I have been conducting quite a few seminars at Contours (ladies gyms) over the last few months and I am still amazed at the number of women who avoid doing weight training under the mistaken believe that it will bulk them up. Here is an article I wrote several years ago (2001) in an attempt to get the facts out there!
I can honestly say that if you are serious about losing weight then some form of resistance training is a must! It is the ONLY way to stop you from losing precious muscle tissue as you lose weight. (Muscle is one of the most metabolically-active tissues in the body)
If you don't have time to join a gym that's fine, go to my website and check out the 'Tone at Home' exercises. They will at least help you to preserve your muscle mass whilst you lose body fat. (The link is in my profile)
Anyway, here's the article. I hope you find it useful:
Women and Weights
If you speak to women about their physical goals the most common response you will get is that they want to lose weight and tone up.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of women who want to lose weight and tone up won’t even consider incorporating the most effective principle into their lifestyle in order to get the results they want. Weight training for women is a principle shrouded in mystery and myths and is the most under-estimated way to dramatically change body composition (to one with less fat and more muscle) in a very short period of time. Furthermore, not using this principle when trying to lose weight almost guarantees that the weight you lose will be put straight back on!
Many women avoid incorporating weight training into their lifestyle under the mistaken belief that they will get big or look like a man! Mind you, considering the appearance of many top-level competitive female bodybuilders (most of whom are pharmaceutically-enhanced) it is understandable why they often shy away from weight training.
Despite this, weight training for women is certainly growing in popularity even though the image of women lifting weights still summons fears of losing censored appeal and femininity in many.
Before we examine the benefits weight training can offer women in their quest for achieving a great body, we first need to understand a few basic physiological facts.
• Women produce less testosterone than men.
It is especially difficult for women to increase their muscle mass because they do not naturally produce as much testosterone as men. The majority of overly muscular women take anabolic steroids to increase their muscle mass. [NOTE: Anabolic steroids are synthetic derivatives of the male hormone testosterone and they promote a dramatic increase in muscle mass and strength). If you don’t take anabolic steroids, it is impossible to look like a man.
• Women have less muscle mass to begin with.
Most women have significantly fewer muscle fibres in each muscle group than men, which means their ability to build muscle is reduced. Despite this fact, it doesn’t mean that weight training for women isn’t beneficial. .
• Weight training ‘tones’ faster.
Women who consistently train with weights achieve a ‘toned’ look to their body very quickly. ‘Toning up’ is a process whereby you lose bodyfat and gain muscle simultaneously to achieve a ‘harder-looking’ body.
• Muscles cannot harden up, get flabby or get soft.
Muscles can only increase in size (hypertrophy) or decrease in size (atrophy). They cannot actually ‘harden up’ themselves. The part of the body that is exercised may feel harder simply because the muscles have experienced hypertrophy, and since muscle is a denser tissue than fat, the body part, not the muscle itself feels harder.
• Muscles can’t grow indefinitely.
The body limits how much muscle it builds because muscle is a very metabolically-active tissue, which means it burns up a lot of energy. Therefore, if you ever experienced a famine, you would perish quickly because your energy stores (fat) would be burnt up. This is an ancient survival mechanism that the human body still carries from our ancestors thousands of years ago when the threat of starvation was a major cause of death.
Plus, more muscle means your body needs more food. People wanting to continually increase their muscle mass, must continually increase their food intake. This is why bodybuilders eat 3-4 times the average person’s food intake. Their bodies are like furnaces, constantly burning up energy. If you choose to maintain a moderate food intake, then your muscle size can only increase slightly (if at all). If you don’t increase your food intake, then your body will only increase its muscle mass up to a certain point. Through continued weight training you will be able to maintain this amount of muscle and therefore keep your metabolic rate elevated, which will result in more fat being burnt and a more ‘toned’ body being achieved.
• An increase in muscle must be maintained.
If you ever feel that your muscles are getting too big, however unlikely, simply stop training for two weeks and your muscles will shrink back to their original size.
• Muscle cannot turn into fat.
