Why women should lift heavy

Girls, it is time to put those 2 kg dumbbells away. They will not help you achieve the lean and toned “fit” look that turns heads in a bikini. If you want a curvy butt and shapely arms you need to lift and squat heavy. The multitude of myths surrounding lifting heavy weights has unfortunately held many women back from achieving the look they desire. Want to change your body shape? Stop spending so many hours on the treadmill and spin bike and pick up a barbell instead.  You will be amazed at how quickly you will see results. Besides, if you aren’t strong, running can be brutal on your body. Strengthening the muscles surrounding and supporting your joints helps to prevent injuries.

“But I don’t want to get bulky”! That is highly unlikely. Women just don’t have enough testosterone for that to happen. Female body builders only look the way they do because they take their sport and nutrition very seriously – it takes tremendous effort and time. So no, you won’t get bulky but you will get strong and defined. And ladies, while looking good naked is awesome, being strong feels even better. Being able to do something that seemed impossible a few short weeks earlier is a real confidence booster. Being strong has advantages in everyday life too. Imagine carrying groceries in from the car in 1 trip instead of 3, or lifting your 2-year-old into your arms without the concern of putting your back out. Being able to do things for yourself instead of always relying on others to lift, hold or carry for you can be very empowering.

Sadly, so many elderly people become bed ridden or struggle to get out of a chair because their muscles have wasted away. Look at all the people these days who suffer from lower back pain, yet the most common cause is weak glutes. The saying, “use it or lose it” sums up the situation perfectly.  If maintaining quality of life for as long as possible is your goal, the best thing you can do is to treat your muscle mass like the precious commodity that it is.  Look after what you have and do what you can to acquire more.

4 reasons you should lift heavy weights

 (1) It accelerates fat loss

Cardio is great for stamina and yes, it will torch a ton of calories, but the moment you hop off the elliptical machine the calorie burn stops. On the other hand, if you throw in some strength training a few times a week your muscles begin to develop and grow. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, even at rest. This is known as the “after-burn” effect of strength training which sees your body burning more calories hours after you have stopped exercising. Raising one’s resting metabolic rate in this way is a significant factor in successfully losing fat and keeping it off.  Long cardio workouts can actually reduce your metabolic rate by releasing the stress hormone called cortisol.  Another bonus when you build muscle is that your body becomes more efficient at utilising carbohydrates for energy, as opposed to storing them as fat.

(2) It is great for bone health

Decreasing estrogen levels in postmenopausal women puts them at great risk for osteoporosis. The good news is that lifting heavy weights not only maintains bone mass but can even build new bone. So it is never too late to start. If you are far from your menopausal years just be aware that bone loss starts occurring from your 30’s. Besides the positive effect on muscle mass and bone density, strength training also improves balance and connective tissue strength, all of which decrease the risk of falling and breaking something, which is often the reason why elderly people end up in a nursing home.

(3) It helps to balance hormones

Too many hours of cardio can cause adrenal burnout. If you feel beat up and exhausted after a long cardio session instead of refreshed and invigorated, chances are you are heading in that direction. Too much of the stress hormone cortisol starts a cascade of hormonal changes which can be difficult and time-consuming to recover from. Long distance runners are notorious for tanking their adrenals and ending up with metabolic issues like diabetes. On the other hand, strength training and building more muscle (and thereby more insulin receptors) is the fastest way to reverse insulin resistance, which is the pre-cursor to type 2 diabetes.  Other benefits are that thyroid antibodies go down (good news for those with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis), human growth hormone and estrogen goes up and blood sugar control is enhanced. When lifting weights is combined with dietary changes, it can take as little as 90 days to see remarkable metabolic changes.

Weight training also raises testosterone levels. This is great news for men and women. Don’t worry ladies –  you aren’t going to suddenly grow a beard.  What you can look forward to though is an increase in your libido and a more positive mood. In addition, numerous studies have shown that weight training greatly reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety and can alleviate insomnia too. So if you are tired of counting sheep at night, go and swing some kettle bells around.

(4) It prevents premature ageing and disease

As you build up muscle mass, you are increasing the number of mitochondria in your body. Mitochondria are the energy factories of each cell. Having a sufficient number of healthy mitochondria is the secret to longevity. Many chronic degenerative diseases are due to mitochondrial death. For example, weight training has been shown to be very effective for reducing cardio vascular disease and diabetes. Strength training increases levels of human growth hormone (HGH). This hormone plays a role in healing leaky gut syndrome. Since leaky gut has become a very common condition (and is the root cause of many inflammatory and auto-immune diseases), lifting weights is something we should all be doing. The truth is, if you want a strong immune system to fight back against disease, you need a gut that is flourishing and intact.

Weight training is essential for health, just like nutrient-dense food, water, sunshine and sleep. If you are serious about quality of life, ageing well and looking good, consider employing the services of a good personal trainer or join a functional fitness gym or CrossFit box who have coaches on hand to teach you the correct technique. You should never lift heavy without knowing how first.  You will need to start slowly and build up over time.

The best bang for your buck are compound movements that require more than 1 muscle group to execute.  Compound movements involve pushing, pulling, squatting, pressing and lifting. They produce strength that allows us to go about our daily tasks more efficiently. Deadlifts, squats, lunges, shoulder presses and pull-ups are all good examples.  You don’t have to give up your running, Zumba, Yoga or Pilates, they all have their benefits, but don’t do them to the exclusion of strength training. Find a way to safely incorporate a few sessions into your weekly routine. Most women who take the plunge, never look back.

Article written by Nicky Perks for Lose It magazine (Volume 24)


Reference sources:

Dr Tyna Moore (Naturopathic Physician and Chiropractor)

Yuri Elkaim (Holistic Nutritionist, Fitness Expert and High-performance Health Coach)

Have you checked out my opportunity page of this blog yet?  

About Nicky Perks

Passionately sharing information about the paleo/primal, high fat/low carb lifestyle that will rock your world! I am on my own journey to good health and a slim body. My goal? To enjoy the ride as life on this beautiful planet is just too short to do it any other way.

Posted on July 6, 2018, in Primal 101 and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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