Because weight training should be on every woman’s radar.
Listen up cardio queens, muscles are badass and beautiful. Entering the weights room will not make you look like a bodybuilder (unless you want it to), instead it’ll make you toned, lean and strong. Pumping iron has some pretty amazing benefits, so let’s get straight into why it’s important for women to huff and puff by adding weight training to your weekly workout.
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Did you know that sarcopenia (muscle loss) sets in from our 30th birthday? After the age of 40, women lose an average of 8% muscle mass every decade. Come 50 and we’re looking at a 1 to 2% loss of lean muscle mass every year and this rate increases even more after the age of 60. This progressive loss of muscle mass can lead to the loss of bone mineral density (and it’s much more for women who go through childbirth and menopause). Over time bones become brittle, prone to fractures and the risk of arthritis and osteoporosis spikes up. Most of us dismiss these as usual signs of ageing but in reality, with timely strength training, we can slow or delay the onset of ageing by decades.
Strength training has a huge positive impact on our mental and physical health. It improves blood circulation, cuts down the risk of osteoporosis for women and contours the body. Plus more muscles means better metabolism so, even at rest, your body is a bunsen burner shedding calories. It also lessens aches and pains, and makes you look swell.
Need more inspiration to never skip leg day? In 2014, scientists from the University of California made a startling discovery. For a decade they followed over 4,000 healthy senior citizens and concluded that their lifespans were directly linked to their muscle mass. Those with the highest muscle mass index had the lowest mortality and those with the least amount of muscles in their frame, died prematurely. So weight training might just be the scientifically proven fountain of youth!
You run, spin and row but it doesn’t seem to be shifting the pounds? What gives? As frustrating as it sounds, cardio is no longer the king or the fastest solution for trimming the fat. You heard that right mama, cardio is the most essential exercise for heart health (and a healthy heart=longer life) but not necessarily the most effective for sculpting your body.
Strength training builds muscle, the more muscle you have the more calories you expend. Experts say, for every three pounds of muscles built, you lose an additional 120 calories a day (by just vegetating) because muscles take more energy to sustain. Pumping iron gives you a metabolic spike even an hour after your workout, which means you will fry an extra 25% of the calories you scorched in the strength training session. So if you shed 300 calories by pressing some major poundage, it’s really closer to 375; plus you can wipe out even more calories if you lift heavier and rest for no more than 30 seconds between sets. Cardio, on the other hand, has very little after-burn, meaning you shed calories only during your workout but not much happens afterwards.
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Before you swap your swim for the squat, cardio might still have the edge on stress busting and heart health. Cardio induces the production of the hormone serotonin in our brain, an integral neurotransmitter which keeps depression at bay. Just 15 minutes of an aerobic activity three times a week can drastically reduce anxiety. Take the cardio sessions up to five times a week and you can drop fatigue by 50%.
The heart-strengthening benefits of a run or cycling are undeniable. A 2007 study published in the reputed medical journal Annals of Internal Medicine, found that lacing up the aerobic workouts for just two months decreases inflammation around the heart muscles and increases the production of “good” cholesterol levels in the body by 8%. That’s huge! So, for optimal health, it is important to find the right balance between cardio and strength training.
This myth should vanish. For you to bulk up like a Russian weightlifter, you need a hormonal response in your body. And that hormone is called testosterone. Women pack 10 to 30 times less testosterone than men, meaning gaining muscle mass takes a lot longer. And no one accidentally gets bigger. That requires a hardcore training program coupled with a specific nutritional plan and would involve eating a lot more clean proteins, carbs and healthy fats than an average person. What you will find is a more toned, lean physique with more clearly defined muscle structure.
Goblet Squats: Incredibly functional and great exercise for total body strength. Ideally, do it three or four times a week with a heavy kettlebell. It builds up your lower body, works the quads, hamstrings, thighs, glutes and core.
Push Ups: Plagued by flabby arms? Give push-ups a go for well-sculpted arms and enviably defined muscles. It activates the core and cuts down lower back injuries by enhancing torso flexibility, strengthens the triceps, pectoral muscles and makes shoulders stronger. Try these three times a week.
Planks: As they say, if you think a minute goes by really fast, try planking. Abs, legs, arms, shoulders – this exercise is essential for overall core strength.
Barbell Deadlift: It’s the best glute-shaping exercise out there. Lifting a barbell from the floor onto your hips with straight legs and back might look simple, but it really targets your legs and glutes, builds muscle, burns calories and makes you stronger.
Barbell/Dumbbell Chest Press: The easiest and the cheapest way to perk up your pecs, prevent sagging and improve your complete silhouette. Go for a slightly lighter weight than you can usually handle to allow for a lot of reps. Do this two times a week with three sets of six to 10 repetitions (resting for 30 seconds in between).
Remember to ask for support from a rep in your gym to make sure you’re doing the exercises correctly and, most importantly, think of all the benefits as the burn sets in. Wonder Woman eat your heart out!
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Featured image courtesy of Getty Images, image 1 courtesy of mentatdgt via Pexels, image 2 courtesy of stevepb via Pixabay, image 3 curtesy of Daniel Reche via Pexels, image 4 courtesy of dubajjo via Pixabay, image 5 courtesy of Bruce Mars via Unsplash.