Girls: SHOULD You Even Lift?
Forgive me the vast generalisations, but let’s start out with a stereotyped, hypothetical scenario: you walk into the gym. What do you see? Muscle-heads spending their apparent entire lifetime checking themselves out in the mirror? Check. Men in muscle tees hogging the heavy weights? Check. Girls solely on the cardio machines? Check. Now, there’s nothing wrong with checking yourself out in the mirror (team narcissism here) and there’s a little wrong with hogging the weights. But asides from these presumptions, let’s focus on the women. Because if there’s something I’ve learned in the time I’ve spent frequenting both gyms and online fitness communities, it is that girls are always (a) partial to cardio, because they are (b) reluctant to lift. So, to quickly answer the titular question: YES. Yes, you should absolutely lift, and, as a girl, I’m here to tell you why.
The most common answer that I’ve heard when enquiring is that many of us are afraid of lifting weights because that’s what “makes you bulky”. Here, we are comparing ourselves to the men in muscle tees, which is exactly where we have gone wrong. To clear this up quickly: lifting weights will NOT make you bulky… unless that’s what you want. Yes, female bodybuilders exist, but – like with most things in life, sadly – women aspiring to that kind of body have to work far harder than their male counterparts to achieve it because, to put it simply, they have to force their bodies far past their ‘natural’ points. So, unless you are deliberately lifting to achieve that look (and you’d know it), you will not look like a female bodybuilder.
So what are the benefits of lifting weights for women? What does lifting actually do? To explain briefly and rather unscientifically, lifting weights usually consist of a repetitive motion using resistance (either from a machine or your own body weight), which then trains a specific group of muscles. That sums it up really; lifting weights trains your muscles. Yes, it makes them bigger but also leaner, which is what makes you toned. There’s also the super cool fact that muscles burn more calories than fat! So unlike with cardio, which only temporarily boosts your metabolism, you can sit around and do nothing all day and still be burning more calories.
That’s not to say, of course, that cardio doesn’t do anything for you. Cardio is great for getting your heart rate up and for burning fat and calories whilst you are doing it. Certain exercises such as swimming and running will also work your muscle groups and tone your body, so I’m definitely not saying to avoid cardio. However, in order to tone more efficiently and effectively, it is recommended to combine both cardio and weights. Cardio will temporarily boost your metabolism and get your muscles warmed up and ready, so it serves as a great warm up before a weights and resistance session.
Although the number of women I’ve seen doing weights and resistance has increased in the gym, it’s still far more common to see men on the machines, which brings me to the second most common aversion to lifting – that some of us just don’t know where to start. It can certainly be intimidating when you walk into what is usually a male-occupied area and slyly read the instructions for each machine in order to pretend you know what you’re doing. A great idea is to ask a friend who knows their way around. Don’t forget that all the people expertly using their machines now once had no idea what that terrifying death trap in the corner does.
Of course, you can just not use machines at all. Body weight resistance moves are a great way of using your own body weight to tone your muscles and you don’t even need a gym – just a bit of space. Moves such as press-ups, squats, and all their variations and combinations are great because they focus on specific muscle groups and are high intensity- a great starting point for developing your muscles.
Do a little research, ask a friend and next time you drag your hungover self to the gym for a good, cleansing workout, try to incorporate a few weights and resistance moves – you’ll feel the difference! To summarise, it’s not as hard as you think. You can have more effective (and shorter!) workouts, and you’ll permanently boost your metabolism! There’s clearly no reason not to lift weights, is there? (Except for the next day. When you can’t really move. No pain, no gain?)