For years, both gender norms and widespread myths have perpetuated men and women to do entirely different exercise regimens at the gym. Traditionally, this has led to women doing cardio and men hitting the weights. And while the best exercise regiments are a combination of both of these elements, it’s important that women learn the truth about the benefits of strength training and the myths that have kept so many away from lifting weights until now.
First, the benefits of strength training (and there are many):
Confidence boost: the physical benefits of a weight training program show up much quicker than those of a cardio regimen, and seeing your muscles toned and tighter provides a mental boost. This increase in self-esteem not only makes you feel better on a regular basis, but can create a positive cycle that gets you back into the gym to work out even more.
Strengthens Bones: Keeping your bones strong now will reduce your chances of osteoporosis later. One of the best ways to increase your bone density and lessen bone loss is through weight bearing exercises such as strength training.
You’ll decrease the risk of injury: Stronger muscles and bones increase your stability, movement skills, and stamina, which lessens your likelihood of injury, in or away from the gym.
Myth #1: Women Shouldn’t Lift or They’ll Get Too Bulky
Female bodybuilders who get bulky from weight lifting eat, train, and take supplements specifically to look that way. Bulking is their goal. Weight lifting makes your muscles stronger and more toned but not necessarily bigger. Bulking is accomplished through a calorie surplus and testosterone, which women don’t produce as men do. So if you lift and run a caloric deficit, not only will you lose weight but your muscles will become stronger and leaner.
Myth #2: You Can Only Lose Weight with Cardio
If you love to run, box, or get creative with your cardio, then go ahead and keep doing it. But if your primary reason for doing such exercises is to lose weight, then you should reconsider your exercise regiment. While it’s shocking to most people, strength training actually generates more efficient weight loss than cardio. That’s because when you strength train, your muscles break down and build back up over a 24 to 48 hour period. In order to rebuild those muscles, your body needs to recruit more calories to burn. That means strength training primes your metabolism to burn more fat in your off time than if you’d just done a cardio workout.
Myth #3: You Can Spot Reduce Fat
Many people believe that to get a toned midsection, they just need to do a dozen different core exercises and call it a day. Unfortunately, the human body is genetically predisposed to storing fat in certain locations based on years of evolution. So doing a bunch of side crunches and other specific ab exercises won’t decrease your love handles. To do that, you need to lose overall body fat. The easiest fat to burn is subcutaneous fat (fat just under the skin) which burns first. The toughest fat to burn is intramuscular fat, marbled deep into the tissues, which is burned best by exercising more intensely, consistently and for longer sessions such as 60 to 90 minutes instead of just 20 minutes of doing sit ups, only focusing on the abs.
The more intense your workout the better, such as a running program, and it will increase the “Training Effect”. Longer sessions, at higher intensity exercise will burn a higher percentage of fat. When you exercise daily after several months, you will start to burn more of the intramuscular fat, which will help you to reshape your body. When you start to lose that fat, the excess mass will burn off in a way that is determined by your genetic makeup.
To overcome the genetic tendency to have more fat in the hips, thighs or belly, you must build more muscle to burn more fat every hour after the exercise. Focus also on exercises that emphasis larger muscle groups, like the legs during running, or the large muscles of the back during rowing, and vertical lifts of curling weights from the waist to overhead. These types of exercise for larger muscle groups will burn more calories than sit ups, which only focus on the very small muscle group of the abs.
Myth #4: Eating Less is All That Matters
Yes, diet is the most important part of losing weight. Calories in versus calories out. However, if you’re basing your entire plan on only running a huge calorie deficit, you’re not only losing weight inefficiently but also living a miserable life. Calorie composition is important (after all, a medium serving of french fries may have the same amount of calories as two full salads), as is macronutrient breakdown (you don’t want all your calories from white bread after all), and nutrient timing also plays an important role. But working out not only allows you to eat more calories but kicks in your metabolism so that those calories are going to muscles instead of fat.
If you have any further questions about strength training, the Delgado Protocol is here to help you in any and all of your wellness needs. Browse our extensive line of nutritional and performance supplements to help unlock your true potential.