We still spend a lot of time encouraging women to lift weights and to utilize resistance that is fairly challenging for them. Women really do not realize how strong they already are or how strong they can be!
Why is it so important for women to lift heavier or at least heavier than they THINK they can? There are several reasons.
Let us first talk about the benefits that women do not visibly see. Bone density tends to take a back seat to improved health benefits. Ground based movements such as squats, lunges, push-ups put mechanical stress on the body but this is a GOOD thing! This ground force “stress” helps to build bone strength and reduce risk of Osteoporosis later in life. This is also why young females, especially teenage girls, should include some form of loading. A quality strength training program will help with confidence and improve quality of life down the road.
For the female athlete who doesn’t follow a regular strength training program or the teenage girl involved in high school sports the risk for injury can be high compared to males. They tend to be weaker which can lead to on court/field injuries especially in sports where agility, quickness, change of direction is involved. Deceleration mechanics are usually low. Jumping and landing play a high risk in female injuries. Core/trunk stability and force transfer are normally in a weakened state which reduces strength and power output. If you want to improve your game play one main aspect should be to improve your strength!
What about the female looking to lose weight or inches. Lifting heavier weight that truly challenges you will increase lean tissue. Unlike the false fact that muscle weighs more than fat, it is simply denser. It takes up less space! A pound of muscle = pound A pound of fat = pound. The more lean tissue you have generally means you have less fat mass. You are LEANER! As you start to lose body fat your shape changes. You start to look leaner. Muscles are more defined. Most women tend to cut calories in order to lose weight but they do nothing to improve lean muscle tissue. Be smart! Eliminate a smaller amount of calories each day by clean eating and start a quality strength training program. This together will give you better results than dieting alone.
Cardio crazy people will ALWAYS be searching for the results they want. Cardio day after day will not lean you out the way you want. A mix of cardio and strength should be included weekly. Cardio must also be thought of as heart health. It is a muscle too and needs to be trained appropriately (high intensity training every day is NOT the answer but that is a different article). The main focus here is to make sure you are not doing more Cardio than strength thinking that is the most efficient way to lose fat.
If you are scared to lift heavy because you think you will turn into Arnold, think again. Yes, women have less testosterone as men but we still have the ability to gain lean tissue. What is funny is women must think they will wake up one morning after lifting heavy with biceps flying out of their window! As you start improving your body composition you will see the changes and your goals may change. You may decide the improved muscle mass is exactly what you want and you may start looking to get stronger. Or, you may decide to maintain what you have achieved and start focusing on new goals. These changes are in YOUR HANDS! You ultimately have the control over what you want to achieve. You just have to put in the work in order to achieve it!