Why Weight Lifting Is Important for Women

body weightMany women are afraid of weight lifting; they think they'll end up looking like the Incredible Hulk or, at the very least, too big or bulky. I can't even count the number of times a female client has said, "I don't lift weights because I don't want to bulk up." Oh my gosh! If I had a dollar for every time I've heard that phrase, I'd definitely be a rich woman!

It is very difficult for a woman to produce large muscles because women generally have high levels of the hormone estrogen. Estrogen is the hormone that produces female sex parts and our typically smaller amounts of lean tissue. Men typically produce more of the hormone testosterone, which produces the male sex parts and typically larger mus- cle tissue naturally. The improvements women experience will be made in muscle tone, strength, and endurance-not necessarily in size. As muscles become toned, the body begins to lose fat tissue and becomes firmer. When it comes to strength training, any- thing that is considered a healthy practice for men is also healthy for women. The fears about bulking up have created a cardio-only mind-set that serves only to burn calories, but rarely tones or tightens. Resistance exercises such as weight lifting increase your lean muscle mass, which in turn increases the amount of tissue in your body that natu- rally burns calories in a resting state (i.e., while you're sleeping!). If you do only cardio- based workouts, you'll burn calories and increase your cardiovascular output, but you risk the chance of burning muscle, thus slowing down your capability to burn calories and fat over the long run. This means you will risk the chance of slowing down your metabolism-not the effect you want. Cardio is only part of the job.

In addition, as women age, it becomes increasingly important that they focus on resist­ ance exercises. Many changes in muscle tissue that are associated with age are caused by disuse. Just forcing your muscles to work on a regular basis can significantly improve their capacity to do work. You'll see improvements in circulation, coordination, balance, and bone and ligament strength. All of this is especially important for preventing loss of bone density and avoiding osteoporosis. You don't want to look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, do you? Then get lifting!

Why free weights?

  1. Cost: Free weights aren't too expensive and are generally available at any sport­ ing goods It's pretty easy to purchase a set to keep and use at home.
  2. Options: There are a multitude of different exercises that you can do with free weights, such as the a lot of ways described in this Also, you have the ability to easily work at different levels of intensity by using lighter or heavier weights.
  3. Challenge: If you use proper form, free weights allow you a better range of motion than a machine does, which adds a new dimension of difficulty to your workouts and challenges multiple areas of the body at When you grow stronger, your body adapts to challenges at a quicker pace, and you're forced to challenge your muscles with different modalities and heavier weights to avoid a plateau. With free weights, the result is that more muscles are engaged and you get a more efficient workout. Although it may seem less efficient, you must go slowly, use good form, and use a controlled movement to work the muscles the right way to see your body change.

Expect results with consistent effort. In six weeks  you  could  lose 4 to 6 percent body fat, and over twenty inches overall, if you are dedicated to doing at least thirty min­ utes of cardiovascular work four to six days a week, following a weight-lifting program two or three days a week, and sticking to a strict yet sensible nutrition plan. But I want you to keep in  mind  that  sculpting  your  body,  gaining  muscle,  and  losing  body fat requires consistency and determination to achieve optimal results. When you expect instant  results  (such  as after just  one week  of  hard  work),  you  set yourself up for disappointment and potential failure.

Set realistic goals. Follow the "S.M.A.R.T." (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely, here you can read more about S.M.A.R.T) concept and set goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. If you've been a couch potato for the last year, don't jump right into an advanced program or you'll be in over your head. If you exercise regularly, don't start with a beginner program that provides little challenge or you'll quickly become bored. Setting realistic goals will help prevent the all-too-common tendency of starting something you either can't or don't want to finish.

Write it all down. What are your specific goals? How do you plan to achieve them? Why do you want to achieve them? Have you established a realistic time frame? Make sure you've thought through your plans and strategies, and aim to revisit your plans each day. Seeing your goals on paper will help keep you motivated and focused. In addition, keep a food and exercise log. The only person you're accountable to is yourself. If you're not seeing the results you want within a reasonable time frame, review your food and exercise log and try to determine what you might need to change. If you follow a program religiously, hitting a plateau may be a sign that you need to progress to the next level. The reason I keep bugging you about the whole package of good nutrition, cardio, and weight lifting is because I want you to see amazing results using the workouts, you can read more in this website!

Measure yourself to stay motivated and keep track of your results. Before you start a weight-lifting program, first take tape measurements and photos of yourself. You need to have a way to measure your progress, and the numbers on a scale are often mis­ leading when you start to incorporate resistance training into your routine. The reason for this is that muscle weighs more than fat, and once on a new program, you may weigh more but go down a clothing size. I have my clients measure their biceps, forearm, shoul­ ders, waist, hips, upper and lower thigh, and calf. Just make sure you are consistent with the sites you measure so you get a true reading each time!

If you have the ability to measure your body fat before starting a program, that is a great measurement of progress as well. I like my clients to find a piece of clothing that they want to fit into again, or to pin up an inspirational photo of themselves (or a figure they emulate). Keeping written records will help keep you motivated.

Avoid the overtraining syndrome. Always remember that sometimes less is more when it comes to working out. It's so incredibly important to have at least one rest day a week when your muscles and cardiovascular system have a chance to recover, repair, and rebuild. Overtraining can not only cause injuries and exhaustion, but it can also be the cause of either increased or decreased appetite, abnormal sleep patterns, and a com­ promised immune system. If you're wondering whether you're overtraining, turn to chap­ ter 12, where I discuss what it means to have normal muscle soreness, and what it means if you have possibly worked out to the point of injuring yourself. And please, relaxing activities or hobbies such as hiking, biking, or yoga do not qualify as taking time off. Your day off is meant to be exercise-free!

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