If you have been to a gym lately you might realize that most women stay away from the weight lifting area and opt instead for the group exercise classes, such as yoga, spinning or aerobics. This could be a mistake, at least for women who want to reshape their bodies. The best way for women to change their bodies is to lift weights — heavy weights. Weight training, or resistance training as it is commonly called, is a smart thing to do and it’s not just for bodybuilders. First let’s dispel some of the myths associated with women and weight lifting:
Myth 1: Women who lift weights risk growing muscles like a man. It’s just not possible. Women do not have enough of the hormones that allow for increased muscle mass. Women have smaller muscles than men. The truth is, muscle mass does not suddenly appear because you started lifting weights. Lifting weights might actually make you look smaller because muscle is much more compact and takes up less room than fat.
Myth 2: Spot reducing. Regardless of what the infomercials tell you, there is no such thing as spot reduction. Spot reduction is simply the idea that if you work a specific spot on your body you will decrease the amount of fat in that area. The most common example of this is people who focus on abdominal exercises in an effort to lose weight in their stomach area. To lose fat anywhere on your body you need to exercise. In doing so, you will decrease fat stores throughout your entire body, including the problem areas. Unfortunately we cannot tell our bodies where we want it to lose fat. Our bodies decide that for us, the best way to lose fat is through resistance training.
Myth 3: If I stop lifting weights my muscle will turn to fat. Muscle and fat are two completely different substances in the body. If you stop lifting weights your muscle will simply shrink but they will not turn to fat. Muscle does not turn to fat any more than fat turns to muscle.
Now let’s talk about what weight training will do for you.
Cardiovascular training is great for keeping your heart and lungs in shape but it does nothing to change the shape of your body. The best way for women to change their figure is to lift weights. When we do cardio training the fat burning effects end shortly after the exercise is completed. With resistance training the fat burning continues even while you are sleeping. Muscle cells burn more energy than fat cells, and strong muscles burn more calories than flabby muscles. Sure, you can lose weight by just doing aerobics. But, you’ll wind up being a “smaller” version of a flabby person. Significant muscle tone, definition, vitality and strength are not achievable from a cardio work out alone.
As we get older, we start to lose muscle. As a result, our metabolism slows down. What is metabolism? In very simple terms metabolism is the rate at which our bodies burn up energy. This varies from person to person. Having a slower metabolism means that you will gain weight even if you eat the same amount of food. The only way to improve your metabolism is to build muscle. Weight training builds and tones your muscles and increases our metabolism. This increase in metabolism enables you to burn more calories 24-7. You will even burn calories while you are sleeping. If you’ve been dieting for years, weight lifting exercises are even more important because they allow you to correct the damage caused by low calorie diets. Overall, weight training will make you look better, feel better, and help you to build confidence.
Weight lifting can help with problems of aging and offers protection against osteoporosis, a major debilitating disease in women which occurs after menopause. As we age we lose a small percentage of bone each year. Bone loss accelerates after menopause, causing our bones to become brittle and easily broken. One way to slow this down is with exercise especially weight bearing exercises such as walking or jogging. Weight training is an even better choice because strong bones and strong muscles go hand in hand. The more weight you can lift the stronger your bones.
Any woman who is interested in losing fat, gaining strength, increasing muscle tone, and transforming her physique should be weight training. Also weight training is not the end all and be all for your fitness regimen. You still need to eat right and do cardiovascular exercise. Weight training should be part of a balanced approach to fitness and health.