Ladies – listen up. If you’re looking for a body so toned, so lean, it would make even Cameron Diaz wanna cover up, then you need to be lifting weights.
No disrespect to cardio, but if you’re wanting to blast fat and be in the best shape of your life, then strength training is where it’s at. And here’s six reasons why.
1. … Because you WON’T look manly!
This is by far the most widely touted fitness myth – but still, for so many women, the idea of lifting weights conjures up mental images of huge, manly arms and thighs… covered in fake tan that could double-up as Creosote (you know, that stuff they paint fences with!).
So today we need to tell you that, believe us, female body builders work incredibly hard for that extremely muscular look. It takes years of intense training, strictly restricted diet and lifestyle, and even sometimes the use of hormonal therapy (yes, steroids) to look that way. Plus, buckets and buckets of St. Tropez – and we’re talking dark lotion, not the medium mousse.
For the average female gym-goer, incorporating weight-training into your workout will not have you looking bulky or manly because we simply don’t have the testosterone in our bodies to do so.
It’s testosterone that’s behind large increases in bulk and muscle mass – so as we only have a fraction of this hormone (compared to men) it’s in fact extremely difficult to look massive or manly. So, chances of you looking like a bloke in Beyoncé’s latest line of Topshop sportswear are actually slim to completely non-existent. Yay!
2. Get curves in all the right places
Ok so strength-training truth Number ONE is that you can’t spot-reduce body-fat – but hear us out on this one.
While you can’t choose to lose weight from a certain area, you can choose to target certain muscle groups with weight-training. We all have body hang-ups, from bingo wings to back fat, so it’s best to focus on what you want to change. Sculpt your body and put curves in all the right places!
Want a more rounded, lifted, firmer butt? Blast it by getting serious about your squats. Want arms à la Jen An in Friends? Focus on your biceps, triceps and shoulders with curls and raises – your results will soon be Rachel-wardrobe-worthy. Did that girl ever wear sleeves?
3. Strength-training boosts metabolism and burns calories
Allow us to explain, with the help of science.
Lifting weights = Increased muscle mass
Muscles = Metabolically active
More muscles = Elevated metabolism
Basically, the higher your Basal Metabolic Rate (remember when we explained metabolism and included seven tasty snacks to make it soar?) the more calories you burn on a daily basis. The more muscular you are, the more cals you burn, even when you’re laying down or sleeping.
Strength-training also continues to burn calories long after you’ve put the weights down too – unlike cardio which only burns them when you’re active (i.e. sweating like a pig on the treadmill and trying not to collapse. Anyone?). This is because when you lift weights, your body needs to repair and build the muscles after they’ve been stressed during the workout.
4. You can eat more carbs…
And what’s not to love about that?
No, seriously, when women lift, we get to eat all the carbs. Ok, so not all the carbs (back away from the second bagel…) but you do need more carbs for energy when you’re strength-training. If you’re not properly powered-up, you won’t be able to lift with as much effort and your workout won’t be as successful.
It’s easy for us girls to be scared of carbohydrates – loads of us wonder if by upping our carb-intake we’ll be more likely to gain weight, but this simply isn’t the case if you’re putting the graft in in the gym. Lift with intensity, go bigger and heavier and have consistency – you can then introduce more carbs to fuel your changing physique.
5. Give your bones a boost
As we get older (sob!) our bone mass very gradually decreases. When we reach our late thirties (eek!) its drops significantly – and this is when we could do with the extra help. Before you even reach this point, lifting weights can help – hugely.
While this might not be your main concern right now, women are actually at a much higher risk than men of suffering from osteoporosis, a brittle bone disease. To reduce risk of fracturing and breaking bones, lift weights – it’ll help build muscle mass, increase your bone density, and increase your strength, which will help you later in life.
Build a better foundation for your future old lady bones... Lift!
6. Boost your confidence even MORE!
Forget your bones. Well don’t, but we forgive you if you want to focus on the confidence-boosting bit about weight lifting. This has to be one of the most empowering forms of exercise – and it should be celebrated.
It’s satisfying to hit your personal bests, as you continue to grow and improve and get stronger, increasing the weight you lift each time. You’ll burst with capability and confidence, as you start to finally understand the true meaning of ‘strength-to-strength’.
Whether lifting a heavier barbell in a perfectly executed bench press, or flipping a tyre that’s twice-your-size in boot camp… Lifting weights feels good. Being physically strong does wonders for your mental health and emotional state – and you’ll believe in yourself more than ever before. Try it and see.
Don’t be afraid of the boys
We could go on – the list of reasons why women should lift is as long as if you lined up a bag of Little Oats on the floor, one by one. Next time you hit the gym, grab the nearest girl (if you know her) and get over to the ‘boys’ bit… a.k.a the weights area.
Don’t bowl in and go straight for a 40kg bicep curl. Download a specially designed fitness plan or hit up YouTube to learn techniques and form.
Even better, bag yourself a free session with a hunky PT, or ask one of the fitness coaches that float around the gym. They’re trained and they’re willing to help – believe us, they’re not just there to help fish your keys from behind the lockers when disaster strikes and you drop them. It does happen.