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The Number-One Fitness Problem for Women
Using and losing weight

by Ellington Darden, PhD

"I am a huge fan of Ellington Darden. I have used his books as training texts, and have recommended them to many others. Be sure to visit his websire at Dr. Ellington Darden's Classic X ." Brian Konzelman

Protruding bellies, dimpled thighs, saggy butts, and flabby arms are descriptions of body parts that are often deemed most problematic in women's fitness surveys. Underlying these body part worries, however, is the real problem. Once the real problem is understood and appreciated, it becomes the solution to overall fitness.

What's the average woman's number-one fitness problem? The answer may surprise you. It's the loss of muscle mass.

Muscle mass! I know what you're probably thinking:

"I don't want large muscles, and I don't want to look like those women bodybuilders on TV. I actually want smaller muscles."

Hang with me while I explain why larger muscles are the tickets to attaining the body you've always desired.

Muscle and Metabolism

Losing as little as one-half pound of muscle can result in a gain of fat. Why? Because muscle is active tissue and makes high-calorie demands, even at rest. Less muscle means a lower metabolic rate.

Several studies reveal that the average woman experiences a slight decline in her metabolic rate every year, which exactly parallels her loss of muscle.

The relationship is clear: as muscle mass decreases, metabolism slows. As the average woman gets older — even if she continues to eat the same approximate number of calories per day — she gets fatter and fatter. A cycle is gradually established.

Loss of muscle equals a decline in metabolic rate. This, combined with normal eating habits and the passage of time, leads to an overfat, out-of-shape body.

Muscle and Fat Changes

Since 1985, I've collected body-composition measurements on more than one thousand women of all ages. The data below represents what happens to the average woman's body as she gets older:

Muscle-fat ration changes in an average woman as she ages

Age: 14
Bodyweight: 120 pounds
Muscle: 48 pounds
Fat: 20 pounds
Bodyfat: 16.7%

Age: 20
Bodyweight: 126 pounds
Muscle: 45 pounds
Fat: 29 pounds
Bodyfat: 23.0%

Age: 30
Bodyweight: 136 pounds
Muscle: 40 pounds
Fat: 44 pounds
Bodyfat: 32.4%

Age: 40
Bodyweight: 146 pounds
Muscle: 35 pounds
Fat: 59 pounds
Bodyfat: 40.4%

Age: 50
Bodyweight: 156 pounds
Muscle: 30 pounds
Fat: 74 pounds
Bodyfat: 47.4%

The average woman achieves her muscular peak at the age of 14:

Height: 5'4"
Bodyweight: 120 pounds
Total muscle tissue weight: 48 pounds
Fat tissue weight: 20 pounds
Muscle-to-fat ratio: 48 to 20, or 2.4 to 1

In other words, at age 14 she has 2.4 pounds of muscle for each pound of fat. Because of this high ratio of muscle to fat, her body is lean, firm, and well defined.

With each successive year, however, she loses 0.5 pounds of muscle and gains 1.5 pounds of fat.

Now, let's fast-forward 36 years and look at the typical woman at age 50.

The average 50-year-old woman weighs 156 pounds, which is a gain of 36 pounds of bodyweight since age 14. More specifically, however, her muscle has decreased by 18 pounds, and her fat has increased by 54 pounds.

Her muscle-to-fat ratio, at age 50, has changed from 2.4 to 1 to 1 to 2.4, which is an exact reversal. Furthermore, her percentage of bodyfat has gone from 16.7 to 47.4 — a 284% increase.

Fortunately, at age 50, or even older, something can be done to combat and conquer this loss of muscle and gain of fat. In fact, the solution doesn't take years. If attacked correctly, it can be accomplished in six months or less.

The Simple Answer

What causes this whopping increase in bodyfat?

It all begins with a gradual loss of muscle mass. Of course, there are other factors, such as faulty eating habits, too many dietary calories, pregnancy, hormonal changes, overstress, and the natural aging process — but the shrinking of muscle mass remains the primary reason.

What causes the loss of muscle mass?

Very simply, the answer is the lack of proper exercise. Proper exercise can rebuild, reshape, and continually increase the size of your muscles.

