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October 6, 2007

Fitness Q&A

By Diane Bomba

If you have a health question, submit it to Diane at

Should overweight women strength train?

Dear Diane,

I am very overweight and have decided to start caring more about my health by exercising regularly and eating well. A friend of mine told me that should I avoid strength training until I lose weight through cardio, otherwise I’ll begin to look even fatter. My aim is to drop 60 pounds. Is she right?


Hi Jenny,

First off, good for you! It’s great that you’re dedicating yourself to a healthier way of life.

Your friend couldn’t be more wrong. When it comes to weight loss, strength training is just as important as cardio because muscles require more calories to maintain themselves.

The reason your friend told you that you’d end up looking fatter is because, if you don’t eat right, you will be creating muscle under fat, giving the appearance of an increase in size. But if you commit yourself to eating right and exercising, which includes strength training, there is no doubt that you will see a positive improvement in your body.

I must warn you, though, do not trust the scale. One pound of muscle looks much leaner than one pound of fat, but because they’re both one pound, you may not see the scale number decreasing significantly. Use your clothing as an indicator of fat loss instead; if your pants and tops are looser, then you’re heading for success!


Stair machine makes me fatter

Dear Diane,

My problem areas are my thighs. I was told by a personal trainer that the stair machine is one of the best cardio machines for slimmer legs but it seems that they’re making mine bulkier. Am I crazy?


Hi Kate,

Unless you’re one of the very rare women who puts on muscle like a man, chances are that your legs are not getting bulkier. Rather, I think your problem lives in your diet.

The stair climber, running, in-line skating, and any other cardio exercise that uses the lower body for calorie-burning does not create thicker thighs, but rather lean, toned legs.

But if you strength train with lunges and squats, and perform 3 hours of cardio a week, then your thighs should be getting leaner. If they’re not, you may want to take a look at what kind of food you’re eating.

Experts believe that what you eat equates about 70% of what your body looks like. So if you workout but live on chips and fast food, then you’re only building muscle under fat. And if all your bad eating habits show up on your thighs, then, yes, they will begin to increase in size.

And if I’m wrong and you are eating clean, then perhaps you should revisit your personal trainer and discuss your issue.

Good luck,

Training abs every day

Dear Diane,

My boyfriend told me that I can train my abs every single day but I read elsewhere that you should give your abs, like any other muscle, a rest. Who’s right?


Hi Rita,

They’re both right, depending on how you work out your abs. If you do a couple of exercises at the end of every workout and focus on specific parts of your abs, then doing them every day is not harmful.

And if you prefer to do a host of abdominal exercises in one session and treat them like any other muscle you would work out, then they definitely need at least 48 hours to recover.

Both are fine and it all comes down to preference. Just remember that if you want to see your abs, you need to keep your diet clean.


How can I get a rounder butt?

Dear Diane,

We live in a world filled with Jennifer Lopezes and Beyonces. I want a rounder butt and mine is as flat as a board. I have done everything I can, including strength-training and running, and it still falls flat. Please tell me that there’s a natural way to make it rounder.


Hi April,

There are machines that target the butt specifically (such as the butt blaster), and it sounds to me like you’ve been doing all these exercises.

Unfortunately, genetics do play a role in what your body will look like, so if you come from a family of flat butts, chances are you might be able to improve the look of yours slightly, but you probably won’t be able to achieve the Beyonce look.

For now, I recommend that when you do your butt-building exercises, increase the weight and lower the reps (8 to 10). That might help your situation.


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