There is such a stigma around women who weight train & a genuine fear that surrounds it, which prevents many women from even giving it a try. Well in honour of International Women's Day yesterday, I want to discuss why we should abolish these ridiculous thoughts & why it is such a great method of training for women & men alike!
So before I delve too deeply into the benefits & why I love training so much, I want to get one thing straight...
Women who lift weights DO NOT automatically become bulky!
... In fact it can be incredibly hard for women to build muscle size even when they want to. Look at me, I have been weight training for about a year & a half - I am leaner, happier & more confident than I have ever been! And that's not by taking it lightly - I can almost squat & deadlift my own weight, I train around 5/6 times a week & I take my nutrition seriously. And after all that, I am still not 'bulky'. So why is this? For man or woman, putting on size or muscle mass takes a lot more than dedication at the gym, you need to firstly understand why you're training in a certain way - for example you may decrease the amount of cardio, especially before a weights session, if you're bulking, as it can actually break down muscle! Then you need to understand how to use nutrition to help you put on mass. A lot of hard work, strict dedication & time goes into building muscle - so don't fear, it won't happen overnight, nor will you do it by accident. Especially since as women, we produce only 5-10% the testosterone that men do, which naturally limits our muscle building potentials. If we DID want to build muscle, we would need to greatly up our calorie intake - 2500+ cals - & put in years of intense, precise training - I promise a regular diet, even with 100g+ of protein & weight training 5 times a week won't lead to a bulky figure.
I know it can also be a little overwhelming stepping forth into the male dominated weight section of the gym, but trust me, it can be the most empowering feeling ever once you get to grips with the weights. Don't let the big muscular guys put you off! Take a friend or see a personal trainer to give you a little reassurance at first.
My personal transition from cardio & bodyweight training into weights was inspired by some fantastic women on Youtube. I have never really enjoyed cardio & although I was seeing a little definition from bodyweight exercise, I wasn't reaching any of my goals. So slowly I upped the stakes. I began with using free weights or the cable machine for abs & asked my boyfriend to introduce me to the weights for legs. But it wasn't till I started researching & understanding the full potential of weight training, that I fully immersed myself in it. Now I train 5/6 times a week, with a 3 day split - abs, lower body (legs or glutes & calves alternately) & upper body (alternating back & biceps, shoulders & triceps, chest etc) - & this works great for me. I have never been so motivated, nor have I ever felt so lean or confident within my own skin. Yes I still have a lot that I could do, but I feel strong, both mentally & physically, & that's all that matters!
I must admit, I have rather fallen in love with weight training & I get restless on rest days. Once you find that exercise you love & you start to notice the changes in your body, it becomes addictive & a lot more enjoyable. Somebody asked me the other day, why I take my training so seriously, that I'm in good shape & I don't need to worry. All I could answer was that I simply enjoyed it. But a few days later, one of my fitspo girls answered that question perfectly for me...
"People often ask me why I'm training, they say I already have the perfect body & don't understand why I take it so serious when I don't have any special goal or coming competition. But the thing is I feel so damn good when I train. There is no better feeling than to put on some good music & push yourself through the pain. I feel so happy & proud afterwards when I accomplished more than I thought I could." - Denice Moberg
Anyway, that's why we train, but if that's not enough, maybe this will...
10 Great Benefits of Weight Training
1. Effective Fat Loss | Weight training is far better than cardio for burning calories & thus shredding fat. It takes 45 minutes of steady cardio to reach the fat loss stage, but weight training can burn calories far quicker & for much longer than cardio. It continues to burn through calories hours after your workout, as it boosts the metabolic rate. If you still wish to do cardio, to strengthen the heart, instead try 15 minutes of HIIT cardio, for example 45 secs sprint, 45 secs walk on incline on the treadmill, after your weight training, to really blitz the fat.
2. More Muscle = More Food | A winner for me! Basically muscle weighs more than fat, so you can be incredibly lean & weigh more because your muscle mass is greater & be able to eat more! The amount of calories you need daily directly correlates to your weight, regardless whether you way more because of fat or muscle mass.
3. Curves & Booty | If you only stick to cardio, your body will break down fat & muscle for energy, so you can kiss buy to that toned booty. Weight training however will condition your muscles, meaning you lean out for a tiny waist, whilst squatting heavy to build your glutes. By loosing stored fat & building muscle, you will be creating that hourglass physique!
4. Better Sleep | Weight training is exhausting for your body. Although you'll feel energised post workout, your muscles will need sleep to repair, which in turn helps to improve sleep quality. The harder you work, the faster you'll fall asleep & the deeper, more quality night sleep you'll get. I can vouch for this!
5. Healthy Heath | Cardiovascular helps strengthen the heart, but so does weight training. It helps to reduce the risk of heart disease, helps to lower blood pressure & you're resting heart rate post workout.
6. Stronger Bones | Each muscle contraction relies on the bones for support, which in turn strengthens the bones, as it encourages the bone density to increase. Plus, as females, we are more prone to problems such as osteoporosis; weight training can help reduce the risk - so it's perfect for females!
7. Stress Relief | Any stress, worry or anger can usually be worked out at the gym. Not only does pumping iron make us feel like a strong bad ass, it also releases endorphins - the chemical behind that feel good post workout energy.
8. Mentally Stronger | Not only physical, but it helps build your mental strength too. By challenging ourselves, breaking our own expectations, our confidence will naturally thrive. There's something insanely empowering about lifting weights & getting stronger. And over time develops a greater self esteem & self respect.
9. Ease Joint Pain | When muscles strengthen during weight training, they will have a stronger hold around the joints, keeping them in position during movement & providing greater protection.
10. Boosts Immunity | Weight training can help strengthen the whole body, including the immune system. Since training seriously, I rarely get colds & when I do, they don't last long! I really hate when people quote magazines on how many germs are in the gym... blah blah blah is what I say. Especially when you're fit, exposing yourself to germs only makes the immune system stronger! I have no issue laying all over the gym floor, getting down & dirty in the weight section & whipping my sweaty forehead with my 'dirty' hands. I'm in the gym to get stuck in, I'm not about to shy away from germs, especially when they're building my immunity!
So I hope I've managed to convince you to give weight training a go. It might not turn out to be your cup of tea, but at least you'll have no fear of becoming bulky or masculine now! Just team up with a friend, find an inspiring role model to give you ideas of what to do or get a few personal training sessions, to show you the ropes & make you feel at ease. Personal trainers have a lot of knowledge on this, so really do pick their brains & discuss any further fears. Good luck & enjoy - I promise you won't be disappointed!