Repeat after me, ladies: strength training, lifting dumbbells and entering the free-weight area of the gym are not going to make me look like a man.While it seems like a logical progression—lift weights, build muscle, turn into a bodybuilder—the truth is, you’re not going to bulk up like the guys you see slamming plates at the gym, or even like the women on the pages of muscle magazines. It takes intense training (and testosterone levels we simply don’t have), to build bulging biceps, chiseled chests and rock-hard rear ends.
Besides the obvious benefit of making you stronger and adding tone and definition to your body, strength training can improve your life in many ways. Here are five reasons to get started today:
1. You’ll gain self-confidence. Shaping up not only changes the way you look, but it can have powerful effects on the way you feel. Adding muscle builds confidence, not just in the gym, but in everything you do! When you conquer lifting and realize you have the strength to move heavy weights–and really to transform the shape of your entire body–you develop a sort of inner strength that trickles into all areas of your life.
2. Fat doesn’t stand a chance. You can do cardio all day long, but to really blast fat, you need strength training. Why? Having more muscle means your body is using energy to maintain that muscle, even when you’re resting. In fact, if you do nothing but cardio, you’ll eventually start to lose muscle. You want to incorporate strength training into your routine two to three days a week to make a difference.
3. You’ll save your bones. Lifting weights builds muscle, but it also helps protect your bones. Studies have shown that weight-bearing exercise helps increase bone density and reduces risk of developing osteoporosis. With bone density decreasing about 5 percent per decade after age 40, women who are reaching middle age should make strength training a regular part of their workouts, focusing on the hips and back (which are more prone to bone loss and fractures) at least once a week. Taking a calcium supplement is also a good idea!
4. Balance gets better. Being klutzy is a lot less funny when you start to get older. A simple slip or trip could cause serious injury, completely throwing off your day to day life. An easy way to stay firmly planted on the ground? Start lifting weights. Strength training helps with coordination, balance, flexibility and even joint strength. To further support your joints and connective tissues, consider taking a supplement such as glucosamine.
5. Performance peaks. Want to improve your tennis game? Striving for longer or faster runs? Strength training also helps enhance your performance and skill in other sports activities, and in everyday activities such as carrying a heavy suitcase, moving a bookshelf across the room or lifting up your kids. Be sure to give attention to both your upper and lower body muscles for well-rounded results.
If you’re new to strength training, check with your doctor or healthcare provider before getting started. You might also try some supportive supplements. ARO Glutamine is a natural fruit punch flavored powder you can easily mix into your water bottle for post-workout recovery support. A protein shake is also smart to sip after a workout. One of my favorites is About Time Chocolate Whey Protein Isolate, which is 100% natural and supplies 24 grams of protein per serving.
IFBB figure professional Melissa Transou, a fitness expert, wife and mother, blogs about the unique sports and nutrition needs of women and female athletes exclusively for Vitacost.com. Learn more about Melissa in this recent RXMuscle.com spotlight article, connect with her on Facebook or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.