Weight Training for Women

Pooja Laungani

When you think of strength training, you conjure up images of bodybuilders with hulking physiques. If you walk into most gyms, you are likely to find majority of women on treadmills and bikes, or doing crunches in a corner. Meanwhile, the weights section is dominated by “muscle bros” and the occasional confident woman who knows her way around.

This scenario often leads many women to believe that strength training is not for them. They fear weight training because they are unsure of what to do, and don’t want to appear foolish.

But ladies, hold on. Don’t put those weights down just yet! A new study reveals that women who engage in strength training exercises two to three days a week are more likely to live longer and have a lower risk of death from heart disease compared to those who do not. Women who neglect strength training may lose anywhere from 3 to 8% of their muscle mass each decade. Research shows that strength training can promote bone development, reduce lower back pain, and reverse several factors related to skeletal muscle ageing. Muscle-strengthening exercises should be incorporated into the routines of both men and women, regardless of age. Let’s explore some of the unique benefits of strength training and weightlifting for women and learn how to start with confidence.

It’s time to let go of the stereotypes surrounding lifting weights.

Benefits of Weight Lifting for Women:

  1. Strengthen your bones:
    One of the most significant reasons why women should lift weights is to improve bone density. As we age, we tend to experience a decline in bone density, and the hormonal changes that accompany menopause can cause an even more substantial decrease. This puts women at risk of osteoporosis or “brittle bones” and increases the likelihood of fractures later in life. Weight-bearing and resistance training, such as weightlifting, are among the best ways to counteract this decline. Bone density and muscle strength go hand in hand. Starting at any age can play a crucial role in preventing conditions like osteoporosis. However, building muscle becomes more challenging as we age, especially after 50. Therefore, the earlier you engage in strength training and establish a solid foundation, the better. This approach will reduce muscle loss and help you maintain a fit and active lifestyle as you age.
  2. Boost your mood:
    Exercise is widely recognised for its positive impact on mental health, as it releases chemicals like endorphins. Weightlifting, in particular, can provide a unique sense of satisfaction that other forms of exercise may not offer. From a psychological perspective, lifting weights instills a certain level of confidence. It feels truly empowering to be able to move a heavy object and witness your progress as you gradually increase your capabilities.
  3. Enhance everyday life and stay strong as you age:
    Our muscles play a vital role in our daily activities, from getting in and out of chairs to mowing the lawn and carrying children or grandchildren. Building a solid muscle foundation through weightlifting makes these everyday tasks a little easier, especially as you grow older.
  4. Burn more calories at rest:
    While cardiovascular workouts are often considered the most effective for burning calories and losing weight, weight training should not be overlooked. While cardio exercises may burn more calories during the actual workout, weightlifting tends to increase the number of calories burned both after the workout and during rest periods. If weight loss is your goal, the most significant change you can make is to focus on your diet. Regarding exercise, a combination of cardio and strength training, including weightlifting, is the most effective approach.

How to Start Weight Lifting for Women:

  1. Start Small:
    As with any sport or new skill, it’s important to begin with small steps and gradually increase your weightlifting routine. This could involve starting with a 20-minute workout a few times a week. When starting out, use lighter weights and aim for 8-15 repetitions of each exercise. Begin with two sets of each exercise, and as you become stronger over time, consider adding a third set and increasing the weights.
  2. Use Bodyweight or Free Weights and Progress:
    Before reaching for that barbell on the rack, start by utilising your body weight or free weights to build your strength. Bodyweight exercises can include push-ups or squats -exercises that use your body weight to work against gravity. Free weights encompass dumbbells (starting from 1kg) and kettlebells, which can be incorporated into various movements. Utilising your body weight or free weights naturally engages more stabilising muscles throughout the movement. So, while you may be performing a squat, your entire body will be involved in stabilising the weights as well.
  3. Seek Professional Coaching:
    If possible, seek guidance from a professional coach. If you are new to the gym and embarking on weight training for the first time, professional assistance can be extremely valuable. Learning the correct way to use weights and mastering proper techniques will not only enhance the effectiveness of your workout but also help prevent injuries. Lifting weights is a skill that requires learning the fundamentals. Look for a facility that prioritises teaching the foundations before even introducing a barbell.

So, ladies, please don’t fear weights! Lifting weights will not make you bulky. Embrace the benefits of weight training and lift heavy.

Pooja Laungani

Pooja Laungani

Pooja Laungani is an ACSM and Reebok-certified sports and fitness instructor. She is certified in TRX, Bokwa, Zumba, Zin Trainer, Bollyfit cardio classes and outdoor boot camps. Also a Bollywood dance choreographer, she recently cleared her CES trainer examinations making her the first Indian cancer exercise specialist in Asia.
She’s also a certified sports nutritionist (HKU) and has been in the dance and fitness industry for over 25 years. Pooja is a passionate fitness aficionado whose motto is to spread awareness about health and fitness. The author and artist of the Bollywood Dance workout DVD “Fitness Guru,” released by Sony TV in 2010, she takes fitness and dance classes all over Hong Kong for all ages.

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