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Be an iron lady; Health.

Byline: Samantha Cope

I'M normally intimidated by my gym's free-weights area because of all the grunting beefcakes pumping iron.

But it's time women started muscling in on the action.

Like lots of women, when I was advised to start a weights routine to decrease my body fat, my big concern was that I would build up too much bulk.

However rather than turning you into a female Hulk or, even worse, model-turned-bodybuilder Jodie Marsh, a regular weights session is a sure-fire way to a toned body.

Trainer Mark Rodney started me on a month-long programme and dispelled a few myths.

He said: "Just doing cardio is a road to nowhere - especially when women hit 30 and their muscle mass decreases. You can end up being skinny but not toned.

Toned "The only way to achieve a toned physique is through a regular weights routine."

I've always been more of a cardio freak, drawn to running, crosstraining and spinning.

So if you're anything like me, it's worth enlisting the help of a personal trainer for a couple of sessions to plan a routine and get your weights right - and will help you avoid injury.

I started off doing deadlifts (lifting a loaded barbell) and squats - which are two great exercises for your legs. I did 'supersets' - which is gym-speak for performing exercises back to back - which meant I worked one muscle group (quadriceps on the front of my legs) then immediately worked another (hamstrings at the back).

Using weights this way will get your heart thumping and, unlike a cardio routine, your metabolic rate will be raised long after you have left the gym, so you keep burning calories while sitting at your desk.

Muscles Mark, based at Reebok Sports Club in Canary Wharf, East London, said: "The muscles are torn during a weights routine and so it takes extra energy to repair.

"So this means that you burn more calories after a weights routine than you would do after a cardio session."

But what about getting bigger? Well, the hormone testosterone is responsible for the large increases in muscle mass that can be seen when men lift weights.

But women's testosterone levels are a fraction of men's, so they do not gain much muscle mass.

So the fear of becoming big and bulky is unwarranted, unless you use steroids or spend hours in the gym lifting very heavy weights.

After a month of four weight sessions a week, I'd lost 5lb and three per cent of my body fat. My legs and backs of my arms were more toned, too.

And, most importantly, I didn't end up looking like Arnie with a ponytail.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Oct 28, 2012
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