To lose weight effectively and get to that ideal slim, fit and toned body, you not only have to watch what you eat but you also have to lift weights and build some muscles. Lifting weights will give your body tone and definition, help you reduce body fat and avoid that ‘skinny fat’ look, help improve your sleep, reduce your stress level…I can go on forever. But just so you know, you must lift weights, build muscles and strength to lose weight and get to your skinny but lean and mean look.
If you think you need to do umpteen exercises every workout you’re wrong. Just focus on the following 4 exercises. Do 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions for each exercise with moderately heavy weights (dumbbells or barbells, you choice) 3 or 4 times a week. Let’s get going.
One of the most basic tenets of building muscle is doing exercises that involve a large number of muscles working together at once. In that sense, the deadlift is the king of all exercises when it comes to building muscle and strength. It involves almost every single muscle in your legs, back, shoulders, and even works the muscles in your chest and abs, which are forced to act as stabilizers to a certain degree. Where most people go wrong is they start trying to deadlift extremely heavy far too quickly. So instead of making that mistake, start light with something easy like a kettlebell or dumbbell, and slowly work your way up to using barbells.
How to do proper deadlifts:
- Grab a pair of five-to eight-pound dumbbells and hold them in front of your thighs, feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent.
- Bend at your hips to lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor, keeping the weights close to your body.
- Return to standing, keeping the weights close to your body (as if you’re shaving your legs with the dumbbells). That’s one rep.
While the deadlift has many merits, when it comes to building muscle in the legs alone the squat reigns supreme. A full range of motion squat activates every single muscle in your legs, and uses your core and upper back to work as stabilizers. Using all of these muscles together works wonders for your muscle-building potential, and it’s the big reason you’ll see this exercise recommended to so many people when they first start out in the gym. Much like the deadlift, don’t focus on going too heavy too quickly, and be sure you’re squatting deep enough from the start to ensure that you’re getting as much as possible out of the exercise.
How to do proper squats:
- Stand, holding a dumbbell on each side with arms hanging straight down, and bend your knees until your thighs are just past parallel to the floor.
- Your back should be at roughly 45 degrees, your eyes looking straight ahead. Extend your legs, straightening back up to return to standing. That’s one rep.
3. Overhead Press
While most people think of the bench press as the best upper-body exercise, I’d argue that the overhead press is actually far superior. Aside from building more functional strength — strength that carries over into real life — the overhead press does a great job of building muscle in your shoulders, arms, upper back, and even works your abs. At times this one can be a bit stressful on your lower back, so it may help to play with how you’re standing, or even do the movement while seated (as shown in pic). Figure out what’s the most comfortable for you, and go from there.
How to do proper overhead presses:
- Sit on a bench with your feet hip-width apart. Using an overhand grip, hold a set of dumbbells at your shoulders.
- Press the weights straight up, focusing on control (B). Slowly lower them back to start.
One of the only matches to the overhead press when it comes to building muscle in the upper body is the pull-up. Where the overhead press works the front portion of the shoulders and the triceps, the pull-up works the rear part of the shoulder and the biceps, as well as the upper back. Building muscle in the shoulders and upper back is one of the best things you can do to drastically change your appearance, as well as build strength that carries over to every other aspect of your life. If you can’t manage to do pull-ups, then doing an inverted row with something like a TRX suspension trainer is a great alternative option worth doing.
How to do proper pull-ups:
- Grab an overhead the bar just wider than shoulder-width, palms forward.
- Use your upper-back muscles to pull up; try to get your chin above the bar.
- Lower, and repeat.
- Note: Do not try to swing forward and back too much – keep you body and pace steady to get the optimum results.
5. Eat the right foods
These four exercises are by far and away some of the most effective when it comes to building muscle. But remember, what’s going to pay off more than just doing these exercises by themselves is consistency. Aim to hit the gym three to four times a week, and be sure you’re eating enough food and the right kind of food to help build muscle.
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