I recently had someone ask me for help with their fitness goals. After I asked her some questions about what her goals are and what she was currently doing to achieve them, I suggested that she incorporate lifting heavy weights into her fitness routine. Her response was she didn’t want to look like a man or get big and bulky. She wanted to look and feel toned and fit, but still feminine.
Can you relate? Are you concerned you’ll get big and bulky if you lift heavy weights and look like a man? Luckily, you have me and I’m going to convince you about why you should be lifting heavy weights!
TRUE OR FALSE – LIFTING HEAVY WEIGHTS WILL MAKE ME LOOK LIKE A MAN.
FALSE! You will NOT look like a man. It takes SO much effort with proper nutrition to build muscles. Even if you lifted heavy weights and ate the proper nutrition, a person generally will only put on one pound of muscle in a month! And that’s one pound spread out over your entire body! That’s like the size of a drink coaster chopped up into tiny pieces and placed all over your body.
Besides being a woman with less testosterone than men, your genetics and body type will affect how much muscle you personally are able to build. When I say genetics, I’m not just talking about how tall or short you are, I’m also talking about your ethnicity. Some ethnicities are genetically more inclined to either build or not build muscles. So keep that in mind too.
Plus, if being a big bodybuilder is not your goal, you will cater your weight training to what you are trying to achieve. I promise you will not wake up one day looking like a man. If only it were that easy to build muscles! (sigh)
My number one reason you babes should be lifting heavy weights is because it will help prevent and slow the loss of bone mass!
Did you know, our bones are in constant remodeling? What does that mean? Just as your skin cells are constantly dying and being replaced, it is similar for your bones. I’ve heard it said that we will go through 11 skeletons in our lifetime because of the constant turnover of bone.
When we are young our bodies make new bones faster than we lose bone. By the time we are 30 we’ve reached our peak bone mass. It’s all downhill from there, so to speak. We all, men and women, slow down in making new bones. After age 30 we begin to lose bone mass faster than we make it. Our hormones, physical activity and diet all play a role in this.
When we do not have enough bone mass your bones become weak. This is what we call Osteoporosis.
Resistance training, a.k.a. lifting weights, and nutrition high in Calcium and Vitamin D have proven to help increase and maintain your bone mass.
Weight training puts stress on your bones signalling your body to reinforce the weak areas of the bone or the areas receiving stress, resulting in more bone mass. Our bones are made up primarily of calcium so it makes sense that a diet high in Calcium would be beneficial. But in order for our bodies to absorb calcium we need Vitamin D.
In a nutshell, even if you don’t want big muscles, you should be doing some weight training to maintain healthy bones.
Also, dairy milk is not the only source of calcium, nor is it the best. Dark leafy greens, broccoli, some beans, are also high in calcium and are more bioavailable (easier to absorb) than dairy milk.
Preventing Osteoporosis is one motivator for me to keep weight training, even a little bit, every day.
MUSCLE BURNS FAT
Ok, listen up! If you are trying to lose weight or body fat, you want to build muscle! Why? Because muscle burns more calories while at rest. What does that mean? It means when you’re sitting in your car driving a carpool, you are burning more calories. It means when you’re Netflix binging after putting kids to bed, you are burning more calories. When you are sleeping, you are burning more calories! Say what!?!
When you lift heavy weights you are tearing and breaking down your muscle fibers. Your body will adapt to the strain by building your muscles back up but stronger so the next time it will not tear and break down so easily. The process of building back up and reinforcing those muscle fibers takes a lot of energy in the form of calories. In between your weight training sessions is when your body is grabbing at those extra calories or fat stores to give it the energy needed to restore those torn muscle fibers. That is how you burn more calories while at rest.
MORE MUSCLE = MORE CALORIES
I like to eat. I like to eat a lot. In fact, I’m a three-time pie-eating champion of my home town’s 4th of July celebrations! As we all know too well, eating too much leads to fat stores. Boo!!
But here’s the good news, muscle is hungry! As mentioned previously, it takes energy in the form of calories to build muscle. If you are trying to lose weight and/or body fat you need to be in a calorie deficit. That means taking in less calories than your body needs.
For example, if I wanted to lose two pounds a week, I would need to be in a calorie deficit of 200-500 calories less than my Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE), depending on how much and how fast I want to lose weight. (TDEE is the number of calories you burn in a day for your regular activities. There are free TDEE calculators online you can use to figure out yours. Here’s one I have used https://www.calculator.net/tdee-calculator.html. Maybe I’ll do a separate post on how to calculate your TDEE. Let me know in the comments if that’s something you want me to do.)
There are a few ways you can achieve this deficit. You can cut your calories by 200-500 calories; you can increase your activity level so you are using more energy; or you can do a combination of both, which is what I like to do. What works for you will depend on your goals and body type, but generally, a combination of cutting calories and increasing activity level will work.
