Women always ask me for my top tips on getting a “toned” physique. You want to know the truth? Pick up some weights and make them heavier than your purse.
Im still surprised by the number of women I talk to who think that the key to achieving the body they want is cardio – and hours of it! While cardio is an important tool for weight loss and fitness, it is not the only style of training that you should be focusing on. Resistance (weight) training is what gives your muscles shape, tone, and definition. Yet many women STILL buy into the cardio only myth or believe that if they do strength train 3-5 pounds is the most they should hang with. Wrong. Stick to the light weights and you limit your potential.
Get it out of your head right this second: you will NOT look like a body builder if you add regular weight training into your workout routine. In fact you may finally just achieve that lean, “toned”, body you are killing yourself over with all that cardio. How do you know it wont work if you haven’t really tried it?? It’s worth a shot…. be prepared to be impressed with your body and your results. Here are 16 great reasons you should add strength training to your life:
16 Reasons You Want To Strength Train.
1. Get ‘that body’ you really want (Lean, toned muscles; More definition)
How do you get more toned? Light weights and lots of reps right? At least that’s what we’ve been told for years to believe. However, training to “get toned” with high-reps and light weights will not provide the same benefits as lifting properly with heavy weights. Getting ‘toned’ requires two things to happen:
• Ridding excess body fat
• Increasing the size of muscle cells to provide shape.
‘Toning’ is all about building muscle. For some, it requires the additional removal of any fat covering up the muscle, but it is muscle itself that gives you sleek, sculpted curves so you don’t just look bony once you lose excess body fat. So how do you lose body fat and increase lean muscle concurrently? Combine a healthy amount of cardio / anaerobic exercise (HIIT, sprint-type workouts, plyometrics) with at least one to three weight workouts a week with weights that are a ‘just right’ challenge for you (heavyish weight with proper form).
2. Strengthen Bones & Muscles. Lifting weights not only builds muscles, it makes for stronger bones too. Did you know an average woman can lose up 1% of bone mineral density every year? For men, it is not quite as much, but it adds up! After the age of 25, we lose more than one-half pound of muscle every year without a regular strength-training regimen. Add strength training to your arsenal of weapons against osteoporosis. When you strength train, the act of moving your bones through muscle action increases its density. Your skeletal system becomes stronger in response to the demands that strength exercise places on your body. Increased bone density will reduce the risk of fractures and chronic disease as you age. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) you can significantly reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis by engaging in regular weight training workouts.
3. Burn More Calories. We tend to think of cardiovascular exercise as the calorie torcher necessary for losing weight. However, it’s better to lose inches AND gain muscle than to just simply lose pounds. Muscle, unlike fat, is metabolically active. Cardio burns calories during the workout. Strength burns calories both during AND after the workout. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that women who completed an hour-long strength-training workout burned an average of 100 more calories in the 24 hours afterward than they did when they hadn’t lifted weights. Replace 10 pounds of fat with 10 pounds of lean muscle and you can burn an additional 25 to 50 calories a day without even trying. This “afterburn” effect is the metabolism boost needed to maintain a healthy weight over time and maximize your calorie burn.
4. Lose More Fat. In addition to burning more calories, resistance training may help your body to burn more fat overall. Score! In one study on over 700 females, lifting weights for just 25 minutes three times per week led to the gain of nearly two pounds of muscle, and the loss of four pounds of fat. If you’re familiar with how physiques work, then you know that is a radical change in appearance!Now, picking up heavy things burns a respectable amount of calories on it’s own. No doubt about that. But that’s not why lifting weights is so effective for burning fat.When you lift something heavy, you’re setting your body up for metabolic reactions that allow you to utilize nutrients better and continue burning calories for up to 36 hours after your workout. There’s this thing called your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). It controls how many calories your body burns while you rest. As you gain more muscle, you increase your BMR, along with how much you can eat and still stay lean. The more lean muscle on your body, the less body fat you will store, and the harder it will be to gain weight.
It is important to remember that losing fat may cause noticeable changes in your body (e.g. decrease in size, increase in tone) when looking in the mirror, but the number on the scales may not change. This is because resistance training can increase the amount of lean muscle you have, which is heavier but takes up less space than fat. So simply put, if fat goes down, but muscle goes up, your weight could essentially stay the same. Read more here: The difference between weight loss and fat loss and why you should focus on FITNESS not skinniness for long term health.
5. Have Better Posture. Stronger bones will improve your posture and how you carry yourself. Weight training can ensure that the muscles between the shoulder blades, lower back and abdomen stay strong, which reduces the likelihood of developing muscular imbalances that can lead to poor posture. Better posture will enhance your overall appearance and reduce your chances of suffering from back pain.
6. Ease Joint Pain and Prevent Injuries. Muscles function as shock absorbers and serve as important balancing agents throughout the body. Well-conditioned muscles help to lessen the repetitive landing forces in weight-bearing activities like running or basketball. Also, well-balanced muscles reduce the risk of injuries that result from muscular imbalances (super strong quads and weak hamstrings?! not with smart strength training). Build a foundation of strength and you’ll be less likely to run into injury from sports or daily activities. Stronger muscles better hold your joints in position, so you won’t need to worry about your knee flaring up during your next run.
7. Impress Yourself With Progress. The amazing thing about resistance training and lifting weights in general is that it is you are able to see how far you’ve come. For example, you may have started weighted lunges with 10lb dumbbells and barely making it through your set, to being able to easily get through it with 20lb dumbbells. I love weight training because it helps bring you satisfaction, you can physically see and feel if you have gotten better. Both of these things can encourage you to keep going and continue to improve.
