By Vicky Gardener
There’s a myth floating around practically since the time gyms were invented that if women lift weights, they’re going to bulk up like Schwarzenegger. Yes, we’ve all seen those kind of scary pics of female bodybuilders, whose bulging delts, triceps and biceps give them a rather frightening appearance. But those women are in the gym all day, every day, and manipulate their diets to include mainly protein, and when permitted, some growth hormones – in some cases, they even use steroids!
But the truth is, the average woman just doesn’t have the hormones (or time to spend in the gym) to build huge muscles, and in fact, a bit of lifting heavy weights has multiple health benefits that women are often missing out on.
Many women focus mainly on cardio in the gym. And yes, cardio should be part of your fitness routine. But many women also have incredibly weak upper bodies – think ‘bingo wings,’ muffin tops and a flabby midriff – and this is often down to the fact that once they get off the treadmill, their workout ends.
That’s rather suboptimal.
Reasons women should lift heavy
1. Fat loss
The number one reason women head down to the gym to spend hours slaving away on treadmills is fat loss. Those hours of cardio are great, no-one’s saying they’re not. However, when steady state cardio is done, so is your calorie burning. Weight lifting – the heavy kind, has an incredible afterburn effect. In fancy terms, this is referred to as the EPOC effect, which stands for Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption, this means after training your body continues to need oxygen at a higher rate and so you use more energy aka. calories.
2. Burn more calories – doing nothing
Muscle burns more calories than fat. It’s really as simple as that. When you weight train, you cause teeny tiny micro tears within your muscles, these then repair and grow stronger and your body needs more energy to maintain this new muscle. Whilst there is a lot of waffle out there telling you this can be up to 50 calories per pound of fat, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s just not true. There IS an increased calorie burn, but it’s just not quite so high a figure, but don’t let that dishearten you, every little helps!
3. Curvier curves
Muscles + curves = ‘murves’ as I like to call them. Lifting weights will seriously change your physique. Whilst cardio will help you lose weight, the weight lost will be from both muscle and fat – and we need to hang onto that muscle, especially as we age! Lifting weights will add curves to your body in all the right places and who doesn’t want a pert *ahem* behind to show off in their gym tights? (If you want to buy proper gym kit but don’t have much cash, you can find discounted gym clothes here).
4. Ease joint pain
Lifting weights can stop you going weak at the knees. Typical injury zones such as the knee joint can be strengthened with weight bearing exercises. Lifting heavy with proper form will increase the health of your joints by strengthening the muscles & ligaments that hold them together.
5. Have a healthier heart
Despite not being cardio, lifting weights can increase your cardiovascular health. In a study by Appalachian State University, people who performed 45 minutes of moderate-intensity lifting lowered their blood pressure by 20 percent! That’s a seriously important reason why ladies should lift heavy – your heart health will definitely improve.
6. Reduce stress
The buzz of a new 1 rep max will fill you with enough endorphins to put a smile on your face. Lifting weights has been shown to help you recover from stressful events better too. Lean body mass makes it easier for your blood pressure to return to normal after a stressful event, taking a load off your heart and arteries.
7. Increase confidence
As it makes you stronger, healthier and in better shape, it’s no wonder weight lifting can increase confidence. Simply being able to do more for yourself increases self confidence and self worth. Proving to yourself that you can, give it one rep or lift that little bit more can work wonders. Lifting weights is part of taking care of yourself and encourages self appreciation. Your body will start looking better and you will feel more capable.
8. Be better
Lifting weights can help you to be better at everything and anything. Developed strength will help you to become more functional in your everyday life, whether it’s lifting your children or carrying your own suitcase up the stairs. Lifting weights is empowering. Women who lift open their own jars.
9. Age gracefully
The average 30-35 year old will experience roughly a 25% decline in his/her muscle strength and mass by the time they hit 70-75 and by the time you hit 90 it’s up to 50%. But strength training will help to preserve muscle, enhance bone health and maintain your posture and balance, all of which will help you stay ‘young’ or at the very least more functional.
10. Weight lifting and ‘the change’
Not only does the change bring about hot flushes and all the drama that comes with it, the menopause puts us girls at a greater risk of osteoporosis. This is because our hormones change and the body no longer secretes estrogen. Weight lifting can decrease this and so lifting weights should be prescribed to all menopausal women. It really is that simple. However you try telling a hot, flustered and hormonal woman that she’s been wasting her time on the cross trainer and needs to hit the weights area, let me tell you from experience, it’s no easy task. In fact, it is always almost this group of women who are convinced that lifting weights will make them look like men in drag. If this is you, hopefully by the time you’ve come to this point of the article your mind has been changed and if it’s still in the process of changing, let me re-iterate, weight lifting is for you!
Once you do start noticing all these incredible changes in your body you’re going to want some activewear that can flatter your new physique and support your lifts. Now, call me biased, but a beautifully sculpted back should be shown off, no? The Sundried Tour Noir Tank features a cut out back to do exactly that! It also features mesh panelling for extra ventilation, freedom of movement and a stylish, flattering fit.
By Vicky Gardner, Personal Trainer and Writer for premium ethical activewear brand Sundried.
For more info, click here.