Why Lifting Weights is Important for Women

If you want to lose body fat, gain confidence, increase bone density, and overall, look amazing, you have to lift weights. I don’t care if you are a man or woman.

When I first got into the fitness industry, women lifting weights was looked at as a little weird. Women were wrongfully categorized in the world of fitness; they were either a bodybuilder, who stood out like a sore thumb, a cardio queen spending endless hours on the elliptical machine, or a group aerobics junkie performing the same routine, class after class. 12239336_10208148592775565_6860538639256780135_o

We have come a long way since then but not far enough. The recent movement of Crossfit and Olympic lifting has helped change the game for women, that is for sure. Endless memes and quotes on social media have empowered women across the world to embrace the lifting realm. While this has been an amazing movement in fitness for women, there are still many people out there who still believe that lifting weights will cause excessive muscle growth, thus leading to a less feminine-looking physique.

Many of you understand that this is far from the truth. For the men reading this article, you know that gaining a significant amount of muscle is not that easy. The avid weightlifter looks to gain muscle for many years and in reality, they don’t get that much bigger. They want to get bigger, no doubt about it, but it’s just not that easy.

There are many variables that cause muscle growth and one of the most influential variables is hormones. Men have a clear advantage since our primary sex hormone is testosterone; a hormone that helps build boatloads of muscle during certain parts of a male’s life. Females, on the other hand, produce mostly estrogen and less testosterone.

A female’s hormonal environment is not optimal for appreciable muscle growth. Lifting weights will not naturally result in huge and masculine-looking muscles. It simply doesn’t happen that easily.

Besides, what exactly is bulky and masculine for women? The recent Crossfit Games showed physiques on women that are unbelievable. The combination of muscle, leanness, and performance is unmatched. I often hear people say how “un-feminine” some of the ladies looked. They were “too big, looked like they were on steroids, and did not look attractive.

Of course, this is a matter of opinion, I understand that but let’s think about it here. Would you call someone that was overweight or obese unfeminine? Would you call them “too bulky”? That isn’t cool. What about someone who is “too skinny” or someone who is “skinny fat”? Are they unfeminine, less of a woman, or unattractive because of the way they look? Again, a matter of opinion. Just because a woman loves to lift weights does not put them into a category. It simply means that they care about their body; they want to feel good, move better and increase their quality of life. In my opinion, that’s pretty attractive.

Find What Works!

I have always kept an open mind in this profession because it is important that trainers keep adding to their “toolbox”.  Trying different methods of training and exercise like yoga, pilates, and running has allowed me to better relate to my clients.  If I had never tried it, how could I knock it?  Now, don’t get me wrong. Yoga, Pilates, running, and other forms of fitness all have their own benefits. Body composition changes just aren’t one of them.

I also noticed the same results when my clients would partake in these forms of exercise. My clients that were not lifting weights more than once per week and were engaging in these forms of exercise just were not seeing the results that they needed from the other activities they were doing.

My women clients kept asking me how much cardio they should be doing in order to lose body fat. When my answer was no more cardio, they didn’t get it. So, I had to really educate them on why more cardio does not mean more fat loss. I would have them track their workouts by logging them for 2-weeks, or more. We would then analyze how much cardio they were doing in a week and then compare it to how much weight training they were doing. The cardio would win by a large margin. They also realized that this might be the reason why they are stuck with the same body even after working out so much. It was frustrating for all of us.

The bottom line is if you are running, on the bike, doing Yoga, and occasionally throwing around the light dumbbells, you will get minimal results in the fat loss, bone density, and “muscle tone” area.

Why lifting weights is so important

More muscle equals more metabolism: The most important reason that you should be lifting weights is to lose fat and build muscle. The effect that lifting weights has on your body composition is profound. The more muscle a woman has, the more calories she will burn at rest. So basically, muscles speed up your metabolism, resulting in fat loss. 12265782_10208148957584685_1589758139773989130_o

Bone Health: If you are a woman in your 20’s and 30’s, you probably are not thinking about osteoporosis yet, but you should be. Many studies have shown that lifting weights regularly can increase bone density. Other forms of exercise just don’t cut it when you are trying to keep your bones strong and healthy. The only true way to do this is to lift heavy stuff and then put it back down. Be proactive now, so you don’t have problems later.

Strong makes everything easier: I can’t stand it when a man or anyone else thinks that a woman is not strong and can’t carry in the groceries, move furniture, or carry heavy stuff. I am a big believer that women are independent and can do things themselves. They don’t need a guy to do everything for them. If you need to move something heavy, don’t call the neighbor guy, or wait for your hubby or boyfriend to come home. If you are lifting weights on the regular, you can do it yourself!

Creating independence for yourself is an amazing thing to feel. It always feels great when you accomplish a task that you thought you never could do. Lift some weights, get stronger, and get it done on your own.

