From mislead ideas of what female weight lifters look like, to fear of stepping into the free-weight section of the gym, women have many unfortunate reasons for not wanting to add weight training to their exercise routine.
I’m here to show you that for whatever number of reasons you don’t want to lift weights, there are even more on why you might find it quite rewarding.
1. Build Curves in the Right Places
Women are often afraid that lifting weights will make them manly and bulky. This is far from the truth.
Weight lifting allows you to build curves in all the right places, while slimming down overall for that classic hourglass figure.
While it’s possible for women to become extremely muscular as we see in competitive female body builders and power lifters, this takes an extreme amount of work, time, and effort. It involves careful planning, considerable gym time, and significant dietary changes.
So by adding a few hours of weight lifting to your weekly exercise routine, and eating a little bit more protein, you’ll gain the benefits of strength training but you won’t become “bulky.”
And if you want to look strong and powerful, then all the power to you! Go for it!
2. Build Bone Strength
Women are particularly prone to low bone density and its subsequent health risks. Women tend to reach their peak bone density between the ages of 20-30 and then it slowly declines until menopause when it declines rapidly.
This puts women at high risk for broken bones, particularly broken hips from falling.
The best way to maintain maximal bone strength is by weight lifting.
Regularly putting stress on the bones by lifting weights signals your body to build up denser bones. This works even better than medications prescribed to artificially increase bone density.
3. Lose Weight Faster
More muscle means higher baseline metabolism. Muscle in your body requires a high amount of maintenance even at rest. It breaks down relatively easily and is constantly using energy to repair itself, even when you aren’t actively using the muscle (like sitting resting or sleeping).
The more muscle you have, the more energy your body is using all the time. This means you burn more calories at rest during the day and therefore the more weight you will lose.
4. Burns More Calories Than Cardio
Similar to above, a high intensity weight lifting workout burns more calories than a steady-state cardio workout.
That’s because weight lifting workouts are essentially high-intensity interval training. You do 30 seconds to 1 minute of intense lifting, bringing your heart rate up to fuel your muscles, and then you rest for 1-3 minutes afterward – exactly how an HIIT cardio session works.
Not only does HIIT burn more calories than steady state cardio, but weight lifting sessions also burn calories long after the session in the energy required to rebuild your muscle tissue that was exercised during your weight lifting session.
5. Better Sleep
With workouts that burn more calories along with a higher metabolism throughout the day, your body is more fatigued by the end of the day and will allow you much better sleep.
Weight lifting is also a fantastic stress-reducer (as below), allowing you to relax more and sleep easier.
6. Improve your Mood and Deal with Stress
Our bodies naturally respond to stress with hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine. These make your blood pressure and heart rate go up along with many other changes in your body to help you physically run away from danger.
Unfortunately, much of the stress we encounter in our lives today (work to do, parenting, bills to pay, etc) still causes these hormones to be released but isn’t helped by these physical fight or flight responses.
Exercise of any kind causes your body to use up and break down these hormones. So exercise in general is incredibly helpful in managing stress and therefore maintaining healthy body hormone and blood pressure levels.
Weight lifting in particular requires short periods of high intensity physical activity which is the exact kind of activity to best metabolize (burn up) these hormones.
7. Easier Days
While lifting weights won’t make you bulky, it does make you stronger. Even a small amount of increased strength makes basically everything in your day easier.
From transferring groceries to carrying heavy boxes at work, you’ll find everything is simply smoother and easier with a little extra strength.
8. Get a Cardio Workout
As I mentioned, weight lifting is a form of high-intensity interval training, you push to the max for 30 seconds to 1 minute and then rest for 1-2 minutes before doing it again.
High intensity interval training has been shown again and again to be the best type of exercise for your heart (Wisloff, 2009).
So not only do you work your muscles, nerves, and bones with a weight lifting session but your heart as well!
9. Stay Warm
Cold all the time? Women naturally have larger blood vessels close to the surface of their skin and so lose heat faster than men do. So we often feel chilly!
One great way to keep warmer easily is by building more muscle. As above, muscle is metabolically active tissue, meaning it uses a lot of energy to maintain itself. As it uses that energy, it gives off heat and warms you up.
With so many reasons to get into weight training, what’s holding you back?
Whether you have a gym to go to or you’re working out at home, there is no excuse to find some heavy things, pick them up and put them down!
Source: Wisløff, U., Ellingsen, Ø., & Kemi, O. J. (2009). High-intensity interval training to maximize cardiac benefits of exercise training?. Exercise and sport sciences reviews, 37(3), 139–146. https://doi.org/10.1097/JES.0b013e3181aa65fc