Updated: Nov 7, 2018
During the many years I’ve spent as a personal trainer one thing is still very apparent, the lack of knowledge regarding women lifting weights, the “I don’t want to get big, just toned” believers. If this is you, this article is here to educate you with true science based knowledge about the endless benefits and reasons why, women should be lifting weights.
Let’s start with “toning”.
That feeling of body parts jiggling and feeling soft (we’ve all felt it) isn’t untoned muscles it’s just a layer of fat around the muscles, muscles themselves do not "firm-up" or "tone". Toning a muscle is simply impossible, you can either build a muscle or not. That visual look of been “toned” is caused from the increase in muscle and a decrease in body fat.
The word “toning” has come from clever marketing created to sell fitness products and services specifically to women. People have created this stigma that women shouldn’t or can’t lift weights; using the word "toned" conveys misinformation and supports these stereotypes.
Examples are Lady-focused group exercise classes like barre, pole dancing, and Zumba which offer "all-over body tone". These classes have become popular because they create the idea that women can't or shouldn’t do the same workouts as men. They're marketed towards women who are uncomfortable lifting weights and think that the only way to get 'lean' is to do massive amounts of cardio.
A lot of women believe that if they touch a dumbbell they're going to develop humongous biceps, so they must only train to “tone” through cardio work. This belief has been reinforced by seeing those women who look really bulky, bodybuilder like. They eat, train, and take supplements such as ANABOLIC STEROIDS, specifically so they can look like that. They’ve probably been trying to add muscle for years and years. Women have 1/15 to 1/20 of the amount of testosterone as men, testosterone being the main hormone responsible for muscle growth. So it is genetically impossible to get a Hulk like figure without the use of steroids.
The truth is, if you pick something heavy up your going to get stronger not necessarily bigger. If you fill yourself full of testosterone and eat way more calories than you are burning every day then yes you will get bigger. However if you lift heavy things and remain in a calorie deficit and eat the right healthy foods, your muscles will get stronger and denser; you will burn the fat on top of your muscle, and you will get that “toned” look that you’re after.
Here comes the science, by doing cardio based exercise- ok yes you can create a calorie deficit in which you may lose weight. However you will struggle to get that toned-tight look you are after due to having small amounts of muscle. Another down side to cardio is that, as soon as you stop training, you’re no longer in a calorie deficit. This can potentially cause the fat you’ve worked so hard to lose, creep back on.
On the other hand, the more muscle tissue that you add through strength training, the greater your basal metabolic rate (resting metabolism) will be, and therefore you will be burning more total calories at rest. The results are much more permanent solution to weight loss and a great lean-looking body.
Not only does strength training make you look and feel confident but the benefits multiply as we get older. We are at a greater risk or sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass). Working as a firefighter I have experienced and seen the mobility struggles elderly people develop. A regular strength training plan can help prevent you from being stuck in a chair unable to move, or been unable to get up after having a fall.
Here are some other benefits strength training provides that cardio does not:
Improve bone density and reduce osteoporosis
Better balance, co-ordination, Agility, Power and Mobility
Improved stress levels
Improved energy levels and better quality of sleep
Things to take away from the article;
The Most Important, YOU WILL NOT GET BULKY FROM LIFTING WEIGHTS! (As long as you're not in a calorie surplus.....or taking any cheeky supplements!)
Strength training is actually better for fat loss than cardio alone.
Strength training adds more definition to your entire body including abs!
If you’re not confident with Strength training ask for help, we all start somewhere.
Break the stigma that women shouldn’t and can’t lift weights.
So, want to look good AND be strong? Make sure you include strength/resistance training in your exercise programme!