Many women avoid strength training like the plague because they don’t want to “get too big.” Listen ladies: it is physically impossible to gain that much muscle. You will not come out looking like a female Hulk Hogan just because you lift two to three times a week. You don’t have the testosterone levels that males have, so it would be very difficult to gain that much muscle (without the help of certain supplements).
So, what’s the big deal about strength training? What does it do for our bodies? Muscle burns fat! The more muscle you have on your body, the higher your metabolism is. Why is that important? For one, you can eat more! And, you burn more calories even while resting! Strength training also produces afterburn: you will burn more calories after you workout than if you had done cardio. I often wear a heart rate monitor during my workouts, and it can be depressing to see the calories burned when doing cardio vs. strength training, but I have to remind myself that with lifting, the calories keep burning long after the workout is done! Also, muscle takes up less “space” than fat on your body, so it gives you a tighter look. Someone who only does cardio and follows a low-calorie diet is just going to look like a smaller version of themselves. If you want to re-shape your body, you need to LIFT.
Just cutting calories does not work. You can’t starve fat. When you diet and don’t add in some form of strength training 30-50% of your weight loss is going to be from muscle! (Burn Fat, Feed Muscle, pg. 18). Most people who lose weight by dieting alone end up regaining the weight. Although, since they have also lost a lot of fat, once they regain the weight they look bigger than they did before since the added weight is from fat (not muscle). Once you enter your 20’s, you lose approximately 6.6 pounds of lean muscle each decade!
The answer? LIFT! And EAT! It takes about 2800 calories to build a pound of muscle, and approximately 454 grams of protein (New Rules of Lifting for Women, pg. 66). It is impossible to cut calories and gain muscle. You’ll lose muscle if you don’t feed it. It drives me nuts to see diets that recommend 1200-calories for women. After you lose weight, your metabolism drops and requires less calories. If you start at a 1200-1400 calorie diet, there isn’t much more to cut down to. I try to get around 1600-1800 calories a day. Calories are fuel!
Back in high school, I used to “lift weights.” And by “lift weights” I mean three to five pound dumbbells that I would use with a Jenni Garth, Cindy Crawford, or Denise Austin workout DVD that I would rotate through. At that time, my whole goal was to “look skinny” and honestly, I don’t think I cared where the weight loss came from. I ate as little as possible and obsessed over the scale trying to hit a certain number…
Over the years, I have realized that I don’t want to look like a twig. I want to look healthy, fit, and strong. I try to lift at least three days a week, rotating body parts so that I don’t work the same muscles two days in a row. My favorite DVD workouts for strength training are any of Cathe Friederich’s (I love her Xtrain and ICE series!), Body Beast (by Beachbody), and Michelle Dozois’ Peak 10 workouts. I also like to use free-weights at the gym. There are tons of free workouts on http://www.bodybuilding.com (check out Jamie Eason’s Live Fit Trainer, and I also find a lot of good ideas in magazines such as Oxygen or Muscle and Fitness Hers. I prefer doing full-body workouts rather than single body workouts, mainly because it saves time. Also, you will burn more calories if you do movements that involve more than one body part at a time.
I will be sharing more workouts in future blogs, but in the meantime feel free to ask any questions or suggest topics you would like to hear more about!