Strength training or weight lifting is the lifting of weights and/or resistance in a prescribed manner as an exercise or in athletic competition. Notice I said weights and/or resistance. It doesn’t have to necessarily be a weight plate or a dumbbell. There are numerous TV reports, magazine articles, radio shows that explain all of the benefits of lifting weights, yet so many women seem to not be “hitting the weights” for one reason or another.
One very good reason is that they don’t know how much lifting weights will actually change their body (more so than even running or any of the other cardiovascular activities). Another reason is that a lot of women are confused about what to do exactly (what exercises, how many repetitions, how many sets, etc.).
This article will help shed some light on why it is so important that every woman be involved and adhering to a strength training program.
You actually might be involved in a strength-training program right now. Even if you are, I want you to really pay attention to what we’re going to cover for the rest of the article. I’m sure it is going to have you thinking differently about why you should be lifting weights from now on.
We’re going to talk about why developing a strength training program will ultimately help you lose weight, add some muscle tone, look better and feel better about yourself. We will go over some “myths” about strength training and the real facts behind them. So, whether you’re new to strength training or you’ve been doing it for years, pay close attention.
Let’s first clear up some of the misconceptions about strength training and the truth behind these myths. This first myth is the “biggie” and it has prevented many women from strength training. It sounds a little something like this; “I don’t want to lift weights because I don’t want to get bulky.”
Let’s explore that myth a little. When you think of weight lifters, you probably think of body builder’s, right? You think of the men and women on ESPN parading around in little swimsuits with big bulky muscles popping out all over the place.
There are three reasons for this:
1.) These people are an extremely small percentage of the population.
2.) That is their livelihood and they spend 4 to 5 hours a day in the gym.
3.) Most of them are using performance-enhancing drugs (steroids, etc.) to look like that.
So if you can get that image of the “bodybuilder” out of your head and think in terms of the average everyday person, you will see why the myth about getting bulky is just that, a myth!
What we’re going to talk about next is simple. When you lifting weights your body builds muscle. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn (even at rest). The more calories you burn the less you weight. Let me give you an example of this that might make it a little easier to understand.
Let’s say two women are sitting on the couch watching some TV. Woman #1 strength-trains 3 times a week, but woman #2 does not. After an hour of watching TV goes by, who will have burned more calories? The common answer to that would be that they both burned the same (almost nothing), since they were just sitting and not moving.
But the actual answer would be that woman #1 burned more calories, and I’ll tell you why for one simple reason. THE MORE MUSCLE YOU HAVE THE MORE CALORIES YOU BURN!! Now you might say to yourself, “But if I lifting weights, my muscles will get bigger, I will appear big and bulky, and wind up weighing more.” This is also a myth.
That myth being one of the most popular in the world of exercise, which is, “muscle weighs more than fat.”
That’s like the old joke, “What weighs more–10 lbs. of steel or 10 lbs. of feathers?” Hopefully by now you know that the answer to that question is that they both really weigh the same. 10 lbs. is 10 lbs. no matter what it is made of. Let’s examine this point in a little more detail.
Muscle is much more compact than fat. It actually takes up less space than fat does because of its density. That makes sense, right? Fat, on the other hand, is very soft and jelly-like and occupies more space than muscle does.
Let me give you another example to clarify this a little more.
If you were to take 10 lbs. of fat and 10 lbs. of muscle and roll each of them into a ball, the 10 lbs. of fat might be the size of a bowling ball. In comparison, the 10 lbs. of muscle would be about the size of a baseball. Now let’s use this as a real life example using woman #1 and woman #2 in an example again. Let’s say for arguments sake, both women are 5′ 5″ tall and both weigh 140 lbs. Woman #2 does not lift weights or do any kind of strength training. Her dress size is a size 12. Woman #1 on the other hand, lifts weights and follows a strength-training program each week. Her dress size is a size 8. If these women were standing side by side people would definitely think that woman #1 weighed less than woman #2. But in reality they both weigh exactly the same.
How can that be?
Think of what I said before, muscle takes up less space than fat. Of those 140 pounds that each woman weighs, what’s the percentage of fat and muscle on each woman? I would venture to guess that woman #1 has a very low body fat percentage and woman #2 has a much higher body fat percentage. How did woman #1 get such a low percentage of body fat? Two words—STRENGTH TRAINING (in addition to cardio exercise and eating healthy, but this article is just touting the immense benefits of strength training).
That brings up another good point I’d like to make. The weighing scale is the worst indicator of losing FAT. It will tell you that you’ve lost weight, it’s great at that. But what if you lose 10 pounds of fat and replace it with 10 pounds of muscle? Will you have lost weight? According to the scale, NO! Will you have lost FAT? Absolutely, and I guarantee that your clothes will be a lot looser on you and you will look a lot better. If you can do one thing with your scale I would recommend throwing it in the garbage, or at least getting rid of it.
Well all right, you say, “I’ll lift weights, but I’m only lifting light weights and doing lots of repetitions.”
This is another mistake a lot of you are making. This is not the ‘wrong’ way to lift, but it is certainly not the only way to go about strength training if your goal is weight loss. There is and should be a place in your fitness program for higher repetitions, but it shouldn’t be the only thing you do with weights.
Women do not have enough of the male hormone, testosterone, to get big muscles. You probably couldn’t even get big and bulky if you tried to. So, is it all right for you to lift heavy weights with fewer repetitions? ABSOLUTELY!!
Let’s take a moment now to recap some of the main ideas to take away from this article:
• Lifting weights will not make you bulky (it will make you leaner and more toned).
• Muscle is more compact and denser than fat and actually takes up less space than fat.
• The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn (even at rest!).
• Every good strength training program should include light weights with more repetitions and heavier weights with fewer repetitions.