Most people have heard by now that it’s a good idea for women to lift weights.
You may be wondering ‘Why? Won’t that make me bulky? I don’t want big muscles!’
This post will tell you why (and no, you won’t get big muscles, unless you really want them). Lets face it, most ladies want to lose fat, and tone up their stomach, bum, arms and thighs. Forget long slow walks on the treadmill. Weights are THE thing to do if this your goal. Here are some of the main reasons why.
#1. Weights will not make you ‘bulky’
You’d have to train extremely hard and high volume to build considerable muscle as a woman. Unlike men, women do not have the testosterone levels required to create a lot of muscle.
Instead, for a woman, lifting weights will shape and sculpt the muscle you do have, while helping you to burn away the fat on top. This is how you create a strong, toned, athletic physique.
#2. Lifting weights will increase your metabolism and help you burn fat
A session in the gym lifting weights can cause metabolism (the rate at which your body processes and burns calories) to rise for up to 48 hours after as the body recovers and replenishes muscle and oxygen stores.
Stronger and more dense muscle tissue burns extra calories, meaning you can eat more and still stay lean.
#3. Weights training helps you hold onto muscle and look toned
If you are aiming to lose weight and so are reducing your calories, your body will often preferentially burn muscle rather than fat. This is because muscle is more metabolically active than fat, meaning it uses up more calories just to maintain it’s existence.
For a body that is sensing there’s not a lot of food around, hungry muscle tissue is a bad thing, while having a layer of fat to protect vital organs in the event of a famine is considered a good thing. And so the calorie-hungry muscle is burned for energy rather than the helpful fat.
If, however, you don’t drop your calories too low (I’ll do a post on this), you eat enough protein (I’ll do a post on this too) and you train with weights, you are telling your body that it needs that muscle, and encouraging it to burn the fat instead.
#4. Lifting weights is EMPOWERING.
As a woman, it is a truly awesome feeling to know that you are STRONG – you have power and strength in your body and are more than capable of using it at any point. It builds confidence and self respect. You don’t need to ask a man for help to lift something. I LOVE seeing my ladies transform as they realise what they can do.
#5. Long term health benefits
Regularly lifting weights has been shown to help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, and improve sleep and energy levels. And I’ve seen this happen time and time again with my clients.
Plus, it’s great for your posture, and for reducing your risk of hurting yourself in daily life. Most people these days spend their lives sat in cars, at desks, on trains, on sofas, and then they lie down and go to sleep! It’s no wonder people do their back in bending down to tie a shoelace.
The body is designed to MOVE. To jump, run, carry, crawl, climb and to LIFT! Training progressively using weights restores the balance and strength required to have a healthy posture, strong bones, muscles and tendons, flexible joints and a tight core.
You are far less likely to get injured in any activity if you have spent time using your body in the way it was designed and built a solid foundation of strength and muscle.
So there you go. These are just some of the extensive list of benefits.
All this talk of weights usually prompts the next question;
‘So what about cardio?’
There is nothing wrong with cardio. But it is not the best method for weight loss, or for creating the toned body shape that most people are after.
Cardio has long been recommended for weight loss because it burns calories. It does burn calories, and in fact an hour of cardio will often burn more calories during the session than an hour of weights training. The problem is what happens after.
With weights training, as explained above, you get an afterburn of calories that lasts up to 48 hours beyond the session. Plus you build muscles that burn more calories every day. With cardio, once you stop moving, the calories stop being burned, and that’s it.
Frequent long distance cardio is linked with increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can have a negative effect on weight loss, encouraging the body to keep hold of fat. This is particularly true if you have a stressful daily life anyway. Lots of extra cardio can just add to your stress bucket.
On the other hand, some people find cardio helps them de-stress. This is great, although there still tends to be threshold of time before it creates a negative impact. A mixture of both weights and some form of cardio tends to suit people best.
Most people have something cardio-based that they enjoy doing – walking / running / cycling / swimming etc. If you like it, do it! Just make sure you do weights too, preferably at least 2-3 time per week, and treat that as your priority.
To get the best out of weights training you do need a program that suits your goals, abilities and current levels of fitness.
If you need help with this, you have a few options –
- Chat to an instructor at your gym – most gyms offer free programs to members to get them started.
- Hire a personal trainer – this is the best way to fast-track yourself to great results. A good trainer will assess your starting level, take into account injuries and other potential issues, design and guide you through a program tailored to your goals, and keep you inspired, motivated and accountable to it. (If you live in or around Haywards Heath get in touch)
- Sign up for online coaching – if you live far away from Mid Sussex, I can still provide you with the training and nutrition plan you need. Click on the link for more info.