Dispelling myths and telling truths to empower Filipinas to pick up the weights!
Women have long been shying away from picking up the bars and dumbbells for fears that are understandable but sorely unfounded. Thanks to the world wide web, information is now at our fingertips. But that also means that misinformation is everywhere. From weights making women ‘bulky’ or too ‘manly’, to being downright dangerous, strength training or the use of resistance to build strength and size of muscles, has gotten a pretty bad rap over the years.
Social expectations also come into play, where skinny or slender tends to be the preferred female body type. All these have been keeping more women out of the weight room, believing that hours and hours on the treadmill is all they need regardless if it matches their fitness goals or not.
Dr. Jim Bell, founder and CEO of International Fitness Professionals Association, confirms this and said: “Many women do not like the idea of strength training due to a misunderstanding of the effects.”
However, the common fear of bulking up from strength training is far from the truth. Lifting heavy weights can make a woman (or anyone for that matter) bulky and muscly, but only if you follow an intense training plan for sustained period, matched with a strict diet.
“This misconception results in many women avoiding strength training, which may be the best possible activity for their health, weight loss or more specifically, fat loss goals” Dr. Bell added.
Hormonal difference is also a major factor. Testosterone, which is the primary hormonal driver of muscle growth, is about 15 to 20 times lower in women than men, which means women are highly unlikely to grow muscles easily nor bulk up.
Jackie Go, a lifestyle blogger and hands-on mother of two, started working out in 2014 when she fell in love with Pilates. She eventually tried weight lifting after her fitness club gave her access to free personal training sessions, giving her more confidence to lift. When asked about the benefits she noticed after getting into strength training, she said, “I feel like I have more energy to give and I noticed that I became stronger to the point that I unconsciously find myself being able to do everyday things easier than before like lugging around grocery bags or carrying my kids for hours.”
Thankfully, more women are challenging the norm and realizing the profound benefits of strength training, and for good reasons. Here are some of those advantages:
It builds muscles and accelerates weight loss
While cardio may have a slight advantage over strength training during workout sessions, lifting weights can burn more calories overall and for longer periods of time. It boils down to the fact that when you lift weights, you build muscles, and your body uses more calories to sustain muscles – about an additional 120 calories per day – than to sustain fats. This means that building muscle mass while concurrently trying to lose fat will only accelerate weight loss. Lifting weights also gives you a metabolic spike for the next hour or so because your body is trying its best to help your muscles recover after an intense workout making you scorch an additional 25 percent of calories post-lifting. In other words, you burn more calories even at rest!
It tones your body and accentuates your curves
The reality is, while cardio exercises have multitude of benefits, slogging through hours of cardio won’t build your muscles for that shapely and toned physique that you’ve always wanted. The general aim is to lose fat while building muscles, because our bodies look leaner and more defined when there’s less fat covering the muscles. Cardio alone won’t do the cut. Experts agree that a proper combination of strength training and cardio exercises yield better results than cardio alone.
Angela Nepomuceno is an entrepreneur and the prolific author of www.lushangel.com. She started strength training in preparation for a hike in Nepal more than two years ago, and never looked back since then. She goes to the gym for strength training three to five times a week. “When I started weight lifting, I noticed I don’t get tired easily and I don’t get sick as often anymore. And of course, physique-wise, I don’t look as skinny.”
It has loads of other physiological health benefits
Not only is strength training key to weight loss, it also offers immense health benefits such as increased bone density, stronger heart and lungs, improved blood flow, reduced blood pressure and cholesterol. Strength training also helps our bodies respond better to insulin and improves its use of blood sugar, making it one of the best things to do to prevent and manage diabetes.
Osteoporosis or decrease in bone density, is four times more common in women than in men, and studies have also shown that strength training can help protect bones and prevent osteoporosis-related fractures.
Overall mental health vastly improves
Similar to other forms of physical exercise, strength training also boosts production of endorphins or the brain’s feel-good chemicals. After a challenging lifting session, stress is reduced, and you immediately feel more vibrant and positive. Studies have also shown its positive effects in fighting depression and improving self-confidence. In 2006, researchers at McMaster University in Ontario found that women subjects made significant improvements in their body image after just 12 weeks of strength training.
Dr. Bell advises that beginner programs should begin with 8-10 of the basic strength movements of the 8-10 major muscle group including: gluteals (butt), hamstrings, pectorals (chest), upper back, deltoids (shoulders), biceps, triceps, calf, trapezius and abdomen. “The goal should be to initiate the muscles with some manageable overload and to do the program “pain-free.” If something hurts, you exercised that muscle group too much and you need to reduce the intensity.”
Assuming that these reasons have not sent you running to the gym yet, perhaps the greatest benefit of strength training lies simply on its own – it makes you stronger inside and out. It benefits various aspects of your life, helps you live stress-free, and gives you a sense of accomplishment and freedom that you can train and lift however way you want, because you know that you can.
Stone M, Stone Meg, Sands W. Psychological Aspects of Resistance Training. In: Principles and Practice of Resistance Training. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics; 2009. p. 229-241