Many more women are venturing into the male dominated weight room, pursuing aesthetic, performance, and health goals. These women get it. You need muscle to reshape your body, boost your athletic performance, and improve your overall health.
I believe so much in the healing power of the iron that it bears repeating how important strength training is. And you only need 2-3 sessions of 30 minutes per week to see good results. What else will give you such a great return on investment?
I give you the top 10 reasons why you should make the weight room your second home:
10. Strength For Everyday Life.
Ever gotten winded after climbing a flight of stairs? Struggled with boxes of kitty litter or bags of groceries? Had to get your significant other to open a jar of pickles? (Aack!) It's easy to underestimate the benefits of physical strength in our daily activities. Life is so much easier when you have the strength and stamina to do whatever it is you want to do, without needing assistance from someone else (unless you want it!). And how awesome is it when you can move large furniture by yourself?
9. Energy For Dayzzz.
It seems counterintuitive, but by expending some energy through exercise, you actually gain more in the long run. The body gets stronger and fitter by adapting to the stimulus of exercise, and strength training benefits both the muscular and cardiovascular systems. The resulting energy boost is much more potent than your afternoon cup of coffee or the latest energy drink on the shelves.
8. Stress Relief.
With our lives getting busier and busier, with family, friends, hobbies and interests, household chores and errands, and other obligations constantly calling our name, it's crucial that we focus some attention on stress management. Left unchecked, stress wrecks havoc on quality of sleep, digestion, overall health, fat loss, and cognition. It can eat you alive if you allow it.
Strength training provides an outlet to release the pent-up stresses of the day, allowing you to sleep like a baby and take on the next day like a champ.
7. A Stronger Ticker.
Did you know that lifting weights makes your heart more powerful? Weightlifting produces a different pattern of blood vessel responses than aerobic exercise, which benefits the cardiovascular system in its own specific way. And when you "lift weights faster" (aka circuit training), as coined by Jen Sinkler of Thrive as the Fittest, you get an even bigger boost in cardiovascular health.
Don't believe me? Do a couple of sets of lunges, squats, and step-ups, and let me know how you feel. ;-) If you're not getting out of breath at some point during a training session, you could probably stand to bump up the intensity a bit. Add some weight to the bar, add some reps, or shorten rest periods.
6. Curtail Age-Related Muscle Loss.
On average, women lose 5 pounds of muscle mass per decade between age 25 and 65, leading to a 2-4% decline in metabolic rate with each decade as well. No bueno! Lifting not only maintains what you already have, but builds more to keep you strong and able to handle whatever life throws at you.
5. More Effective Fat Loss.
Lifting while in a caloric deficit helps to spare precious muscle as you lose fat, and the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest. The actual amount is highly debatable, but every little bit helps.
Add to that the “afterburn effect,” also known as EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption), which contributes to the increase in calories burned during the other 23 hours of your day. The body increases oxygen use after exercise to bring various processes back to baseline. This takes energy (calories).
According to a study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology in 2002, a circuit training protocol (weight training using moderate weights with little rest, going from exercise to exercise quickly) resulted in an elevation in EPOC for 38 hours following the workout.
And it's not all about calorie burn. Building muscle reshapes your body, giving you definition in all the right places.
4. Bigger Badder Bones.
Study after study confirms that weight-bearing exercise helps to maintain and build bone density and stave off osteoporosis and bone fractures, which becomes more and more important as we age.
3. Improved Performance.
There's a reason why all the top athletes and even high school and college athletes devote so much time to lifting. It works. But you don't have to be a high-performing athlete to benefit.
My own experience: after spending several weeks focusing on building stronger glutes in the gym, I noticed that doing power yoga was so much easier. I could hold the poses longer and with greater ease. I could sink down deeper into poses like Warrior I and II. This allowed me to benefit even more from my yoga practice.
Whether you're into running 5ks, playing tennis, or doing the latest obstacle race, you'll find that your performance will improve and make you harder to beat. A strong core will help you keep your running form from breaking down due to fatigue and strong glutes will power you forward and make the most of every stride. In contact sports like soccer, you'll be harder to knock off the ball. When you're as small as I am (5 foot nothing tall), that makes a huuuuuuge difference on the field!
2. Decreased Risk of Injury.
Not only does resistance training improve bone density, but it also strengthens and enlarges the connective tissues (tendons and ligaments) that are the support and framework for the body. This is thought to be due to an increase in collagen. This is especially important for females, as we have a greater risk of ACL tears than males.
Lifting weights can also help correct muscle imbalances due to sedentary lifestyles (lots of sitting and computer work) and the particular movements in our sport or activity of choice that can lead to pain and/or injury.
And arguably the most important reason of all...
1. Kickass Confidence and Empowerment.
The feeling you get after a good weight session is second to none. When you see the weight and reps go up, week after week, month after month, you feel invincible. You feel strong, like you can take on the world. You get to do things you never thought you could do before.
The amazing boost in confidence and endorphins improve overall feelings of wellbeing. I find that these qualities tend to spill over into other areas of my clients’ lives. I’ve had clients go after and get promotions, start dating again, and take other risks in their everyday lives simply due to the amazing sense of empowerment they got from lifting heavy weights.
There you go, the top 10 ways you (and all women) can benefit from picking up a dumbbell. Don't neglect your weight game!
What's your go-to exercise at the gym?