If you want to lose body fat, gain confidence, increase bone density, and look amazing, you have to lift weights. It does not matter if you are a man or women. Now I know what you are thinking. I am a guy who is an avid lifter and bodybuilder, so naturally I would recommend lifting weights to get in shape. So how do I know it works well for women? Well, I have been a trainer for 13 years and the large majority of my clientele have been women. I have tried countless methods of training and I always circle back around to weights for women. My wife is also a huge proponent of weight lifting and can not stand cardio. We recently had our second child (just over a year ago) and she is now in the best shape of her life. No, she didn’t diet hardcore and or perform long hours of cardio. She just ate a little better and lifted weights often; cardio was very secondary. No, she is not big either, about 135 pounds at 5 feet 8 inches tall. We will touch more on the “bulky” topic later.
As a trainer, I have always kept an open mind. It is important that trainers expand their “toolbox” for training. While I was engaging in many of the different training methods, such as Yoga, Pilates, and running, I noticed that my body composition would never change. As a trainer, I felt that it was important to test all of these methods of training so I could knowledgeably relate to my clientele. If I didn’t try it, how could I knock it, right? Now, don’t get me wrong. Yoga, Pilates, running and other forms of cardio all have their own benefits. Body composition changes just aren’t one of them. I also noticed similar results when my clients would practice these forms of exercise. My clients that were not lifting weights more than once per week were not seeing the results that they needed from the other non-weight training activities. My female clients kept asking me how much cardio they should be doing in order to lose body fat. So, I had to really educate them on why more cardio does not mean more fat loss. I would have them track their workouts by logging them for 2-weeks, or more. We would then analyze how much cardio they were doing in a week and then compare it to how much weight training they were doing. The cardio would win by a large margin. They also realized that this might be the reason why they were not seeing the results they wanted, even after so much exercise. It was frustrating for all of us. The bottom line is, if you are running, on the bike, doing Yoga and occasionally throwing around the light dumbbells, you will see minimal results in fat loss, bone density, and “muscle tone”.
More muscle equals more metabolism: The most important reason that you should be lifting weights is to lose fat and build muscle. The affect that lifting weights has on your body composition is profound. The more muscle a woman has, the more calories she will burn at rest. Basically, muscles speed up your metabolism, resulting in more effective fat loss.
If you are women in your 20’s and 30’s, you probably are not thinking about osteoporosis yet, but you should be. Many studies have shown that lifting weights regularly can increase bone density. Other forms of exercises just don’t cut it when you are trying to keep your bones strong and healthy. The only true way to do this is to lift heavy stuff and then put it back down. Be proactive now, so you don’t have problems later.
I can’t stand it when men, or anyone else thinks that women can’t be physically strong. Give me a break. Women are independent and can do things themselves. If you need to move something heavy, move furniture, or carry heavy loads from the store, don’t call the neighbor or wait for your hubby or boyfriend to come home. If you are lifting weights regularly and improve your strength, you can do it yourself! Creating Independence for yourself is an amazing thing to feel. Enjoy the sense of accomplishment from completing a task that you thought you never could do. Lift some weights, get stronger, and get it done on your own.
Walking into the gym knowing that you are going to crush a workout is such a confidence booster. In the past, gym management and trainers directed women to the pink dumbbells, or to group fitness class to jump up and down on a small step aerobics box. In today’s gym atmosphere, I have found that many women are better at lifting weights than men. They work harder, push themselves to the limits and have better form. When a woman realizes her outer strength, she can tap into her inner strength. and that begins to radiate. Confidence is a very attractive quality and that gym confidence starts to leak into every other aspect of life. A strong girl in the weight room = a confident girl outside of the gym.
The majority of women simply do not have the level of testosterone necessary to support a bulky physique naturally. Furthermore, any woman that does have a massively muscular physique may be supplementing with with hormones. There are, of course exceptions. I don’t have any data to back this up, but if I had to guess, maybe 0.00001% of the female population are blessed to have the cocktail of hormones that naturally can induce large amounts of muscle mass and fat loss. If it was so easy to gain muscle, no bodybuilder would complain about how they are not gaining muscle, every college frat guy would be huge, and defensive backs in football would get so huge they would turn into linebackers. Bottom line, even men with descent testosterone levels and above average genetics can not build muscle that easily. Women often start out worried that they will get to bulky if they lift weights 2-4 days per week. They quickly find out that eating too much will make them look bulky, not the weight lifting. The reason is because we don’t train women to make them look too muscular. Physiologically women are different than men, and thus, see different results with different training methods. For someone looking to “bulk up” with muscle, the classic training method is endless amounts of sets of isolation exercises and body part splits. For fat-loss and body composition change, the focus should be full-body free weight training (squats, deadlifts, lunges, push-ups, pull-ups, rows and presses), kettlebells swings, Turkish Get-ups, loaded carries and metabolic conditioning finishers. By using a combination of compound and full-body movements you can build lean mass and decrease body fat.
We know that in order for all of this training to be effective, you have to get your diet in order. This is something that we all can agree on. I have found that the best way to do this is reduce nutritional deficiencies, balance your macronutrients for your body type, pay attention to workout nutrition, increase food quality and don’t worry about meal frequency. To do this, eat high quality animal protein and plenty of cruciferous vegetables and healthy fats (avocados, extra virgin coconut oil, nuts) whenever your body needs it. Don’t eat when you are not hungry, drink a plenty of water and minimal caloric beverages (sodas and juices) and chug a post workout shake or Branched Chain Amino Acids before and after your workout. Also, don’t marry yourself to one method of eating (Paleo, low-carb, vegan, etc.). It will just limit your ability to choose foods and piss you off. Just combine them, since they all worked when used properly.
Now that you have an understanding to why lifting weights is so important, let’s take a look at a 3 day a week program for someone looking to start a solid strength training program. There will be no 3 lb pink dumbbells and endless hours on the Elliptical. This is a true weight-training program that gets the job done, ladies. (Make sure to perform a proper dynamic warm-up that includes foam rolling, dynamic mobility, core work, medicine ball throws and plyometrics. This should be brief, yet effective and only last 10-15 minutes. )
Repeat this circuit for 3-5 rounds: Goblet squats: 8 reps Push-ups: 8 reps Kettlebell Swings: 15-20 reps 1-Arm dumbbell row: 8 reps each side Perform these in a circuit fashion for 3-5 rounds. Rest as minimal as possible. Finisher At the end of your workout, perform a Farmers Walk for 3-5 minutes straight. Put the weights down as minimal as possible. Pick a weight that you can carry for 50 meters
Repeat this circuit for 3-5 rounds: Deadlifts: 6-8 reps Assisted Chin-ups: 6-8 reps Push Press with Dumbbells: 6-8 reps Perform these in a circuit fashion for 3-5 rounds. Rest as minimal as possible. If you don’t have access to an assisted chin up machine or bands, you can use a lat-pulldown machine instead. Finisher Burpees: Perform 8 rounds of 30 seconds on, and 30-seconds off. Try and match your previous rounds rep number each round.