What Lifting Weights Can Do for You
The first time I ever decided to lift weights, I didn’t even have the two pound purple vinyl dumbbells most women turn to when we decide to “lift weights.” I went the old-school route of using soup cans to firm, tone and sculpt! Using anything with actual weight to it would make me bulky and turn me into She-Hulk! Boy do I feel silly now.
First of all, I’d love to look like She-Hulk. Second of all, if you’re a woman who is nervous about lifting weights, consider this: If pumping a bit of iron a few times a week turned you into a ripped monster, don’t you think a lot more women would bodybuild?
Put the attitude and your soup cans to rest. Lifting preserves lean muscle tissue and turns your body into a fat-burning furnace. Fitness studies from Connecticut to Alabama insist that the benefits of lifting weights come from lifting heavy — you shouldn’t be able to perform more than 10 to 12 reps with your chosen weight.
I promised secrets, didn’t I? Okay. You’re not going to be happy, but here they are:
Lifting is what makes you look how you want to look
I hear it every day. “I don’t want Madonna arms.” “I don’t want to look muscular, just toned.” Newsflash — the women on the covers of Shape aren’t using soup cans. Lifting will not turn them, or you, into a linebacker. It will turn you into a lean, mean, bikini-posing machine. A University of Alabama study showed that women who lifted weights lost more deep belly fat than women who just did cardio. I’m not asking you to do sit ups with a barbell, but weight bearing exercises such as squats and clean-and-jerks target the core in a functional manner, using our deep muscles to bear weight rather than subjecting them to isolated motions.
Lifting is really, really good for you
Lifting will train your body to do what it’s meant to do. Most major lifts (squats, deadlifts and bench presses to name the Big Three) are compound motions, meant to use your body to bear weight how it ought to. We stand on two feet, not four like many of our mammal friends, and believe it or not — we didn’t evolve to sit at a desk all day. Weight-bearing exercise can correct posture, pain issues and alignment. For a bit of personal experience? I always thought I couldn’t run, bike, do all sorts of cardio and certainly couldn’t do weighted squats because of my “bad knees.” When I saw my doctor, I was informed that I actually just had “weak quads” and needed to strengthen them. Learning to squat properly and lifting with my legs fixed me up, relieving me of knee pain (and giving me a nicer set of gams, to boot).
If you’re curious about where to start with a weight lifting routine, I can’t write anything better than Mistress Krista at Stumptuous.com — where I’ve learned everything I know about pumping iron.
If you’re bored of cardio, tried playing outside with no results and keep falling asleep during yoga, try lifting. It requires a focus and dedication that can be pretty daunting, and next week we can go over dealing with gym phobia, since that’s often what keeps us from lifting weights in the first place.
Health editor, Tini Howard is a writer, aerialist and foodie from the East Coast.