Are you avoiding lifting weights because you think it might make you too bulky? Trainer Michael Hoad gives five reasons why women should start lifting weights (Clue: it makes you leaner, more shapely and smaller)
There is a common misconception that if women lift weights they will suddenly stack on pounds of muscle and look like a bodybuilder. Actually nothing could be further from the truth and all women should work out with weights regularly to stay in great shape and to also stay healthy. An important thing to remember is that women have 10 per cent of the testosterone (the ‘bulking’ hormone) that men have so weight training will not suddenly make women big or chunky – it simply won’t happen. Instead, to really get results from your workout – whether you want to become leaner, smaller, more shapely or drop a dress size – you need to lift weights. In this feature I’m going to outline the five best reasons why all women should lift weights on a regular basis.
1. It’s good for your bones
In the UK, one in two women over the age of 50 will break a bone mainly because of poor bone health. If our bones don’t experience strain or resistance they become weak and susceptible to injury especially as we get older. There is a tonne of research showing the health benefits of regular weight training to bone-building and to the muscles supporting those bones. We all know that weight training strengthens muscles but many people don’t realise that lifting weights will strengthen bone. The areas of the body that are usually susceptible to a loss of bone density are the hips and lower back. Squats are a great way to counteract this lose of bone strength and keep your bones healthy and strong. Supplementing with Vitamin D and calcium will also help keep your bones strong.
2. It shoots your metabolism through the ceiling
There are many ways to boost your metabolism through nutrition. Simple things like eating more protein and adding certain spices to your meals are great. But to really increase your metabolism you need to have a body that contains muscle? This is because muscle is the number one determinant of your metabolic rate. This doesn’t mean that you need to be a bodybuilder to reap the fat burning benefits of muscle. In fact training with weights 2-3 times per week will support your muscles enough so that they burn fat. Muscles are fat burning machines and having a decent amount of muscle on your body will mean more fat burned even when you’re resting and not working out. In fact one pound of muscle equates to 10 calories per day (as opposed to fat burning 2-3 calories a day per pound). Although this may not sound like a lot, it can result in substantial weight loss.
All too often people quickly take up running as their main source of exercise to lose weight. Unfortunately, if like me you live in a polluted city like London, running might not be your best choice for a number of reasons. Most people don’t realise that cardiovascular exercise such as running alone will only take you so far with weight loss. The body needs variety to avoid plateaus in weight loss and unfortunately it’s easy to reach a plateau with your weight loss with running and cardiovascular activities such as aerobics, rowing or stepping alone. If done properly weight training is far more effective for weight loss for a number of reasons. One reason is the positive effect it has on fat burning hormones like growth hormone. The burn you feel when you train with weights is lactic acid building up in the muscle. The knock on effect of this build up of lactic acid is a release of growth hormone, which is a powerful fat burning hormone. What’s more, weight training with short rest periods not only burns fat but will also improve your cardiovascular health. A good example of this would be to combine two big exercises like the step-up and a dumbbell shoulder press with a 45 second rest between each set of movements. This type of combination is a fantastic way to get lean. Another reason weight training is great is you don’t have to be an athletic person to do it. Once you learn the basic movements like the squat and deadlift it’s just about putting the time in. I suggest hiring a good coach to teach you at the start, learning correct technique is essential from the outset.
Another reason to weight train is injury prevention. The majority of injuries are caused by weaknesses and imbalances. Muscle imbalances can be corrected with unilateral exercises (training each side individually). A good example of this would be step-ups holding dumbbells. Over time, using unilateral exercises will correct weakness on one side of your body. Also, knees are commonly injured in sport and exercise and also tend to hit women over 40 who have been sedentary for most of their lives. By building strength in your quads and hamstrings you are less likely to get knee injuries. Again, this doesn’t mean you need to have big muscular legs they just need to be strong. The shoulder is another joint susceptible to injury. It is the most complex joint in the body and the nature of the complexity of this joint leaves it vulnerable to injury, especially in sports involving overhead movements like tennis. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles that act to stabilise the shoulder. Strengthening the rotator cuff muscles using light dumbbells and resistance bands will keep your shoulders healthy.
5. It gives you an amazing butt
The plastic surgery industry is seeing a new trend. In the UK some plastic surgeons have reported a 200 per cent rise in the number of enquiries for bottom implant surgery over the past 12 months! Fortunately going under the knife is not the only way to have your own sexy behind. When it comes to building a bum cardio simply won’t cut it. If you really want a bum to be proud of then you need to target the glutes and squats and hip bridges are great ways to do this. However, if you are just squatting to where your thigh is parallel to the ground you will mainly be working your quads not your glutes. To really engage the glutes you need to squat deep past a 90 degree angle. This is perfectly safe for the knees as long as your technique is good. Other exercises like walking lunges, high step-ups and hip bridges are also great for building the bum. These are just some of the reasons it’s important for girls to lift weights. I suggest hiring a good coach to teach you the basics. Good luck!
Mike Hoad’s 12 week body-transfroamtion plan The Lean Muscle System can be done anywhere and costs a one-off fee of £89. Find out more here. It contains everything you need to know to safely and effectively begin a body-changing weight lifting programme.
Mike Hoad MSc (Hons) has extensive experience in sport science, martial arts and physique competition. During his 11 years of industry experience he has helped stockbrokers, doctors, hedge fund managers, athletes, physical competitors and people from all walks of life build impressive lean muscle. Mike realised he had a serious talent for body transformation and decided to make his method accessible for all via the internet, meaning his training powers could reach beyond the boundaries of London, UK. The result is The Lean Muscle System, an impressive subscription based training platform find out more here.
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