It’s a common misconception that girls who like a lean feminine physique should steer clear of weight training. Here’s why we should all be integrating it into our fitness schedules. Very simply, scientific studies have proved that exercising with weights burns more calories for a longer period of time. It works the muscles much harder while you are exercising, which means the body’s energy systems have to work harder and smarter to release calories during your training, but also, most importantly, the body has to work harder to repair itself (for up to 48 hours) after you exercise. This means that weight training increases your basal (base) metabolic rate. Essentially you become a more efficient calorie-burning machine, the result being a leaner more toned body in general. Exercise that means I’m burning more calories while I’m resting? Yes please.
The obsession with cardio (running, cycling, swimming etc.) as the only way to burn fat is a myth. As is the idea that exercising with weights bulks you up. Women in particular don’t have enough testosterone (male hormone) to bulk up from weight training. The key to using weights when you train is to add in cardio vascular intervals to the session – High Intensity Training (HITT) or more popular now “CrossFit”.
The good news is that if you don’t have a gym or you don’t like going to the gym, your body weight is a good place to start. As a rule, when using lighter weights or body weight try to do more repetitions. With heavier loads, the body is under more stress so you can get away with doing fewer repetitions. An hour is all you ever need to do and if you can do 3 sessions a week you will see quick results. Assuming the correct technique, the latest research suggests lifting heavier will yield faster results – the old low weight/high rep approach for girls has been largely disproved as the only way to a lean toned feminine physique.
Despite my goal based character, I don’t think I am ever going to care deeply about any weightlifting pbs, but I love how much weight training has increased my strength and muscular endurance – I notice it in everyday life. It’s quite liberating not needing help with suitcases or shopping bags. More importantly, I think weight training has shifted the female mindset from a desire to be skinny to a much healthier focus on being toned and strong. Beyond boosting your metabolism and increasing your strength and power, weight training has been proven in scientific studies to keep bones and joints and ligaments strong (and therefore less prone to injury or osteoporosis) and keep your body composition at a healthier level making you less vulnerable to a host of illnesses and health conditions.
My favourite weights exercises are compound moves. These are structural moves that involve your entire body, so you can activate as many muscles as you can in a short period of time. It is completely different from doing traditional isolated body building exercises (like biceps curls or leg curls) where you’re only using one or a few muscles at a time. I just don’t have time for these kind of exercises, and since they don’t stimulate enough muscle fibres to increase my metabolic rate or affect my endocrine system, I’m not going to find time for them. I find time for deadlifts and for burpees, squats and lunges holding weights because these ones do. I need my workout to pack as much punch as it can – who can devote hours to the gym? Remember that metabolic training (CrossFit) is intense – if you aren’t getting breathless and sweating, something is wrong. I personally like workouts that are tough enough that they count, but not so tough that I am held back by DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). I am too busy to have “day after” days where my legs are too sore to run up and down stairs, and my arms are too sore to carry my children. Find the right balance!