When we talk to prospective female clients about their fitness regimes, many tell us that they belong to a gym but rarely go, or that they don’t really know what to do when they are there and aren’t seeing results. When we delve a little deeper, we discover that their gym routines are predominantly cardio-focused; lengthy spells on the treadmill, cross trainer & rowing machine or endless spin classes. And whilst there is a place for cardio in any exercise regime (particularly High Intensity Intervals or Tabata), long bursts of ‘steady-state’ cardio really aren’t the most effective way to create a strong, tight body!
Why is it then, that so many women are reluctant to ditch their cardio routines (which usually aren’t giving them the results they are looking for) and give weight training a go? Maybe they’re worried about becoming too muscly or bulky? Yet it would be extremely rare for this to happen, even when lifting really heavy weights! In reality, strength training creates a stronger, tighter and leaner female body, which, without fail, is what our clients are looking for!
So, apart from the obvious benefits of looking lean, sculpted, strong (and dare we say; sexy!), why else should women weight train?
Build Muscle and Burn Fat
Weight training helps the body to build lean muscle. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism and the more calories you burn – even at rest! Plus, after an intense weight training session, the body continues to burn calories, causing an increase in fuel (fat) consumption. The body breaks down fat stores, releasing free fatty acids into the bloodstream where they are burned off. This is known as EPOC or Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption.
The more muscle you have, the stronger and fitter you are, which makes everyday tasks easier; from lifting the shopping, the kids, (the dog), to running upstairs or for the bus!
Improve Bone Strength
Lifting weights strengthens your bones as well as your muscles, improving bone density and reducing the risk of fractures and osteoporosis. This is crucial for women, who are four times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men.
Lower Blood Pressure
As with most exercise, regular weight training helps to lower blood pressure.
Reduce Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Aerobic activity has long been associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes – now, recent studies by the Harvard School of Public Health (August 2012) show a clear link between regular weight training and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes as well.
Strengthening the muscles of the back, neck, shoulders and core helps to strengthen and preserve the spine, reducing lower back pain and allowing you to stand straighter and taller. As well as improving posture, strength training with free weights is a great way to improve balance and co-ordination, something which becomes increasingly important the older we become.
Improve Cardiovascular Health
Pumping iron means you’re also getting your heart pumping, making it stronger and lowering your resting heart rate so that it doesn’t have to work so hard when you’re not training!
Improve Performance – Reduce Injury Risk
Weight training helps to strengthen joints, ligaments and tendons. It can correct muscle imbalances and improves balance and co-ordination. All of which can help improve functional performance and reduce the risk of injury both in sports, and day-to-day activities.
Improve Mood – Reduce Stress
In common with all exercise, weight training releases endorphins, which help to improve your mood, reduce stress, anxiety and depression and create a natural high!
So, what are you waiting for? Go grab some weights and get started! Start with something easy; add a dumbbell shoulder press at the top of your squats, a lateral shoulder raise into your lunges, overhead triceps extensions and standing bicep curls. As you become more confident, don’t be afraid to give big compound movements like barbell squats and deadlifts a go.
Train with weights that feel relatively heavy for you – starting out small is fine, but you should be looking to progress as you become more confident (sticking with 2kg dumbbells isn’t really going to serve much purpose!). As a guide, if you can perform more than 12-14 repetitions of an exercise in one go, the weight you are using probably isn’t heavy enough for you. Your rep range should be more like 8-10 max and the last couple of reps should feel difficult!
Happy lifting ladies! Let us know how you get on and please contact us if you would like any specific advice.