Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know I love lifting and am always cheerleading other ladies who love it too. I’ve really gotten into it in the past 6 months and am always trying to educate girls about the benefits and great fun that come with building muscle.
Freeweights and heavy, compound exercises are rarely advertised to women. Better quality women’s fitness magazines, like Women’s Health have been promoting the reason why we should all take a tip from the men, but women who read these probably know this anyway and the message has failed to penetrate the mass media. The fear that lifting heavy makes you bulky still haunts women’s workout schedules, when really, it should be leading them.
I’ve recently joined a new gym which is almost overwhelmingly polarised by gender. Women fill the cardio sections and mats; men run the freeweights room. After a while on a specific training programme, I know my way around an Olympic bar; but I was seriously intimidated by the amount of men in the freeweights room (see above…) and the serious lack of women. After 15 minutes of totally unnecessary extra cardio and many emergency SOS #fitfam tweets, I decided I couldn’t let my own anxieties keep me from completing a decent workout, so I bit the bullet and headed in to the squat rack. I was the only woman in there for 25 minutes. When I left, shaking up my protein, I got a lot of weird looks from other women in the gym.
The sad thing is, I wish they knew how much better they might feel if they lifted too. How much their confidence, energy and strength would increase if they spent one of their workouts somewhere other than the crosstrainer. Don’t get me wrong, cardio obviously has it’s benefits. But combining it with weight training will improve most women’s results ten fold.
While men seem to pack on the gains after a few sessions on the bench, women simply don’t have enough testosterone to build this amount of muscle. Lifting heavy weights on compound exercises like squats, deadlifts and bench presses will increase metabolism and burn fat for longer than a standard cardio workout. ‘Toning’ simply refers to firm, visible muscle mass and a low body fat percentage. To achieve this, you have to strength train. Not endless reps with light 3kg dumbells, but fewer reps of heavy weights combined with intense cardio sessions like HIIT, a balanced diet and plenty of protein. After a few months on a strength program like this, your results will far surpass what you could have achieved with cardio alone.
In addition to the strong, toned and curvy figure weight training sculpts, I continue to up my weight in the gym because of the surge I have seen in my confidence, energy and focus. Knowing I can give some guys a run for their gym membership gives me an inner strength that matches the gains I’ve made with my figure and I push myself much more in all areas of my life since I started taking my training seriously. Focusing hard on picking up something heavy a few times a week is almost meditative and has made me calmer and happier.
I hope more women start to realise the physical and emotional merits of lifting and that women’s media start to fairly represent this area of fitness. Next time you’re in the gym, book another induction based around the free weights and get a PT to show you how to lift. I haven’t met a woman yet who’s not wished she’d started sooner.