It wasn’t long ago that many women avoided picking up a heavy weight in the gym out of fear that they would build bulky muscles. In fact, I was one of these women. Like many, I stuck to cardio, hoping to burn calories and maintain a slim figure. But with the recent attention weightlifting has garnered to lose weight and build muscle, I finally picked up some dumbbells to see what the hype was about.
As it turns out, I don’t have a hulk-ish figure after all! Plus, there are countless benefits to weightlifting over cardio. Keep reading for five of my favorite benefits of weightlifting. Also, check out my article here on how to develop a workout routine you love.
Keep Burning Calories Long after you Finish your Workout
In my personal opinion, running for 30 minutes feels more strenuous than 30 minutes of weight training. In order to get the most out of a weight training session, you take breaks between repetitions. In contrast, most forms of cardio don’t offer a rest period mid-workout. However, one of my favorite benefits of weight training is that the calorie burn continues long after you put down the weights. Like 24 hours+ after you finish your workout. On the other hand, the calorie burn following aerobic exercise drops significantly after your heart rate returns to normal.
So, what’s the difference?
After weight training your body continues to burn fat and calories as it aids in regeneration of your muscles. This means your metabolism is still hard at work while you sit at your desk or climb into bed. Weightlifting is the workout that keeps on giving, long after you’re done!
Lean Muscle Burns more Calories than Fat
Ever heard the saying “the rich get richer?” The same principle could be applied to people with lean muscle tissue. The better shape you’re in, the easier it is to stay in shape.
Because muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue. Similar to the point above, this means that even when you are not exercising, the more muscle tissue you have, the more calories your body will be burning. Naturally. Without having to expel additional energy or spend more time in the gym. Therefore, as you lift weights and begin to replace fat tissue with muscle tissue, your daily caloric burn will increase, making it easier to lose or maintain weight.
As you lose weight, burn fat and build lean muscle, your body will take on a stronger, more toned appearance. This in turn is bound to give you a bit of a confidence boost. There is also something empowering about lifting weights and building strength. Especially if weight training isn’t something you’ve done previously. So, pick up some dumbbells, do some curls, some squats, and watch as your confidence grows.
In my experience, the addition of weight training to my workout routine made me a better runner. The first time I did a half marathon I focused exclusively on running as I trained. If I wasn’t running, I was resting. By the time I signed up for my second half marathon I had already started dabbling with strength training a few days a week. This time around I ran only two or three times per week, but on the days I wasn’t running, I did 20 to 30 minutes of strength training. And not just for my legs. In fact, most days I focused on my arms, back, abs, and other muscle groups that are seemingly unrelated to running.
What was the result?
I shaved ~20 minutes off my half marathon time! Sure, some of this was probably related to becoming a better runner in the time period between races. But, undoubtedly, the introduction of weight training to my workout routine improved my overall endurance, allowing me to run faster than I had before. Weight training is also a great compliment to running because it improves balance and stability, reduces the risk of injury and combats the muscle imbalances that occur from running alone.
Improved Bone Density
As we age, our bodies naturally begin to lose bone and muscle mass. This is especially true for postmenopausal women who develop a greater risk for osteoporosis as our bodies stop producing estrogen.
While menopause might be a distant concern for some, declines in bone density can begin earlier than you would think. And without strong bones, you’ll have a higher risk of injury and less endurance to workout. This makes bone health important at every age. So, pick up some weights to protect your body’s ability to stay active and healthy for years to come.
How I Incorporate Weightlifting into my Workout Routine
My workout routine is always changing. Having just had a baby and being on maternity leave I currently have more time to work out than I did when I was working, but I can’t lift as heavy of weights as I did pre-pregnancy.
Currently my workout routine often involves 10 or 15 minutes of cardio to warm-up followed by 20 minutes of strength training, four to five times per week. Some days I skip the cardio and just do weight training. And some days I opt for a spin class and no weight training.
But, on average, I would say I lift weights four to five days per week. At least once a week I opt for a full body weight training workout (think squats and lunges plus arm and back exercises). On the other days I focus exclusively on upper body, lower body, or abs (with the inclusion of weights!).
The result? Since beginning weight training, I find it easier to maintain my weight. I’ve noticed muscle tone in my arms, shoulders and legs that I’ve never had before. And I look forward to my workouts! Switching up the muscle group I’m focused on keeps things refreshing. Oh yeah, and I look nothing like the Hulk!
If you are new to the world of weightlifting, I highly recommend you start by taking a class. Either at your local gym or via an at-home workout. My personal favorite strength training workouts are through the Peloton app. Memberships start at just $12.99 a month and give you access to thousands of on-demand classes. You get to pick the duration and the muscle group(s) you want to focus on.
Once you’ve taken a few classes you will become familiar with the exercises and will be able to work out without the guidance of a class. Although, most days I still opt for a 20 minute on-demand class. After all, the Peloton trainers tend to push me a bit harder than I would push myself.
If you are looking to shake up your workout routine, build lean muscle, burn fat or improve your metabolism, I highly suggest incorporating weightlifting into your life. There are so many amazing mental and physical health benefits, and I promise, you will not look like the Hulk after your workout, no matter how hard you try.
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