Every time I tell someone I lift weights, I get an awkward look and an “Oooh.” I feel uncomfortable saying it because I’m at a point right now where my PRs aren’t as high as they used to be, but that’s not why they feel uneasy.
There is this cultural idea that women shouldn’t lift heavy. Barbells are too rough for our feminine delicacies, and we shouldn’t want to get big and bulky. Bulky… It’s almost like a swear word when used in reference to a woman’s body.
What if I told you that lifting weights isn’t like that at all? That women’s bodies respond differently to building muscle than men’s bodies do?
Well, it’s true. Women’s bodies do build muscle differently. (Keep in mind as well that “bulky” means different things to different people.) Due to the lack of testosterone, our muscles don’t naturally get as huge as men’s do without significant effort. When people hear female bodybuilding, it brings to mind images of huge muscle bound tanned ladies, but trust me when I say that you will never get that big unless you work really hard to. Check out Nikki Blackketter and Hannah Mae if you have any doubts about that.
On that note, people often advocate low weight and high reps, or hypertrophy, to avoid getting bigger and “bulky”, but that’s the opposite of what you should be doing. Programs that are designed to build muscle mass utilize hypertrophic routines because that is the best way to put on “bulk”. For example, check out the Strong Curves plan. The goal of this workout plan is to build glutes to create “curves”. If you look at the leg/glute dominant exercises, you’ll see that the recommended reps per set are 10-20. On the other hand, the sets that are focused more so on arms, chest, shoulders, and back have fewer reps because they are designed to build strength but not as much muscle mass. High weight, low reps will make you stronger and leaner, but it will take effort to make you bulky.
I will forever advocate lifting for women.
Lifting weights tones your body.
When it comes to fitness buzzwords, bulky is to bad as toned is to ideal in most conversations. Contrary to popular belief, losing fat isn’t the best way to look tone. In order to get that look, muscle tone is necessary.
Skinny fat is a term for a reason. You can lose fat all day, but without muscle, you’ll still look soft.
It causes your body to burn more calories when you’re not working out.
Increased muscle mass causes an increase in calorie burning when you’re not working out anymore. Studies have shown that, while cardio burns more in your workout session, that elevated level of calorie burn end as soon as your workout does. Lifting weights, however, causes your body to maintain that increased calorie burn for much longer during the day.
Being the lazy person that I am, I will do anything I can to make sure that my body continues burning calories while I mainline Bravo shows. Plus, burning more calories means I can eat more, and isn’t that really the reason anyone works out?
It’s a great way to lose weight.
This ties in with the last point, but it’s worth emphasizing. I have gone through periods of time in which I only lifted and periods in which I only ran while maintaining the same diet. I lost more weight and kept it off with lifting than I ever did with running.
You can lift for 30-45 minutes 3x a week and still see results.
I used to wake up and go to the gym at 6:30 before work (I know. What was wrong with me?!), and there was this girl at the gym every time that I was there. She was on the treadmill when we got there, and she would still be going when we would leave. My workout partner would always laugh at me because I would watch this girl and groan in sympathy for our entire workout. The thought of spending over an hour on the treadmill is my own personal hell, much less the actual act of doing it.
For the same level of workout, you only need to lift for 30-45 minutes 3x a week. Working out for half of the time with the same results? Yeah, I like the sound of that.
On the same note, if you lift heavier, you can do less reps per set with positive results. Hear that folks? Efficiency.
It can make your joints stronger.
I’ve had knee pain since I was a child. What started as growing pains turned into a perpetual predictor of rain. I don’t know if it was caused by years of Irish folk dancing or wearing heels like they were going out of style, but weak at the knees is more than just a saying for me.
I was always scared to squat with weight because I heard horror stories about how it can mess up your knees. However, through research, I learned that squatting, when done with correct form, is actually GOOD for your knees. Compound lifts like squats help strengthen the muscles around your knees, decreasing muscle pain after other activities.
Never in my life have my knees felt better than when I’m on a regular lifting schedule. I didn’t notice the change until I paused my lifting routine to train for a 10k. The combination of losing that muscle mass and constant stress on those joints caused me to have more knee pain than I had felt in a long time. Soon after I started strength training again, that pain went away again.
You feel powerful and proud of yourself.
The first few times you go, you’ll probably feel weak and overwhelmed, but the more you go, the more you will notice your lifts getting stronger. Weights that used to be unmanageable for 8 reps will be easy for 12. If you’re tracking your progress, seeing that little weight graph rise is the best feeling because it’s visible progress. You can’t get much better than that.
You grow a nice, round booty.