By Martin Ebner
There is a big misconception among some women that lifting weights will make you bulky.
There's also the belief that weights are only beneficial to those wanting to build muscle bulk. The truth is, the benefits to lifting weights go above and beyond simply getting stronger and it won't make you bulky unless you make it your life's goal to get swole. Don’t believe me? Let's look at why:
First and foremost, building muscle is extremely hard! You don't simply look at a dumbbell and turn into a beefcake! It takes time, dedication, consistency, planning and hard work.
Secondly and perhaps most importantly, in order to build muscle, you need one critical component. Testosterone. Sorry ladies, us men have a lot more of it than you do. It's simply science! That means that unless you're megadosing a testosterone supplement, your chances of building excessive muscle from strength training is impossible.
Thirdly, in order to build muscle size (which is different from muscle strength), you need to train in a very specific manner. One in which you push your muscles to absolute failure on an almost daily basis, and I'm guessing that's not part of the plan!?
Last but not least, gaining muscle mass as a consequence of weight training is as much about fuelling and sports nutrition as it is about hitting the gym, so again, unless you’re eating chicken breast for breakfast lunch and dinner, weights alone are not enough no matter what gender.
Now that's been clarified, let's look at some of the amazing benefits of weight training for women.
1. It makes you strong
I may be stating the obvious here but one of the main benefits of lifting weights is that it makes you stronger. I said stronger, not bigger. There's a difference!
Getting strong is beneficial in so many areas of life. From being able to piggyback your best friend home after a night out and carrying your bike down a flight of stairs to building a strong core that improves posture and helps alleviate stubborn back pain.
2. Muscle helps to burn more fat
When you lift weights, you change your body composition. That means a better ratio of muscle to fat. Lean dense muscle is more metabolically active meaning that you burn more calories throughout the day performing your daily tasks. Regular weight training should be as important as cardio exercise for weight maintenance and fat loss.
3. It can help reduce your risk of injury
While it might sound counterintuitive, it's a fact that strength training (when done properly) can help reduce your risk of injury. Not only will it strengthen your muscles and bones, but it also helps strengthen the connective tissues – the ligaments and tendons that keep your body operating at peak condition.
Related: 10 tips to stay injury free
4. It can improve the appearance of body parts you least like
Unfortunately, you cannot spot reduce fat in certain areas of your body no matter how hard you try (Sorry, Cosmopolitan magazine, you’re wrong). You can, however, with weight training enhance the aesthetics of these troublesome areas by building lean, dense muscle that helps improve the shape and therefore the appearance of these body parts.
5. Optimise Sleep
If you've ever done a tough weight training workout, you can appreciate the sometimes blood, always sweat and often tears that are involved. When you push your body hard during workouts, you increase your body's need and ability to get a good night's sleep.
Note – if you do struggle to fall asleep, try not to work out too close to bedtime. While exercise can help you nod off and sleep more soundly, when you workout just before bed, you raise your core body temperature which can have the opposite effect :(
6. It helps improve sporting and athletic performance
Long gone are the days that athletes trained only in the area of the sport they performed. These days, almost all athletes, regardless of their sport, follow some form of strength training.
Incorporating weight training into your training program specific to your sport can help you improve your power, strength, and speed to make you a better athlete.
7. It adds a new challenge to your exercise routine
If you've been doing the same traditional cardio workouts week in week out for years, chances are your results have slowed and you're feeling a little bored. Incorporating weight training into your exercise routine can be a great way to mix things up and offers a new challenge for your body.
8. It makes you feel great
If you've ever lifted your own body weight above your head you can appreciate how exhilarating it can be. Much like other forms of exercise, weight training can not only make you look great, it can make you feel great too by building confidence, improving body image, reducing stress and anxiety and giving your body a big energy boost.
9. It adds longevity to your life
While staying fit and healthy can add years to your life, weight training has particularly good longevity benefits. As we get older our bodies begin to lose muscle (Sarcopenia) which reduces strength and mobility. A 2014 study from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) shows that the more muscle mass you have as you get older, the less likely you are to die prematurely. That means that as opposed to focusing on how much you weigh, we should be trying to maximise and focusing on maintaining muscle mass as we age. What better way to do that than by lifting weights!?
10. You'll look better in skinny jeans (and naked)
Ok, so on its own, looking better in a pair of skinnies isn’t really reason enough to lift weights. However, it is one of the many benefits. Muscle weighs more than fat but takes up a lot less space. So if you’re trying to fit back into your skinny jeans or feel sexy in that cocktail dress, drop the excessive cardio and pick up some weights!