When it comes to exercise, a lot of females still tend to gravitate towards the cardio machines rather than lifting weights.
Why is that?
Well, some women believe that if they start lifting weights, they may end up looking “manly” or becoming too bulky. However, this is extremely hard for females to accomplish. As women, our bodies don’t become naturally bulky because we have less testosterone than men, therefore we have less of the hormone that helps build muscle. So, lifting weights does increase muscle mass, but it will not make you look any less feminine.
Essentially, what lifting heavy does is decrease the percentage of body fat while building muscle, thus making you look smaller and more toned. And unless you are training for a specific sport, for most women, losing body fat and increasing muscle tone is usually the goal!
This goal will not be accomplished by simply running on the treadmill for 30 minutes a day at the gym.
Another reason to lift heavy is that it makes you feel more confident, strong, and powerful.
When you can finally shoulder press 25-pound dumbbells and deadlift 135 pounds, it is a great feeling! And believe me – you can get there.
Resistance training continually gives you something to work towards and become better at, which makes the workouts more engaging and enjoyable.
One point I do want to add, is that a lot of female weightlifters only stay in the hypertrophy zone, and are hesitant to add in more power/strength focused days. I was once there, so I completely understand why some women choose to stay with lighter weights and perform 3 sets of 8-15. I was intimidated by this and thought I would hurt myself if I started to add in heavier weights.
However, speaking from personal experience - it has been the exact opposite.
I experience less pain and feel a lot stronger since adding in heavier weights - and you can too!
Lifting weights not only makes you look better and feel more confident but also has tons of health benefits.
- One health benefit is that it reduces your risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Chronic disease is a huge problem in the United States, and one way to live a healthier life is by including weight training in your exercise program.
- Also, as we age, we start losing muscle mass and bone density. To counteract this process and avoid developing osteoporosis in the future (which is a huge concern for women as we age), we should include strength training to remain strong and healthy.
- Additionally, strength training helps prevent and decrease musculoskeletal pain. For example, when someone comes in to see me, one of the most common complaints is low back pain. One of the treatment methods I would use if the pain is musculoskeletal in nature, is rehabilitation exercises for the low back. More specifically, I may start to introduce deadlifts or variations of this to start to decrease some pain and build more confidence in certain movements/positions. This is not to say that if you lift weights that you will never have pain, but you will be a lot less likely to suffer from chronic pain and have reduced occurrences of musculoskeletal pain.
A common barrier that some women face when it comes to lifting is not knowing exactly how to use the free weights section of the gym or confidently perform the main lifts like squatting, deadlifting, bench press, etc.
I definitely understand this fear as I was once in those shoes. In high school the weight room was incredibly intimidating because there was not a lot of education on how to perform different lifts/movements or how to make my workouts purposeful.
This is exactly why there are tons of personal trainers and chiropractors/physical therapists with an exercise background that want to help you with this! We love teaching people how to perform movements correctly and structure an exercise/rehab program to suit your individual goals.
I also want to make sure that you understand that I am not saying to avoid cardio workouts, because that is not the case. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, adults should get 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week. This equates to 30-60 minutes 5 times per week or 20-60 minutes of high intensity exercise 3 days per week. Cardio not only aids in our overall cardiovascular and respiratory health, but also improves our ability to recover more quickly between sets when strength training.
All of this being said, exercise should be fun and something that you look forward to doing every day.
Most women fall off of the exercise train when they are dreading their treadmill or elliptical workout at the gym. Make your workouts more enjoyable by adding in resistance training! This can be done by targeting every major muscle group at least 2-3 times a week.
Dr. Sarah Sullivan, DC
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