“Does this barbell make me look bulky?” (No.) There’s a sincere fear that weight lifting will create big, bulging muscles, and there’s a legitimate concern that big weights will provoke injury. Yet, lifting weights is the fastest way to build muscle mass while burning fat and effectively lose those stubborn “lbs.” Not to mention, picking up a barbell is an incredible confidence booster. Girl, you know what you’re doing in the gym!
Post-workout benefits. When weights are added to your workout, your body recruits energy. Most of that energy comes from stored fat, just like in a steady cardio workout. The difference with weight lifting is that it requires at least double the amount of energy to move through an exercise. It will feel like you’re working less. In fact, you will be burning even more calories after you leave the gym. Every time you work out, you challenge and “damage” your muscles, and it takes energy to repair them. In fancy terms, this is called the EPOC effect. Weight lifting not only burns fat, but it maintains and builds muscle mass whereas in steady cardio training, you’re losing fat and muscle together.
>> Read more: Lifting Weights Will Not Make You Bulky
Strong muscles, strong bones. Women who lift weights have a higher bone density. Any time you add stress to your body, it responds by adapting. Bones are not perfectly rigid structures; in fact, they grow and adapt to your physical activity. Building up skeletal muscle also builds up bone strength, which is so important for women of any age, especially those older than 50. (via Mayo Clinic)
Power up the weight loss. If you’ve hit a plateau in your weight loss journey, consider lifting weights once or twice a week. It will shift your body’s way of utilizing fat and calories, almost like a shock to the system. At this point, don’t rely on the scale to show progress, but whip out the tape measure instead. Muscle is denser but leaner than fat. Building your skeletal muscle also helps your body create more insulin receptors, which will help your fend off weight.
It's sexy, and you know it. A woman who knows her way around the gym is more likely to be able to juggle the kids, laundry, lawn care, groceries and more without skipping a beat. A study of older adults showed weight training paired with practice of proper technique increased their ability to get through day-to-day errands and activities. Lifting weights isn't just for the dudes.
HELPFUL HINTS FOR WEIGHTLIFTING
How weight lifting stacks up against other workouts: Harvard Medical School published a table showing approximate calories burned per 30 minutes of exercise in different body weight categories. Heavy weight lifting can burn 180 calories in 30 minutes for a 125-pound person. (Please note that women actually expend more energy than men during exercise, so this number is probably higher.) It shows most cardio workouts burning more calories in the same amount of time, but these calories come from different places. Weight lifting calories come from stored fat and glycogen. But let’s not pin these two against each other; cardio and weightlifting are actually best friends!
There’s a difference between adding dumbbells to an exercise versus lifting weights. If you load up a barbell or choose a heavy dumbbell or kettlebell to do fewer reps, then you’re weight lifting. Based on your strength and ability, these weights will differ. But it’s supposed to feel heavy so that you can only do four to six reps in a set. Once you get better at it, eight to 12 reps is sufficient. It’s important to stop at least one rep before you fail. Plan to cycle through several movements for a well rounded workout.
It’s not all about the weights, though. The majority of your physical appearance and how you feel from day to day is rooted in your diet. If you haven’t cleaned it up yet, do that first. Then, lifting weights will blow your results through the roof.
If fear of injury or looking like a fool is holding you back, recruit a trainer or friend who has experience in this type of exercise and start slow. Proper form is critical for heavy weights, not only as a safety factor, but as a means to the best possible results.