7 Reasons Why Women Should Lift Weights

# 1 Boost Metabolism

If you want to reshape your figure, build muscle to burn fat. The amount of muscle you have affects your metabolic rate, i.e. how fast your body uses your food’s energy. Muscle tissue is an active tissue, unlike fat, and requires more calories to maintain. The more muscle you gain from strength training, the more calories you burn. Each pound of lean muscle burns up to 50 calories per day.

If you want to reshape your figure, build muscle to burn fat. The amount of muscle you have affects your metabolic rate, i.e. how fast your body uses your food’s energy. Muscle tissue is an active tissue, unlike fat, and requires more calories to maintain. The more muscle you gain from strength training, the more calories you burn. Each pound of lean muscle burns up to 50 calories per day.

Adding 8 pounds of lean muscle means you will burn up to 400 more calories per day you weren’t burning. For a better perspective, walk on the treadmill and see how long it takes to burn 400 more calories. Compare that to the potential of burning these calories while doing nothing!

Your metabolism also kicks into high gear during the muscle repair process. Putting your muscles under stress causes small tears within the muscle fibers. As your body repairs the damage and strengthens your muscles in preparation for your next workout, you’re burning calories, even while at rest.

Besides burning more calories for muscle maintenance and repair, you’ll increase your metabolism with what’s called the after-burn effect, or EPOC– excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. After a high-intensity workout, your body consumes oxygen at a higher rate than normal to restore itself to its pre-exercise state. To get that extra oxygen, your metabolism once again kicks in, burning away the fat.

#2 Strength Train to Get a Bikini Beach Body

Perhaps you’ve avoided strength training because you think you’ll end up big and bulky. You’re in good company, as this notion is a common misconception. The widespread popularity of women’s fitness combined with so much information available to us through Google makes it hard to imagine women avoiding weights in fear of becoming ‘big’ or ‘bulky.’ But I still come across ladies wanting to build muscle and lose body fat who favor long-distance running, treadmill walking, spin, or yoga over lifting weights. After all, cardio and yoga will make them more ‘toned,’ and muscle definition is what they want. They don’t want to be ‘big’ like those female bodybuilders or CrossFit women who lift like ‘men’ throwing around heavyweights.

The preconceived notion that women who train hard and lift heavy become ‘big’ or ‘bulky’ is more than a fitness myth, this way of thinking can be a powerful stumbling block. What will happen is you’ll shape your body in ways you never thought possible. While cardiovascular exercise will help take the weight off, it does little to change your body composition and shape. Strength training will give your muscles definition and help you appear firmer and tighter.

Just go for it, don’t hold back any longer letting your fears prevent you from ever reaching your full fitness-potential. We can’t change our genetic structure, we can only change what we can control. For muscle bulk, only two factors are under our control: excess fat and excess muscle. If you’re judging a muscular woman who’s carrying a few extra pounds, it’s not the muscle causing the bulk, it is the layer of fat on top.

#3 Muscle Tone

As you age, you’ll lose muscle tissue at a predictable and steady rate, a staggering average of 6.5 pounds a decade. And, the decline begins as early as your 30s. With muscle loss, our metabolism slows. The result can be fat gain and an increased risk of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis.

Strength training with a proper diet slows our muscle decline and can even rebuild lost muscle tissue. And it’s never too late to start. Studies have shown that even women in their 80s can gain muscle strength and endurance from weight training.

#4 Reduce Your Risk of Injury

Along with your muscles, resistance training will strengthen your bones, joints, and connective tissue, ligaments, and tendons. A strong and balanced musculoskeletal system helps prevent injury from daily tasks, regular exercise, and sport or play.  And, as you get older, it’ll keep you coordinated and agile, reducing your risk of devastating falls. 

#5 HIIT Your Hormones

Research shows that women who strength train benefit by acute increases in two important hormones responsible for burning fat and building muscle: testosterone and human growth hormone. Compared to men, women are at a hormonal disadvantage for building muscle. The female body produces less testosterone and relies more on growth hormone for muscle-building efforts. HGH (human growth hormone) helps women burn fat, build muscle, and create that desirable lean, athletic, feminine physique. Knowing this is important so you maximize your workouts for muscle growth.

Women can overcome their hormonal disadvantage by strength training in a way that maximizes growth hormone levels. Studies show that women who strength train at a high-intensity experience a greater HGH response than women who train at lower intensities.

What does this mean for you? Breathlessness, burning, and strain during your workouts amplify HGH release in the body. Mix up your workouts with circuiting opposing muscle groups without rest. There’s nothing wrong with doing higher rep counts, but don’t avoid lower rep counts either. Those heavy sets, as heavy as 5 grunting reps, may be where a lot of the magic happens! Structure your workouts to trigger your muscle-building hormones. 

#6 Exercise Makes You Happy

Looking good and feeling well physically are not the only advantages of strength training. You’ll enjoy therapeutic benefits as well. A regular strength routine helps you deal with stress and gives you a sense of empowerment over your own body. And, like all exercise, strength training stabilizes your mood through the release of two anti-depression brain chemicals, endorphins, and serotonin. 

#7 Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

Resistance work helps to improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood glucose levels, according to the American Diabetes Association. As weight training builds muscles, it improves insulin sensitivity, allowing your muscle cells to absorb glucose efficiently. The more muscle you have, the more insulin sensitive your body will be.

One study shows that 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week lowered the participants’ diabetes risk by 52% and the same amount of strength work by 34%, showing aerobic exercise together with resistance training is the best defense against diabetes. 

Other Considerations

If you are one someone who fixates on your weight, consider throwing your scale away. I tell this to clients all the time. You can look better and weigh the same. Yes, you read that right. This doesn’t apply to everyone, but it applies to many. If you gain 3 pounds of lean muscle and lose 3 pounds of body fat, the scale will say you accomplished nothing. Scales often mislead us for monitoring fitness progress. Before you obsess over the scale, consider that a ‘heavier’ version of you might look better and burn more calories than the ‘lighter’ version of you.

Strength training provides aesthetic, physical, and mental health benefits for women, including weight loss, body shaping, muscle preservation, reduced injury risk, decreased back pain, depression treatment, and diabetes prevention. Resistance training is for women of all ages, and it’s never too late to start!

Sources

Ahmed, Murtaza, Mustafa Ahmed, and Jason L. Guichard. 2015. “Sarcopenia – Age-Related Muscle Loss o MyHeart.” MyHeart. August 2, 2015.

Cho, Seong-Il, and Duk-Hyun An. 2014. “Effects of a Fall Prevention Exercise Program on Muscle Strength and Balance of the Old-Old Elderly.” Journal of Physical Therapy Science 26 (11):1771-74.

Craft, Lynette L., and Frank M. Perna. 2004. “The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed.” Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 6 (3):104-11.

Haizlip, K. M., B. C. Harrison, and L. A. Leinwand. 2015. “Sex-Based Differences in Skeletal Muscle Kinetics and Fiber-Type Composition.” Physiology 30 (1):30-39.

LaForgia, J., R. T. Withers, and C. J. Gore. 2006. “Effects of Exercise Intensity and Duration on the Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption.” Journal of Sports Sciences 24 (12):1247-64.

Shiroma, Eric J., Nancy R. Cook, Joann E. Manson, M. V. Moorthy, Julie E. Buring, Eric B. Rimm, and I-Min Lee. 2017. “Strength Training and the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 49 (1):40-46.