In the natural habitat of the gym, we often see men gravitate towards the weight room and women hover near the cardio machines. While being a cardio queen is not a bad thing, we need to clear up a few things about women and weight lifting. Let’s start with some common myth busters that we have heard during our times as trainers. Our favorite is “if women lift, they will get ‘bulky’ and look like men.” Another one is, “you should do crunches to get rid of belly fat.” Or how about, “the way to weight loss is cardio.” You have most likely heard at least one of these as you work your way through piles of fitness articles detailing the latest trend to get results FAST! The truth is that if you want to get lean, lose stubborn body fat, and make your body into a calorie-torching machine, you need to pick up heavy weights.
Strength training does not make you bulky, it will make your muscles stronger. Now if you pump yourself full of testosterone and eat way more calories than you are burning every day, sure, you could get bigger. It is not in a females’ genetic makeup to “bulk up” naturally. By challenging your muscles with strength training, you will make your muscles stronger. As you get stronger you will gain more muscle and in turn, will burn more calories at rest because muscle burns more calories than fat. Now don’t go and pick up the three-pound weights and think that by doing more repetitions you will get the results you desire. You need to pick weights up that stimulate your muscles to fight gravity and make you think about it. You know what makes your muscles work, so go and do it for 8-12 repetitions with good form. The weight room allows you to prepare your body for movements you do every day and ensure you are protecting yourself from injury. Think about that heavy holiday box you have to lug up the stairs each year; wouldn’t it be nice to be able to pick that up with ease and defend yourself from what could be a perhaps painful back injury? There are important daily functional moves you can practice in the weight room to safeguard your body and joints from harm.
As women age, we are at greater risk of osteoporosis. This means that our bones are not as strong and can be more prone to fractures. The good news is that strength training decreases the risk of osteoporosis! Strength training also increases metabolism, improves balance and posture, decreases back pain, enhances mood, and reduces stress. The benefits of strength training are vital to composing the physique and tissue structure that will make your body into a lean engine ready to tackle the tasks of daily life. If you are wondering why you haven’t seen the results you want or those toned legs or celebrity arms, consider learning how to lift weights properly and see what happens.
If you’re a woman interested in learning more about how to develop a more comprehensive fitness program that includes lessons like this, join our 8-week Spring Women on Weights Series! Find out more information and how to sign up HERE.
Lauren Heap is a Senior Fitness Specialist at the CU Anschutz Health and Wellness Center.