8. Reduce Your Risk of Heart Attack & Diabetes. As we age we naturally lose muscle mass, which makes us weaker and more prone to weight gain. Resistance training can help slow down age-related muscle loss, which means that you are not only looking better, but you are also protecting your health. During exercise, muscle tissue helps to remove additional glucose and triglycerides from your bloodstream, which can help to reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. There is also evidence that suggests that resistance training can help with high blood pressure.
9. Kick A$$ in life. Yes, you heard right! When you are stronger, fitter and have more endurance, you will automatically become better at other movement-based activities that you attempt. Like lifting your suitcase into the overhead bin on the airplane…arm wrestling your brother…carrying all six-eight grocery bags at once…lifting (and keeping up with) your kids…moving boxes and furniture in your house…opening a pickle jar…and on and on..
10. Maximize Your Gym Time. Cardio sessions can sometimes take up a good portion of an hour, which can be tricky to squeeze in before work or between commitments. Fortunately, with resistance training, you don’t need to spend hours at the gym to see results. All you need is a 30-60 minute lifting session about three times a week to start seeing great results in as little as two weeks. However, I like to reinforce this efficiency mindset with all of my trainees: Get In. Work Hard. Get Out. You’ll have more time to spend with your favorite people, and to do your favorite things.
11. Build a Nice Butt. Want a nice booty? The gluteus maximus is one of the strongest muscles in your body. The shape of your glutes are influenced by muscular development. When it comes to building size in your glutes, there is no substitute for a deep, heavy squat. This will also help rid you of cellulite, while “firming” and “toning” your legs in the process. You’ll also strengthen your lower back and help prevent back injuries that are all too common as we age.12. Change your body shape. You may think your genes determine how you look. That’s not necessarily true. Weight training can slim you down, create new curves, and help avoid the “middle-age spread.” Dropping only 3 percent of your body fat could translate into a total loss of 3 inches off your hips and thighs.
13. Boost Your Flexibility. Ignore that super ripped guy fumbling in yoga class for just a minute. Researchers from the University of North Dakota pitted static stretches against strength-training exercises and found that full-range resistance training workouts can improve flexibility just as well as your typical static stretching regimen. The key word here is “full-range,”. If you can’t complete the full motion—going all the way up and all the way down—with a given weight, you may need to use a lighter dumbbell and work up to it.
14. More energy. Exercise gives you endorphins (natural opiates produced by the brain), …endorphins make you happy, feel great and give you more energy!. Ever had a workout, where you were just ‘going through the motions’, as opposed to a workout where you were really ‘in it’—putting your mind into the muscle or movements at hand, giving 100% effort…then…how did you feel after? Perhaps, initially, a bit tired…but chances are, you left that workout with a new spring in your step—renewed energy. Lifting heavy weights challenges you in new ways…leaving you with newfound energy from the ‘rush’ you got in that workout. Strength training has also been showed to help you sleep better (since your muscles are craving recovery, rest and repair post-workout)—and better sleep equals more energy in the long run.
15. Boost Your Body Image. Lifting weights can help shift the focus of your body image from size to ability. In other words, instead of focusing on your weight or the size of your waist, you’ll begin to better appreciate your body for its strength and what it can do. When we focus on actual fitness instead of body size, more muscle can mean more ease in moving our bodies, and better relationships with our bodies and with exercise.
16. Gain Confidence. You know it: Exercise boosts the ego—it helps you feel great in your own skin. The foundation of building inner confidence (and self belief) lies in setting goals that may seem beyond your capabilities and working towards them (consistently and with commitment) until you achieve them. And there’s something about strength training that makes you feel, well… Strong. And that feeling of inner strength — that your muscles are growing, you’re developing definition, and you’re boosting your metabolism — all of those work together as a powerful confidence-booster.
At this point you’re probably thinking everything sounds amazing, but have this little voice in your head telling you that you’re going to get big or bulky. I hear this way too many times. It’s simply a mis-belief that is holding you back from seeing results you love in a short period of time.
If you are really still worried about gaining size and becoming the next incredible hulk, consider this: Bodybuilders are doing EVERYTHING in their power to build muscle and are still struggling! Its very difficult to see massive muscle gains, unless, of course, you’re training like a monster, consuming a massive amount of calories, and injecting yourself with synthetic hormones. When you follow a strength training program customized to fit your body’s needs and goals, you’ll see the results you want (not the extra bulk).
Now that you’re ready to pump some iron, here are a few tips to get you started on the road towards strength success. When developing your personal weight training routine, it’s best to consult with a personal trainer or coach to establish a program that suits your specific needs and abilities. If you’re not familiar with the basic principles of strength training, a fitness professional can give you the guidance you need to start strong. Working with a trainer to establish a foundation of strength training knowledge and good form can get you started with safe and effective program. You can also reference the Ace Fitness Exercise Library, a fabulous online resource to learn proper form and great strength training moves. As always, be sure to check with your doctor before you start lifting weights if you have any medical conditions, injuries or illnesses.
Remember, it’s never too late to start! Strength training can take your body to the next level, while also having a number of positive effects on your overall health. Don’t be afraid to lift weights! Just keep in mind that resistance training is not the ONLY solution to achieving your health and fitness goals. Instead, focus on creating a balanced exercise program, consisting of strength training AND cardio training, while also leaving time for rehabilitation and rest.
I believe in strength training. I have seen it change my body, boost my performance, and powerfully impact my life. And I believe every woman deserves a chance to discover her own strength. So heres to you – living without limits.
Yours in strength,