Today's post is brought to you by my good friend, and personal trainer, Corbin Brosneck. Thanks Corbin!
First off, women absolutely should lift weights. There are a ton of pay-offs ranging from the obvious increased muscular strength, all the way to emotional ones like increased self esteem and confidence. There are many rumors floating around about weight lifting. The most common one having to do with whether women should be afraid of gaining too much muscle while strength training. As you will see, this myth is completely baseless. Due to misconceptions like this one, the hidden benefits of weight lifting often go unnoticed. Hopefully, after reading this, you will see that resistance training is not something to be feared or avoided, but a great fitness tool to be loved. Perhaps you already know this, in which case maybe you'll at least learn something new about the potential benefits of resistance training. So, let us begin!
If women aren't careful lifting weights, won't they get buff?
The simple answer? No, they will not. Unless they're taking steroids, that is. You see, women do not have the physical capability to become huge body-builder types (again, unless they're on steroids). To understand exactly why that is, you need to know the basics of muscle growth (formally referred to as "hypertrophy").
As with most other things in life, muscle hypertrophy really boils down to good ole' hormones. When you lift a weight and feel that wonderful burning sensation, you are experiencing the muscle breaking down. The body recognizes that the current amount of muscle is not enough for what it needs. It reacts by stuffing the muscles with extra contractile proteins (specifically, actin and myocin, the proteins that give muscles the ability to push and pull), which makes them larger and stronger. This entire process is triggered and maintained by a wonderful little hormone known as testosterone. You might recognize it as the hormone that makes men...well... men. Men produce 7 - 8 times as much testosterone as women. It is the reason why they have more muscle mass and greater potential to gain muscle. Women simply do not have enough testosterone to pack on lots of muscle. Female body builders get around this by using steroids, which are literally just testosterone shots.
Let's set aside all of this complicated witchcraft called "biology" for a moment, and take a look at the question from a practical perspective. Competing body-builders put a lot of work into making sure their exercise programs and diets are as efficient as possible for getting lots of muscle, and getting it fast. They often do this with the help of professionals with years of experience under their belts. If getting huge were as simple as "not being careful" while lifting, why would the professionals need to put so much effort into it? It just doesn't add up. Clearly, there is no reason to fear weightlifting. It has many benefits, as we will see next.
Is weight lifting really worth all the trouble?
Yes! Resistance training not only helps you become physically (and in some ways, mentally) stronger, it also has positive effects on metabolism and bone strength. Regular resistance training has been shown to dramatically increase metabolism speed, making it an essential part of any weight loss exercise program. It also strengthens bones through increased bone density, keeping it strong, yet flexible, as it ages. Finally, weight training helps to fight insomnia, with regular resistance training granting a more refreshing night's sleep.
What if I don't have a gym membership? How am I supposed to weight train without weights?
Dumbells, kettleballs, and barbells are not necessary for a good weight training program. You can use anything that is reasonably heavy. One of my favorites before I bought my own weights was a jug of water or sand. If all else fails, there is always your own body. Nothing beats a good old fashioned bodyweight workout. Remember the classics: The push-up, pull-up, squat, lunge, and the bicycle (the ab workout, not the machine).
None of this is to say that weight lifting is more important than any other part of fitness. They are all essential, and they all must be used in balance. Excessive use of any one type of fitness training (cardio, stretching, strength, etc) will result in an unbalanced body prone to injury. However, clearly all supposed negative effects of weightlifting thus far presented are baseless. There is no real reason to avoid strength training, and many benefits will result from not doing so. Why are you still reading this?! Go get your lift on!