Most women have heard by now that lifting weights is beneficial for their health.
In fact, the NHS recommends that UK women aged 19-64 should engage in strengthening activities that work all of the major muscle groups (i.e., legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms) at least 2 days a week. You may be wondering "Why?! Won’t that make me bulky?! I don’t want big muscles!"
The answer is simply no (and you can find out why below).
The majority of my female clients want to lose fat and tone up their legs, bums and tums, and they are surprised when I tell them that lifting weights is THE thing to do to achieve that.
Here are five reasons why you should include weightlifting into your training programme.
1. Increased Strength Without 'Bulking'
Unlike men, women do not have the testosterone levels required to create a lot of muscle. Women typically have 10% of the testosterone (i.e., the primary muscle building hormone) that men have. Therefore, you’d have to train extremely hard and at high volumes to build considerable muscle mass.
Instead, lifting weights will shape and sculpt the muscles you do have, creating muscle tone and definition without the size.
2. Enhanced Metabolism, Increased Fat Loss
A session of lifting weights can cause your metabolism (i.e., the rate at which your body processes and burns calories) to rise for up to 48 hours after the workout. This prolonged boost in metabolism creates a higher calorie burn, resulting in greater fat loss.
3. Reduced Risk of Injury, Back Pain and Arthritis
Along with strengthening muscles, regular weightlifting increases bone density which reduces the risk of bone fractures. It also builds stronger connective tissue and increases joint stability, resulting in a reduced risk of low back pain and osteoarthritis.
4. Increased Self-Confidence, Better Mood
Exercising (including weightlifting) results in the production and release of several neurotransmitters including dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin and endorphins. These mood-improving chemicals help to relieve pain, reduce stress and fight depression and anxiety.
Additionally, women who participate in weight training programmes - including my own clients - commonly report feeling more confident and capable as a result of their programme.
5. Reduced Risk of Developing Heart Disease and Diabetes
Regular weightlifting improves cardiovascular health by lowering "bad" cholesterol (LDL) levels and increasing "good" cholesterol (HDL) levels, which can result in lower blood pressure.
Including weight training as part of your routine can also improve the way your body processes sugar, lowering your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
What About Cardio?
There is nothing wrong with cardio. However, it is not always the best method for weight loss or for creating the toned physique that most women are after.
Cardio (i.e., any exercise that increases the heart rate dramatically such as jogging or cycling) has historically been recommended for weight loss because it burns calories. It does burn calories, and in fact one hour of cardio will often burn more calories during the session than one hour of lifting weights. The difference between cardio and lifting weights is what happens when the workout is over.
With weights training, as explained above, you continue burning calories long after the session is over. In addition, you'll build more muscle and burn more calories over time. For every 3 pounds of muscle mass you gain, you can expect to burn an extra 120 calories per day without moving. With cardio, once you stop moving, the calories stop burning.
Ultimately, you have to enjoy the exercise you're doing in order to make it part of your weekly routine. If you love your morning walks with the dog, Sunday cycling, or Friday night Zumba classes with the girls - do it! Just make sure to also include weight training,
preferably 2-3 times per week and treat that as your priority.
How to Get Started
To get the greatest benefit from weights training, you'll need a programme that suits your goals, abilities and current level of fitness.
If you need help with this, you have a few options:
Chat to an instructor at your gym. Most gyms offer free programmes to members to get them started.
Hire a fitness coach. This is the best way to fast-track yourself to great results. A good coach will properly assess your starting level, take into account injuries and health conditions, design and guide you through a programme tailored to your goals, and keep you inspired, motivated and accountable. Check out my services to get started.
Sign up for online coaching. If you live far away from Kent or outside of England, I can still provide you with the training and nutrition plan you need. Book your free consultation with me to learn more.