There was once a time where weightlifting was considered the sole domain of gym-obsessed men who like to display their pecs in tight tank tops, but thankfully gender stereotypes associated with the fitness activity is slowly changing. In this article, Emma Friars, from Powerhouse Fitness, takes a look at why more women should begin weight training, outlining the potential benefits, and how you can get started.
For too long, the weights room in the gym has been viewed as ‘men’s territory’. As recently as 2011, just 0.9% of women were engaged in weight lifting (DCMS), and the popular misconception was that this training would lead to a bulkier frame, rather than the lean physique that a lot of women desire.
Thankfully, things are starting to change, and more ladies are lifting weights. We’ve had successful campaigns like #liftlikeagirl, which have helped to burst the masculine bubble around pumping iron, as well as the achievements of female lifters like Commonwealth champion Zoe Smith to inspire us (watch the magic moment here).
In this article, I’m going to take a look at some of the benefits of weight training, as well as how you should get started with your own lifting.
The overlooked benefits of weight training
There are still quite a few misconceptions about weight training. Some people don’t realise just how beneficial it can be for your health and how much it can help you achieve the body that you want. Let’s investigate some overlooked benefits.
It will help you lose body fat
Many people think that cardio is the best way to lose fat, but they’re wrong. Because weight training builds muscle, it also boosts your metabolism, so you’ll burn more calories throughout the day. A study published by Ideafit found that for each pound of muscle gained by the participants, 35–50 more calories were burned each day. Plus, it doesn’t present as much risk as cardio when it comes to muscle strain or other injuries.
It won’t make you bulky (unless you want it to)
Many women avoid weights due to the fear of getting big, but in actual fact, weight training will only add bulk if you want it to. Women generally have much lower levels of testosterone, the muscle building hormone, than men, which means that they tend to be much slower to bulk up than men. . There is the potential to build muscle mass, but to so do, you need to subscribe to an intensive training and diet regime.
It will boost your bone density
While weight training quite obviously strengthens your muscles, you might not have realised that it makes your bones stronger too. When you’re putting them under stress through training, they develop in density, which can reduce the risk of fractures and breaks, as well as guarding against osteoporosis in later life.
It will make you more confident in yourself
One of the great joys of weight training is reaching your limit, building your strength, then pushing your limit again. Hitting a progressive goal like this is a huge boost and can give you a lot of motivation. As you get stronger, you’ll become much more confident in yourself and your abilities, too.
How you can get started with weights
If you like the sound of these benefits, you should consider incorporating weight training into your fitness regime. I’ve put together a few tips that you should follow to help you get started.
Learn proper form before you get serious
Though experienced lifters might make it look easy, it’s important to learn the proper form for lifting, otherwise you risk injury and you won’t get maximum benefit. If you’ve never trained with weight before, it’s best to ask an experienced trainer for an introduction.
There are also helpful instructional videos from Livestrong you can watch. They cover barbell full squats lifts as well as a few other moves.
Don’t skip your warm-up
Weight lifting can be deceptively hard work. Even though it doesn’t have as much of the constant dynamic motions of cardio exercise, you should never be tempted to skip your warm-up. If you do, you’ll leave yourself open to injury, so you should always make time for a few exercises to get your muscles warmed up before training. Some light cardio, like walking or jogging, should leave you limber and ready to lift.
Know which weights are right for you
It’s important to establish which type and what level of weight you need to exercise effectively. Dumbbells are a safe choice for beginners as they are easy to handle and versatile enough to be worked into a variety of exercises.
To discover the level you should be lifting at, choose a weight that you can comfortably lift, stand with your back against a wall with the dumbbells at your waist, then curl the weights to shoulder level without moving your upper arms. If you can easily manage 14 reps, try going up to the next weight and repeating until you feel like you’re getting a real workout.
Hopefully this article has inspired you to consider getting into weight training. This type of exercise has a lot of benefits and is fairly easy to get into, so be sure to give it a try.