"I don't want to be big": Said most women [Why YOU should lift HEAVY weights]

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Written By

Lauryn

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Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

 

Man! I am still sore.

 

Memorial Day week marks an annual tradition at most CrossFit boxes worldwide: Murph.

 

Murph is a classic Hero WOD (Workout of the Day) consisting of:

 

 

1 mile run

100 pull-ups

200 push-ups

300 air-squats

1 mile-run

 

Sound crazy?

 

If you do it with a 10-20 lbs. weighted vest! (Which some people do).

 

Otherwise, it is a great, full-body, body-weight style workout, often referred to as a ‘grind’ (you must grind through it)…not to mention, an awesome ‘bonding experience’ with others from the box, who show up bright and early on Memorial Day to sweat it out together (community).

 

A total of at least 40-50 people came out to CrossFit Central at 9 a.m. Monday morning to honor our hero who have served and sacrificed their lives in the name of service for our country.

 

 

I PR’d my Murph time by at least 4-minutes from last year (finishing time: 31:58 minutes)—proving to myself that the best is still yet to come the more I continue to care for my body and practice the basic fundamentals of self-care (such as fueling the machine!).

 

This personal accomplishment got me thinking though…about ALL THOSE YEARS (not to mention, time and energy) spent scripting, and planning, and Googling, and striving for the ‘perfect’ workout…the ‘perfect’ plan for my body…the hardest, most grueling and challenging things I could do in the gym to:

 

a.) Give me a sense of inner peace with myself

b.) Earn my gold star for the day (check, check)

c.) And, get a rock solid body

 

In other words: LOTS of time wasted. 

 

And, during those years, I know for a fact, my new record “Murph” time was nowhere near where it is today  something like 45-50 minutes) because:

 

a.) I was working out for all the wrong reasons (my eyes were fixed on ‘dangling carrot’ goals that never were satisfied—ever)

 

b.) I had no energy to support my workouts (i.e. I was restricting and dieting and obsessing over food—I had to ‘work for my food’, and always came out short with enough fuel to both nourish and recover from workouts)

 

c.) I was fixated on routine (I did the same exercises, rep schemes, supersets, ti-sets, cardio, etc.)

 

d.) I was doing chronic cardio (AMRAP, AMRAP, AMRAP…Stairmastering my life away…running like a hamster on a wheel, checking workout after workout off my list)

 

e.) I was weak!!!

 

One of the BIGGEST changes over the past four or five years, since embarking on a new relationship with fitness, has been the incorporation of weight training…

 

And not just weight training with cutesy pink dumbbells or Women’s Fitness magazine weight routines…but real weight training (i.e. not ‘fearing’ barbells, bumper plates, lifting heavier weights, squats, presses, deadlifts, cleans, snatches, etc.).

 

 

While I may not be the strongest one in a ‘Strongman’ competition, or even a CrossFit workout for that matter—that is besides the point and besides the goal.

 

Lifting relatively ‘heavy’ has been one of the best things I could have done for my body once I came into a healthier place in both my body and my mind for a number of reasons including:

 

  1. Reversing Osteoporosis. When I received the diagnosis of osteoporosis (significant bone loss) at the age of 23, I was stunned. The doctors always told me it could happen—but to me? Nah. I thought I was invincible and the ‘consequences’ of chronic dieting, chronic cardio, and eating disorders would never touch me. I was wrong. However…something the doctors did NOT tell me is that my osteoporosis could be reversed. In fact, they had NO CLUE if it could (after all there are very few, if any studies out there on osteoporosis in younger pre-menopausal women, since the majority of women with osteoporosis are older ladies. The answer? Quality nutrition plus weight-bearing exercise—and my bone scan only one year later showed completely reversed osteoporosis in all areas of the bone structures the bone scans test (spine, hips).
  2. Throwing Out the Magazines and Ideals. Weight training did another phenomenal thing for me—it made me STOP caring about what I looked like compared to others, as well as if I ‘measured up’ (to the ‘ideals’ in the mirror, magazines, my head, etc.). Instead, as I began to discover new strength—inside and out—my focus turned more to the great things I could accomplish in my life, and my time in the gym (lifting) became a metaphor for this. I threw out my magazine ‘bibles’ and ‘ideal’ images I thought I had wanted to be…and instead began to focus on (and have fun with) squatting with great form, doing a strict pull-up, adding 5 lbs. to my bar for cleans and more.
  3. Knowing I Am Capable. There’s this little thing in the back of many people’s heads that I like to call your ‘inner critic’—in essence, a constant babbling voice that spreads negative messages such as: “I am not good enough,” or “I am not pretty enough”, or “Me? Never me!” etc. Learning how to lift properly and challenging myself with heavier weights began to have a significant effect on my inner critic. When that voice began to come up and tell me…”You? Nope not you!” or “You can’t do it”—and I tried it anyways…99% of the time, I discovered: I AM capable. 

All good things.

