili and bake until super crisp and gorgeous…. about 30minutes at a high heat – turning once)
2. Rest and recovery.
The good stuff happens at rest. If you work your body at a high intensity then you also need to give it adequate recovery time. Ideally 2 days between working the same muscle group. Beyond that, adequate sleep every night is vital. Or at least over the course of the week. If you’re burning the candle your body will hold onto fat, it’s in survival mode. You will not have the energy to train hard & your body will crave poor quality fuel as an ‘easy’ (yet ineffective!) energy fix.
3. Post work-nutrition.
The 30 minutes after your work-out are vital to fuel your body with the fast absorbing lean protein it needs for 60 muscle growth and replenishment. This is the only time I actively recommend fake food, a protein shake is great… Make sure it’s <4 gm carb and 20+ gm of protein & ideally have it with water. Unless its also also counting as a meal and in that case here’s a great recipe:
Post Weights Meal-in-one Smoothie.
- 200ml unsweetened vanilla almond milk
- 1 scoop Vegan Vanilla Protein Powder
- 1/2 apple, cored and sliced
- 1/2 Cup Frozen Strawberries or Raspberries
- ¼ to ½ cup old-fashioned oats
- 1 tbsp almond butter
- 1/2 tbsp milled flax seed
- Cinnamon to taste
- Ice cubes as desired
4. High intensity interval training & walking.
The ideal compliment to your high intensity weights. The life we lead today is crazy sedentary. Walking daily is merely a great strategy to get you back to status quo so far as the normal daily activity our bodies were built for. To get maximum bang for your fat burning time incorporate high intensity interval training as you get fitter. An ideal week might look like this:
Monday 45 minutes weights
Tues 60 minute walk or swim
Wednesday 45 minutes weights
Thursday 60 minutes walk or swim
Friday 30 minutes interval training
Saturday 45 minutes weights
Sunday rest day
Here’s the AWESOME news regarding your interval training – it can be really short – if it’s really intense. I like to warm up and then spend 5 minutes sprinting on the treadmill (a beach would be nicer however the treadmill is quickest for me because it lives at work – if sand or hill sprints are time effective for you, go for it!)
=> For example: Set Treadmill @ an incline & speed you are working to maintain for 20 seconds. The goal is to get through 10 intervals of 20 sec running & 10 sec resting. To rest HOLD ON to TM while you jump feet out to each side. To return HOLD ON while you jump feet back onto moving belt.
Next follow this lil sprinting warm-up with a body-weight or weighted circuit performed with minimal rest to really keep your heart rate up. After 5 minutes on the treadmill I’ll usually spend 12-24 minutes completing a circuit of 4-8 exercises 2-4 times. Which exercises? Depends on what you trained the day before… although heres one of my recent combos which is pretty fine regardless of what you train the day before because it uses lighter weights for time rather than heavy weights for repetitions:
- Squat Press
- Renegade Row
- Switch Lunge
- Body Weight Get up
- Kettle Swing
- *Side Plank Crunch with Hip Dip.
Perform each exercise for 45-60 seconds (*45 each side).
In closing: the most important factor in transforming your body is CONSISTENCY.
With food and with exercise.
It will never be the strictest ‘diet’ or the most hard-core training program that gets you the results. It will be the approach that you can stick to. That can fit in with your lifestyle and your likes and dislikes. Yes, you will have to make some ‘sacrifices’, however as you start to see results you will stop seeing those decisions that are giving you your goal body as sacrifices and those decisions will only get easier.
The key is – if you’re going to achieve consistency then you need to focus on everything great that you’re doing for your body AND appreciate everything great that your body is doing for you.
It’s been my experience that especially with lower bod you need to guide and support your body into letting go of it’s excess fat. You can’t ‘beat it into submission’ with severe calorie restriction and excessive cardio. It’s smart. It’ll just slow down your metabolism, sacrifice your lean muscle and hold tight to your fat.
A gradual chiseling away of excess fat while maintaining your lean muscle is the only long term approach. Yes, that takes patience and a willingness to constantly be refining your approach to both exercise and food. Start only with what you can manage right now – and once you’ve got each new habit locked and loaded, add the next step.
Alright, accountability time! What is your next step?
Yes, that great thing you’re going to do for your body today – let me know here and as always please also let me know if there’s any way I can help!