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Muscle tone.  We‘re all looking for it.  It’s a condition that indicates health.  

A simple definition of muscle tone are muscles that appear firm and strong.  Firmness is best achieved through weight training, but no amount of weight training will highlight toned muscles if there are layers of fat between the muscles and the skin lying over them.  So in addition to strength training, eating clean and healthy are usually necessary to attaining that well-toned body.

There are no secrets when it comes to toning up your body.  The one and only way that you can get toned is to push weight.  Walking will increase your overall metabolism and maybe help you lose some weight.  Yoga will stretch your muscles and help your sense of balance.  But  nothing is going to make your body toned like pushing weight.  

You need not fear “bulking up” and looking all masculine if you choose to spend some time weight training.  The only way to get “bulky” is through testosterone, and we don’t make enough of that hormone for it to have a bulking effect.  Instead, we lucky women get smooth, pretty muscles with soft definition that makes us look wonderful.

There are several methods you can use in weight training, at least in the beginning.  

You can push your own body weight. that's what we've been doing in the stability exercises I've described early.  Other "body weight" exercises are basic squats, lunges and push ups.  An advanced move would be the pull-up or chin-up. These moves tend to work large muscle groups against gravity to build strength.  They are by no means wimpy or easy.  Body weight exercises can be done anywhere, making them excellent when you don't have access to a fitness center.  

You can use machines.  Machines tend to target specific muscles instead of larger muscle groups.  This reduces the likelihood of overworking a muscle, but means that more equipment needs to be used to get a full body workout.  Machines can be purchased to use at home or used in a fitness facility, but have someone demonstrate correct technique for you.  Most facilities have personal trainers or fitness experts that help get you started.

Cable resistance moves use stacks of weights like weight machines do, but allow the user to customize moves. Familiar cable systems are the lat pulldown/ tricep pushdown/row machines.  There are also free standing cable units.  Since exercises are done by pulling or pushing weight attached to a cable, there is often a lot of variety that can be built when using these units, and you can decide to alter moves to either use lots of muscle groups or isolate a muscle for more intensity.

My favorite form of weight training, however, are the free weights. Often imagined as the domain of muscle-bound males, free weights offer a wide variety of exercises with a minimum amount of equipment.  If you are a short woman like myself, the size limitations of exercise machines disappears (machines are sized to accomodate individuals  5'7" to about 6'4").  Large muscle groups can be exercises through a full range of motion. I'll be honest, there is just something sexy and exhilarating about grabbing some free weights and pushing all my frustrations away!

Strength training can help alleviate pain from osteoarthritis and can help prevent osteoporosis.  The hormone releases that come during and after strength training elevates moods and aids in sleep.  Strength training has also been shown to slow the progress of alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.  All in all great reasons for you to start pushing some weight.

Better Every Year is the goal of writer Debra Roby. She has been published at [Link Removed]

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