As women, we are all-too keen on achieving that “perfect” body, the body with long, lean legs and a flat stomach, the body that is oh-so elusive when it comes to deciding which exercise routines are worthwhile. In reality, though, exercise should be all about maintaining a healthy body that runs as efficiently as possible. And while we have all heard the horror stories about women entering a weight room with high hopes and exiting as she-men, those suppositions are wildly outdated.
Experts today have completely debunked those myths, and are telling women to hit the gym and head straight for the weight room. Contrary to the stereotypes floating around, men and women actually benefit from weightlifting in much the same way, as shown by a 2013 study in the scholarly journal Diabetes. In the study, both men and women were found to experience heightened strength, an increase in lean body mass and improved aerobic abilities with heavy weight lifting. Strength training through lifting weights can even boost the effectiveness of your cardio workouts and act as a full-body workout.
Weight and resistance training might seem pointless to someone who doesn’t want their muscles popping out of their shirt, but the reason that men bulk up from heavy weights is testosterone. And women have 10 percent or less of the testosterone that men do, according to a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology. While men definitely gain thick muscle mass, women retain a thin, lean body type. And heavy weight lifting is actually more effective in burning calories than a complete cardio workout, according to a 2012 study in the Journal of Applied Physiology. While cardio burns calories consistently as you’re working out, resistance training continues to burn calories even after the workout, known as the afterburn effect. Few workouts incorporate the afterburn effect, in which the body needs to take in more oxygen, working the metabolism at a faster rate during the workout and then not slowing down from that rate for up to days afterwards.
Cardio burns up both fat and muscle, and if that doesn’t make you want to tiptoe on over to the weightlifting room, the fact that you can actually control how your body tones with the types of weights that you lift probably will. “You’re not going to change the shape of your body [with cardio], you’re just going to be exactly like you are but you’ll be a smaller version,” says professional trainer for Miss America, Tia Falcone. “All your flaws will be the same, everything will just be smaller.” Instead, Falcone recommends trying out a weight training routine for at least a few days per week.
Weight training is no more dangerous for a woman than it is for a man, and when the proper basic training guidelines are followed and a spotter is used, weight training is a safe supplement to any woman’s workout. And while lightweights are associated with safe way to weight train for women, heavy weights reveal to you the capacity of your own ability. Six to twelve reps of heavy weights combined with 15 to 20 reps of lightweights will maximize your body’s potential and encourage a continuously high metabolism rate.