Personal Trainer, Lee Cooper on why every woman should exercise with weights.
For many women, the words “weight training” conjure up images of an overly muscular physique and something to avoid, whilst cardiovascular exercise is seen as the solution to achieve the commonly desired slim and sleek figure.
The benefits of muscular strength and endurance training
I was once a prime example of someone who underestimated the importance of weight training. As an overweight child, it was in my teenage years that I decided enough was enough and with a regime of martial arts and running, combined with a healthy diet, I successfully lost weight. My confidence improved, yet, I was still dissatisfied with my level of tone. The typical “fat day” would inspire me to hit the streets and run like ‘Forest’ or jump on the cross trainer to calorie blast. Having previously lost weight from this routine, I couldn’t establish why I wasn’t seeing further changes. The truth was my body had reached a plateau. I wondered if I’d ever look in the mirror and like the image looking back at me.
It wasn’t until I qualified in Personal Training, studying the need for a good balance of cardiovascular and resistance training that I began to appreciate how beneficial weight training could be.
For those of you who, like me, just aren’t designed to be naturally skinny, dedicating hours to just cardio is often in vain.
As my balance of cardio and resistance training improved dramatically, so did the muscle definition in my body. It gave me the toned and athletic look I’d been striving for.
Whilst the fitness industry promotes weight training, there’s still a stigma attached to it. The reality is that you don’t have to be a power lifter or body building pro to enjoy the benefits of weight lifting, and the chance of a female starting to look bulky is actually very slim (no pun intended!).
Unfortunately, many women still fail to see the benefits of weight training. I frequently hear the phrase “I don’t want to bulk up” or “is this going to make me look like the incredible hulk?” when I suggest exercises that incorporate weights.
When you observe others in the gym, take note of the men who dedicate entire evenings lifting mammoth weights. Even with hours of training, supplemented with high protein diets, a number of men often fail to reach their ideal bulk. And, as females our bodies don’t produce enough testosterone to train the muscles for hypertrophy, so weights should be embraced with open arms.
How to maximise the benefits
For beginner weight trainers, there are now so many innovative options to get started. Weight training can be fun with the use of kettle bells, ViPR, Body Pump classes, Circuits or just getting yourself into the gym.
Firstly, utilise the expertise available by speaking to fitness professionals in the gym. Ask them to devise a plan tailored to your needs and don’t forget to mix it up every six weeks to achieve the optimum results. Download a motivating playlist on your iPod, and three times a week, spend 20 - 30 minutes weight training at the end of your cardio session. If you’re working the same muscle group, allow 48 hours between workouts to recover. Usually repetitions suggested range from 12 - 15, with two sets.
Don’t be afraid of big weights.
Knocking out repetition after repetition, throwing the weight down like a feather duster, isn’t going to change your body. Achieving muscle fatigue leads to change.
A combination of cardio for calorie burning and fitness improvement, and weight training for toning and tightening those muscles is the perfect combination.
Why weight training is worth the effort…
- Improved posture
- Improved body shape
- Increased metabolism (increase calorie burn) even when resting because lean muscle boosts your metabolism
- Self confidence is boosted
- Increased bone density
- Increased strength of tendons and ligaments
- Reduced risk of injury
- Helps improve sports performance – yes, your cardio will improve too!
- Balances muscle groups