Along your way to building a healthy and happy body and mind one of my first recommendations for women is to begin lifting weights. I know you may be thinking, “Lift weights!? How will this make me healthy and happy? And, won’t I get big and bulky?”
These are legitimate and reasonable questions and concerns. So I am going to address each one and then move onto some steps to get you started with strength training. If you already strength train, then great for you! I hope you can still find some useful tips below.
First, let me address the concern of getting big and bulky from lifting weights.
I understand the concern over this. Very few women want to have really big muscles. But here is the thing: women lack the hormonal makeup to build a significant amount of muscle. They lack adequate amounts of certain hormones such as testosterone, which is a very important hormone for muscle building. Women do have a small amount of testosterone, but it is about 20 times less than the amount men have. This is a large reason why men are able to build muscle much easier. And sometimes we still struggle with this!
If you are still thinking, “Well how about those female bodybuilders? They have a lot of muscle.”
You must get over this association and understand that this is not realistic for most women. Many female bodybuilders are eating and training specifically to put on as much muscle mass as possible – it is their goal. They spend hours training with weights and eating many calories to support this muscle growth.
Many female bodybuilders also supplement with drugs to overcome their poor muscle building hormonal profile.
Therefore, unless you have naturally high levels of testosterone, which is possible in the case of some women, and/or are taking drugs, you just do not have the hormones to build a significant amount of muscle mass.
Lastly, I want to say that an intelligent weight training program for women will also manipulate training variables such as sets and reps performed to prevent any significant muscle gains.
For example, many male athletes, let’s take MMA competitors, compete within specific weight classes (e.g. featherweight, welterweight, middleweight) so they have to keep their body weight in check. These guys still lift weights. They know that it will help build stamina and keep them lean and strong. Their coaches create programs that keep their weight in check without building excessive muscle.
To summarize, you do not need to fear getting bulky from lifting weights. As a woman, you lack the hormonal environment to do so and a well-written program will prevent such a thing from occurring.
If you already feel like you are overly muscular, I want you to make sure that it is not excess fat that is making you look this way. I hate to say that, but a lot of women mistake fat for muscle.
Now that we have gotten over your fear of bulking up from lifting weights, let’s look at why it is so beneficial for women.
Benefits of lifting weights
–It is a very effective way to lose fat. Time and time again research has shown that resistance training is a more effective way to lose fat than traditional forms of cardio (e.g. jogging, biking, ellipticizing – is this a word?).
–Building muscle helps speed up your metabolism during rest so you can burn more fat throughout the day even when you are not working out.
–Building muscle creates more definition (i.e. “tone”). Like I said in my previous article, if you try to lose fat by under eating and performing excessive cardio, you will only look skinny. You will have no muscle underneath to give you that “toned” look many women desire. Muscles give your body shape.
–Weight training increases strength and bone density. Research has shown that women often lose muscle mass, strength, and bone density as they age and lifting weights (that are of a challenging load) is one of the best ways to combat this.
–Weight training builds stamina and energy so that you can keep up with your kids and family, go harder during your “cardio” sessions, and just feel more energetic throughout the day.
–One of the biggest benefits I have seen from women who lift weights is increased confidence. They are able to carry heavier grocery bags, deal with their kids easier, and feel more self-sufficient.
Well, I was planning to now give you some steps to get started resistance training, but I think I am going to save that for a future post. This one has already gotten longer than I anticipated. I just wanted you all to know how beneficial lifting weights is for your well-being.
If you are still timid about getting started, get a friend, or even better, a group of women on board with you. It is a great social activity. Once you have rounded up some people to train with hopefully I will have my next article out to get you all started. 🙂 I will provide an equipment-free workout that you can perform at home and an additional one for those who have access to weights.
Lastly, here is a little video of some of the awesome women I work with at IFAST.
Have a great week everyone!