Strength training helps you get stronger – fact. But that’s not all it does! Find out why you should be lifting
The rise of weight training among women has been a long time coming. But now that it’s here, we reckon it’s here to stay. More and more women are becoming in tune with the many different health benefits that lifting weights has to offer – and getting strong is only one of them.
Education has played a huge role in helping the weightlifting revolution – many of us used to swerve the weights room in fear that it’d leave us bulging with unwanted muscle. But thankfully, finding out about the health, fitness and mental benefits of weight training has helped us to ditch this myth once and for all. ‘The most common question I get as a female PT who lifts six times a week is, “will it make me bulky?”’ says strength and conditioning coach, Laura Hoggins (@bicepsandbronzer). ‘Well I’ve been training for years and this is as “bulky” as I’ve managed to get – so a few barbell squats and deadlifts are not going to transform you into the Hulk overnight.’ Sure, if your goal is to pack on muscle mass, this can be achieved. But creating a programme shaped around your own personal goals will help you to achieve a whole host of impressive results, from shredding fat to boosting confidence.
7 reasons to lift weights
Sure, many people pick up a set of dumbbells because they want to see a change in how they look, but one of the first things they’ll quickly realise is that moving those dumbbells also changes the way youfeel. The better it makes you feel, the more likely you are to stick at it – and thus, see results. ‘That feeling of pulling a heavy clean, or landing a snatch, makes you feel like a total champion,’ says Laura. ‘When people ask me what the best training programme is, I tell them, “it’s the one you will keep up!”’
It’ll get you stronger
As you start and continue with functional weight training, you’ll soon notice the benefits that your newfound strength offers in everyday life. Moving house? Easy. Carrying stuff up the stairs? Piece of cake. Opening a stubborn jar? A breeze. ‘We have an ever-demanding life, and we need to be up for whatever life throws at us physically,’ adds Laura.
Sure, run clubs and running buddies make great sweat dates, but have you ever tried carrying a conversation or having a catch-up while sprinting up a hill, gasping for air? We’re not saying that lifting weights won’t get you out of breath – try a HIIT-based kettlebell complex if you don’t believe us – but nattering away during a rest period, encouraging each other to push harder or spotting each other on the bench press is a great way for friends to interact and even forge stronger bonds. BFFs that squat together, stay together – right?
It’ll build lean muscle which burns fat
While cardio plays a very important role in many people’s workout regimes, weight training’s impressive ability to burn fat is often overlooked in favour of more cardio-based activity like running. Weight training will encourage you to step away from the scales and focus on how lean and healthy you look and feel, rather than how much you weigh. Since muscle mass is denser that fat – therefore weighs more for the amount of space it takes up – your weight isn’t always an accurate way to measure progress. For example, as you get stronger you may weigh more (thanks to the new muscle), but actually look a lot leaner (thanks to the fat loss). ‘If you have more muscle mass in your body, your metabolism will be higher,’ Laura adds. This encourages your body to burn calories at a faster rate, whether that’s during a workout, while you’re sat at a desk or even while you’re fast asleep.
It’s easy to track
Setting goals (and then smashing them) is easy when it comes to weight training. While getting deeper into your squat or perfecting the form of your kettlebell swing are both good goals to strive towards, the easiest way to measure progress is by tracking how much weight you’re lifting in a strength session or how many reps you’re hitting in a round of metabolic conditioning. Seeing the numbers go up week by week is rewarding and easy to track – making you more likely to stick at it in the long run.
It can ward off osteoporosis
Sure, lifting weights does your muscles good, but did you know that it does the same for your bones? ‘Among the many benefits of strength training, one of the least talked about is its impact on bone density, which will reduce your risk of osteoporosis later on in life,’ shares Laura. Not only is this especially important if you do high-impact activities like running, but it also means that lifting weights is a great option for older women, who are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.
It can help to prevent injury
Training sessions don’t always go according to plan, but the stronger you are, the better you’ll deal with the unexpected. Prevention is the best cure, so ensuring the muscles are adequately strong enough to protect the joints, for example, means you’re far less likely to be sat on the sidelines nursing a nasty niggle. Whether you’re an avid runner or a budding boxer, being stronger overall means you can engage and recruit the right muscles to perform better, making you less likely to overstrain or overcompensate. For example, having stronger legs will help you run faster and having powerful hips will help you punch harder.