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There are many reasons why women should be lifting weights on a regular basis. Lets talk about the benefits and bust some myths too!
Men vs. Women in the Gym
Walk into most gyms, and you will usually find some sort of gender segregation. Men tend to flock toward the weight room and women toward the cardio equipment. While rarely 100% male or female, each area tends to have an obvious majority.
Sometimes it even seems men naturally know how to lift weights, like they were born with the knowledge of strength training. Many women feel inadequate and fear they will embarrass themselves if they pick up a dumbbell.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. There are plenty of DUDES who have no clue what they are doing. And the ones who do know how to lift properly first had to learn. The knowledge was not passed down in their DNA.
So how does anyone learn how to properly lift weights? It’s simple. You watch others, talk to a personal trainer (listen in and watch someone else’s training session out of the corner of your eye, shhhh), watch a few YouTube videos, or ask your friends who lift weights.
As you learn, take a page out of the Nike handbook, and JUST DO IT. Whether at home or in a gym, start trying out various weight lifting exercises.
If you are worried about looking stupid at the gym, let me let you in on a second little secret. Most people lifting weights are too busy watching themselves in the mirror to notice what you are doing. And if they are watching you, then they too are probably trying to learn.
Weight Lifting Myths Women Should Ignore
Before we talk about the benefits of lifting weights for women, let’s discuss and put away some false fears you may have.
Myth #1: You will get too bulky from lifting weights.
Ladies, you simply do not have enough testosterone (which helps build muscle mass) to achieve the same big, bulging muscles as men. Your high estrogen levels actually prevent you from bulking up in most cases. You can achieve muscle definition without looking like a she-hulk.
Myth #2: Cardio burns more calories than lifting weights.
While you may burn more immediate calories running on a treadmill for half an hour than lifting weights for the same amount of time, the long-term total calorie burn will be higher with lifting weights.
You see, there’s a little thing called EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption) commonly referred to as the “after-burn”. Basically, that means you keep burning calories longer after completing a strength training workout as opposed to a cardio workout. Neat, huh!
One study found at 21 hours, post workout, an individual’s calorie burn continued to be elevated after a resistance workout (strength training/lifting weights). I don’t know about you, but the idea my body is still in an elevated calorie burning state while I sit my happy butt on the couch post workout is motivation enough for me to grab a dumbbell.
Why women should be lifting weights.
Now that we’ve debunked a couple of the popular myths, let’s dive into the benefits, and why you want to begin lifting weights.
The stronger you are physically, the less dependent you are on others for assistance. It will be easier to move heavy objects, change a tire on your car, and string a large load of groceries on your arm. We all know it’s a self-challenge to see how few trips we can make back and forth from the car to the kitchen after buying groceries.
2. Lose More Body Fat
As you increase your lean muscle mass you also increase resting metabolism. Lean muscle naturally creates a higher calorie expenditure. It’s free calorie burn! Who wants to pass that up?
3. Decrease Risk of Osteoporosis
One downside of getting older is we risk losing muscle mass and bone mass. Pre-menopausal women are at even greater risk because our bodies decide to give up producing estrogen, which has been linked to overall muscle and bone health.
However, we can combat this degradation with strength training. That’s right, lifting weights isn’t just for muscles! It slows down bone loss and has also been shown to build bone.
4. Reduce Risk of Injury
Lifting weights not only strengthens our muscles and bones, but also the connective tissue in our bodies. It’s all connected, right? When you strengthen connective tissue, you stabilize joints, which results in fewer injuries.
5. Boost Heart Health.
Did you know! Cardio exercise is not the only workout to get your heart pumping! In fact, according to my Apple Watch, certain strength training exercises, especially a leg workout, raise my heart rate as high as running! I get a cardiovascular, muscular, and skeletal workout ALL-IN-ONE.
That’s called efficiency!
6. Muscle Definition
I don’t know about you, but I got super-excited the first time I could flex my arm, and actually see a bicep!
The great thing about gaining muscle definition is that it doesn’t require heavy weights to achieve. I still use the 5 lb., 10 lb., and 15lb dumbbells when doing an arm workout. All it takes is consistency.
7. Stress Relief
Exercise, in general, has been proven to reduce stress. When physically active, your body releases endorphins, a neurochemical produced in the brain which activates your brain’s opioid receptors to minimize discomfort and give an overall feeling of euphoria.
Did you catch that? You can self-medicate with your body’s own chemical responses to exercise. So, workout and become an “endorphin junkie”… your body and mind (and loved ones) will thank you.
Where to Start: Lifting Weights
The most convenient place to lift weights is at a local gym. While it does incur a monthly fee, they have all the equipment that you want and more. Plus, you do not have life at home distracting you while working out at the gym.
Another advantage to a gym membership is you may have access to personal trainers to assist in teaching you the proper ways to lift weights. Of course, a personal trainer cost extra money, but many gyms offer a freebie session to new members to show you the ropes.
Now, if you need to save on time and money, you don’t need to spend too much to get started at home. I find the easiest thing to start with is dumbbells. With a few simple dumbbell exercises, you can hit every major muscle group right from the comfort of your own home.
The important thing to remember when starting out is to take it slow. I suggest starting with a lower weight than you think you need when performing a new exercise. If you can manage two sets of the same exercise without fatiguing the muscle, then move up to the next weight.
Too much weight too fast, and you can cause damage to your muscle and connective tissues. Damage and small tears do occur when lifting weight and building muscle, and this is part of your muscle development. However, too much damage injures the muscle and the recovery time is much longer. If your recovery takes longer than 2-3 days, you probably need to lower the weight.
YouTube is a great resource for learning new moves for any specific muscle group. Search for “Triceps workout”, “Biceps workout”, or whichever muscle group tickles your fancy. Add the word “dumbbell to the search if you want to focus on those type weights. There is no shortage of videos! I have discovered some of my favorite workouts browsing YouTube.
I promise lifting weights is not as intimidating as it seems. This guide will walk you through several exercises, hitting all the major muscle groups and using dumbbells. Once you get the hang of a few basic moves, you can branch out from there.
Most importantly, have fun with it! You may even discover like I did that you enjoy lifting weight much more than cardio.
I hope this post has inspired you to try something new; branch out of your usual workout routine (or lack of) and journey toward becoming your best and strongest self.