If you were to ask me the single most effective way to change your body composition, lose weight and "tone up", I would undoubtedly say weight training. However, whenever I say that to a woman, I'm usually met with the same response..."but I don't want to get bulky".
Over the years, women have bought into the lie that heavy weights are for men. We are bombarded with workouts that promise to tone an isolated part of our body, with tiny little weights. However, if you're really looking to burn fat, you're going to have to hit the weights and you're going to have to hit them hard. Your body composition begins to change when you progressively overload your muscles, requiring them to work harder. As they repair themselves from that work, they burn a significant amount of calories, most of which come from your body's fat stores.
So, next time you think about doing a 45 minute, medium paced run on the treadmill, consider these facts about strength training, and grab some weights instead!
Weight training causes your muscles to grow (don't worry, they won't balloon up, I promise). According to Wayne Wescott, weight training expert and researcher, Phd., "As you add muscle from strength training, your resting metabolism will increase, so you'll burn more calories all day long. For each pound of muscle you gain, you'll burn 35-50 more calories daily." This means that if you gain 4 pounds of muscle, your body will burn 140-200 more calories per day, which adds up to 10 pounds per year. Ummm....Yes please, to sustainable weight loss!
Increased Fat Burning
Women are often concerned about bulking up when you mention weight training. But, because women don't have the testosterone levels men do, they aren't able to grow muscle in the same way. And, while weight training might add muscle weight to your body, it burns fat at a higher rate than it adds muscle. In one study, women who added 1.75 pounds of muscle, lost 3.5 pounds of fat. So, while women can gain muscle from heavy weight training, they are going to see the fat melt off, changing their overall body composition: creating a lean, strong, toned look.
Better Bone Density
Weight training not only builds muscle, it builds your bones as well. Increased bone density can fight against osteoporosis, and keep you from injury. As you increase the demands on your muscles, you are increasing demands on your bones, which helps build your bone's strength. Professor Earl Mindell and Virginia Hopkins explain findings from their research in Prescription Alternatives, "In a recent study on bone density and exercise, older women who did high-intensity weight training two days per week for a year were able to increase their bone density by one percent, while a control group of women who did not exercise had a bone density decrease of 1.8 to 2.5 percent. The women who exercised also had improved muscle strength and better balance, while both decreased in the non-exercising group." In addition, according to Kathy Keeton, "a research study by Ontario's McMaster University found that a year-long strength training program increased the spinal bone mass of postmenopausal women by nine percent. Furthermore, women who do not participate in strength training actually experience a decrease in bone density."
Improved Mental Health
Strength training's effects stretch far beyond the physical. Studies suggest that resistance training is linked to a decrease in depression (a Harvard study found that 10 weeks of strength training reduced depression more than counseling did), an increase in executive functioning, a reduction in anxiety levels, an increase in self esteem, and healthy sleep patterns. During a strength training workout, your body releases endorphins which improves overall mood, boosts your immunity and increases your focus.
Time to Start Lifting Ladies....
There are plenty of other benefits to strength training for women, but I think these are some pretty compelling reasons to hit the weights. If you want to dive into a strength training program, I recommend hiring a personal trainer (online or off) to make a solid plan for you. You can also find online plans through an app like Spitfire, or I recommend the plans in Strong and Thinner, Leaner Stronger. Aim for 3 strength training workouts per week, one short HIIT workout per week, and be sure to include some extensive stretching before and after each workout. Remember the goal is to increase your weights over time, so make sure that you find a plan that will progressively up your weight levels, requiring more from your muscles; that's where the real change takes place.
If you'd like an affordable personalized plan to get you started, I am offering a 50% discount off my One-on One VIP program. You get 4 weeks of personalized strength training workouts, nutritional guidance, and regular check-ins to keep you accountable, for only $75. My workouts will take no longer than 30 minutes and will get you leaner and stronger, while increasing your energy. As always, my programs come with a money back guarantee, so you've got nothing to lose!