It is a shame that in their quest to a better physique that so many women demonstrate nervousness if not outright fear of weight training. Over and over I hear from new female clients ‘I dont use weights as I dont want to bulk up’.
Many of these same women have spent endless mind numbing hours labouring away on treadmills, steppers and cross trainers (anything to stay away from the dreaded weights area and its supposed ‘bulking up’ effect!) and with little or no progress in their body shape.
It has taken serious powers of persuasion to convince these clients that proper and effective resistance training would not bulk them up but would in fact massively accelerate their fat loss and give them the toned appearance which they are looking for and with no sudden transformation into a candidate for WWF wrestling!
If like many women fat loss and toning and overall good health are your goals let me explain some of teh reasons why resistance training (in addition to your cardio work) is so vital to achieving these goals and why such training will not make you a muscle-bound Arnie but will help you achieve a lean, toned and healthy body.
Women are physiologically different from men. The greater the amount of testosterone the more muscle that can develop. As women have significantly less testosterone than men do we simply can not gain muscle to the same extent.
Muscle is metabolically active – over a 24-hour period a pound of muscle burns in the region of 75 calories – this compares very favourably with the only 3 calories burned by a pound of fat over the same period. Thus increased muscle helps burn the body’s stored fat.
A moderate cardio workout will burn more total calories than a moderate resistance training session. However, while a cardio workout will boost the metabolism (the rate at which your body burns calories) for about 3 hours post workout, an effective resistance training workout will speed up the metabolism for anything up to 15 hours post workout.
If your workouts consist of cardio work only and/or you are on a calorie restrictive diet your body may resist burning its stored fat and instead will break down muscle for use as a source of energy – thus actually slowing your metabolism (see point 3!).
Muscle does not weigh more than fat (a pound after all is a pound) but in fact more dense than fat. In simple terms, to the eye a pound of fat is alot larger than a pound of muscle. Imagine a bag of sugar now cut two thirds of the bag away, this representing a pound of fat, the remainding third being the muscle and the picture becomes clearer on how developing muscle, and in the process losing fat, will make you leaner.
Weight training helps prevent osteoporosis, a condition which mainly thanks to low fat diets and thus limited intake of calcium is making levels of this condition soar among young women. During weight training ‘osteoblasts’ – otherwise known as the bone building cells are stimulated to strengthen the bones. Weight training also improves posture so you will walk taller and look leaner as a result.
You need not relinquish your cardio work, as an optimum fitness regime will include both cardio & resistance training. Cardio work is essential for increasing your cardio-respiratory fitness.
One final point and perhaps most important of all – resistance training will jazz up your workouts (how boring is clambering onto the stepper every time?!) giving variety and moreover a sense of empowerment that cardio workouts alone just can not give.
As regards weight training and diet if you are having visions of having to down eight raw eggs each morning – think again. Current guidelines deem that our recommended daily allowance of protein should be around 15% of our daily intake – only professional body builders and serious weight lifters need to go beyond this recommended level. So yes, while weight training (as any training) should be done in conjunction with a healthy, nutritious diet there is no need to go downing protein shakes or eating 7 chicken breasts a day.
If fat loss and toning are your goals get off the treadmill and take a walk over to the weights area or invest in a few dumbbells and start resistance training – you and your body will be very glad that you did.
Before embarking on a weight training program please seek the advice of a trained fitness professional.