I’m a big advocate of women lifting weights. Weight training has changed my body and mental health in ways I would need to write another article to explain. Below are just a few of the top reasons women should lift weights…and normally I don’t use words like “should” because everybody is different, but adding weight training to your routine is more than just a strong suggestion. So, if you read something below that makes you say, “Yes, I need this in my life!” start weight training or increase your weights at your next workout.
Muscle is a fat-burning furnace. If fat loss is your goal, building muscle is one of the surest ways to make your body work for you instead of feeling like it’s working against you. That’s what you want for all your effort in the gym, right? To not have to spend all your time in the gym. This is how you get off that hamster wheel of doing cardio and losing a little weight here and there only to gain it all back – lift weights, build muscle, have more muscle than fat so the muscle continues burning fat long after the workout ends. Repeat for life. This means you can go on vacation and actually enjoy yourself because you know all that muscle you’ve built is working for you. It’s also how you can stop worrying about “starting over” again after a brief setback. Your ‘fat-burning furnace’ muscle works around the clock.
Improve your bone density and slow the process of bone loss. You may have heard that women lose bone density and strength through the hormonal changes that happen in menopause, but did you know that bone loss starts in your 30s? Weight training can slow and even reverse the side effects of bone loss. Training with dumbbells, barbells and Olympic plates provides weight baring stimulus to your bones and helps improve bone density. Weight training also improves the support system of your bones to include your muscle mass, ability to balance your body weight and the overall strength of your connective tissue. Squats, lunges and step ups are best for improving bone density in the hips and spine where most falls and major injuries from those falls occur. Training muscle fibers for stabilization and strength means you’re better able to catch yourself and prevent yourself from falling and fracturing or breaking a bone.
Hormone optimization (making the best use of your hormones) with heavier lifting. Weight training is the best way to naturally increase human growth hormone, which is to women what testosterone is to men. Exercises that target the greatest amount of muscle mass – deadlifts, squats, power cleans and presses – have been shown to help women optimize their hormones for health and physical fitness. Working the larger muscles before the smaller ones creates more circulation of growth hormone to then create an environment that supports muscle growth. Hormone optimization with weight lifting is achieved through heavier lifts, so don’t be afraid to increase your weights once you’ve mastered the lighter ones with proper form. Remember that delicate balance of intense exercise and adequate rest so as not to increase cortisol (stress hormone) levels. Moderate exercises such as swimming, yoga, and walking help balance your overall program.
Change your body composition (and stop fussing over the scale!). One of the biggest benefits is that lifting changes your body composition so you can stop fussing over the scale. It takes years of intense training and supplementation to get bodybuilder size muscle and naturally women don’t produce enough testosterone to gain that type of mass anyway. However, lifting weights will help you build a long, lean and strong physique; it literally changes the shape of your body. Trudging along on the treadmill won’t build your butt like weighted squats. Think of it like sculpting your body and using weights as your chisel. By the way, there is no such thing as “toning.” You either build muscle or you don’t. You can’t “tone” what isn’t there.
When you start weight training you can stop fussing over the scale. A woman in my December challenge group commented that she was on the cusp of being a size 18 before she started weight training in my group classes. She dropped to a size 14 after the first few months and is now on her way to a comfortable size 12. She said the scale didn’t reflect that much progress but her energy, dress size and body composition definitely show the results of all her hard work! She is really happy with how she looks and feels. Oh, the power of weights – I love it!
Mental focus, self-esteem and self-confidence. Try weight training and thinking about all your problems at the same time – it’s just not possible. For that 45 minutes, your focus is only on the weight you’re lifting and how your muscles feel…not the argument you had at work, your messy house, the scale or anything else. Your mind is laser focused and if you take it off the weights, you can get injured. When you look good you feel good but did you know that weight training boosts the brain chemicals that improve your mood and energy, thereby naturally improving your self-esteem and self-confidence? The feeling of accomplishment when you set and reach new personal goals (PRs) each month, push through that final rep and master new exercises…the list could go on and on!
A note on heavy lifting – The advice to “lift heavy” is subjective because one woman’s max is another woman’s warm-up and that’s ok. But, be sure to lift weights that truly challenge you to push through each rep with proper form.
There you have it ladies, the top benefits of weight training and yes, you can experience them all!
Registration is now open for my Women and Weights 6-week online coaching program for 2018. Click here for more information and to register. The program starts January 1, 2018!