Weightlifting is often associated with brawny men, not lithe, athletic ladies. But now, women everywhere are smashing that myth. Emma Bangay gets the lowdown on the benefits of weightlifting for women.
Cameron Diaz, Mel B and Kristen Bell are big fans of lifting weights. Why? Because they know that dumbbells are the smartest way to increase tone, crunch calories and improve bone density, that’s why! "Weightlifting is for everybody and it is great to see certain female celebrities pioneering this style of training,” says Steve Coady, who trains Mel B.
On home soil, the weightlifting trend is on the rise also, says Alexa Towersey, who has trained Laura Dundovic, Renae Ayris, Sophie Falkner and Kate Peck. “Gone are the days of skinny,” she quips. “Strong is the new sexy!”
“Weight training delivers so much more than physical strength and a great aesthetic,” notes Alexa. “There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a woman be empowered in the gym, and then watching how this translates into her attitude towards the rest of her life.”
But Alexa isn’t talking about 100kg monsters. Even smaller weights – within the right workout – can have huge benefits. “We are passionate about the ability of weights to transform women, both inside and out,” explains Alexa, who with fellow personal training dynamo Sally ‘Shredder’ Matterson have developed Weights for Women, a course designed to empower women to get into the gym with confidence.
The areas that benefit from weightlifting are endless. Here are a few of the key muscle groups:
- Large Muscle Groups: Training large muscle groups using the big compound, multi joint exercises like the squat, deadlift and pull up, is the most effective way to torch fat and get stronger, Alexa explains.
- Small Muscle Groups: “If you want to tone up those bingo wings so your arms don’t wave goodbye when you do, then include exercises such as tricep dips and extensions in your program,” explains Alexa.
- Bone Density: Research has found that just 16 weeks of resistance training increased hip bone density and elevated blood levels of osteocalcin—a marker of bone growth by 19 per cent.
- Overall Tone: “Weight training is ideal for toning, as you can really structure your program to target the muscles you want,” encourages Alexa. “In addition, without even performing any loaded movements, just handling the weights – picking them up, holding them, maintaining the correct posture throughout and putting them down - provides an incidental toning effect.”
Beginner's guide to weights
- Cardio may make you a skinnier version of yourself, but only weight training has the power to truly change the shape of your body, notes Alexa, so if you want that booty, get thee to the dumbbells!
- “Weight training can be used to elicit a specific hormonal response from the body,” explains Alexa. “For women, this is particularly beneficial as lifting weights can have an anti-estrogenic effect on the body – something that has been shown to specifically target weight unevenly distributed over the hips and thighs.”
- Weight training is a fantastic tool for shaping the body, but you need to know which muscles to engage and how to do that, cautions Alexa. “Always favor full range of movement over lifting heavy – if you can’t squat “ass to grass”, then you can’t get the glutes to fire, which means you could squat all day and never build a good booty.”
- Be consistent with your program. Shaping a lean, sexy body doesn’t happen overnight and to get the best results, you need to be committing at least three times per week. “Trust the process, at least for 4-6 weeks. If you haven’t got the results you’re after by then, then you can reassess.”
What not to do with weights
- Never sacrifice form for weight: If you haven’t mastered the basic movements in their full range of movement, then you have no business trying to perform the loaded versions of them, cautions Alexa.
- Don’t think you can out-train a poor diet: Women typically don’t have the hormonal profile to get big from lifting weights. Women get big from poor nutrition whilst lifting weights. “Weight training increases lean muscle, which boosts your metabolism. This means you get hungry more often,” explains Alexa. “Don’t make the mistake of thinking you need to eat more (and more of the wrong foods), just because you feel like you’re working harder and you’re hungrier,” she warns. “All other things aside, successful fat loss still comes down to calories in versus calories out.”
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