Women: Don't be Afraid to Lift Weights

Originally Featured on Boston.com: 9/12/2012

As a female and a certified personal trainer, I hear quite often the misnomer that women, if we're going to strength train at all, should stick to light weights and high repetitions for fear of bulking up and looking manly. Fear not my female friends; you will not start spontaneously growing muscular boulders on your arms and bursting the seams of your shirts! Although we can increase our muscle mass, adding on significant amounts of muscle is a truly challenging feat for most males, never mind females, and requires serious dedication and manipulation of exercise and nutrition. It certainly doesn't happen by accident. Males also have about 10 to 30 times the testosterone in their bodies, which creates a much more conducive environment for muscle growth. Plain and simple, we just don't have the hormonal makeup to potentially look like The Hulk. Strength training does, however, have countless benefits for females.

If fat loss or creating a more defined physique is your goal, strength training is the essential exercise mode for your success. Not only does each session torch calories, but it helps boost your metabolism in two different ways. Women will build a small amount of muscle mass with consistent resistance training, which helps to create that defined look, but it also increases something called your basal metabolic rate, or the number of calories you burn per day when completely at rest. The second means in which metabolism is increased is through something called EPOC, or excess postexercise oxygen consumption. After a challenging strength training session your body burns calories at an accelerated rate for up to 48 hours after. Add 2-3 sessions a week to your routine and you are now a fat burning machine!

Strength training is also hugely important for females because it can help increase bone density, reduce chance of injury, improve balance and ranges of motion, stop age related muscle loss, make everyday activities seem easier, and leave you feeling empowered and strong.

As a woman and a mother, I'm constantly picking up my 25 lb son or 20 lb grocery bags, and on some days my purse alone weighs 10 lbs. There's no reason to think we must stick to the small 3 lb pink dumbbells or the treadmills only. We can, and should, lift weights or use resistance that is greater than what we're accustomed to in order to stimulate change in the body, and reap all the benefits mentioned above. Now is the time; let's get strength training ladies!

For more tips see the book 'The Female Body Breakthrough' by Rachel Cosgrove, B.S. CSCS