You don’t have to compete in contests to shape a curvy, 3-D figure. Although, competing can be a good change-up and motivator.  And, you don’t have to get bulky like a man. But, you have to build muscle mass, burn fat and shrink your body to lean and toned.  Notice that I haven’t said anything about losing weight! Shift your focus to burning fat and the weight loss will come too.


Read my post, “Shape Your Curvy Body Better” to get a good overview on women’s body types and training.

It is important for women to do movement (functional) strength training. You should train for the way you want to live–train movements and not just muscles. It is important to shape and tone your butt, hips, thighs and arms. But, it is more important to train in a way that improves your quality of life as you walk, run, jump, squat, twist, etc.

For example, if you are on a soccer team, you need to tailor your exercise program to get your body ready for that activity. Just walking 30 minutes a day won’t get your body in shape for soccer.

Here are 3 tips to follow during strength training to sculpt your body better:

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1. First, you should strengthen and stabilize your core area. The saying “you are only as strong as your weakest link” is true in the case of the human body. All movement begins with the core so you’d better strengthen it. And, the majority of powerful movements are either initiated with or transfer through the body’s core area. Many injuries can also be linked to a weak core area.

Most core exercises should be performed in a standing position if you participate in sports or races. These exercises will also involve the important hip stabilizer muscles and not just the abdominals.

The core exercises should be multi-dimensional and progressive. Many of your daily movements involve twisting, rotating, turning, squatting, bending over, etc. The exercises should also constantly challenge and improve your endurance and balance.

Note: Strength exercises such as standing shoulder press and squats also heavily work the core area.

2. Train your body in all planes of motion:

a) Frontal Plane – imaginary bisector that divides the body into equal front and back halves. The motions primarily involve abduction and adduction (side-to-side motions). Abduction takes a limb away from the midline of the body and adduction takes the limb closer to the midline of the body.

Examples include hip abductor and hip adductor exercises. Other frontal plane motions would be side lunges (pictured below), dumbbell lateral shoulder raises and side squats. Quickness and agility movements, like side shuffles, require adequate frontal plane stability, strength, power, flexibility and balance.

Side lunge5

b) Sagittal Plane – imaginary bisector that divides the body into left and right halves. The motions involve forward-backward and up-down movements relative to the body and/or joint. Examples would be walking, running, bicep curls, leg curls and seated back rows.

Traditional training techniques (such as training with machine weights) have focused on the sagittal plane of motion. This is not an effective training technique if the other planes of motion are ignored during training.

c) Transverse Plane – imaginary bisector that divides the body into top and bottom halves. The motions are primarily rotational. As stated above, you will do many turning, twisting and rotating movements at work or play. You should train your body during exercise to perform these movements with strength and ease.  A great full-body core exercise is the medicine ball rotational throw (pictured below).

mb throw

Your body also needs to be stabilized and strengthened before progressing to high-speed power exercises. If this is not done, you are headed for certain injury when more intense exercises are introduced.

Along the same lines, you should perform an exercise correctly before progressing to power exercises. Full body strength training is a great place to start preparing your body for the challenges ahead. Vary your exercises using barbells, dumbbells, medicine balls, stability balls and resistance band exercises, etc.

3. Make regular use of bodyweight exercises. Simply put, bodyweight strength workouts allow you to use natural body motions. Machines limit your natural range of motion. Try doing a squat on the Smith Machine and see how natural that feels.

Here are  7 top body sculpting exercises:

Dumbbell Lunge-to-Bicep Curl-to-Shoulder Press – This is a good exercise to start any workout. It is definitely a full body strength exercise and it will get your heart rate up in a hurry.  When you descend into the lunge position do your curl and press from the lunge position. Do all repetitions with the right leg lunge and then switch to the left leg.

Dumbbell Chest Press on Stability Ball – Doing the chest press on the ball causes you to balance while lifting. Each arm also has to do equal work.

ball chest press2

Bentover Dumbbell Rows – If you’re trying to build up back muscles and burn back fat, bentover dumbbells rows should be in your routine. Bentover dumbbell rows allow you to work your lats using heavier weights. Your lower back will be worked more if you row with both arms at the same time. You will also work your obliques in the process.

Pullups – The pullup is not just a back muscle exercise. Pullups work your lats (and other back muscles), core, shoulders, arms, chest, biceps and improve grip strength. You should be doing pullups! You can use a stool to spot yourself and give yourself a little help as you work up to doing 5-8 repetitions per set. Start with 1 if needed.

Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squats – This exercise requires great core strength to keep your upper body upright while squatting on one leg.

DB Bulgarian split squatCourtesy:

Sprint Intervals for Cardio – Running fast activates and shapes your bulky, fast twitch muscle fibers. There’s a reason that track sprinters’ bodies are so cut—they do their training fast most of the time.

7. Clock Lunges with Dumbbells – Clock lunges work your body in all planes of motion. Lunge with your right leg at 12 o’clock, 2 o’clock, 3 o’clock, 5 o’clock and 6 o’clock. That’s 1 repetition for your right leg.

Lunge with your left leg at 12 o’clock, 10 o’clock, 9 o’clock, 7 o’clock and 6 o’clock. That’s 1 repetition for left leg. Maintain upright posture throughout to improve core strength.

Lunge with DB

Rotate heavy lifting days (3-5 reps per exercise, 4-5 sets) with light lifting days (10-12 reps per exercise, 3-4 sets). Do circuit weight training with the lighter weights (little or no rest between sets). You will need more rest between sets when you lift heavy (1-2 minutes rest between sets).

Train hard, train safe and change your body.

Burn fat and shape your curves leaner and meaner. You will look and feel great!

Get your FREE DOWNLOAD, “10-Day Curves and Abs Jumpstart ,” and start eating better, burning fat, losing weight and building the lean body you want and need!

Mark Dilworth, BA, PES

Lifestyle and Weight Management Specialist
Certified Nutrition Coach and Nutrition for Metabolic Health Specialist. Since 2006, I have helped thousands of clients and readers make lifestyle habit changes that helps you to achieve better long-term health, which includes body transformation and ideal body weight.
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