Recently, I was talking with a friend and was surprised to hear the reason why she thought that resistance training would be wrong for her. She said, “Well, I’m already a big girl and strength training would only make me look bigger.”
I realized that a lot of women probably feel the same way she does, that they should only do cardio and stay away from weights. I want to bust that myth! The truth is, resistance training can not only help you lose weight, burn fat, and sculpt your body into a beautiful shape, but it can actually do it better than cardio. When you understand how lean muscle works with your appearance and metabolism, you’ll see why adding strength training to your healthy lifestyle is exactly what your body needs to look and feel amazing.
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Common misconceptions about weight lifting and weight loss
If you’ve been thinking that strength training isn’t for you, you’re not alone. Women have always been told that weights will make them bulky and cardio is the only way to shed fat. Even fitness media would often portray women’s strength training as an extreme sport, only suitable for those who want to compete in sports like CrossFit, Powerlifting or Bodybuilding. Gyms used to focus on selling their weight training facilities to men, perpetuating the image of enormous dudes grunting under Olympic-sized barbells while women puttered demurely on the treadmill in the background.
The belief that weight lifting doesn’t work for women is common, but the evidence is finally starting to shift that perception.
The truth about strength training and fat loss
You’ve probably heard me say before that strength training is amazing for women. It provides lot’s of benefits like stronger muscles and stronger bones, more powerful self-esteem and oodles of confidence. And let’s not forget, resistance training actually does more to change our appearance and body composition than cardio workouts.
For decades we believed that cardio burns more calories than resistance training. However, what we were missing is that those big calorie burns from long runs and bike rides not only reduce body fat but also decrease muscle size. That leads to greater perceived weight loss because muscle is more dense than fat. But that’s not what we want. We want to build and keep lean muscle to help us maintain a healthy weight long-term.
1. Building lean muscle increases your metabolism
One reason resistance training out performs cardio in fat loss is that lean muscle burns more calories at rest. Our Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) tells us how many calories our bodies need to function at rest. Our BMR is highly affected by how much lean muscle mass we have. Increasing that muscle mass increases our BMR. The higher our BMR, the more calories we burn even when we’re doing nothing. Even the most avid athlete spends part of their day at rest, so this change to your resting metabolism really adds up.
Also, weight lifting increases that calorie-torching lean muscle, cardio actually consumes it, causing your metabolism to slow down. This is often the cause of the dreaded plateau in weight loss.
2. Resistance training revs up your metabolism after every workout
In addition to giving you a zippier resting metabolic rate, strength sessions also pump up your calorie consumption long after your workout is over. This effect is called the after-burn or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).
We breathe harder during exercise and our hearts start pumping more oxygen and nutrients to our muscles. After the workout the oxygen levels remain elevated to help our body and muscles recover.
The duration and intensity of this post-workout energy guzzle depends on how hard and how long you worked out, but research shows that it’s stronger after resistance training than after cardio.
Strength training will help you get leaner
While it is possible to bulk up with weights, you’d be surprised how hard you have to work to achieve that. Getting stronger and building muscle does not happen by accident. Unless you’re following a very specific exercise and nutrition plan, your strength training will not make you huge but actually help you to slim down.
How to shape your body the way you want
More and more women are finding that weight training is the most effective way to not only shed fat but also to sculpt strong gorgeous legs, six-pack abs and defined arms. Strength training might just be the answer to feel more confident in that bikini next summer while also giving you more energy to chase yours kids, stay fierce and focused at work, and enjoy incredible performance in other sports and hobbies. If you have a love affair with trail running, road biking, SoulCycle or Zumba, adding strength to your routine will only make those pursuits more blissful.
No matter how you choose to exercise, it’s important to mention that you want to combine your training with a healthy diet. Keep your plate full of vibrant, healthy, well-balanced macros, and you’ll feel the absolute best in your incredible body.