“I don’t want to get bulky,” said…most women.
When it comes to lifting weights in the gym, we’ve all heard how “good” weight lifting is for us.
It builds strong bones, lean muscle mass and supposedly improves body composition.
And yet, with all this knowledge in our heads, many women are afraid to actually put it into practice.
The real answer to being fit, toned and healthy?
(Or so they think).
This myth is a tale as old as time.
Try as the cardio bunnies may on the elipticals, the Stairmasters, treadmills and trails…they are still chasing their tails at the end of the day—looking for the ‘answer’ to justify eating a scoop of fro-yo after dinner; sculpting the perfect body; and, ultimately, feeling good in their own skin.
Ladies, listen up to these common myths around exercise, weight lifting and body composition; and a few BONUS less known reasons why all women should lift weights (read on).
Myth 1: Do Cardio and You’ll Lose Fat
Gaze around any gym, and chances are, when your eyes meet the cardio section (lined with treadmills, bikes, Stairmaster and ellipticals), you will see lots and lots of women, toiling away; carefully monitoring their calories burned or time logged on the machine monitors; hoping that the machines will magically flip a fat-loss or revving-metabolism switch in the body.
Unfortunately, this is simply not the case.
Cardio—particularly chronic cardio (pounding the pavement; doing the same cardio routines day in and day out; pushing your limits on the machines)—will not “save you” if you if you do not:
- Vary up your routine
- Fuel your body correctly (the whole “calories in versus calories out” rule is bogus!)
Our body’s daily functions are governed by our basal metabolic rate (BMR)—this is the certain number of calories your body burns every day (regardless of physical activity). Couple your BMR with your physical fitness activities, and you have your TOTAL DAILY ENERGY EXPENDITURE (your BMR + the energy needed to expend during physical activities).
Commonly, when chronic cardio or the daily pounding cardio is your exercise mode of choice, the body has a keen way of adapting, and instead of being challenged to change or adapt to a new routine, it finds homeostasis in your same ol’, same ol’ cardio routine.
Your body grows accustomed to logging 30-minutes on the elliptical…running your same route on the trail…your 60-minute Spin class…
And the beat goes on.
Couple this with long-term stress (from the day in, day out grind of pounding the pavement or machines), and in order to further cope with stress, your bod sends your hormones into a tizzy!
Hello wonky hormones!
Your cortisol levels (stress hormones) try to compensate and find homeostasis as your regular cardio routine ensues, and instead of becoming a fat-burning or energy-powered machine, your body does the opposite: fights to conserve energy, stores fat or holds onto whatever fat/body composition you currently have.
Myth 2: Doing tons of reps defines muscle
Ok, so you see how weight training could be a beneficial challenge to your muscles and way to vary up your same ol’ routine, BUTTTTT, in efforts to prevent the bulk, you’ve heard that a high-rep, low-weight routine is the way to go to get “shredded.”
If you review Myth 1 above, essentially the “secret sauce” to body composition change and/or building lean muscle is progressive overload, and change (varying your routine, and challenging your body).
When it comes to weight lifting, that means lifting heavy weights.
Of course “heavy weight” is relative to your own abilities, form and body type (no need to press 200 lbs. above your head here—simply make it challenging); but just like with cardio, if you tend to do the same things; or choose the lighter weights that are ‘easier’ for lots of reps…the only thing you are doing is setting yourself up for rapid strength loss and muscle loss as well.
Compound lifts like squats, deadlifts, presses, and pulls speed up fat loss and enhance body composition because these are the lifts that rev your metabolism the most—for hours after your workout is all said and done.
The “bulking up” women essentially fear with the thought of lifting heavyish weights is 99.9% linked to your nutrition*.
Myth 3: Trying to Spot Reduce Fat
You’ve seen it before on magazine covers while standing in the grocery store check out line: “Lose cellulite now,” “Get a 6-Pack in 30 Days” or “Get rid of your chicken wings (i.e. underarm jiggle).”
If only it were that simple.
While training a muscle does result in increased blood flow and lipolysis to that area (the breakdown of fat cells into usable energy), it’s not in a large enough quantity to make a difference.