I do not like to starve and I also do not want to be doing cardio for an hour every day. When you do cardio exercises you will burn calories while you are doing the exercise and for possibly an hour after, but that’s it. By doing weight training, not only can my session be short, I will still burn more calories at rest without spending hours in the gym.
By cutting my calories by 200 and lifting weights that break down muscle, I will be able to achieve the deficit without starving myself!! Work smarter, not harder! The more muscle you have the more you need to eat to provide fuel for restoring the torn muscles. Therefore, if you are in a slight calorie deficit your body will turn to your fat stores for the energy to rebuild those muscle fibers.
Once you are at your goal weight, guess what! You no longer need to be in a deficit!! You can eat at your TDEE to maintain the muscle you have or increase the muscle you have by increasing your calories (this is what I’m talking about!) and increasing the intensity of your weight training!
SHORT ON TIME?
Another reason you should weight train is it doesn’t have to take long to reap the benefits. Are you a busy mom with a million things on your plate and just don’t have time for an hour, or even thirty minutes to get a workout in? Me too!! The beautiful thing with weight training is, all you need to do is break down the muscle fibers. It doesn’t take long sessions to do this. It can be accomplished in a short 4-minute Tabata or HIIT-style workout. I’m not kidding! Four minutes of intensity is enough to break down those muscle fibers! That’s less time than it takes to get a kid dressed in the morning!! If you are consistent with these short but intense weight training sessions, you will see a difference in your body!
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU ARE LIFTING HEAVY ENOUGH?
How heavy is heavy? Let’s say the prescribed exercise is 3 sets of 12 repetitions of a bicep curl. That means you will do 12 bicep curls in a row before resting and then repeat 2 more times. (Should I do a post about weight training lingo? Let me know in the comments.) If you can do 15 bicep curls before resting, your weight is too light and you need to go heavier. You should not be able to do more than the prescribed repetitions with the amount of weight you are using. If you can only do 8 repetitions out of the 12 prescribed then your weight is too heavy and you need to go lighter.
To make your weight sessions short make them more intense by opting for heavier weights and fewer repetitions. Fewer repetitions = heavier weights = quicker muscle break down. If the prescribed exercise is 3 sets of 6 repetitions you know that the weight will be heavier and therefore, make your workout more intense and shorter. I like fewer repetitions for two reasons, 1) I lose count easily, and 2) smaller repetitions mean a short workout.
Don’t be afraid to play around and test out weights and repetitions to find that sweet spot of weight and intensity in your workout.
I’ll be honest, I don’t love going to a gym. I love the convenience of working out at home. I don’t like having to wait for machines at crowded gyms. When doing supersets and giant sets I find it easier to incorporate them at home without making others wait for me while I’m using 2-3 different machines for 1 set!
Going to the gym has its perks too. For one, kids do not interrupt me while I’m at the gym. For some of us, if you don’t go somewhere to workout then we just don’t do it. Having a gym to go to and pay for a membership can be motivating. If this is you that is great! Do what works for you!
If you are like me and prefer working out in the comfort of your home, here are some affordable weight training equipment you will find helpful.
This is not sponsored. These are items I have in my own home gym that I use all the time.
Ok, these can get pricey, but if you’re smart about it you can get these for super cheap! Check out your local thrift stores and classified ads. I’ve seen weight benches, dumbbells, even weight machines for crazy cheap so check those places first.
Loop Resistance bands
LEEKEY Resistance Band Set. I really like these loop-style resistance bands. You can do any regular weight training exercise with these and they’re really affordable! You can also use these tied around the monkey bars at the park or tied around a pull-up bar for an assisted pull-up.
Resistance Bands with handles
Fit Simplify Resistance Band 12 Piece Set with Instruction Booklet. I like these because with the door anchor makes it easy for you to perform lat pulldowns targeting those big back muscles. You could do that with the loop bands too if you have a way to anchor it properly. These are pretty affordable as well.
AMEXI Resistance Bands for Legs and Butt These are great especially for lateral leg work, really any leg work, butt (pun intended) these make targeting those outer thighs and glutes much easier than the typical lunge or squat. And again, these are very affordable.
Synergee Core Sliders. These sliders turn up the heat on those core and hamstring exercises! Also, these are very affordable.
A perk for using resistance bands over dumbbells, besides being more affordable, is they take up hardly any space! You can store them in your closet or under the couch. They are also easy to transport if you want to take them with you on vacation or if you happen to move around a lot. If you were only going to get one of these items I would suggest the loop bands.
BOOST YOUR CONFIDENCE!!
There are so many great benefits for women to weight train. Another reason is the way it makes you feel! As you experiment with different exercises you will find there are some you like, some you love and some you hate. Intense weight training may not always be fun but like anything that is hard, you will feel a sense of pride and accomplishment for finishing something difficult. Which in turn builds your confidence in yourself. You can do hard things and that includes weight training! You can be a strong, muscular, and confident woman without looking like a man!!
For more tips, motivation and education, follow me on Instagram @takylorkati2018.