by Ann Bloom
We hear a lot about the benefits of weight-bearing activity for women, including weightlifting. We are told that adding some heft to our exercise routine can help tone our bodies, increase fat burning, and, importantly, slow bone loss and prevent osteoporosis. The secret to effective weightlifting, whatever your goals, is to perform these activities safely. Your lower back is particularly vulnerable to injury when you lift weights. With a little know-how, however, you can safely hit the gym and enjoy the benefits of weight-bearing exercise.
Lift Your Way to Fitness
Lifting weights is a key ingredient of a good exercise program.
Chronic cardio—it’s a common exercise condition among women. The thinking goes like this: if a little cardio is good, a lot of cardio is better. Before you know it, it’s all cardio, all the time. But what about strength? Isn’t strength training important, too? Most definitely—so why aren’t more women hitting the weight room?
Barriers to Weight Training
There are two main reasons why many women avoid the weight room: myth and intimidation.
Myth. The myth about strength training is that if you start to pump iron, you’ll bulk up like a linebacker. This is a highly unlikely scenario, thanks to a little hormone called estrogen. Women’s bodies are different from men’s, and they respond differently to strength training. Consider this myth debunked, they should train the muscles with weights and training programs as the one in this science based six pack review so they can also train the abdomen effectively.
Intimidation. Sure, the weight room can be a little intimidating, especially if it’s filled with grunting men. Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?
- The men glare at me as if I’m in their way.
- I feel self-conscious among all of those grunting men.
- I don’t know what to do in the weight room.
The intimidation factor might be real, but is it enough to stop you in your tracks? What good ever came from remaining in your comfort zone? That’s right, none. Do not pass go—head straight to the weight room.
Why You Should Include Strength Training in Your Fitness Routine
There are several good reasons for making strength training a fitness habit.
- It is good for your bones. Weight-bearing exercise has been shown to increase bone density and improve bone health. Lifting weights can help counteract age-related bone loss. If you would like to avoid osteoporosis and bone fractures, make strength training a habit.
- It torches calories and revs the metabolism. Strength training burns calories and creates a metabolic spike, so your body continues to burn calories even after you are done. In fact, a University of Wisconsin study found that metabolism was elevated for 39 hours after lifting weights.
- It helps you burn fat. For every 3 pounds of muscle you build, you’ll burn an extra 120 calories per day—just doing nothing. It’s a fact. Muscle takes more energy to sustain, so by building muscle you are eliminating fat and trimming your physique.
- It prevents injury. Strength training—especially functional strength training—includes balance, strength, and agility. This comprehensive approach helps prevent injury.
- It promotes health. Strength training has been shown to reduce blood pressure for as many as 12 hours after a session. It can also reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
- It’s convenient. Strength training doesn’t require a lot of time, space, or equipment. You can do it indoors or outdoors, in a hotel room, in your office, or just about anywhere. If all you have is 20 minutes, you can get a thorough workout with just your body weight—by doing push-ups, squats, planks, chair dips, and more.
- It creates muscle tone. Strength training helps sculpt and define muscles, creating a tight, toned look.
What Are You Waiting For?
If you have mastered the chronic cardio regimen, great news: now it’s time to step away from the cardio equipment and pay a visit to the weight room. Switch it up and add strength training to your regimen two or three days per week and watch your fitness improve and the pounds melt away, also check out these which can help you during your fitness journey.
If the weight room is too intimidating, consider a group strength-training class at a gym that will focus on light weights, high reps, and lots of fun. Many personal trainers offer an introductory strength session that will prepare you to work out on your own. If none of those options is appealing, look for fitness videos that focus on strength training.
Here are some basic tips to keep your back safe in the gym. To ensure healthy spine practices, talk with a certified personal trainer or physical therapist.
Strengthen Your Core. A strong core is an important defense against back injury, and that means your entire core. Most of us think of “core” as our abdominal muscles, but this vital region also includes muscles around the sides of your waist area, lower back, and buttocks—so you will want to support a weight-lifting program with exercises that strengthen these areas. A fitness trainer can help you build a personalized routine, and gyms are increasingly offering core-specific classes. Pilates and many yoga practices also focus on core stability.
Always Use Your Core Muscles. To make any weight-lifting exercise safer, “activate” your core. This means tighten those core muscles so that they support your spine, whether you are doing squats with a heavy barbell or some lightweight biceps curls. An activated core will keep your spine stable and in a safe position as you go through the movements.
Learn Proper Technique. Even with tons of evidence telling us about the benefits of exercising with weights, don’t rush to the nearest gym and start pumping. Done correctly, many weight-lifting activities can be quite safe; but done incorrectly, the same activity can put your spine at great risk. Consider booking a session with a personal trainer to get started. If a regular training appointment is not in your budget or isn’t your style, you can learn basic techniques in one or two introductory sessions. For a lower-cost and more social option, your gym may also offer group classes using weights. Be sure to pay attention and even take notes, especially when it comes to safety-oriented instructions. These will mostly involve posture and correct positioning—how you keep your spine in a safe position, with an activated core, as you move through the exercises.
Know When To Take A Break. To avoid a long-term or chronic injury, it is important to avoid over stressing any part of your body that is sore or fatigued. This is especially true of your lower back. This area is not only integral to your workout—it also supports your body through everything you do, from sitting at your desk to carrying groceries. In other words, your lower back never really gets a break, and injury to it will not only keep you out of the gym but also interrupt your daily life and keep you from the activities you enjoy. So be kind to your back! If it starts to feel sore, give it a rest. Consider reviewing your exercise routine and technique with a trainer. If you do not feel better quickly, consider seeing a doctor or physical therapist. Simple exercises can help you restore and maintain a healthy spine; and if you do have an injury, early treatment will speed the healing process and help you avoid a major complication.