Weight Training: The Ideal Workout for Women?

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My back and shoulders after 3 months of weight training.

I’ve started and stopped more workout programs than I can count. For a couple of weeks I was a runner. In college I did the aerobics class version of kickboxing. A few years ago I did half of Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred. With all of these programs I worked hard and felt great for a short period of time. Then when I didn’t see results or got bored, I quit. Does this sound familiar to you?

It wasn’t until I found weight training that I really fell in love with working out. Through heavy weight training (no 5 pound pink dumbbells here) I have been able to dramatically change my body while staying interested in working out. Weight training keeps me interested, not just because of the relatively quick changes in my physique, but also because of the consistent progression in performance which feeds my inner competitor.

With aerobics, while you can certainly improve your coordination and cardio capacity, there really isn’t any way easy to benchmark how you’re progressing. With running, you can get faster and go farther, but it takes a long time (at least for me) to see any significant improvement. However, with weight training you can consistently increase the weight you lift, sometimes in every workout but many times every week. That consistent reinforcement that I’m getting better at something keeps me motivated. And the competitive side of me loves challenging myself every time I decide how much weight to use on an exercise.

You can also see physical changes happening faster with weight training that you can with purely cardio workouts. While most women start working out to lose weight, in reality they just want to improve how they look. Doing an hour of cardio every day won’t result in any noticeable difference in your physique at the end of the week. But, I can see changes in my body every week by doing 30-60 minutes of heavy weight training 3-4 times a week. By building muscle, you not only boost your metabolism and reinforce your skeletal system to prevent fractures and osteoporosis1. You also draw attention to areas of your body that will make you look thinner or more fit and deemphasize areas that need improvement. For instance, by building more muscular, defined shoulders you draw attention to your shoulders and your waist appears thinner. (And no, you won’t “look like a man” from doing resistance training. You would have to not only dedicate yourself to lifting very heavy weight very often but also supplement with testosterone to develop a male physique.)

With weight training you can also take advantage of nutrient timing to allow you to eat foods that you may not be able to eat as much of when trying to lose weight. Weight training depletes muscle glycogen stores which are rapidly refilled next time you eat. During this window, your muscles are very insulin sensitive so the nutrients you eat will be efficiently used to replenish glycogen and will not be used for fat storage, as long as you don’t eat considerably beyond what your muscles can store2. You can use this window of opportunity to eat a large portion of your carbohydrates so you not only benefit from the temporary enhanced insulin sensitivity but but also from the reduction in insulin spikes throughout the rest of the day due to limiting carbohydrate intake at other meals. This is a “best of both worlds” scenario in which you get to have something sweet or higher in carbohydrates than you usually would when trying to lose weight.

If you’d like to see what my workouts look like, you can follow me on Fitocracy and I will follow back to encourage you in your quest for fitness. If you’re new to weight training and want to learn about how to build a great body, check out this ebook preview of Strong Curves: A Woman’s Guide to Building a Better Butt and Body.

1. Schmiege, S. J., Aiken, L. S., Sander, J. L., & Gerend, M. A. (2007). Osteoporosis prevention among young women: Psychosocial models of calcium consumption and weight-bearing exercise. Health Psychology, 26(5), 577-587. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0278-6133.26.5.577

2. Jensen, T. & Richter, E. Regulation of glucose and glycogen metabolism during and after exercise. Physiol March 1, 2012 590 (5) 1069-1076; published ahead of print December 23, 2011, doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2011.224972

Categories: Fitness