Strength training has a slew of benefits – including that taut, shapely bod – that no amount of cardio can give you.
Many of us work out to keep fit and healthy. But you can’t deny that the aesthetic benefits – looking lean and toned – is a driving force too.
For women, however, the look isn’t easy to come by. You may hit the gym consistently, but don’t see the results you desire. Very often, it boils down to this: You aren’t incorporating strength or weight training into your fitness routine.
Many women tend to focus solely, or mostly, on cardio training as they are afraid to bulk up. Don’t worry – you won’t! That’s because females have a much lower capacity for building muscle due to a lower level of testosterone, a hormone that men have a lot of.
Actually, women should “train heavy”, says Nick Mitchell, one of the world’s leading personal trainers, body composition specialist, and the founder of Ultimate Performance (UP), a gym that focuses on personal training.
“Don’t be frightened to add weight. You’ll get a much better response and faster results. No one ever put muscles on by accident, so don’t stress about that,” he says.
Women weightlift well, compared to many men, Nick adds. Having seen many women successfully transform their bodies at UP, which specialises in female fat loss, he shares: “Women won’t lift with their ego, so the control that is vital to correct weight training is almost always there.”
Now, including strength training in your regime will not only give you a fit and toned look – you’ll reap plenty of other benefits too. Here are five benefits of weight training you should know about.
You’ll burn fat more efficiently
One of the biggest reasons why many women become “cardio queens” at the gym, working mostly or solely on the treadmill or cross-trainer, is because their main aim is to lose weight and burn fat.
Guess what? Lifting weights burns fat, with the added benefit of continued fat burn when you’re at rest. Muscles have a higher metabolic rate than fat, which means they burn more calories at rest. This means that if you have more muscle, your body will burn energy more effectively.
You’ll be in the driver’s seat
While you can’t target the areas for losing fat, “weight training is an incredible tool that you can use to sculpt your body because it allows you to stop focusing on ‘losing weight’ and to start building the body shape you want,” says Mitchell.
Basically, weightlifting allows you to move away from a general cardio-only fitness approach, to one that you can control better. For instance, lifting weights in a certain way and format can build up certain areas of your body, letting you train for the body you want.
Additionally, strength training programmes can be customised in myriad ways. For instance, Nick and the trainers at UP believe that being attuned to the changes in a woman’s body as she goes through monthly hormonal changes (associated with menstruation) and switching up her training accordingly, sculpts her body even more effectively.
You’ll build strong bones
Studies show that strength training can promote bone development and prevent bone loss.
In general, women tend to lose bone mass at a younger age and at a faster pace, compared to men. As they get older, women are also at increased risk of getting bone diseases such as osteoporosis. This is due to decreasing levels of estrogen as they hit menopause and beyond.
Strength training can prevent or mitigate this – when your muscles and connective tissues stress and strain the bones during weight training, bone growth is induced.
You’ll do life better
Working out at the gym is just one part of our lives. Outside the gym, strength training helps us live the rest of our lives better. A good and balanced weightlifting regimen helps to improve balance, coordination, agility and endurance, enhancing your ability to perform functional activities of daily life.
Being steady on your feet and having a stable core also helps in injury prevention.
You’ll gain confidence
Strength training has also been found to improve self-esteem and general confidence. For one thing, you’ll feel physically stronger and more stable on your feet. This naturally translates to better posture and a more confident body language.
Mentally, you’ll get stronger too. Instructors at UP say that the training regime itself – where one needs to put in effort before being able to proceed to the next weight – gets their clients used to struggle, effort and failure. “The normalisation of these facts of life and embracing them as a beloved process will give you mental endurance and resilience.”
Brought to you by UP