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I am lady, mid- 30s and am lifting 8lbs weights doing simple exercises found on Pinterest. I'd like to get lean, beautiful muscles.

So far, I do 4 reps, 2 sets.

What is best number of sets to accomplish this? Is 2 ok, or should it be 3 sets?

Also I have 10lbs weights and I am thinking to use 8lbs on first set and 10lbs on second set.

How is this overall approach?

UPDATE

Trying to build strong muscle, endurance, while loosing flab, especially the abs.

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8 pounds is not heavy enough

I doubt that you're so weak that 8 or 10 pounds is a challenge. How much does your purse, backpack, or briefcase weigh? Have you carried a 20 pound baby recently, or picked up a 40 pound child? You need to use heavier weights for them to be useful for you. Don't believe me? Pick up a twenty-five-pound dumbbell and try to squat with it:

Woman doing a deep goblet squat

If you can do five or ten in a row with the 25 pounder then it's not too heavy. It's OK if it's hard. Remember: if you can handle more than eight pounds, then do it. Light weights don't build muscle.

Muscles are muscles

The best way to build the muscle you want is to stop thinking of "lean, beautiful muscles" as something different from "muscles". Muscles grow when you work them hard and heavy. They grow stronger and bigger, but if you're a woman, then they don't grow that much bigger because you don't have the hormones to do so. Don't worry about being big and bulky because it doesn't happen by accident.

Focus on 1) getting stronger with heavy weights and 2) making yourself sweat a lot with cardio or circuit training. Three to five sets of five to ten deep squats with a heavy weight is fine. Working on basic movements like push-ups and inverted body rows is good too. (If you want more specific advice then be more specific about what you're doing. Pinterest has a lot of bad exercises and a few good ones.)

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    I tried 10 deep squats (but wow, that lady in the photo is going super-deep) with 25lbs dumbells, and while it was quite hard, it feels great!. – Glowie May 24 '15 at 21:28
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    @Sonihal Way to go! – Dave Liepmann May 24 '15 at 21:56
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There is no universally "best" set/rep scheme for any goal. Building muscle can be done with any set/rep scheme (within reason), and getting them lean is all about losing fat around the muscles. Fat loss is usually done by dietting and some cardio work.

We have a term called "progressive overload" which is how we gain muscle. We achieve this by using plenty of different set/rep schemes; in other words, variation!

So let's say you're working with 10lb weights, and can do 2x4 (2 sets for 4 reps). Try to work your way up to being able to do 3x8 with these weights.

For instance, next time, see if you can do 3x4, then work your way up through 3x5, 4x4, 5x5 etc. until you can do something like 3x8 or even 5x8. At this point, it would be wise to increase the weight, and start using maybe 15lb weights, and try to achieve 8-rep sets there too.

This way, you're always challenging your muscles in new ways. If you do the same set/rep scheme with the same weight over and over, your muscles won't be making any progress. They're just getting used to doing it.

It's like if you're learning math, but you're solving 2+2 over and over. Yes, you're doing work, but are you learning anything?

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  • I like the math analogy – Glowie May 24 '15 at 21:26

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