Fat loss and body composition change occurs in a whole-body fashion (unlike you see it: your body does not view itself in ‘parts’).
Essentially, if and when you create the proper internal fat loss and/or body composition-shift environment through solid nutrition, consistency, constantly varied training methodologies (progressive overload through weight training, coupled with some HIIT and, of course, daily activity like walking), and proper recovery/rest time, your body will work for you—not against you.
You can do all the crunches in the world, or all the leg abductor/adductor machine reps (inner and outer thigh) at the gym, but you’ll just keep spinning your wheels until you’ve taken a whole body approach to your fitness and nutrition.
The bottom line?
Preferably heavyish weights.
And if you don’t know how, there’s no time like the present to learn how!
The BONUS I mentioned above?
A regular (heavyish) weight training routine will boost more than just your body composition and self-confidence—it also boosts your mood, memory and cognitive function.
The New York Times reported on one study that showed that six weeks of bicycle riding or weight training eased symptoms in women who’d received a diagnosis of anxiety disorder. Stating that the weight training was especially effective at reducing feelings of irritability because the women “felt capable now of pounding whomever or whatever was irritating them.”
Another research review revealed the mood-and-body-boosting effects of resistance training on those with chronic fatigue syndrome (i.e. adrenal fatigue). The researchers stated that “Impressively, 94% of the 70 randomized studies on exercise and fatigue show that exercise is clinically beneficial (i.e., significant) and even more beneficial than drug or cognitive-behavioral interventions (O’Connor, Herring, and Carvalho). In fact, a strength training only intervention results in the largest improvements in chronic fatigue.”
Lastly one more study, published this October in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, divided the healthy 65- to 75-year-old women participants into three groups to evaluate the effects of weight training on cognition.
Some women participated in weight training once a week, some did it twice a week, and the remaining group did a twice-weekly regimen of stretching and balance training.
After a year, scientists evaluated the women’s brain scans and compared them against scans they had taken before beginning exercise.
The result: the women who didn’t include weight training in their workouts or who only lifted weights once a week showed a serious progression of white matter lesions, an indicator of memory loss and cognitive decline. By contrast, the twice-weekly weightlifters’ brain scans showed slower white matter shrinkage and fewer lesions, and these weightlifters also performed better on walking tests than the other two groups.
How’s that for some motivation for picking up some iron?
*If you need some direction with a solid nutrition plan to support your goals in conjunction to your weight training; and/or you’re looking for guidance in navigating the weight room or creating a sound fitness routine, contact me today. I work with people from all walks of life and varying goals to design a THRIVE Life plan—meeting you right where you are at, and helping you get to where you want to be.
Tis the season for…busyness! If you find yourself traveling or with less time on your hands than usual, don’t sweat it. Most of these routines take no longer than 15-20 minutes if you’re looking for some direction in keeping your fitness going strong, taking a time out from craziness, or just want the cherry on top of a good lifting session (or other preferred mode of fitness).
10 Hand-release pushups
15 Kettlebell Swings
50-meter Farmer’s Carry (holding 2 heavy dumbbells, kettlebells or other odd objects)
100 Double Unders [or 100 Jumping Jacks or Mountain Climbers (50 each leg)]
90-Second L-Sit hold (accumulated) or Hollow-body/V-up Hold
60 Calorie Row
50 Russian Kettlebell Swings (heavyish)
30 Strict Press
25 Pull-ups (or Ring Rows/TRX Rows)
50 Deadlifts (135/95)
50 Box Jumps
50 “Floor Wipers” (or V-Ups)
50 Dumbbell Power Clean & Press (Single Arm)
EMOM 20 (Every Minute on the Minute for 20 Minutes)
Odd: 10 Bench Press
Even: 5-10 Deadlifts (if you choose a heavier weight, do less reps)
200 Double-under Jump-rope (or 300 Single-Unders) for time
Overhead Squats (or Front Squats)
Pull-ups (or Ring-rows)
Run 800 meters (or Row 1000 meters)
Shoulder to Overhead
Toes-to-Bar (or Knees to Chest)
5 Dumbbell or Barbell Squat Cleans
15 Dumbbell or Barbell Push Press
7-minutes Max Burpees