The advantages of weight training offer mental, physical and overall health benefits for everyone.
Many people, the majority being women are afraid to brave the weight room fearing they will get ‘bulky’ or its only intended to be used by men, this is simply not the truth and women should not feel their only place in the gym is the treadmill in the corner or the designated ‘womens area’ with the baby pink weights, c’mon ladies your handbag weighs more than those things!. Cardiovascular training is great for your heart and burning a few extra calories, however it will not reshape your body, you will only become a smaller version of yourself. Lifting weights allows you to change the composition of your body. If your only goal is too lose weight then adjusting your diet and eating in a calorific deficit will almost certainly be enough, but most women want to change their shape, have defined shoulders and a pert derrier, this is where strength training can help.
Its very hard for a woman to get ‘bulky’, ask any professional female bodybuilder, it takes years of heavy lifting for a woman to create a lot of muscle mass, women simply don’t possess enough testosterone to build muscle as quickly as men. Usually when embarking on a weight lifting routine you will find that your weight goes up but your dress size goes down, this is because muscle weighs more than fat but takes up a lot less space. Resistance training will not only enhance and improve your figure but also help you burn more calories daily, those who have more lean body mass burn more calories just by existing, muscle is an active tissue and uses a lot of calories to sustain itself. It has been proven that weight training also allows you to burn calories before AND after training, unlike cardiovascular training, once you step off that treadmill the calories don’t keep burning, after resistance training your body continues to burn calories for hours even days after. As women age they lose muscle mass and as a result their metabolism slows, weight training revs up your metabolism allowing you to burn more calories. Weight training is also beneficial for your bones, it strengthens them and this is highly important for women because as we age our bone density decreases and we are at risk of osteoporosis. When you lift weights it puts stress on the bones which encourages them to build additional bone, the stronger your bones are the less likely they are to break. Having stronger muscles will also mean your balance improves, again decreasing the risk of a fall related accident.
In order to gain lean muscle mass you need to eat, many women have the misconception that in order to lose weight you need to embark on a low calorie diet, which to a certain extent is true, eating in a calorific deficit will lead to weight loss, however, muscles need fuel to perform at their best and recover, this fuel needs to come from a good source of carbohydrates, protein and essential fats. A good diet is crucial to achieving a lean sculpted body. Weight lifting burns a lot of calories so therefore you can afford to have a treat once in a while without setting yourself back. Adding muscle and burning fat as well as other bodily functions require energy, we provide our body with energy through food, its impossible to store excess energy if you do not eat more than you spend, only a surplus of calories will lead to weight gain. Anaerobic exercise (weight lifting) uses the fuel that we put into our bodies for energy, unlike aerobic exercise (cardiovascular) which uses oxygen as fuel to break down our food.
Many women use light weights with high reps, this will take a long time for them to build, if any, real muscle, there are two types of muscle, myogenic and neurogenic, myogenic is how full and hard your muscles look at rest, neurogenic is how full and hard your muscle is when flexing or working out. Training with lower reps and heavier weight will improve both types much more efficiently than using lighter weights until you ‘feel the burn’. If you want to spend double the time achieving what could be done in half then go ahead and use the light weights, the quickest way to get a toned tight physique is to use heavy weights, by heavy, you should use a weight that challenges you, you can perform 12 reps but by the tenth you should be struggling. If light weights built muscle then every woman would have guns of steel, I don’t know about you but I carry everything but the kitchen sink round with me in my bag which I carry round everyday.
Lifting weights and pushing yourself to your limits really lets you find out what you’re made of, when you try to increase your physical strength you find out how strong your mind is. Its a great stress reliever and studies have shown resistance training to lower blood pressure. You will gain confidence by changing your life through fitness and it will undoubtedly spread to other areas of your life. Having more muscle means you will be stronger and healthier, this will translate to your everyday life.
So ladies, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and brace the weight room, I promise you, no one is going to look at you and think ‘whats she doing here?’ or point you in the direction of the cardiovascular machines, everyone is at the gym to better themselves and more often than not they are too focused on themselves and their own workout.
By Heather Geary
Work hard, Work Out!