Confidence: Walking into the gym knowing that you are going to crush a workout is such a confidence booster. In the past, women were left in the corner with the pink dumbbells, or in a group fitness class jumping up and down on a small step aerobics box. They were self-conscious and felt so out of place in the weight room. In today’s gym atmosphere, I have found that most women are much better at lifting weights than men. They work harder, push themselves to the limits and have better form.

When a woman realizes her outer strength, she can tap into her inner strength. and that begins to radiate. Confidence is a very attractive quality and that gym confidence starts to leak into every other aspect of life. A strong lady in the weight room = a confident lady outside of the gym.

The bulky thing debunked

The majority of women simply do not have the level of testosterone necessary to support a bulky physique. Furthermore, any woman that does have a massively muscular physique is probably supplementing with hormones. There are, of course, exceptions. I don’t have any data to back this up, but if I had to guess, maybe 0.00001% of the female population are blessed to have the cocktail of hormones that naturally can induce large amounts of muscle mass and fat loss.

If it was that easy to gain muscle, no bodybuilder would complain about how they are not gaining muscle, every college frat guy would be huge, and defensive backs in football would get so huge they would turn into linebackers. The bottom line, even men with decent testosterone levels and above-average genetics can not build muscle that easily.

Women often start out worried that they will get too bulky if they lift weights 2-4 days per week. They quickly find out that eating too much will make them look bulky. The reason is that we don’t train women to make them look too muscular. They are not supposed to do endless amounts of sets of isolation exercises and body part splits. We focus on full-body free weight training (squats, deadlifts, lunges, push-ups, pull-ups, rows, and presses), kettlebells swings, Turkish Get-ups, loaded carries and metabolic conditioning finishers. We use a combination of compound, full-body movements, as often as possible, to increase lean mass and decrease body fat.

What you put in your body still counts

We know that in order for all of this training to be effective, you have to get your diet in order. This is something that we all can agree on. I have found that the best way to do this is to reduce nutritional deficiencies, balance your macronutrients for your body type, pay attention to workout nutrition, increase food quality, and don’t worry about meal frequency.

So eat high-quality animal protein and lots of cruciferous vegetables, lots of healthy fats (avocados, extra virgin coconut oil, nuts) whenever your body needs it. Don’t eat when you are not hungry. Drink a ton of water and minimal caloric beverages,  chug a post-workout shake or Essential Amino Acids before and after your workout.

Don’t marry yourself to one method of eating (Paleo, low-carb, vegan, etc.). It will just limit your ability to choose foods and piss you off. Just combine them, since they all work when used properly.

The workout program12473908_10208578770609742_210841156979903189_o

Now that you have an understanding of why lifting weights is so important, let’s take a look at a 3-day a week program for someone looking to start a solid strength training program. There will be NO 3-pound pink dumbbells and endless hours on the Elliptical. This is a true weight-training program that gets the job done, ladies.

(Make sure to perform a proper dynamic warm-up that includes foam rolling, dynamic mobility, core work, medicine ball throws, and plyometrics. This should be brief, yet effective and only last 10-15 minutes. )

Day 1

  • Goblet squats: 8 reps
  • Push-ups: 8 reps
  • Kettlebell Swings: 15-20 reps
  • 1-Arm dumbbell row: 8 reps each side

Perform these in a circuit fashion for 3-5 rounds. Rest as minimal as possible.

Finisher: Perform a Farmer’s Walk for 3-5 minutes straight. Put the weights down as minimal as possible. Pick a weight that you can carry for 50 meters

Day 2

  • Deadlifts: 3-5 reps
  • Assisted Chin-ups: 3-5 reps
  • Dumbbell Push Press: 3-5 reps

Perform these in a circuit fashion for 3-5 rounds. Rest as minimal as possible.

Finisher

Burpees: Perform 8 rounds of 30 seconds on, and 30-seconds off. Try and match your previous rounds rep number each round.

Day 3

  • Inverted Row (TRX Row): 10-12 reps
  • Walking Lunges: 8 reps each leg
  • Dumbbell Chest Press: 10-12 reps
  • Single-Leg Deadlift: 8 reps

Perform these in a circuit fashion for 3-5 rounds. Rest as minimal as possible.

Finisher

Perform your favorite cardio exercise as hard as you can for 10 minutes. You can break it up into intervals if you need to.

It’s time to lift, ladies

Cardio, Pilates, Yoga, and step aerobics all have their place in the world of women’s fitness. I am a believer that you need to enjoy what you choose to do for exercise. But there comes a time when you need to do what’s best for your long-term health and fitness. Lifting weights is the most beneficial form of exercise for all women to include in their workout program. Women need to build muscle, women need to get stronger and women need to increase bone density. The data from studies prove that and the best way to achieve these goals is to throw around some heavyweights. Put away the aerobics steps and pink dumbbells for another time and pick up some heavy stuff and put it over your heads, ladies. Your body will thank you.


 

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