Lift Like A Girl: Women & Weightlifting
Why we love seeing women picking up heavy weights, by VIDA Personal Trainer Patrick Merkel.
Look around the gym and you might notice a common theme—a bunch of males dominating the weight room, and women sticking to the cardio machines. The tides are turning. More and more women are getting involved in strength training and are reaping the benefits! But what’s the motive for women to hit the weights? For years, men have been hitting the gym to pack on as much muscle mass as possible to make them appear (in their minds) more masculine. But with the female population, it’s quite the opposite. As a personal trainer, I hear it all the time from my female clientele: “I don’t want to become the hulk, I just want to tone up.” The fallacy with this request is that it takes years and years of heavy lifting and heavy eating to become a muscular beast. Women, fear not, weight training won’t necessarily turn you into a bodybuilding freak, but it most certainly will benefit your health in more areas than one.
Our bones are constantly undergoing a process of breakdown and build-up. Breakdown, called resorption, happens when our blood-calcium levels drop. Our bodies attempt to maintain homeostasis by drawing calcium from its most abundant source—our bones. Bone cells called osteoclasts begin breaking down our bone for its rich source of calcium in which our blood-calcium levels will be restored. Once restored, bone building cells called osteoblasts, will begin to redeposit calcified bone to the surface of the bone to maintain the density and integrity of the bone. Osteoporosis is a disease in which bone breakdown occurs at a more rapid rate than bone build-up. Thus, the bones become weak and porous and extremely prone to breakage. Why is this significant? 24 million Americans suffer from osteoporosis. Among that population, 80% are women. Roughly 1 in 4 women older than 50 has osteoporosis (Southern Medical Journal). Ladies, we can lower these numbers! Weight training places unnatural stress on our muscles, tendons, and bones. This stress sends a signal to our bodies to strengthen our muscles, bones, and tendons to keep up with, and hold integrity under this stress. Thus, a safe and effective weight training program is a very effective way to prevent and even slightly reverse the effects of bone degeneration.
A large majority of the women that I train mention they’d like to lose some weight, even if they look great and their body fat percentage falls well within the normal range. Many people hold the misconception that cardiovascular exercise, such as running on a treadmill, is the only way to get rid of fat. Willis et. al (2012) found that resistance training, when combined with aerobic exercise (such as running on a treadmill), decreased body fat percentage more than aerobic exercise alone. The takeaway? Yes, our cardio exercise is important, but if you really want to shred that last 5-10 pounds of fat, incorporate a safe and effective weight training routine into your exercise program. Further, Bea et. al (2011) found that a safe and effective resistance training program increased lean body mass while decreasing body fat percentage. This means that not only will you become leaner, you will also become stronger! Who wouldn’t want that?
Not only will you see physical changes, your mental clarity and happiness will improve greatly. “Depression affects roughly 9.5% of the US adult population each year” (Craft and Perna, 2004). Women are 2 times as likely to be diagnosed with depression than men (Mayo Clinic). Why does all this matter? Craft and Perna (2004) studied the effect of weight training on depressed adults and found that those who participated in a weight training regimen had significantly greater reductions in depression, anxiety, and self-concept than a control group over a 12-week training period. Because women are so prone to depression and stress-related anxiety, weight training can be an excellent source of therapy to boost overall mood and happiness.
Even some women who know the benefits still shy away from the weight room because of the intimidation factor. Lots of big guys, big weights, and big machines can be rather intimidating to a beginner. As a personal trainer, I hear it all the time, some people want to hit the weights but are simply just intimidated. My suggestion for this crowd is to find a compatible and friendly personal trainer who will design a safe and effective program to reap the lifelong benefits of weight training. Now that we are pumped up to get healthy, let’s get out there and lift like a girl!
Want to start incorporating weight training into your routine? Email Patrick at email@example.com!