 

My question to you today now is…“Do you even lift bro? “

 

 

(Pun on words spoken from the stupid and silly viral YouTube video that’s floated around in blogospheres and social media posts now for a few years).

 

No…My real question to you today is:

 

Girl, do you even lift?

And…if, not…why not?!

 

“I don’t want to get big.”

“I need to do more cardio and met-cons.”

“I am holding off on the heavy weights to focus on more tone.”

“I have to burn calories.”

“I don’t know how.”

“I am intimidated.”

“I don’t want to look like THAT” (pointing at picture of a CrossFit competitor or female bodybuilder).

 

Seriously, girl, why don’t you even lift?!

 

Because lifting—not chronic cardio; not sticking to the same ol’ same ol’ light weights—is going to help you reach a multitude of goals (seriously, no hours spent running on the trail…or StairMaster slavery…or ellipticizing needed).

 

Don’t believe me?

 

Here are some of the straight up facts about what lifting relatively heavy weights* can do for you: (*Note: When I say heavy, I do not mean—at all costs—lifting crazy heavy weight to the point you are a pretzel with weights on her back or hurt yourself in the process…I do mean ‘getting comfortable with the uncomfortable’ and simply learning how to lift weights).

 

1.  Get ‘that body’ you really want (Lean, toned muscles; More definition)
How do you get more toned? Light weights and lots of reps right? At least that’s what we’ve been told for years to believe. However, training to “get toned” with high-reps and light weights will not provide the same benefits as lifting properly with heavy weights. Getting ‘toned’ requires two things to happen:

•    Ridding excess body fat

•    Increasing the size of muscle cells to provide shape.

‘Toning’ is all about building muscle. For some, it requires the additional removal of any fat covering up the muscle, but it is muscle itself that gives you sleek, sculpted curves so you don’t just look bony once you lose excess body fat. So how do you lose body fat and increase lean muscle concurrently? Prioritize a healthy amount (i.e. don’t go overboard here) of anaerobic exercise (HIIT, sprint-type workouts and weights), including at least one to three weight workouts a week with weights that are a ‘just right’ challenge for you (heavyish weight with proper form). (NOTE: I am not talking about ‘Fitspiration’ here either…Strong is not the new ‘skinny’…gaining relative strength, more than anything, comes more from the inside than the outside any day).

 

 

 

2. Scorch fat
Contrary to popular belief, weights, not cardio (running, ellipticals, or group classes) are best fat loss. A 2007 study (1.) by Ormsbee et al. in the Journal of Applied Physiology recruited 8 fit males (in their mid-20’s) to test the effects weight lifting has on fat use and fat loss. The participants were randomly assigned to either a resistance training day or a nonexercise control day. The results revealed several findings including: metabolism was boosted 10% more the day following the resistance workout and, glycerol levels (the marker for lipolysis: i.e. fat burning) were raised 78% during and 75% after the resistance training as compared with corresponding times on the non-workout control day, suggesting fat burning is definitely happening during resistance training.

And another study (2.) from 2010 looked at 2 groups of women over a 6 year period who performed squats and military presses at different intensity levels. The women who worked at 70-80% of their maximal for 8 reps had greater weight and body fat loss than crossover groups.

The bottom line? Challenging weights work against fat in a healthy way, if needed to lose (Disclaimer: we as women also need fat on our bodies to be healthy! Fat is not a bad thing per say—another topic for another day, BUT still a realistic notion to keep in mind).

 

3. Strong bones
Resistance training and a nutritious diet that supplies enough energy (i.e. calories and nutrients) to your body is the number one way to prevent the bone loss that occurs as we age and ward off osteoporosis. Researchers from the Physical Therapy Association also recently found that resistance training, paired with high-intensity impact exercise (i.e. CrossFit) is a DOUBLE WHAMMY when it comes to osteoporosis prevention. In a study (3.) that included 1,769 women who were postmenopausal (i.e. even greater risk for fractures and osteoporosis) and participated in resistance training and high impact activities (jumping, skipping, dancing, hopping), they discovered, “the beneficial effects induced by combined resistance training could contribute to almost 1.8% and 2.4% bone-density gains for the hip and spine in post-menopausal women.” (What does this mean for pre-menopausal women?…Even greater gains! I am living proof).

 

4. Boosted metabolism
Lifting weights raises your metabolism—way longer after you’re finished. In fact, some experts estimate that your metabolism stays elevated for up to 39 hours! Why? When your muscles work harder (i.e. lifting heavy weight), they have to do more post-workout rebuilding. This increases the demand of your metabolism-boosting hormones following your lifting session. Lifting strains your body and challenges the ‘breakdown’ of muscle to occur, which in turn, requires more energy, nutrients and internal repair processes from your metabolism in order to ‘build it back up’. A 2002 study (4.) compared the metabolic profile of women lifting 85% of their maximum ability for 8 reps, versus 45% for 15 reps. The test subjects who were lifting the heavier load for fewer reps burned more energy and had a significantly larger metabolic boost after exercise.

