The statement that women should not lift weights is one of the biggest fitness lies perpetuated by the media.
This article is intended to provide some facts about the benefits of weight lifting for women, the drawbacks of a cardio only plan and provide women with the resources they need to begin a course of strength training.
I wish to instill a sense of balance. Yoga and cardio are fantastic, I do both regularly, but they should not be the only component of your personal fitness plan. Women should lift weights.
I know the main argument against this is “I don’t want to get too bulky” so let’s explore that.
Muscle is more dense than fat. It takes up less space.
If more of your bodyweight comes from muscle instead of fat, you will be smaller. If you replace a pound of fat with a pound of muscle you will take up less space, i.e you will be slimmer. By beginning a lifting program your bodyweight may slightly go up, but your dress size will go down.
This is where the scale becomes a liar. The scale only measures your entire body weight, it does not take the composition of your body into account. It does not give you separate numbers of lean body mass and body fat percentage. The mirror is a better gauge than the scale.
Don’t worry about gaining too much muscle, women produce only about 1/10 the amount of testosterone that men do. Testosterone is one of the most important hormones for building muscle. To become the she-hulk you would have to live in a weight room, be on a mind-bending amount of steroids, and eat an entire cow per day (including the hoofs).
Even the most testosterone laden men have a hard time building muscle at a certain point. Bodybuilders dedicate their entire lives to building muscle and only gain about 2-3 pounds per year. Their entire lifestyle, diet and exercise program is geared towards building as much muscle as possible, yet it happens at a glacial pace. You are not going to turn into some behemoth amazon woman by simply hitting the weight room a few times a week or month.
Strength training is much more effective than cardio at burning belly fat, that’s why most successful models have trainers who make them lift.
In simple terms when you perform cardio your body is burning both fat and muscle for fuel, when you lift weights your body is only burning fat(and carbohydrates stored in your bloodstream) for fuel. Long cardio sessions promote the release of a hormone called cortisol, which is generally associated with stress. This hormone promotes muscle loss and fat retention.
Lifting weights burns more calories than cardio both during and after a workout.
After completing a tough strength training session your body’s demand for oxygen(EPOC- excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) is higher for the next 16-36 hours, requiring more energy and calories burned to create this energy. While this may only mean you burn 10 extra calories per hour, it means you will burn as much as 360 extra calories over the next day by just existing. That slowly adds up if you are consistent with your strength training program.
Lifting weights will raise your Basal Metabolic Rate.
This rate is determined by the amount of lean body mass (muscle) you have. The more muscle you have the more calories you burn by just living and breathing. The more muscle you have the more energy your body needs, and therefore the more calories you burn by just going about your daily life.
You will strengthen your bones.
Lifting weights increases bone density by placing a larger demand on skeletal integrity. Your muscles and tendons tug on your bones when you perform a lift, and your bones respond by building more cells.
Toning is achieved through building muscle and burning fat.
You must "replace" fat with muscle in your body's composition. Do not be afraid to hit the weight room, in the long run it will provide a much more sustainable option to building your dream body.
Here is a woman who lifts and follows a normal diet routine:
Here is a woman who lifts and abused steroids for years:
You run no risk of looking like this lady by simply hitting the weight room a few times per week!
To sum it all up- weight lifting is good for everyone. It will burn more calories than a yoga class or an hour on the treadmill and will provide a longer lasting metabolic effect. I still encourage you to do yoga and cardio, but your fitness regimen needs to be well rounded. For it to be truly well rounded there needs to be an element of strength training.