Lifting weights has been an initial concern for some of my female clients over the years. Things are slowly changing but women still tend to concentrate on cardio vascular exercise, avoiding weights altogether, perhaps more especially in a gym environment.
The reasons for this are varied. For example, the free weight areas of some gyms can appear to be a male only environment with men lifting heavy weights. However, all areas of a gym should be inclusive, and the more familiar you become with how to use weights, the greater your confidence in using that area.
There is also a belief that cardio vascular exercise is the best way to burn fat. And there is a concern that if men can develop bulky muscles by lifting weights, then women will too. So, what is the truth?
- Strength Without Bulk
Research has shown that women are unlikely to gain significant muscle size from strength training. The main reason is low levels of testosterone – this hormone is a key factor in the growth of muscle tissue (hypertrophy). Indeed, a man who wishes to gain significant muscle mass would need to combine long periods of time lifting weights with a rigorous diet.
Most women want to tone up, and gain definition without bulk, and cardio vascular training certainly contributes to the removal of body fat, but a planned weight lifting routine is also vital. You should start with light weights in order to master the correct form, but it is also essential to regularly increase the intensity in order to challenge the musculature, to continue to get results and avoid plateaus.
An increase in strength by way of a functional muscular training programme will ensure that all of your workouts are more productive. And, of equal importance is that an increase in overall strength means that every-day life is so much easier.
- Lose Body Fat
As the amount of lean muscle tissue in your body increases so does your basal metabolic rate. And for each additional pound of muscle you gain by lifting weights, your body will burn extra calories every day.
- Decreased Risk of Osteoporosis
Research has found that weight training contributes to an increase in overall bone density and that this, coupled with an adequate amount of dietary calcium, is a potent defence against osteoporosis.
- Improved Athletic Performance
Strength training has been proven to assist athletic ability. For example, golfers can significantly improve their driving power; Cyclists are able to continue for longer with less fatigue and skiers can also improve technique and build the strength in bone, and connective tissues necessary to avoid injury.
- Reduced Risk of Injury
As mentioned previously, strength training not only promotes stronger bones, and muscles but also connective tissue such as ligaments & tendons – this is vital for stability at the joints, thereby preventing injury.
- A Way to Fight Depression
Studies have shown that all forms of exercise can have significant beneficial effects on the symptoms of clinical depression. Women who incorporate strength training into their exercise programmes report feeling more confident and capable, both of which are significant factors in the fight against depression.
So, there are compelling physiological, and aesthetic, reasons for including a weight training session in each of your workouts.
However, as with all forms of exercise, in order to maximise the benefits you also need to be mindful of what you are eating and drinking. But by combining the benefits of both cardio vascular as well as strength training components into your programme you can look forward to a much stronger, leaner and toned physique.