5. More energy
Exercise gives you endorphins (natural opiates produced by the brain), …endorphins make you happy, feel great and give you more energy!. Ever had a workout, where you were just ‘going through the motions’, as opposed to a workout where you were really ‘in it’—putting your mind into the muscle or movements at hand, giving 100% effort…then…how did you feel after? Perhaps, initially, a bit tired…but chances are, you left that workout with a new spring in your step—renewed energy. Lifting heavy weights challenges you in new ways…leaving you with newfound energy from the ‘rush’ you got in that workout. Strength training has also been showed to help you sleep better (since your muscles are craving recovery, rest and repair post-workout)—and better sleep equals more energy in the long run.

 

6. Confidence
You know it: Exercise boosts the ego—it helps you feel great in your own skin. If I could write a book of the countless women, in particular, who have written me, stating how much weight training (lifting heavy things) has positively influenced their lives—namely their self-confidence and relationship with themselves (through self-care)—I could probably have to write a series of books rivaling the length of Gone with the Wind. The foundation of building inner confidence (and self belief) lies in setting goals that may seem beyond your capabilities and working towards them (consistently and committed) until you achieve them. That is lifting heavy weights summed up.

 

 

7. Improvement at other activities.
Like lifting your suitcase into the overhead bin on the airplane…arm wrestling your brother…carrying all six-eight grocery bags at once…lifting (and keeping up with) your kids…moving boxes and furniture in your house…opening a pickle jar…and on and on.

 

8. A new wardrobe. A beautiful V-shape back for your tees…a butt that fills out your jeans…legs that look, oh too cute, in shorts…defined shoulders in your tanks…beautiful. Clothes just look wayyyyyy cuter when you have something to fill them out (i.e. not falling off of you).

 

8. A great workout
When you are lifting heavy weights, you certainly don’t go through the motions of 10-20 reps here…a water break there…some ab work over there…No. You glisten and sweat. You may grunt or scream. You get your heart rate up and muscles fired up. You get a great workout—not just something to check off the list.

 

9. Prevent injury & illness

It’s not rocket science: When you’re in shape, you reduce the risk of every major lifestyle disease, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and even the common cold. In addition, lifting weights provides your body with a ‘bulletproof vest’ from potential injuries, including musculoskeletal injuries (injuries related to muscle imbalance), low back injuries (lifting heavy weights strengthens your core), and even bone injuries (stronger bones through weight training impact the length of healing time). In addition, correction of any existing imbalances or weaknesses through a strength training program is important to reducing the individual’s risk for muscle injury.

 

10. More friends. 

Women like to bond around shared interests and experiences. BoxLife Women is one of those communities—bringing women together around topics, issues and experiences that matter. Chances are, when you start lifting weights, you will find a slew of like-minded individuals who like to kick butt, just as much as you do.

 

11. The ability to push past tough stuff. 

An unconventional number 11! When you’re standing underneath a barbell, across your shoulders and more than your body-weight stacked along its sides, legs screaming from the last 3 sets you’ve already completed and sweat dripping down into your eyes, there’s a certain amount of ‘inner push’ that comes with thinking about your next rep. That my friends is called resilience. Weight lifting inspires that.

 

Do you even lift girl?

 

Heck yes you do!

 

What does that look like?

 

Again! Not risking improper form here…just challenging yourself to go a bit heavier…get outside your comfort zone…don’t fear the barbell..and if you ‘Have no clue what to do’…LEARN!

 

I LOVE coaching women and teaching them how to gain strength and confidence in the gym to be the captain of their workout ship.

 

Connect with me and we can make some coaching happen to get you well on your way to being able to do it on your own. I offer both distance and 1:1 in-person coaching…choose your adventure.

 

Lifting—and lifting heavy—have benefits that are through the roof!

 

 

Resources

1.) Ormsbee, M. J., Thyfault, J. P., Johnson, E. A., Kraus, R. M., Choi, M. D., and Hickner, R. C. (2007). Fat metabolism and acute resistance exercise in trained men. Journal of Applied Physiology, 102, 1767-1772.

2.) Bea JW, Cussler EC, Going SB, Blew RM, Metcalfe LL, Lohman TG. (2010). Resistance training predicts 6-yr body composition change in postmenopausal women. Med Sci Sports Exercise ;42(7): 1286-95.

3.) American Physical Therapy Association (2015). Resistance Training Effective in Countering Bone Density Loss, but Only When Combined With High-Impact, Weight-Bearing Exercise. PT in Motion. http://home/laurynlax/public_html.apta.org/PTinMotion/News/2015/1/23/ResistanceTrainingBMD/

4.) Thornton MK, Potteiger JA (2002). Effects of resistance exercise bouts of different intensities but equal work on EPOC. Med Sci Sports Exercise ; 34(4):715-22.

One thought on “"I don't want to be big": Said most women [Why YOU should lift HEAVY weights]

  1. Sounds familiar. I am not a BoxLife woman but I’ve been “lifting” for years. Glad you have found something that changed your direction.

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