By Fitness Expert, Personal Trainer and Online Coach Adam Batchelor of NRG FOR LIFE.
Women and Weight training
Many women still worry that weight training will somehow transform them into Hulk like men, so they spend their precious and hard earned exercise time performing purely cardio in a quest to achieve or maintain their ‘feminine’ figure. This is one of the biggest myths and mistakes I see with members at the gym. But times are changing...
The truth is women just don't have the hormonal support to gain muscle mass like men. The hormone testosterone is responsible for large increases in muscle mass and women's testosterone levels are a fraction of mens’ levels. I can confidently say that that you can squat away without concerning yourself about how ‘beefy’ you might look.
Of course, there are women -typically professional bodybuilders or physique competitors, who look (in some peoples opinion) overly masculine. But this takes many years of training, dedication, and a particular lifestyle and supplement regime to achieve that level of muscularity. Unless you have similar ambitions, you don't need to worry about looking too muscular.
Maintaining an active lifestyle and lifting weights regularly can help balance your oestrogen levels by increasing lean muscle mass, which in turn increases metabolism, which then helps to burn more fat and reduce overall fat mass. Too much or too little oestrogen can make the difference between feeling firm or flabby. The result of fewer fat cells means more testosterone is available and less oestrogen is produced. Since SOME testosterone is needed to help you build lean muscle mass and reduce fat mass, the results of exercise are further improved. It’s a win win scenario!
Strong is the new skinny!
The good news is that training with weights increases your lean muscle mass and it is one of the best ways of improving physical fitness especially as you age.
Here are my top 5 reasons why women should lift weights:
1.Accelerates fat loss when combined with cardio alone
If you rely solely on cardio for your fat loss your metabolic rate will eventually stagnate as it adapts to the stress you’re putting on it. In fact a study recently published in the Journal of Applied Physiology showed that combining weight and cardiovascular training greatly enhanced the metabolic effects than of each mode of training performed separately.
- Shape YourBody
The reality is that the best way to best shape your body is to build muscle. If all you do is constantly endure long bouts of low/moderate intensity cardio then you are basically lowering your metabolic rate while potentially losing muscle mass. In the end, you will have more than likely lowered your bodyweight but increased your body-fat percentage and risk looking ‘skinny-fat’. Don’t think for a minute that you need to be a ‘cardio bunny’ in order to be lean and toned.
- Increase calorie expenditure
Regular and intense weight training actually boosts your metabolic rate throughout the day, which in turn makes you more efficient at burning body-fat when you’re NOT exercising. A huge benefit if you are somewhat sedentary the majority of the day. This is achieved through a process known as mitochondrial biogenesis – increased mitochondria in the cells. Mitochondria are basically the ‘cooking pots’ of cells and by increasing these you increase your metabolic rate/daily calorie expenditure. Numerous studies have illustrated that weight training greatly enhances such adaptations, while doing too much cardio can do just the opposite and actually decrease the number of mitochondria and thus lower metabolic rate.
- Improved Mental Health
Many females enter into the gym because they are not happy with the way they look and end up doing tons of cardio to try fix the issue. Many studies have found that regular weight training has been shown to greatly reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Most females will find that lifting weights combined with some structured cardio really does improve your body image and self-esteem; it can actually boost “feel-good” chemicals in the brain. In fact, studies show that lifting weights greatly increase beta-endorphins, which in turn modulates mood in a positive manner.
- Improved Bone Health
Osteoporosis is becoming more and more common in females both young and old, which can likely be attributed to a lack of physical activity and in particular a lack of load bearing exercises. Weight training exercise in particular provides loading stimulus - important for the maintenance and improvement of bone health. In fact, low bone mass is now recognised by physicians as a major risk factor for fractures in females. The chances of developing osteoporosis increases as women reach the menopause and beyond as oestrogen levels (which helps to protect bones amongst other things) decrease greatly. As previously discussed, weight-training helps to regulate oestrogen and thus help to combat the increased risk of osteoporosis. It is also one of the most effective ways to slow degeneration of bones health.
In order to truly get the best results from lifting, it is important to lift with purpose and direction. You can't just go blindly from dumbbell to machine to machine without first establishing which exercises and number of sets and reps and sequence that will help you reach your goals.
It is also important to remember that progression is the secret ingredient to every successful training program. Progression is the reason your body changes over time. You can't do the exact same movements using the exact same weight and reps for weeks and weeks and expect better results. The very definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. The same is true of your body. You need to constantly switch things up and once you develop a solid base, you can increase the weights, increase the reps, or decrease the rest periods; the list of variables you can change is endless...
That is where I come in... If you are not sure how to achieve your goals or need some direction and structure then get in touch! Together we can plan a bespoke resistance training cardiovascular and nutrition package just for you. You will not be disappointed with the results! I have over 18 years experience in the health and fitness industry and seen first hand the benefits of women lifting weights