Are you the woman who plays musical chairs on cardio equipment for an hour then calls it day but still can’t figure out why you can’t get that rockin’ bod? I’ll let you in on a little secret, cardio is not the key. Whether you’re resisting the weights because you’re a sworn cardio queen or because you’re afraid strength training will turn you into a she-hulk, I encourage you to reconsider. Here’s the thing, if you’re not strength training a few times a week, you’re missing out on some serious benefits. I’m not in any way implying cardio is bad, but if you want to look like a girl who lifts, then you have to lift, girl!
Before you get scared away by the thought of moving around heavy barbells or clunky dumbbells, keep in mind that strength training involves so much more. Simply using your own body weight will make you stronger and shape an amazing body. You can also consider working with kettlebells, sandbags, resistance bands, cable machines, weighted vests, medicine balls, TRX systems, or anything else you can dream up to overload all of those muscles in your body.
The Benefits of Strength Training
Even though we’re all chasing that dream body, let’s take a minute to discuss the non-visible benefits of strength training. For starters, working against resistance will improve your bone density, making your bones stronger now and less likely to break or fracture in the future, a huge plus for us ladies.
If you find your energy levels in the gutter and your mood a little less than stable, strength training may be your saving grace. Researchers have found that of the many interventions used, strength training resulted in the largest improvements in chronic fatigue. In addition, strength training has been shown to have a positive effect on anxiety and depression. Oh, and did I mention it does wonders for your self-esteem?!
OK, now, on to what you’re really interested in.
Weight Loss and Fat Burning Potential
Strength training is an effective way to burn fat and potentially lose weight. How? For starters, strength training builds muscle, which gives you a bigger engine to fuel. Muscle requires more calories than fat to survive so if you have more muscle, you’ll burn more energy, even at rest.
How else does strength training burn fat? I’m glad you asked. In addition to the calories you burn strength training, you’ll also burn a pretty substantial amount after your workout has ended. This is known as Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption, or EPOC, and is the amount of oxygen required to restore your body to its normal, resting pre-exercise state. Basically, while your body is working to get back to a resting state, it’s using energy it doesn’t usually need. Research has shown that high-intensity strength training disturbs the balance of the body to a greater degree than other types of exercise – the greater the disturbance, the greater the energy requirement to return to normal.
Long story short, strength train with heavy loads and short recovery periods to get the biggest bang for your buck.
As far as actually losing weight, you may not see that tiny little number you hoped for – despite that, your body will still change. As you build muscle and lose fat, there’s a good chance your scale will opt to go on strike and not move much. Make sure you keep your “skinny jeans” handy, because they will fit you again, even if you don’t hit that magical number you have in your head.
Toning and Muscle Building Potential
If you’ve never strength trained in your life, you will notice some pretty great changes taking place. As you build muscle (you will build muscle if you overload your muscles on a regular basis), you will begin to see definition in those working muscles. You’ll see deltoids, biceps, triceps, quads, hamstrings and glutes start to emerge. Your back, chest and core will also take on a more “toned” appearance.
And, please, don’t fret about getting to big and bulky. Unless you make it your mission to get bodybuilder muscles, you will not get them – they’re not something that happens by mistake. The women who have those huge muscles have spent countless hours in the gym and have honed in their diet more than you can even imagine, not to mention they’re also built for it. Some women have the genetics to build a substantial amount of muscle but most of us do not. So, just get in there and do your thing, you’ll be pleased with the end product.
Classes: What to expect; should I take them?
Strength training classes of any type are a great idea! Whether you opt for a circuit-style class at your gym, a boot camp, kettlebell class or go all-out and hire a personal trainer, learning different exercises and proper technique will help you be more effective with your training and lower your chance of getting hurt.
Instructional Strength Training Videos and Training Tips
Because we live in the wonderful world we do, there are a ton of resources online to help you along your fitness journey. Here are some of the best strength training instructional videos out there, check them out before getting down to business.
- Begin each workout with a 5 to 10-minute warm-up to prepare your body for exercise.
- If using weights, choose resistance that makes it difficult to perform more than 12 repetitions.
- For each workout, choose five to eight exercises that work the major muscle groups.
- Begin with one to three sets of each exercise, increasing exercise volume as your muscles adapt to the stress – generally, every three to four weeks.
- End each workout with a 5 to 10-minute cool-down, including stretches to target the working muscles.
- Stay hydrated during your workout and grab a healthy high-protein snack after the sweat dries.
Clothes and Proper Attire
You won’t have to buy a whole new wardrobe to start strength training (unless you want to). Athletic shorts, t-shirt and sports bra will keep you comfortable. Of course, there are countless companies who specialize in high-tech athletic gear if you feel so inclined.
As far as sneakers go, you can go with a pair of cross-trainers or actual weight-lifting shoes if you plan on getting serious with your iron.
Results and Success Stories
“I started training in the first place because I felt so down about myself. Not only did I have no confidence, my health was at its lowest! I could barely run, complete a 10-minute workout and I had stomach problems all the time (that’s what stemmed a whole new attitude about food and exercise).
For the past few months, I have been trying to eat more plant-based meals and no refined sugar and love how I feel!
As far as training, I tend to do three, 30-40 minute weight sessions per week with low reps. I increase my weight ever so slightly every week. I also incorporate three to four 30-minute sessions of HIIT into my routine.
In the last three years, I have lost 2 and a half stone (about 35 pounds).”