Why Women Should Lift Weights

Many women are intimidated by the thought of lifting weights; resistance training has so many benefits that cardio doesn’t, making it imperative for keeping lean and fit. Ladies shouldn’t be afraid to lift.

Walk into most any commercial gym these days and you’re likely to notice that the vast majority of females are confined to the cardio area while males are hoisting iron. It’s unfortunate that many females find themselves being intimidated by the thought of lifting weights; resistance training has benefits that far outweigh the benefits of cardio, and by completely omit ting the former you greatly inhibit long-term success in terms of staying lean and fit.

This isn’t to say that some cardio can be useful in your exercise regimen, but rather that cardio on its own is not going to build that shapely, toned body that most females are after. Given this, we have constructed a list of the top five reasons females should choose to throw down with some iron the majority of their time in gym instead of spending countless hours on the treadmill, elliptical, Stairmaster, or whatever cardio apparatus they choose to obey. An d don’t be intimidated, ladies, the hunks doing bicep curls may look uninviting, but rest assured you’re more than welcome to step in and build some guns of your own.



1. Lifting Weights Increases Calorie Expenditure
Vigorous resistance training actually boosts your metabolic rate through out the day, which in turn makes you more efficient at burning body-fat when you’re not exercising. From a physiological standpoint, the underlying mechanism that induces increased mitochondria in cells (via a process known as mitochondrial biogenesis).

Mitochondria are key organelles in cells throughout the body that basically act as a “powerhouse” of the many cellular chemical reactions carried out on a daily basis. Thus, by increasing these organelles you increase your metabolic rate/daily calorie expenditure.

In fact, research has illustrated that resistance training greatly enhances such biochemical adaptations, while doing too much cardio can do just the opposite (decrease mitochondrial content in cells/lower metabolic rate).1

Basically, if your goal is to be lean and fit, your best bet is prioritize the iron over the treadmill; you ’ ll likely burn more fat in the long run due to the difference in metabolic adaptations from each training modality.

2. Lifting Weights Enhances Fat Loss
Much to the chagrin of female gym patrons, focusing solely on cardio for fat loss will inevitably lead to stagnation. Why is that, you ask? When you endure count less bouts of cardio (particularly low to moderate intensity cardio), your resting metabolic rate will compensate by dropping significantly since your body needs to adapt to the demand you’re putting on it.

Thus, the prudent thing to do is incorporate more bouts of resistance training while keeping cardio to as low of a frequency as possible (while still achieving your fat-loss goals).

Case in point, a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology showed that concurrent training (combining resistance and endurance training) significantly enhanced the respective metabolic effects from each form of training.2 In other words, you increase fat-loss from cardio when you combine it with weight t raining.

3. Lifting Weights Shapes & Tones You
As alluded to in the previous point, most females feel that the best way to shape their body and achieve a more toned look is by spending hours doing low- intensity cardio. However, if you really want to “bring out your curves,” then it’s imperative to build strength and muscle.

There seems to be this myth in fitness subculture that lifting intensely (i.e. with heavy weights) will suddenly transform a female into the Incredible Hulk. Reality is that females should train with heavy weights just like their male counterparts often do, and no, it won’t magically make you “bulky.” If a female (or male) really wanted to get “bulky” it would take years of intense training combine with a concerted mass-gain diet. Nobody, regardless their gender, rapidly increases their muscle size by accident.

In short, the more resistance training you incorporate, the more shapely your body will be, and the fact that you will also be stronger will empower you.

4. Lifting Weights Boosts Energy & Mood
Resistance training actually greatly improves your psychological well- being and enhances your sense of vitality throughout your daily life. It’s not uncommon to feel completely wiped out and lifeless after spending hours on the treadmill; lifting, on the other hand actually boosts “feel-good” chemicals in the brain.

In fact, studies show that the heavy resistance exercise protocols appear to greatly increase plasma beta-endorphin concentration, which in turn modulates moo d in a positive manner.3,4 If you find yourself stressed out, don’t hesitate to take some of that out on the iron… lifting can be very therapeutic.

5. Lifting Weights Improves Heart Health
It’s a little disconcerting that most gym-goers completely forget that the heart is indeed a muscle (a smooth muscle). Thus, the heart is trainable through exercise (and diet).

Most females intuitively figure that cardio is inherently the best way to train the heart and improve blood lipid profiles, but weight training/anaerobic exercise actually has been shown to do that just as, if not more, effectively. 5

Not only does weight training reduce low-density lipoproteins (LPL) , often referred to as “unhealthy” cholesterol, but it also increases high-density lipoproteins (the “healthy” cholesterol).

Furthermore, weight training is one of the most effective ways to increase insulin sensitivity. 6 When your body has high sensitivity to insulin, it becomes more efficient at utilizing carbohydrates for energy and muscle-building purposes (as op posed to storing them and/or converting them to fat tissue). Basically, If you want to enjoy some sugary treats without feeling guilty, hit the iron and indulge a bit!

So there you have it, five no-nonsense reasons to get your booty in the gym and tossing some iron around. Remember, a complete exercise regimen should certainly include both cardio and resistance training, but even females stand to benefit by focusing more on resistance training than cardio. Even if your goal is to lose fat and shape your body, lifting weights is m ore crucial than cardio since it has metabolic effects that extend far beyond those of cardio.

References: 1. Yan, Z., Okutsu, M., Akhtar, Y. N., & Lira, V. A. (2011). Regula tion of exercise-induced fiber type transformation, mitochondrial biogenesis, and angiogen esis in skeletal muscle. Journal of Applied Physiology , 110 (1), 264- 274.
2. Wang, L., Mascher, H., Psilander, N., Blomstrand, E., & Sa hlin, K. (2011). Resistance exercise enhances the molecular signaling of mitochondrial biogen esis induced by endurance exercise in human skeletal muscle. Journal of applied physiology , 111 (5), 1335- 1344.
3. Goldfarb, A. H., & Jamurtas, A. Z. (1997). β -Endorphin response to exercise. Sports Medicine , 24 (1), 8- 16.
4. Kraemer, W. J., Dziados, J. E., Marchitelli, L. J., Gordon, S. E., Harman, E. A., Mello, R., … & Triplett, N. T. (1993). Effects of different heavy-resis tance exercise protocols on plasma beta- endorphin concentrations. Journal of Applied Physiology , 74 (1), 450- 459.
5. Tambalis, K. D., Panagiotakos, D. B., Kavouras, S. A., & Si dossis, L. S. (2008). Responses of blood lipids to aerobic, resistance, and combined aerobic with resistance exercise training: a systematic review of current evidence. Angiology.
6. Henriksen, E. J. (2002). Invited review: Effects of acute ex ercise and exercise training on insulin resistance. Journal of Applied Physiology , 93 (2), 788- 796.

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