Proper Exercise Explained

What is proper exercise?

Proper exercise is movement against a resistance that can be made heavier and heavier. For muscles to regain their size and shape, they must be worked progressively against harder demands.

Strength training — the lifting of weights in the form of dumbbells, barbells, and various machines — is proper exercise. The Classic X style of strength training, as you'll soon see if you've never experienced it, is the most productive type of exercise for rebuilding lost muscle mass.

The strength-training guidelines used in Classic X are based on scientific studies and practical experience that I've gotten from training more than six thousand women and four thousand men over the last 30 years.

Hip and Thigh Heavy

What I've learned allows me to design Classic X strength-training routines to address specific figure problems of women. For example, the most prevalent figure question that women have is how to get rid of the disproportionate amount of fat around their hips and thighs.

Part of this large number of fat cells is attributable to hormones, pregnancy, and childbirth.

The other part is connected to the loss of muscle mass. Since the largest muscles of a woman's body are located in the hips and thighs, it makes sense that most of her muscle mass reduction would come from these areas.

It also rings true that her thickest layers of fat cells — those surrounding the hips and thighs — are made even thicker and flabbier with the gradual loss of muscle and the gradual gain of fat.

Counterbalancing the Hips and Thighs

Physical symmetry means having a pleasing balance between your upper body and lower body. Most women tend to be lower body dominant.

Lower body dominant women certainly must work the muscles of their hips and thighs to keep them strong and shapely. Just as important, they must specialize on their upper bodies — especially the shoulders and arms. And an often-neglected body part — the calves of the lower legs — must be worked intensely.

Remember the fashion trends of the 1980s that emphasized broad shoulders by placing padding in your dresses, jackets, and even T-shirts? This was carried to an extreme by the fashion designers of the popular television show "Dynasty." They purposely created a powerful, intimidating look by the way they dressed the character played by Joan Collins.

Building the muscles of your shoulders and arms will help to counterbalance your hips and thighs. Soon, you won't need to resort to shoulder pads. You'll have your own in the form of strong, shapely muscle.

Muscular calves also have a counterbalancing effect on your hips and thighs. When your lower legs are visible, shapely calves naturally draw attention away from your hips and thighs. You can use this to your advantage by working your calves hard several times a week.

Future editions of Classic X will provide you with specialized routines geared for working your shoulders, arms, and calves.

Excessively Large Muscles and Genetics

Having excessively large muscles, such as you see on champion bodybuilders, require rare inherited characteristics. Such a woman would have to have unusually long muscle bellies and short tendons. This combination is rare even among men. Only one person in a million inherits these traits.

Furthermore, to be a champion bodybuilder — besides having excessively large muscles — a woman must be very lean. Once again, this necessitates favorable genetics in that a person would have to have a well-below-average number of fat cells.

In spite of these seldom-seen genetic traits, many women still worry about overdeveloping their muscles and becoming unattractive. However, larger muscles are, in fact, the very thing they need. Adding muscle will help women:

• Elevate metabolism
• Melt fat away faster
• Tighten flabby body parts
• Smooth dimpled backsides
• Improve symmetry
• Appear younger
• Eat more calories of favorite foods

Don't be afraid of building excessively large muscles. It won't happen: not quickly . . . not easily . . . not ever!

If, by some twisted quirk, you did develop a muscle that was too large, all you'd have to do is stop exercising it. Within a week, the muscle would begin to atrophy, or shrink, from disuse.

As I stated at the beginning of this article, the loss of muscle mass — at the rate of one-half pound per year — is the number-one fitness problem of most women.

Embellish more muscle mass as your friend — your best ally against excessive fat and the aging process.

Tickets to a Great Body

So you really do want larger, not smaller, muscles. Larger muscles are your tickets to drop pounds, firm flab, and maximize lean muscle lines.

Larger muscles are your tickets to combating and conquering your number-one fitness problem.

Remember, it's possible to transform significantly your muscle-to-fat ratio in six months or less.

Become a regular user of the Classic X website. Doing so will guarantee that you get efficient and effective facts about proper strength training.

Make a commitment now.

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