Ever wondered if you should be lifting free weights? Check out our article discussing who should and shouldn't.
Free weights, resistance training... the bread and butter of the fitness world for many years, who should be doing this style of exercise? In my humble opinion as a trainer: everyone. Even those with chronic issues of the body can benefit greatly from resistance training. Now, I'm not saying that if you have slipped discs in your lower back you should hop right in to back squatting your body weight, but there are options.
Let's start with the why. What are the benefits? First, bone density. For the female this is especially important. Women can start losing bone density at an alarming rate in the later years of life. According to the National Institutes of Health, "in the first few years after menopause, most women go through rapid bone loss, a “withdrawal” from the bone bank account, which then slows but continues throughout the postmenopausal years. This loss of bone mass can lead to osteoporosis." (NIH, 2015) Osteoporosis is nothing you want to deal with. But how does weight training have an effect on bone loss? Strength training puts a heavier load on the bones and surrounding musculature than the body normally experiences. It must adapt to this new load. It adapts by getting stronger, both the bones and muscle will adapt to accommodate the extra load placed on them. Don't believe me? How about the Mayo Clinic? According to their staff, "By stressing your bones, strength training can increase bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis." (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2016) So, we benefit greatly long term from strength training, especially the ladies. In our older years when most people see bone density cause problems, proper mitigation in our earlier years can have huge consequences. What about aesthetics, the way we look to others and in the mirror? Most people think to lose fat we have to run or do strict cardio. Do we need cardio? Yes. Will it burn calories? Yes. Is it the best calorie burner? Not necessarily. I've heard countless stories of cardio bunnies (those who thought cardio was the only path to fat loss) who turned to weight lifting and saw that the results they tried to achieve for so many years in vain came much easier with strength training. Cardio burns the most calories during the event, whereas lifting brings your metabolism up for the next 24+ hours. Your body has to repair the muscle fibers torn down during training, resulting in calories being used to rebuild the muscle. The toning most ladies look for isn't on the treadmill, it's in the weights. You WILL NOT bulk up like a man (unless you supplement testosterone) by lifting. There are men who wish they could bulk up and can't, so please take a little comfort in that fact alone, ladies. Don't be afraid of the weights. Ask someone to help get you started. My wife has fallen in love with the weights. She will typically squat no less than twice a week. And I say she is rocking it aesthetically because of it! She hasn't bulked up to match me or even gotten close to what people might call and "manly" woman. She loves the weights and the results show.
So there's the why, but how do you go about getting started? You need to get into a program of some sort to see consistent results. I repeat, find a program!!! Google a program, pay for a program, or use our free strength program, but get a program to follow that you can track your results while performing. You will see that you're getting stronger and leaner and it will motivate you to keep going if you track results! Coming to the gym without a plan almost always leads to standing around without much work getting done. Find a plan, stick to it, you will see results. If you have chronic issues like back problems, squats and deadlifts may not be for you, but you can use machines. Find a way to overload the muscles and bones and you will not only look better, but you will begin to feel better, both now and for the long haul of life.
In short, who should be lifting weights or strength training with machines? You!
Get after it!
1. June 2015, Osteoporosis: Peak Bone Mass in Women,
2. Mayo Clinic Staff, April 22, 2016, Strength training: Get stronger, leaner, healthier