More Reasons Why Women Should Lift Weights

Due to the outrageously popular Why Women Should Lift Weights Post, I bring you another installment. In fact, this post was so popular that I debated changing this site to a Why Women Should Lift Weights site entirely -I still might depending on the response to part two. Here are a few more reasons why women really should consider lifting weights.

I mentioned in the first post that fat loss is more effectively addressed through muscle gain, but I’d like to take this a step further. The reason that gaining muscle must be a priority is because otherwise the only method you will have managing body fat are an extremely clean diet and intense interval training. If you do choose that route,  it will be necessary to cut back on energy intake to offset the drop in metabolism that comes with aging.

Even when doing so, low muscle mass is linked to accelerated aging and a variety of serious health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, greater risk of breaking a bone, having poor posture, getting regular colds, having a low mood, or getting depressed. The list of reasons that are caused by not gaining muscle should be all the convincing anyone should need to begin a serious weight lifting regimen.

There are many misconceptions regarding women and weight lifting, and one of the main ones is a hormonal response to training. It’s physiologically impossible for women to gain muscle in the same way as a man because women don’t have enough testosterone unless they inject a synthetic version of it.

If men train hard and lift heavy loads, they will experience a large boost in testosterone post-workout. This doesn’t happen to women. Women have 10 to 20 times less testosterone than men, and studies have failed to demonstrate any significant change in testosterone response in women from training. This will likely come as not very encouraging news to some of the more serious women weight trainers who visit this site.

The good thing about resistance training for females of all ages is that if you train hard, you will elevate growth hormone levels, which very effectively burns body fat. Growth hormone will also help you build muscle, but it has a much greater effect on fat burning.

What a lot of women don’t realize is that if they resistance train, they will build a little bit of muscle, and get stronger, and the even more desirable result of losing the body fat that covers up the muscles they have. This will make them look strong and fit, and dare I say it – sexy. Those muscles are a great preventative weapon to fight against the fat gain that happens with age.

Resistance training will not turn fat into muscle, and the opposite is also true –  muscle will never turn into fat. It you train smart and hard, fat will be lost and muscle will be gained. You will increase your metabolism and with proper nutrition, and you will keep that fat off. If you quit training, muscle will be lost, and fat will be gained, especially if you don’t adhere to a diet of healthy, nutritious foods.

Body fat takes up an awful lot of room. If you gain muscle and lose fat, the end result may be that you stay the same weight – but you’ll be smaller. If you are only concerned with your appearance, then the numbers on a scale are irrelevant. Losing weight is never the right approach to looking and feeling great – getting fit is.

The only way to get stronger is to progressively increase the amount of weight you lift. It is possible to build muscle with moderate loads, but the definition of moderate is not using the teeny tiny weights on the little rack that is standing on its own in the corner of the gym. Use somewhere between 60 and 85 percent loads, that percentage refers to a weight that is 60 to 85 percent of the maximal amount you can lift for one repetition on any given exercise. Where a lot of women and uneducated trainers go wrong is that they take moderate to mean light. Lifting a weight that you can lift for 20 reps and not even feel like you did anything is of little use. This will never get you stronger, make you leaner, and most certainly won’t be of any use to you as you age.

In fact, high rep, light load training won’t do anything for you, except it may lead you to lose the small amount of muscle you already have. High rep, light load training is a variation of aerobic exercise and it brings with it the possibility of raising cortisol. One study found that embarking on a light load aerobic-style resistance program led to the loss of five pounds of muscle and a reduction in resting metabolic rate of three percent over a 10 year period. You’ll be left with less muscle and possibly more fat, so I’m not sure how this is a smart approach for any reason at all.

The belief that high repetition, light load training will give women develop muscle tone is a misconception. The scientific definition of muscle tone has nothing to do with the popular definition, which seems to be the level of visibility of muscles. To achieve better muscle tone by the popular definition, all you need to do is lose fat, and build muscle. You can’t tone a muscle. You can build it to become larger, which will make it more pleasing aesthetically, and you can lose fat which will further the attractive appearance of the muscle.

Happy Lifting!

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13 comments for “More Reasons Why Women Should Lift Weights

  1. October 3, 2012 at 5:45 am

    Great article on weight training – addressing one of the most common mistakes we all make – not increasing our weights accordingly. I combine my weight training with fasting (fasted workouts) which really works for me.

    One other thing worth a mention here is birth control pills – some women can experience far less muscle gain from resistance training because of these synthetic hormones. Lots of research out there looking into this – here’s a link – http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/43210/title/Science_%2B_the_Public__Birth_control_pills_can_limit_muscle-training_gains

    Great post!

    April Danann
    Clinical Nutritionist

    • October 3, 2012 at 9:37 am

      Thanks for the information April!

  2. October 2, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Fantastic article, bro… I always shake my head when I see ‘workouts for women’ and ‘workouts for men’ – both should be doing the same style of workouts using the same % of 1RM, based on their overall goals.

    • MattToronto
      October 2, 2012 at 2:02 pm

      Thanks Doug, I’m with you!

  3. October 2, 2012 at 8:23 am

    I think you have too much to offer the men to change the name of the site…how about a sister-site for us girls? 😉

    I am a perfect example of your “If you gain muscle and lose fat, the end result may be that you stay the same weight – but you’ll be smaller.” In the worse shape of my life, I weighted 148 pounds and was a size 12. In the best shape of my life (now), I weight 148 pounds and am a size 6.

    If women could only see that process needs to be evaluated by how your clothes fit and how you look and NOT by the numbers on the scale. My advice to the girls that focus on the scale – TOSS IT!

    Great post once again.

    • October 2, 2012 at 9:18 am

      I will absolutely start a women’s site, on the condition that you regularly contribute. Sound good? Seriously…

      • October 2, 2012 at 9:41 am

        I’d be honored.

    • October 2, 2012 at 5:57 pm

      Awesome Jill! I guess it works for guys too (but we have other reasons to lift.) I was always super small, graduated high school at 140. Well in the worst shape of my life, right before I started lifting hardcore 4 years ago, I weighed 180. Today? 180. High five! LOL

      P.S. Great stuff as always Matt!

  4. October 2, 2012 at 8:04 am

    I forgot to mention that I was very interested in the part about low weight high rep … it’s such a common misconception. Thanks for spelling it out

  5. October 2, 2012 at 8:01 am

    What a great article! Well done Matt! I’m such a firm believer in everything that you say here, but it’s always nice to learn a little more. It helps solidify in my mind all the reasons for women to lift. I want to copy it and give a copy to ALL my women friends

    • October 2, 2012 at 9:22 am

      Thanks Stacia! Send all your friends links instead, so they will learn more when they know where to go!

      • Jocelyn
        March 29, 2013 at 11:34 pm

        Appreciate this article, thank you! I love to lift hard. And it irks me when other women say they don’t want to lift and look like a man. I want to support others who appreciate the benefits and fun of lifting 🙂

        • March 30, 2013 at 6:09 am

          Good to hear you like to lift. It is fun and male or female should have no bearing on your decision to do so!

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