You’ve probably heard the comment, ‘when you stop training the muscle turns into fat!’ This is a popular comment from many well-intentioned but ignorant people. These people usually have very little knowledge of human physiology or weight training and have likely never trained themselves. They are also probably envious of the fact that you are doing something positive for your body and they’re not! It is a physiological impossibility to turn muscle tissue into fat tissue. Muscle and fat have totally different chemical compositions. Muscle is made up of protein and water whereas fat is made of triglycerides (fatty acids and glycerol). The two are completely different.
WHY CAN’T YOU JUST DIET AND/ OR PERFORM AEROBIC EXERCISE TO LOSE WEIGHT AND TONE UP?
If you only diet and/or perform aerobic exercise to lose fat, up to half of the weight lost will come from muscle tissue because you’re not forcing your body to maintain it, which is what weight training does. Since muscle has an enormous effect on our metabolic rate, a loss of muscle results in a reduction of our metabolic rate, thereby making continual fat-loss very difficult. Without resistance training, there will still be a layer of fat on your body that just won’t budge! The metabolism-enhancing effects of weight training cannot be under estimated in dramatically reducing your body fat to levels you never thought possible.
DO YOU HAVE TO LIFT WEIGHTS?
It is not essential to only lift weights in order to gain the benefits. Any form of resistance exercise can provide the same effects. The goal is to simply challenge the muscles to work beyond their normal capacities. A similar effect can also be achieved by using a swiss ball, rubber bands or by performing bodyweight exercises like, calisthenics, yoga and pilates. You can even perform a workout using canned food or household furniture! However, the best results come from lifting weights.
BENEFITS OF WEIGHT (RESISTANCE) TRAINING
Weight training will provide you with an enormous number of benefits including:
• Enhanced feminine body shape.
The natural female body shape is enhanced by increasing your muscle mass and reducing your fat mass. Furthermore, weight training is the only way to modify your body shape if you desire to do so. Just like an artist, you can use weights to turn a pear-shaped figure into an hour-glass figure.
• Younger-looking body.
As we age, we tend to lose muscle and put on bodyfat. By maintaining our muscle mass as we age we can maintain a younger-looking body.
• Elevated metabolism.
As mentioned earlier, muscle is one of the most metabolically-active tissues in the body, which means it burns up the most energy. Therefore, by increasing your muscle mass you can dramatically boost your metabolism.
• Lower level of bodyfat.
Since your metabolism is elevated by increasing your muscle mass, it is much easier to achieve a lower level of bodyfat.
• Less ‘cellulite’.
‘Cellulite’ is actually just normal fat stored above connective tissue that is structured differently. By losing bodyfat you also lose ‘cellulite’.
• Reduced risk of osteoporosis.
Weight training not only strengthens your muscles but also strengthens your bones. It has been proven to be far more effective than simply increasing your intake of calcium from food or supplements.
• Improved body functioning.
Stronger muscles mean everyday activities become much easier. For example, carrying bags of groceries from the car into the house, putting heavy boxes into an overhead cupboard or spending time in the garden are all tasks that stronger muscles make easier.
• Increased self-esteem.
When you look good, you feel great and weight training can certainly provide that benefit. Plus, exercise has been shown to be better at fighting clinical depression than drugs since the body produces natural opiates (endorphins) in response to exercise.
• Reduced risk of heart disease.
It is believed that weight training has a ‘massaging-effect’ on the blood vessels as well as promoting a vasodilating effect (increasing the diameter) on the blood vessels. This may strengthen them and reduce your risk of heart attack.
• Longer life.
Since the risk associated with many diseases, including diabetes, is reduced your chances of living a longer is increased dramatically.
WHAT YOU NEED TO DO NEXT
In order to get the benefits from weight training you only need to train twice a week for 30 minutes each session (minimum). For best results, seek the services of a qualified and experienced personal trainer. They can teach you how to perform the exercises correctly and safely and can help keep you motivated so you achieve the results you want. Plus, they make the workouts much more fun.
It should now be obvious that weight training for women is essential if they want to lose fat and achieve a ‘toned’ body. Without weights, women will continually struggle to achieve their ideal body. Furthermore, the sooner the myths regarding weight training are dispelled, the sooner women will become aware of the benefits that can be gained by lifting weights and the sooner they will make themselves happier as well as many more men in the world!