For a long time the standard discourse around female body image was that tinier equalled better. But then something shifted. Feeling good is now the aim, rather than squeezing into the smallest possible jean size, and more women are realizing that lifting weights is the key to a fitter, more capable body.
We asked Patrick Henigan, owner of Jacksonville Fitness Academy, to explain exactly why women should incorporate strength training into their weekly routines.
Lifting weights burns more fat than cardio
Most experts agree that cardio burns more calories than strength training overall, but where those calories come from should also be taken into account.
“When you perform cardio your body is burning both fat and muscle for fuel,” says Henigan. “But when you lift weights your body is only using fat stores (plus carbohydrates in your bloodstream) to power you.” What’s more, those long slogs on the treadmill can trigger the release of stress hormone cortisol, which promotes muscle loss and fat retention. The exact opposite of what you want.
Lifting weights encourages ‘afterburn’
Imagine if you could continue burning calories long after your post-workout shower? That’s exactly what happens when you lift weights.
“Lifting weights burns more calories both during and after a workout,” explains Henigan. “After completing a tough strength training session your body’s demand for oxygen (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC) is higher for the next 16-36 hours.”
Essentially, your body continues using calories at an accelerated rate, and, says Henigan, “while this may only be 10 extra calories per hour, it means you will burn as much as 360 extra calories over the next day, by just existing.” If you’re consistent with your strength training program, those extra calories add up.
Lifting weights strengthens your bones
Osteoporosis is estimated to affect 200 million women worldwide, and one way to help prevent it is through regular strength training.
“Lifting weights increases bone density by placing a larger demand on skeletal integrity. Your muscles and tendons tug on your bones when you perform a lift, and your bones respond by building more cells,” explains Henigan.
Lifting weights might increase your metabolism
Simply put, the more lean body tissue you have, the more energy your body requires to run.
“By beginning a strength training or resistance program you will also raise your Basal Metabolic Rate,” says Henigan. “The more muscle you have the more calories you need to continue living and breathing, and therefore the more calories you burn by just going about your daily life.”
Lifting weights gives you a more toned appearance
“A 135-pound woman with 20% body fat is going to appear much slimmer than a woman of the same weight with 35% body fat,” is how Henigan puts it. Ultimately, strength training and a clean diet will make you the kind of lean you long to be. And don’t worry, there’s no chance of you bulking up unless you begin eating like a bodybuilder.