Weightlifting for Women
Despite its growing popularity, and significant aesthetic and health benefits that rival cardiovascular exercise, too many women are still wary of weightlifting. Let’s go through some of these fears and why they are unfounded:
1)You will not look like a man
One of the most common and frustrating phrases I hear from women is ‘I don’t want to lift weights as I’ll look bulky’ Its an understandable misconception to have. You see men in the gym weightlifting and they look bulky, therefore you avoid the weights room like the plague and instead head straight for the treadmill counting down the minutes and the calories hoping to achieve a ‘toned’ look or ‘burn off’ your food. However, the reverse in fact is true and here’s why: You are not a man, women appear not to have the testosterone levels required for that amount of muscle growth. Female bodybuilders might look ‘bulky’ to you – but its likely you have only ever seen pictures of them on stage when they are at their peak, and flexing. Additionally, they train extremely hard, often multiple times a day and may be on all kinds of supplements and even in some cases steroids – so don’t look at them and think you’re going to end up like that by just looking at a weight. In order for you to achieve the ‘toned’ look it is absolutely necessary to put on muscle. You can’t see the shape of a muscle if you don’t have any.
2) You will lose fat
The fat loss benefits of lifting weights and weightlifting are often overlooked. The assumption is that sweating, breathing heavily and generally hating your workout must mean you’re burning fat, but this is not necessarily the case. Lets put this one to rest: being in a calorie deficit will lead to fat loss. End of Story. The most effective way to do this is through controlling you food intake. Cardio is not a magic pill for fat loss, and should not, be the only way you go about it. Engaging in weight training may be even more beneficial when in a calorie deficit as holding on to more muscle will allow you to continue burning calories throughout the day (as muscle needs energy to grow and sustain itself). If you exclusively embark on cardio alone, along with reducing your food intake, it’s likely you will lose some muscle along with the fat, and decrease your metabolic rate. This will leave you stuck only being able to handle a low calorie diet. The more you weight train, the more muscle you will retain and build (looking toned not bulky – see above bullet point!) and you will maintain or even increase your metabolic rate. Which means more food – which is the aim no!?
3) It is safe
Like anything, provided you do it with good form, and progress to your own ability, you will be perfectly safe. I would recommend attending a weightlifting class, or getting a personal trainer to help you get started if you are unsure. The one thing that isn’t safe is being weak. If you want to avoid a hip replacement and being wheelchair bound in old age, you better start lifting weights now!
4) Bone Health
As we age, we become more prone to muscle and bone loss from osteoporosis and sarcopenia. Weight bearing activity can greatly help retain your bone density and protect against muscle atrophy as we get older.
5) It’s good for your flexibility and mobility
What?! Really!? Yes. Provided you are moving with good range of motion and good form, you will improve in this aspect. Thinking in parallels with yoga can help to explain this. A yogi squat is essentially a goblet squat, a warrior three is just a single leg Romanian deadlift. Mobility, flexibility and strength go hand in hand. You can’t be strong in a movement if you can’t even reach the range of motion, and conversely, without musculature support in the range of movements you are capable of, the more prone to injury you will be.
6) It’s good for your mental health
Weight training and weightlifting is a great confidence builder. The focus perpetuated by the media and society on women seems to be solely on fat loss – that we should constantly make ourselves less. Take up less space. Shrink ourselves. Weaken ourselves. Constantly diet. Burn ourselves off and burn ourselves out. It’s a disturbing rhetoric. Weight training forces you to shift your focus from aesthetic goals only, to objective performance. Make yourself more. Make yourself stronger. Make yourself better. The happy side effect is of course, a strong and toned body. Plus…
7) It’s fun. Really fun.
Theres nothing more satisfying than seeing your own progress, lifting a weight you used to think you couldn’t even move, now be your warm up weight, or even just being able to easily perform everyday tasks you once found difficult. No matter what level or age you are, it’s never too late to start weightlifting!
Where do you start? Click here classes to book into a Love to Lift Class, or get a complimentary PT Consultaion to kickstart your journey.
Personal Trainer and Lifting Specialist at Fitology Hub