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Weight lifting throughout the years has long been associated with men, and with size. As a result, this has often discouraged many a female to stay away from weight lifting, and strength training in general. In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in female participation in varying areas of sport, and fitness that used to be heavily male dominant. Many females now have a better understanding of what is necessary for optimal health, and well-being, and resistance training has come in to sharp focus. That said, females do have certain characteristics that need to be taken into consideration such as pregnancy, menstruation, and body composition. Females, though, can, and do, benefit heavily from weight lifting, and the results that it can bring, if it is applied properly, and safely.

We need to take into consideration structural, hormonal, and lean body weight differences, but women should not fear weight lifting. They should embrace it. We’re gonna use this blog to ‘de-mystify’ weight lifting for females. A very simple formula can be applied:

Lifting weights = More muscle

More muscle = Increased metabolism 

Increased metabolism = Weight loss

Simples! The formula above hits the nail on the head for nearly everybody who is looking to improve their health and fitness. To change their body composition. We all want to look good, and feel better about ourselves. We want to be the the ‘Rolls Royce’ version of us. A study by Borgen & Cobin, 1987, found that weight training decreases body fat, whilst increasing fat free weight in women. Pretty obvious. But, even though countless studies have found it to be beneficial to women, many still avoid it out of the fear of having to walk sideways out of the same door that they came through an hour before! Many studies have also found that strength gains do occur without muscle hypertrophy (growth). A study by Staron et al, 1990, found that after completing a 20 week program of resistance training for the lower body, female participants showed a decrease in body fat, but no change in thigh circumference. In simple terms, it means that for the average female it has a positive effect on body composition leading to a reduction in body fat with an increase in strength, but without the change in body size. Strong not skinny. 

Now. Picture the scene in your gym. You walk onto the gym floor, and all the cardio machines are packed, with not one to spare. Over in the free weights, there is plenty of space. Certainly for females, anyway. And here is the argument. Cardio vs resistance training, and the relation, and benefits for weight loss. I’ll end the argument here, but if you so desire,  I’ll give you some reasoning behind it in a moment. If you want to develop the physique you so desire, get your arse into the weights room. Kapish? Cardio does burn fat, but not in the absolute amounts you crave. Many people will plod along on the treadmill, or bike, for 45 minutes every single time they go into the gym, and then do the same three or four abdominal exercises that they know, and wonder why they aren’t getting the body they desire. Oh, and they spend that 45 minutes glued to the T.V. Steady state cardio will use the energy sources immediately available to the body, but it is a drop in the ocean compared to exercise of a higher intensity. To really turn the gas up on your fat burning exploits you want to get the intensity high. When we deplete our readily available energy sources, the body will the go after the next available sources. Your body will then head for the winners enclosure, and go after the adipose tissue, or subcutaneous fat, that we carry. The fat that we want to lose. So, yes, you can burn fat on the treadmill, but it needs to be ramped up for you to have any benefit for wasting 45 minutes of your life with very little to show towards your weight loss goal. That said, it’s still like throwing a peanut into the channel tunnel versus picking stuff up, and putting it down. Repeatedly. 

Let’s look back at something we said above, and those who try to focus on that one area that we want to really see in all it’s glory. The flat tummy. The lean arms. Well, sorry, there is no such thing as ‘spot reduction’. Spot reduction is the attempt to remove subcutaneous fat from a given area of the body i.e. the triceps, or bingo wings, by targeting the area and kicking the arse out of it. Whilst it will strengthen the area being worked it will have negligible impact in terms of ridding the area of unwanted fat. We often hear the term ‘melt the fat and it will turn to muscle’. No. No. No. Fat doesn’t melt. Whilst we will increase lean muscle tissue around the area, it will not magically turn into muscle. Unless you live in a Disney movie! Fat is taken from our fat cells for energy, but unfortunately, not always from the areas we desire. Plus, the areas we usually target i.e. the triceps (back of the arms), are small in size compared to larger muscles like the trapezius (upper back). This is a great reason why weight lifting, and especially compound movements will help in the fight. Movements that use more than one joint, and in turn, use more muscles. We focus on larger movements like squats, dead lifts, press ups and pull ups, whilst combining these with smaller isolated movements like the shoulder press and bicep curl. More bang for your buck. This helps to develop muscle in more areas , and influences fat loss more than the myth of ‘spot reduction’. So, by increasing our overall fitness, we will reduce body fat and the percentage you carry, more efficiently than by sitting in front of Cosmopolitan magazine screaming “I will have arms like Michelle Obama if I stay here for the next six hours doing tricep dips”.

The benefits of weight training should not be overlooked. Get into the weights room, and get amongst it. Take a friend for support, if you need to. Even better, you both get the benefits of weight training together! If you’re still not gonna lift weights, then you’ve just wasted five minutes of your life you’ll never get back reading this blog. You owe it to yourself to at least give it  shot. Here’s one last shot across your bows.

“The myth that women shouldn’t lift is only perpetuated by women who fear work, and men who fear women” – Source unknown. 

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