There’s no need to fear weight training. Here are 5 reasons why more women should take up weight training…
Even in the age of #thisgirlcan, the vast majority of women still avoid weight training. Unfortunately, many women still believe that lifting weights will make them look overly muscular, while others fear the intimidating masculine culture that seems to reign over the weights area at the gym.
But, there’s no need to fear weight training. Cardio, aerobics, yoga and pilates are all great forms of exercise — but for a complete regime that will challenge, condition and tone the whole body, you need to incorporate some form of resistance training, too. Anyone can start, and it’s a vital part of building a strong, healthy body.
In this article, we’ll break down some of the myths surrounding women and strength training, as well as talk about just a few of the many benefits that lifting can have on your health, strength and confidence. Read on to learn more.
It won’t make you bulky (unless you’re ready to work hard at it)
Without a doubt, the single biggest misconception that keeps women away from the free weights area at the gym is the false belief that lifting heavy weights will make them look bulky. But, this simply isn’t true: while training with weights will make your muscles stronger, leaner and more toned, they are not going to get bulkier. The reason? It’s all down to our hormonal make-up. Testosterone controls muscle growth and, because women tend to produce much less testosterone than men, they’re much less likely to bulk up, even if they train regularly.
Of course, it’s still possible to achieve a sculpted body-builder’s physique — many women do, with great success. But it requires an intense diet and training program, so it’s highly unlikely that you’ll bulk up unless you’re completely determined.
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You can build your confidence at home
It’s not just the bulking up myth that training that keeps women out of the weights room. Unfortunately, the pervasive idea that women can’t or shouldn’t lift can make many ladies feel too self-conscious to use the weights area at the gym with confidence — especially if they’re just getting started.
But, you don’t need access to a gym to begin strength training. Beginners can build their confidence at home with just a few pieces of basic weight training equipment: kettlebells are a great place to start, as they’re very versatile and easy to handle. It’s best to start with a variety of different weights, like these kettlebell sets from Powerhouse Fitness, so you can add more weight as your strength improves. Whether you hate the gym, or you just want to build up your confidence before heading to the weights room for the first time, you can still get an effective weight training session in the privacy of your own home.
1It improves your all-round health and fitness
While most of us already know that diet and cardiovascular workouts are important for our long-term health, not many of realise what a key role weight training can play in our overall health and fitness. Resistance training and weight lifting conditions the body, strengthens and tones our muscles, and helps to improve our overall posture, which is why it’s so necessary for our health in the long-term. In fact, muscle strength is so important that the NHS now recommends that we aim to do at least two strengthening workouts every week.
Weight training is also one of the best ways to prevent osteoporosis, which causes bones to weaken over time. Resistance training puts stress on our skeletons (in a good way), which stimulates the bone-building process and gradually increases bone density. Women are more prone to developing osteoporosis than men, especially as they enter middle age, so it’s especially important for ladies to do something to help increase bone density.
2It’s better for weight loss than cardio
Many people labour away for hours on the treadmill because they believe that cardio burns calories, ergo it must be the key to weight loss. But, while it’s true that cardio can burn calories, and it’s certainly an important part of our overall cardiovascular fitness, it’s definitely not the be all and end all when it comes to losing weight.
Lifting weights challenges our bodies, helping to strengthen and tone our existing muscles and stimulating the growth of new muscle tissue. Muscle tissue is known as a metabolically active tissue, which essentially means that it needs to burn energy from body fat and calories in order to function. This means that, after a weight-lifting session, your muscles are still burning calories, even after you stop working out. If you build up enough lean muscle, you can actually improve your body’s basal metabolic rate — meaning you’ll process calories more efficiently on a day to day basis.
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3It’ll make you feel strong, powerful and confident
For many women, the appeal of weight training is less to do with how it makes them look, and more to do with how it makes them feel. As the popularity of hashtags like #strongnotskinny on Instagram go to show, getting stronger is a seriously empowering feeling. It’s also much healthier than crash dieting or fixating on being skinny — both physically, and mentally.
With weight-lifting, it’s possible to see real progress in a short space of time, especially within the first few months. The rush you get once you hit your lifting goals is an amazing feeling, and gives you the motivation you need to keep going with your training. And, it’s not just a boys’ club anymore, as apps like Spitfire — which offers weight training workouts, tips and a supportive community especially for women — go to show.