Women Fitness Rx: Lift Heavy $h!t
Photo Credit: Suzanne Tylander Photography
“Lifting weights makes women bulky.”
“Lifting weights is dangerous for your joints.”
“If you build muscle and stop lifting, it’ll all turn into fat.”
These are a few fitness myths that boil my blood. As a personal trainer and barbell fitness coach, I plan strength training into EVERY workout. The majority of my clients want to improve muscle tone, increase strength & endurance, and enhance their overall wellbeing. Some days we spend 12-15 minutes dedicated to one barbell lift (i.e. back squats) or body-weight lift (i.e. pull-ups), other days the strength training is built into our higher-intensity conditioning workouts. Either way, we’re not turning into green, testosterone-filled she-Hulks. We’re building our muscles, strengthening our bones, and empowering our minds.
According to data collected by the CDC, only 17.5 percent of American women- and 20 percent of college-aged women- meet the federal physical activity guidelines for aerobic and strengthening activities, and that number decreases dramatically as age increases. The comparable figures for men are 23 percent and 37 percent, respectively. Oh no, no, no… It’s time for a change! Not only does strength training trim inches off your hips and waist (reducing risk of metabolic syndrome), it also transforms your entire body and overall health. Ladies, let’s pump some iron!
6 Reasons Why Women SHOULD Lift Weights:
- Heart health. Lifting weights regularly strengthens your ticker. A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning found that those who lift weights are less likely have heart disease risk factors such as a large waist circumference, high triglycerides, elevated blood pressure, and elevated glucose levels.(1) Another study conducted by researchers in Brazil found that though the heart rate increased in patients during heavy bouts of training, their blood pressure and resting heart rate were significantly lower the following morning.(2) Remember, your heart is also a muscle.
- Fat loss. A huge advantage of weightlifting over cardiovascular training is the ability to burn more calories during AND after a workout. Building more muscle means increased energy (calorie) expenditure throughout the day. Heavy weightlifting also leaves your body in a state of excess oxygen consumption for hours or even days after your workout (aka EPOC: excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). Heightened oxygen consumption leads to an overall improved energy expenditure and increased metabolic rate. Burn, baby, burn.
- Mental health. According to a study by the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, resistance training has been shown to successfully reduce anxiety, improve executive brain functioning (memory!), fight depression, lessen chronic fatigue symptoms, boost self-esteem, and effectively improve sleep.(3) Enough said. Lifting weights strengthens more than just your muscles… it strengthens your mind.
- Fight osteoporosis. As women age, they are at an increased risk of losing bone and muscle mass. Postmenopausal women have an even higher risk due to lowered levels of estrogen secretion. Fortunately, lifting weights can help to slow the loss of bone mass by stimulating bones to create more bone cells. A study conducted at McMaster University found that after a year of resistance training, postmenopausal women increased spinal bone mass by 9 percent.(4) Conclusion, start lifting weights ASAP to maintain bone health later in life.
- Improve your performance [in life]. Here are a few examples of how barbell fitness IS functional fitness: Have you always wanted to do a pull-up? Well, practicing your barbell deadlifts at a challenging weight trains grip strength, shoulder stabilization, and core strength, in addition to creating toned hamstrings, quadriceps, and glutes. Are your kids getting too heavy to pick up? Good news! The barbell clean and press teaches you how to move weight from the ground to overhead.** For you cardio-lovers, weight training increases the number and size of calorie-torching muscles, therefore lifting weights could help you burn more calories during cardio workouts!
- Build your BOOTY! Cardio is the weight loss king, but that weight loss comes from fat AND muscle loss. Weightlifting helps to maintain muscle definition, while still burning more calories and fat than cardiovascular training. Don’t be alarmed when you see the scale go up after a few weeks of weight training; muscle weighs more than fat. Keep track of body measurements and how your clothes feel to better gauge how your body changes from the addition of weightlifting to your regular workouts
**Always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise regime. Once cleared by doc, remember to get proper instruction from a qualified personal trainer or coach before lifting a weights for the first time.
1- Magyari PM, Churilla JR. Association between lifting weights and metabolic syndrome among U.S. Adults: 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Nov; 26(11): 3113-7.
2- Cardoso, Crivaldo Gomes, et. Al. “Acute and chronic effects of aerobic and resistance exercise on ambulatory blood pressure.” Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2010; 65(3):317-325.
3- O’Connor, P.J., Herring, M.P. and Carvalho, A. (2010). Mental health benefits of strength training in adults. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 4(5), 377-396.
4- Muir JM, Ye C, Bhandari M, Adachi JD, Thabane L. The effect of regular physical activity on bone mineral density in post-menopausal women aged 75 and over: a retrospective analysis from the Canadian multicentre osteoporosis study. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2013 Aug 23; 14: 253.