One of the most common misconceptions of weight lifting that I have heard time and time again is that ‘weights makes girls look bulky and manly’. Because of this belief girls stick to lifting weights no heavier than their handbag, doing countless reps in the gym for hours on end and seeing no real results. I mean, think about it, you lug your Zara Office City bag around filled to the brim with your make up, books or laptop, running around between lectures or meetings and yet you expect a 2kg dumbbell to give you arms like Cameron Diaz. I know, I’ve been there, I was that girl.
I spent the majority of my University gym membership slaving away on the cross trainer, stationary bikes, treadmill and rowing machine After 30-45 minutes cardio I’d move onto weights, but I mean those weighted machines and ‘baby’ dumbbells. I was slim, sure. Was I toned? No. My arms and thighs still wobbled and I had no definition well, anywhere. Thank God twerking wasn’t a thing in my Uni days ’cause everything would’ve wobbled. I’m talking ripples from my ass to my knees. Anyway, I digress.
I can’t remember when or why but one day I stumbled upon the enlightening Female Training Bible. I devoured the information and wanted more. It led me to Jamie Eason and her LiveFit training plan. Both the article/bible and Jamie’s plan inspired me to try strength training. My current gym wasn’t giving me the results I wanted, so I ventured over to the free weights.
I loved it. I loved the feeling of getting stronger at every gym session, being able to increase my weights 1-2kg at a time. I loved not leaving the gym a sweaty mess every time. I loved not having to be in the gym for hours. I discovered just how strong my legs are. It gave me a new sense of appreciation for my thunder thighs and pear-shaped figure. I could poke myself and feel muscle tone for the first time in my adult life.
But enough about me and my story, today I want to address some of the misconceptions and concerns surrounding weight lifting and hopefully convince you to love weights too.
1. Weights sculpt your body
We all have hang ups, whether it’s a muffin top, bingo wings, back fat, the list goes on. The bad news is that you can’t spot reduce fat. Let me repeat that, you cannot choose to lose weight from a specific area. So many times I’ve been asked for tips on how to lose bingo wings or saddlebags, or another body hang up. You can however, use weights to target specific muscle groups. Want a rounder, lifted butt? Work on your glutes and hamstrings with squats, donkey kicks and more. Want to improve the appearance of your arms? Focus on exercises that target your biceps, triceps and shoulders. Fat loss all over will then show off the toned arms you’ve been sculpting with weights.
2. Lifting heavy weights won’t make you look manly
For many women, the idea of strength training conjures up images of overly tanned, incredibly muscular female bodybuilders. Let me tell you, these women work damn hard to look that way, with years of training, dedication, very strict diets and sometimes, the aid of steroids. For the average female like you and I, incorporating strength training into our gym routine will not have us looking like a bodybuilder or a man because we simply do not have the testosterone levels required. It is testosterone that is the key to large increases in muscle mass and we only have a fraction of the testosterone that men have. Even Victoria’s Secret models swear by weight training and hey, if it works for them…
3. Weights increase your metabolism and calorie burn
Lifting weights increases your muscle mass. Muscles are metabolically active, which means that muscle elevates your metabolism. The higher your metabolism, the more calories you burn on a day to day basis. This means that by increasing your muscle mass you burn more calories just laying down, than you would if you had less muscle mass. On top of this, weight lifting continues burning calories after you’ve stopped the exercise. Compare this to cardio which burns calories only when you are doing the cardio activity. With weight lifting, your body needs to repair the muscles after you have stressed them during the exercise, therefore your body continues burning calories long after you’ve left the gym.
4. Weights increase bone density
As we age, our bone mass gradually decreases and as we reach our late thirties it drops significantly. By starting to weight train now we can build a better foundation and prevent such drastic loss of bone mass as well as decrease the risk of osteoporosis.
5. You’ll gain confidence
Whether inside or out the gym, there is something very empowering about being able to lift a heavy weight. Inside the gym you’ll be hitting personal bests as you continually get stronger and increase the weight you lift each time. Outside the gym you won’t need to ask for help each time you want to move something you used to find too heavy. Being physically stronger does wonders for your mental strength and confidence. Trust me.
I could go on listing reasons why you should start weight training, but I hope this is enough to inspire you to venture into the ‘boys’ weights area and pick up the dumbbells. Start small, don’t wander in there and head straight for the 30kg for a bicep curl. Ask a personal trainer or fitness coach for help and tips. Check your gym timetable and see if they give masterclass sessions on different weight lifting moves. Read the Female Training Bible and watch the bodybuilding.com videos of each move. Form is so important so make sure you know how to correctly do the move before you even pick up the weight. Should your knees be bent, straight or slightly bent? Is your back flat? Familiarise yourself with the correct form for each move.
Have you tried weight lifting before? What’s your favourite move to do? Why do you enjoy weight lifting? Have you been too intimidated to try? Let me know in the comments below.