Buff Brides

Here’s how to put those weight-lifting fears to rest and get toned for your Big Day.

With so much to do, you need to be efficient. If you’re spending hours on the elliptical machine, it’s time to step off and head to the weight room. And to debunk those weight-lifting myths, we’ve enlisted Liz Tambascio, ACE-certified personal trainer and co-owner of Shangosoul in Boston, to convince you that you can be a buff (but not bulky!) bride.

You’re thinking: “Women don’t belong in the weight room.”

False: Society embraces strong women. Tambascio recommends fighting the fear of weight lifting with, well, weight lifting. “People will find that they like feeling strong,” she says. “As your strength increases, your mind-set changes.” Before you know it, you’ll own that weight room.

You’re thinking: “If I lift weights, I’ll bulk up and look masculine.”

False: “Women, we just don’t have the testosterone to bulk up and look like a man,” says Tambascio. Physically, unless you take steroids or hormones, the vast majority of women can’t bulk up to a man’s level. If you still doubt, Tambascio challenges you to lift until you see the bulk. Then you can stop. “Until then, go for it. You aren’t just going to wake up with 30-inch biceps.”

You’re thinking: “There’s no point to weight lifting until I lose my fat by doing cardio.”

False: Pound for pound, muscle burns 9 times as many calories as fat, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. “Muscle uses up energy,” says Tambascio. “So if you have more muscle, your body is burning more fat minute to minute.” She recommends mixing calorie-burning cardio with muscle-building resistance training so that your body will keep working, even after you’ve stopped.

You’re thinking: “Since I’m a woman, I should do more repetitions with lower weights.”

False: Challenge yourself with heavier weights. According to Tambascio, “If you’re lifting so light that you aren’t [fatiguing] the muscle, you’re wasting your time.” You might as well spend more time doing cardio. As a guideline, start with a weight that you can comfortably lift for two sets of 8-12 repetitions. After a few weeks, work up to three sets of 8-12 reps and then move on to the next weight. “It should burn,” says Tambascio. “It’s not bad to have a little muscle shake at the end.”

You’re thinking: “I’ll just hurt myself because I don’t know how to lift weights.”

Well: OK, ladies, we’ll concede on this one. You should take time to learn technique—don’t just try to figure it out on your own. Consult with someone at the gym or bring in a certified personal trainer. “The best way to prevent injury is to learn proper form,” says Tambascio. “There are basics you can learn quickly.”