Just take a second to quickly Google “why women should lift weights” and you’ll come up with loads of articles from fashion magazines to medical journals touting the benefits of muscles for women. Here’s the down and dirty on why lifting with weights or using resistance tubes is good for you:
* You burn more body fat: Sure, cardio burns calories…during your workout. But building muscle by lifting weights burns calories all day long. And one study from the University of Alabama Birmingham found that lifters burned fat while cardio junkies burned away muscle along with the fat. Bottom line: Muscle = good.
* It gives your body definition: No you won’t look like Helga the Bulgarian power lifter (you’d need powerful steroids for that). But you will love the way your arms look in a tank top this summer. Or maybe you’ll feel free to wear shorts instead of capris because your husband likes your legs. Either way, nicely defined muscles make you look good and feel good.
* You’ll be healthier: Studies have shown that lifting weights can reduce your risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, and diabetes. And if that’s not good enough, it can also lower your blood pressure.
* Muscles burn more calories: When you lift, and lift HEAVY (more on that later), you burn up to twice as many calories as cardio alone.
* Lose belly fat: A University of Alabama study (they must be really interested in this down south…) found that women who lifted weights lost more intra-abdominal fat (deep belly fat) than those that only did cardio.
* Prevent injury: Stronger muscles support joints and ligaments. Of course it is vital to maintain good form and include core strengthening exercises.
Ok, I’m convinced! Now what?
Here’s the thing: It’s time to ditch those five pounders. When we lift a light weight, lots of times, we build up endurance, not strength. Muscles built for endurance do not look cut. Just look at the difference between marathoners and sprinters.
Yep, you’ve got to lift HEAVY weights if you want to build muscle.
That means that it’s hard to do 6 reps of one exercise. It’s really challenging to do 8. If you’re able to do more than 12 reps, bump up your resistance (or load, as they say in scientific circles).
Another tip is to do compound exercises. A compound exercise is a movement that uses lots of muscles together, rather than isolating just one muscle.
For example, a bench press (or a push up) works the chest muscles as well as the triceps. Conversely, a tricep extension isolates the triceps, so you only work that one muscle group. Other examples of compound movements include squats and lunges, pull-ups, just about any kind of row, and dips.
“But I don’t have heavy weights laying around my house!”
Ok, not everyone has access to a gym or weights at home. In that case, a great way to build muscle using only your body weight is to do explosive movements. That means jumping lunges or squats, and plyometric (or exploding) push-ups.
Lizzie Merritt, M.Ed. uses her experience as a former science teacher and a fitness professional to write about weight loss psychology and positive psychology on her blog. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Love Yourself Naked: 12 Keys to the Art and Science of True Body Love, as well as the book 7 Ways to Willpower (available on Amazon.) You can click here to get your copy of her FREE special report, 23 Simple Weight Loss Hacks.