By Soji James, CPT, CSCS
Strength training benefits women in a number of ways. Firstly, it’s empowering. Heavy lifting will not only get you stronger, but it will help you attain the physique you want without leaving you looking like a bodybuilder. Hard work breeds results—and hard work includes lifting heavy.
There are many myths perpetuated throughout the fitness industry. Walk into any big-box commercial gym, and you will hear and see these fallacies immortalized. Look at the first treadmill, and you will probably see a middle-aged man going 4 miles per hour in order to stay within the infamous “fat-burning zone”. This zone exists but is highly misleading. He would be better off going at a higher intensity to burn a higher total amount of calories.
Next, look to an isolated corner of the free weight area and you will probably see a young man in his early twenties, hanging upside-down on a quest to complete 500 sit-ups. He probably doesn’t know that spot reduction doesn’t work (or that crunches aren’t the best exercise to build a chiseled core) and that the best way to reveal his dormant abs would be to burn off the layer of fat that is covering them and improve his dietary habits. This next myth holds a special place in my heart, and by a special place, I really mean it makes me want to punch a hole in a wall.
Look to almost every imaginable crook of the gym and you will see women of all ages and walks of life lifting dumbbells smaller than their purses for thousands of reps because they are scared of “bulking up”. As an individual who thinks that women are amazing and run the world, I believe that this is a highly limiting view to possess.
Here are 3 reasons why you need to lose the excuses and start lifting today.
Even though many women believe that the moment they lift something heavy they will immediately turn into the Incredible Hulk, muscle is actually pretty hard to build. Most men have to work pretty hard at it, and women lack the hormonal advantages that men possess. The women bodybuilders that you see? They eat, train, and take supplements specifically so that they can look that way.
The muscle pump after a workout that may be confused with getting “huge” is temporary; it actually takes time and precision for muscle growth to occur. One thing you will notice from lifting though? Daily chores such as picking up groceries, moving a chair, carrying a child, or pretty much anything that you may have needed help with before will be much easier. You will be less dependent on others, and this newfound strength will lead to new heights in your confidence.
The purpose of lifting weights is to build muscle—and this muscle, in turn, raises your resting metabolic rate or the amount of calories you are burning at rest. What does this mean? A leaner appearance with less body fat on your frame. (Bye-bye love handles, see you never!) Picking up a lightweight and lifting it for 20+ reps will increase your muscular endurance, but it won’t build the strong, dense and tight muscle that leaves you looking like a goddess. If you are looking to feel strong and look good at the same time you need to lift heavyweights.
More and more research shows that exercise is as good for your brain as it is for your body. Mental health is deservedly a hot topic right now in the wellness space, and while not a cure-all, weight lifting has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression such as low mood, a loss of interest in activities, and feelings of worthlessness.
One study also found that weight lifting is an effective way to manage symptoms of anxiety. Hormones that are produced during lifting have been shown to cross from the blood into the brain, triggering changes in both structure and function. So getting to the gym and lifting some heavy weights on a tough day could reduce stress and make you feel more confident/capable to tackle what life is throwing at you.
It’s never too late to pick up heavier weights and get stronger. If you don’t currently own a pair of dumbbells, you should look into the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells. They take you from 5lbs all the way up to 52.lb of weight and sport an impressive 4.5-star rating on over 4,000 reviews! Check here to see what everyone is raving about.