While this post really applies to both genders, women in particular seem to have a really hard time with this one. It’s called strength training… or resistance training, weight training, lifting… they all pretty much mean the same thing. Now for those of you who just cringe at the mere thought of adding strength training to your workout, I get it. I really do. Most of us couldn’t care less about how much we can squat or bench press and the last thing we want is to not fit into our clothes because we’ve gained muscle! We want to be fit, but still feminine. So how about we make a deal: I promise to not post any pictures of super ripped women with sayings like “Strong Is the New Skinny” written under them, and you’ll promise to keep reading… all the way… to the end. 😉
As I said in my last post, for a long time we thought longer, low-intensity cardio was the answer. Step classes, aerobics, hours on the treadmill in the “fat-burning zone” were all supposed to, well, BURN FAT. Come to find out the human body is a little too smart for that. When you are exclusively focused on simply burning a bunch of fat each day, fat will become a primary energy source that your body will try to store. Your body does this so that it will have all the fat it thinks it needs ready for tomorrow when you hop on the treadmill for another hour. I’m not saying cardio is all bad, but I am saying that if your primary goal is the lean and toned look, then you will not find a better option than strength training.
So without further ado, I give you the top 5 reasons why you should be strength training:
1) Lifting will not make you big and bulky, but it will make you firmer, leaner, and more fit. Afraid you’re going to look like a man? Compared to men, women have 10 to 30 times less of the hormones that cause muscle growth. Now go ask a couple of your guy friends how easy it is for them to gain muscle. Most men have a hard time adding muscle without supplements. And the women that look like men are most definitely using something to enhance their hormonal makeup. What strength training will do for you, though, is increase your metabolism, burn fat, and hopefully replace it with a little muscle!! Trust me friends, muscle is your friend. That “toned” look you’re always talking about, the jiggle-free arms and thighs, the lifted booty, the definition in the shoulders or abs…. that’s all muscle.
2) It will make you stronger. Like I said above, I get that you might not care about how much you can squat. But if you think about the amount of energy and strength that is required of you on a typical day…hoisting kids, carrying loads of laundry up and down a couple flights of stairs, getting groceries in and out of the car, chasing after the dog, unloading the dishwasher (those stacks of plates get heavy), cleaning floors and windows, stairs at work, stairs at home,…..wouldn’t it be nice to know your body can handle it? To not feel winded running up the stairs? To not have to wait for your husband to get home to move that heavy box back upstairs? To not have to worry about constant low back pain? While running keeps you in one plane of motion the whole time, strength training will strengthen your body in all planes of motion. It will not just help with daily activities, but will also improve your athletic endeavors, your energy, your mood, AND decrease your risk of injuries. Looking great is nice and all, but feeling great is life changing.
3) It never gets boring. Here are just a few possibilities that you can use while strength training: your own body weight, barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, medicine balls, sand bags, suspension trainers, sliders… the list goes on and on, but you get the point. All of these techniques are each a little different, too, so when you do happen to get bored or find yourself no longer enjoying one, try another! Better yet, combine a couple of your favorites. Also, there are all kinds of ways to group exercises together in super sets, circuits, ladders, pyramids, and timed sets… just to name a few. The possibilities are endless and it’s a great way to keep both your body guessing and your mind stimulated.
4) Lifting will decrease your risk of disease. Strength training has been shown to increase bone density therefore decrease the risk of osteoporosis. I don’t know about you guys, but when I need to roundhouse kick a burglar out of my front door, I’d prefer all my bones to stay intact and inside my skin… just sayin’. Weight training can also improve cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure – which lowers the risk of heart disease. Cardiovascular, you say?! YES. Lifting has also been shown to improve the way the body processes sugar, which can decrease the risk of adult-onset diabetes. I have no clever remark for that one. Diabetes just sucks.
5) It will give you the highest payoff for your time and energy. Last but not least, one of the most important things with exercise and nutrition is finding something that is sustainable. Most of us don’t have 2-3 hours a day to spend working out (which, might I add, is how much most actors & actresses invest when prepping for a movie or bathing suit scene.) The great thing about strength training is that it doesn’t take a lot. If you’re lifting heavy enough (5 pound dumbbells do not count), a maximum of 20 to 45 minutes, 2 to 3 times a week is all it should take to see and feel the changes.
So there you have it. Now I will add one caveat. If you are over the age of say, 25, you can do all the strength training (or cardio) in the world, but chances are you won’t see the results you want if you are not watching what you eat. Good nutrition is essential to any good fitness program. But that’s another post for another time. My hope for you readers is that you will understand more clearly why strength training is so beneficial & important for your body and why you don’t need to be afraid of it. The way I see it, with so many good reasons to strength train, why wouldn’t you???