Celebs lead muscle-woman craze

03:29, Nov 28 2011
Halle Berry
Halle Berry shows off her enviable abs.
Jessica Biel
Jessica Biel's hours at the gym have clearly paid off.
Cameron Diaz
Cameron Diaz is famous for her active lifestyle, often pictured surfing.
Evangeline Lilly
Evangeline Lilly got plenty of opportunities to flaunt her toned physique when she starred in Lost.
Fifty-three-year-old Madonna's bulging muscles have earned her both criticism and admiration.
Super-fit Pink even incorporates exercise into her stage shows.
Sarah Jessica Parker
Former Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker has guns to rival Mr Big's.
Hilary Swank
Hilary Swank's backless gown was the talk of the 2005 Acadamy Awards.

Blame Halle Berry. Or Pink. Or Hilary Swank.

Personal trainer Amelia Burton says high-profile female stars are behind the recent influx of women to the weights rooms of gyms across the country.

"Halle Berry is known for her amazing arms and shoulders, Hilary Swank for her great back, Cameron Diaz for her arms and abs," Burton says.

It's these body shapes that are showing women across the globe that strong is the new sexy.

"You'll get incredible body shape results from weight training," Burton says. "It really suits women that have less than about eight kilograms to lose. If you've got more than that to lose, you really need to add in plenty of cardio, although weight training is still good."

If you're after a smaller waist, amazing shaped arms or a toned back or legs, Burton says weight training enables you to target the trouble spots. You'll see results "within a couple of weeks", she says, and even if weight loss doesn't show on the scales, "you'll be amazed at how your clothes fit differently".


But having a strong body is about more than achieving a toned tush and killer abs.

Burton says, "A lot of women don't realise the benefits: the increased metabolic rate [so you burn more kilojoules even when you're sitting on the couch], increasing and restoring bone density [which helps prevent osteoporosis] and injury prevention."

Strength training also replaces muscle that is lost through ageing and helps keep our metabolism revving, warding off middle-aged spread. And because muscle is much denser than fat, it takes up less space on your body, giving you a more streamlined look, even if the scales stay the same.

We even know of one gym that has a large banner proclaiming "Doing weights is like a facelift for your body". Finally, weight training can help reduce your risk of getting diabetes, as muscle tissue is far better able to aid glucose uptake than fat.


Adrienne Jerram, 44, is no stranger to cardio but had never really ventured into the weights room until recently. "I'd been doing cardio for a long time but not really seen any significant improvements. I got a program written by a professional and have been following it for six weeks now. The first time I grabbed one of the 'men's' weights I was worried that I might drop it, even though I knew I could lift it!

"After just four weeks of training I had lost a couple of centimetres off each leg and five centimetres off my waist. I'm at my ideal weight so I didn't think there was five centimetres to lose!

"I do indoor climbing as well and even in the short time I've been doing weights, my strength is showing. My aim is to be rocking a bikini on the beach when I'm 50!"


If you're new to the weights room, it can seem intimidating. Burton recommends newbies get a few personal training sessions to set up and go through a program and make sure you're doing the exercises correctly. You might also want to buddy up with a friend.


Burton is also a huge fan of the Les Mills pump classes. "They target a lot of the trouble spots that women have and create really slender, toned arms as well as improving your core.

"There are, however, two big mistakes people make when they do pump classes. They don't increase their weights enough. Every class, pick at least two tracks to try to go heavier on and every two weeks you should be trying to put your weights up, even if you have to stop halfway and take off some weight. The other mistake is in the legs, squat and back tracks. Women don't go through the full range of movement."


While you might be concerned you'll end up as beefy as Arnie, it's simply not the case. Compared with men, women have far lower levels of testosterone and human growth hormone that cause muscles to bulk up dramatically.

Worried that once you stop, all your hard-earned muscle will turn to flab? "Muscle tissue is muscle tissue and is completely different to fat. It's physically impossible to turn muscle into fat," Burton says. "What happens is that muscle tone starts to disappear if you stop and sometimes fat can be put on over the top." The key is to watch your diet and continue a maintenance weights program.


To build muscle, you need to lift weights that are hard for you. Muscles need to be overloaded; if not, you're training for endurance, not strength gain. "Eight to 12 reps is the magic number and three to four sets," Burton says. "Your final set should be pretty much to failure. If you're not pulling a funny face and making a bit of a grunting noise, then the weight is too light."

Sydney Morning Herald