The Method

Body Sculpting’s Top Ten Muscles for Women, Part 1

October 9, 2009

Some muscles when sculpted give an especially feminine look to women’s bodies. When I’m taking class and we’re targeting one of these curve-enhancing muscles, it’s fun to give them an extra push knowing that the gain is well-worth the pain. Here are my top ten favorite muscles to sculpt and how I seize the moment to give them special attention.
Tenth Best Muscle for Women to Sculpt: The Pecs 
“I have cleavage for the first time!” a Bar Method student told me today. The muscle responsible for this enhancement, the pec major, flares out over your upper and lower chest. When it’s toned and strong — I’m talking about women only — it makes the breasts look smoother, higher and more elegant, plus it gives good posture a sexy quality. Push-ups are so hard for women that they take a few years to learn how to do them well. Even after they become more doable, students can keep raising the bar on push-ups by walking their hands directly under their chests and refusing to let them sneak forward.

Ninth Best Muscle for Women to Sculpt: The Outer Quad
“Second position” – bending your knees outwards when in a wide stance — chisels a distinctive, dancer-like curve down your outside leg. This graceful new shape, by arcing up your outside thigh bone, has the effect of pulling the side of your leg in, making it narrower. In 1981 after a few months of the Lotte Berk Method, I had fun asking friends to “touch my leg and feel how hard it is.” What they were touching was my “vastus lateralis” or outside thigh muscle. Today I still can’t get my hips all the way down to knee height in the position, which is the ultimate goal, but it’s the one I go for every time.

Eighth Best Muscle for Women to Sculpt: The Triceps
tricepsGuys love girls with toned triceps. This information comes from multiple surveys published by magazines such as Men’s Health and Esquire. Men are definitely on to something by bypassing more obvious female body parts and professing a liking for our arm’s largest muscle when it has some definition. Sculpted triceps – like toned hamstrings when they sit up on your thigh bones – make your upper arms look slender. The overall effect is both strong and feminine. “Reverse push-ups,” the Bar Method’s 30-second triceps-shaper, is the fastest-acting – and most agonizing – 30 seconds you’ll suffer through in the workout. The short duration has advantages, chief among them that reverse push-ups are over in a heart-beat. The down side is that students find it all too easy to escape the awful muscle burn by tilting their torsos forward, thereby removing their body-weight from the exercise. To get beautiful triceps you have to keep your arms directly over your hands as you bend your elbows. The Bar Method helps students to do reverse push-ups in good form by turning them on profile to the front mirror so that they can check how they’re doing. Students who manage to do them right tell me are invariably thrilled to see their arms gain definition.

Seventh Best Muscle for Women to Sculpt: The Hamstrings
Toned hamstrings do wonders for the overall look of your legs. They curve outwards on the back of the leg mid-point up your upper leg, and then they curve inwards right under your butt giving it definition and lift. My favorite hamstring exercise in the Bar Method is simply standing at the bar, bending one leg in half and holding it behind me. If I can keep my tuck in place and my knee under my hip in this position, I’ll start shaking like a leaf after just minute or two. For me this exercise never gets old. I usually wake up wake up the next day feeling sore and a bit more sculpted.

Sixth Best Muscle for Women to Sculpt: The Lower Quads
The lower quads: Skiers push against the slopes with sharp little leg movements. The result is “skier’s bump,” those little bulges right over the knees. Skiier’s bump is caused by all those “concentric” contractions, skiiers’ thigh muscles shortening with each push into the hill. Conversely, The Bar Method works the lower quads with “eccentric” contractions, smooth, mid-range pliés that stretch the muscles as they’re working. One of the most targeted thigh exercises for slimming down around the knees is the Bar Method’s “narrow V,” a stance that keeps your knees in a uniquely deep bend during the pliés. Narrow V looks deceptively simple and basic, so students are often surprised that their lower quads are on fire by mid-point into this exercise. With my big-boned frame, I’m thrilled at the slender look it gives to the line above my knees.


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