Here, trainer Rhys Brooks, continues his tips for the gym. I don’t know about you but I’ve always been rather scared of heavy weights thinking they’ll either hurt me or make me look like a body builder, which is clearly ridiculous as it’s hard enough just to keep muscles looking toned! I’ve never even had a calf muscle despite doing ballet as a child and seriously wanting one! So clearly becoming a bulky muscly blokey type is not really an option. On the other hand…you better be right Rhys!
One of the biggest misconceptions I come across with female clients in the gym, is that weight training will make you bulky and cardio will make you skinny. Nothing could be further from the truth. I see this old school mind-set everyday in my gym with female members curling and pressing the same 3kg weights they have used since they joined the gym. I actually find it quite amusing when talking new clients through what’s to come in our training sessions and I mention ‘heavy weights’. Instantly there is a change in their body language, a look of fear in their eyes and then the words ‘I don’t want to bulk up’ comes blurting out.
Ladies please rest assured that there is no need to fear lifting heavy iron. If you are serious about improving your body composition improving your health and even your lifespan get your lifting gloves on and start shifting some weight.I will go through the reasons why you need to make heavy resistance training a part of your weight loss regime. Firstly we need to define what heavy means. For most recreation gym users a heavy weight will see you reach a point of failure, meaning you can not physically perform another repetition, around the 10-12 mark. It is essential that once an exercise can be performed for the prescribed number of repetitions the weight be increased. This ensures the body keeps adapting and plateaus in weight loss and strength are not experienced. Also I want to point out that a female’s hormonal status is the reason ’natural’ female weight lifters cannot bulk up. Testosterone is primary a male hormone and is responsible for the muscular physiques that are seen in the gym. As females possess very small quantities of this hormone it is impossible to add significant amounts of muscle. Most females you have seen with large amounts of muscle have either been training for years with the aim to achieve that look or they have also had the help of pharmaceutical drugs.
Reasons why women should lift heavy:
- Improved posture – Correct resistance training can vastly improve ones posture. Muscles that hold your shoulders back, chest out, bum up and head proud are all strengthened through strength training. By just improving posture one can appear a taller, slender and confident.
- Improved glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity – Strength training has many different physiological effects on the body. One of the most important from a weight loss perspective is the improvement of glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity. Insulin is the key hormone responsible for energy storage. This can mean body fat storage if your cells are somewhat resistance to insulin. Diabetes and PCOS are prime examples of conditions caused by poor glucose metabolism/insulin resistance. Those with poor glucose metabolism will usually see body fat deposits above the hips and on the stomach. Restoring the cells sensitivity to insulin through strength training is one of the most important methods to improve body composition and improve you health.
- Increased metabolic rate – Strength training will add muscle to your frame, the more muscle you carry the higher your basal metabolic rate. This means that you will burn more calories when sitting in the car, at the desk and even while sleeping. Don’t worry about becoming bulky, the muscle you add will increase your fat burning capacity, see a reduction of body fat and tone your muscles. Also remember that fat occupies a much larger surface area than muscle which means that although the scales may not change, your waist, hips, thighs etc. will all decrease in size and you will lose inches.
- Reduced risk of osteoporosis in later years – osteoporosis is a degenerative disease of the bones that mainly affects women. Strength training has been proven in increase bone density, prevent calcium loss and prevent frailty in later years. Keeping strong and strength training in the latter years also has many other benefits such as improved balance, coordination and endurance. All beneficial when trying to keep up with those grandkids.
- Reduction of intra abdominal fat – studies have show that strength training is not only great for reducing the visible fat on our bodies but also effective in reducing the nasty fat that lays under the abdominals, surrounding the bodies internal organs. This type of fat is particularly unhealthy and is associated with increase rates of heart disease, cancers, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. This is one good reason to get in the gym and lift big.
- Improved self-confidence – Strength training can be great for confidence. I have had reports from my female clients that lifting iron along side the boys is very empowering and helps build self-confidence. Although training alongside the guys can be intimidating, I guarantee after a few sessions you wont notice their grunts and you will blend right in.
- Increase your life span – According to Tufts University the two leading predictors of lifespan are – 1:How much lean body mass you maintain over the course of your lifetime and 2: How strong you are. This is fantastic news for those of you who already participate in strength training and a good idea for those who don’t, to get down to the gym and start lifting.
There are many more reasons why women should incorporate strength training into their fitness regimes. The above are the more important ones that will improve your body composition and overall health. So ladies please don’t be afraid of the heavy weights or the apes that occupy the free weights area. If you wish to improve your health, fitness and body shape I strongly recommend you seek the help of a good trainer and start lifting your way to a better body.
Personal Trainer and Nutrition Consultant
BA Sport and Exercise, CHEK, FMA and Bio-signature practitioner