There is a misconception for many women who believe that if they weight train the weights they use must be light and they have to do countless reps (borrring!!). ‘Oh no, we can’t get bulky like men so we should stay away from those heavy weights!’ And even though there is so much good information explaining that getting bulky and losing femininity is nearly impossible, women still fear the weights. In fact, women can not get to be so big and ‘manly’ like men unless three things are involved: lifting heavy weights, while taking illegal drugs (ie. steroids), and eating excess calories.
There are so many benefits of using moderate to heavy loads with weight training that I want to cover them here and hopefully enlighten a few (or many).
Lifting heavy weights will make me bulky – that is simply not the case. Muscle is much smaller than fat if compared side by side. One pound of muscle takes up 3x less space than a pound of fat. So, even if you were to start lifting heavier weights than you’re used to you would actually get smaller and tighten up your body. As an example that being strong does not equal being bulky, look at the mothers who are lifting and carrying their babies along with all the extras (ie. diaper bag, sometimes car seat, etc all of which can easily weigh over 15 lbs). If that myth of lifting heavy will bulk a woman up were true, then those moms would look like Amazons! To lift heavy makes a person more capable of many things, from carrying their groceries, to performing yard work, to feeling a bit safer because she’s stronger and becomes more confident. If you look at the images below the percentage above each person is the body fat percentage. As the ratio of muscle to fat increases they get smaller and create more shape to their body.
I don’t need to lift heavy weights to lose weight and inches – Well, technically that is true but the type of weight you lose and your body shape would not be ideal. Without weight training you can’t tighten your muscles and ‘transform’ your physique. A women who is pear-shaped, with wide hips and narrow shoulders, can change her body to get the ideal hour-glass shape every woman wants if she lifts weights alongside the cardio and clean eating.
For instance, if a person were to strictly lift weights they could stand to lose quite a bit of inches and some pounds but still drop a dress size or three. If, on the other hand, that same person were to just do cardio exercise (what I call cardio queens) they would also lose weight and inches but the wrong kind of weight and inches in a disproportionate way. Putting nutrition aside a woman can lose upwards of 75% muscle by ignoring weight training. Sure, inches would be lost but they would still hold the same shape as before. For instance, a woman who has a pear shape and just performs cardio exercise to lose weight would shrink to a smaller pear shape.
You burn more calories at rest if you lift weights – Muscle is metabolically active which means it needs energy to function. By that definition if you weight train any activity you do (from combing your hair, to walking the dog, etc) will burn more calories than if you didn’t do any resistance training. Another benefit to this is that you don’t need to starve to look and feel great! Your body will need more calories since you’ll burn so much more from weight training. What woman wouldn’t want to eat more and not stress about how hungry she always is.
Aches and pains will disappear – This may surprise you but everyone has muscle imbalances, it’s just a matter of to what degree. The amazing thing with weight training and all things related (flexibility work, mobility, myofascial work, etc) is that you can live pain-free (or in much less pain that you’re presently in) if you have any aches, pains, or injuries. Many times its a matter of stretching or strengthening certain muscle groups. Tennis elbow, a very common issue for people ranging from office workers to cashiers and even tradesmen, can be resolved without surgery! Far too often doctors push the knife before referring them to a trainer who can help fix the problem. Another common complaint especially for anyone who has a desk job is constant lower back pain, tight shoulders, and/or frequent headaches. Even if you currently don’t experience any of these pains they will eventually come if you don’t do anything soon. For instance, frequent sitting promotes forward slouching, tightness in the neck and shoulders, poor spinal alignment, possible nerve and disc compression in the back, among other problems. Exercise will help stretch out the tight muscles and strengthen the weaker ones to promote overall mobility, flexibility, and healthy joints and muscles.
To sum up, weight training should be an essential element to everyone’s fitness routine. It can only help to improve so many aspects of one’s general health and fitness. Whether you’re an athlete, a stay at home mom, or a woman or man with your typical 9-5 job.
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