Many women avoid weight training for a variety of reasons. But gone are the days when the gym belonged to men.
There are now many different options if you want to pump a little iron in a more feminine way. There are fitness centres catering for men and women, small personal training studios, outdoor training groups and women only gyms. The key is starting with a trainer or class with an instructor (initially at least) to ensure you learn the right technique from the outset and get the best from each workout.
Also known as resistance training, the official definition is simply the use of a resistance to stimulate a muscle to increase its size, strength or tone. Many women don’t know there are a multitude of health benefits from doing weights in addition to getting a great body. Lifting weights helps manage insulin resistance and prevent the onset of type II diabetes. By strengthening connective tissue and increasing joint stability, weights help protect your body from injury in daily life or whilst doing other sports and activities. They promote the growth of strong bones which are important in preventing osteoporosis later in life, especially after menopause. Many women also report increased feelings of self-confidence and self-esteem after commencing weight training.
“Many women don’t know there are a multitude of health benefits from doing weights in addition to getting a great body. Lifting weights helps manage insulin resistance and prevent the onset of type II diabetes”
Weights themselves are no longer just weights. Class instructors and personal trainers now use an ever expanding repertoire of tools of the trade, to keep it varied to teach and interesting to participate. Weight machines, dumbbells, barbells, exercise bands, kettlebells, TRX, medicine balls, even your own body weight, can be used to provide a resistance workout.
Start with a simple program that works your whole body in one session. Optimal results occur from weight training twice per week. However, enough health benefits occur from even one session per week to make it worthwhile. Only if you choose to do weight training 4 or more times per week do you need to split your body parts into different sessions (eg upper one session, lower the next).
Many women fear getting too bulky, but this fear is unfounded. The reality is women do not have the same biological capacity as men to build muscle. They just don’t have the testosterone. If you are not lifting heavy weights, for low repetitions, it is impossible to grow into the female answer to Arnold Schwarzenegger. If a woman does manage to build shoulders like the Hulk from a couple of sets of shoulder press with 3k dumbbells, tell her to share her secret with the body building world. She may be too muscly, but she will be a millionaire.
Another fear is injury, which is why it is recommended to start with a trainer to ensure you use the right amount of resistance for your body and training level. And don’t keep doing the same old workout, day after day, for months on end. Changing or increasing the stimulation over time is needed to keep encouraging your body to respond – another reason a trainer can help. Otherwise you will hit the dreaded plateau, and no-one embarking on a new fitness challenge wants that.
3 ways weights will give you the body you want:
- Become an efficient fat burning machine – weight training increases muscle mass and unlike fat, muscle is an active tissue that burns calories even when it is resting.
- Weigh the same on the scales but look smaller – muscle does not weigh more than fat – a kilo of muscle and a kilo of fat are both a kilo. However, muscle is a denser tissue than fat, so a 60k woman with muscle will look smaller and more toned than a 60k untrained woman.
- Want arms that don’t wobble when you wave and a butt you could bounce a tennis ball off – eating less and doing cardio will make your body smaller, but shape and tone come from muscle, so get working those triceps and glutes.
By Rachel Livingstone at The Health Hub.