NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Weightlifting for Women: Enhance Weight Loss and More

ThinkstockPhotos-512273152.jpgLet’s play out a little scenario. Judy just renewed her gym membership because it’s almost time for her annual summer vacation. She currently weighs 170 pounds but wants to lose around 30 pounds before she goes on vacation. She has taken herself through this transformation once before by running 4 miles on the treadmill every other day until she finally got to her desired weight. She plans to come to the gym this year with the same game plan as last time. Judy does not lift weights because she only wants to lose fat, not gain muscle.

Now here is the question: Should Judy repeat her cardio routine this year, or should she incorporate heavy resistance training?

Lifting Heavy Weights Has More Benefits Than Cardio Alone

This may be the approach many females take when trying to lose weight. Doing cardiovascular exercise is much easier and more effective at weight loss than weight training, right? WRONG! In fact, I strongly believe any woman who is looking to lose weight should invest more of her time into weight training. But I don’t recommend just any weight training; it needs to be heavy weight training!

Reasons to Add Weightlifting

It’s easy to understand why many females prefer not to lift heavy weights when in the gym. It often causes a lack of comfort if you are not used to pushing your body to its max strength levels. In addition, the female lifting recommendation for years has been to stick with light to moderate weight with an abundance of sets and reps. While this is not a bad recommendation, lifting heavy can add a great list of benefits that lighter weight (and cardio) just cannot compare to, all while possibly giving you faster, more dramatic results.   

  • Burn more calories. In terms of fat loss, forcing your body to lift heavy weight repeatedly will stimulate muscle growth, which creates a higher metabolism. The more muscle in the body, the more fat-burning potential will be created. When you are done lifting weights, your body continues to burn calories due to its need for muscle recovery. This is called EPOC, excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. So even when you are no longer in the gym working out, your body is still burning calories for you. EPOC does not happen with non-resistance training.  
  • Get toned, not ripped. Lifting weights brings out a woman’s natural curves and body structure. It’s easy to believe lifting weights will cause bulky muscles to form, just as many guys become bulky when we lift. However, there is one huge difference between males and females and that’s the presence of testosterone. As you may know, one responsibility of testosterone is muscle hypertrophy. Since females have very low amounts of testosterone, becoming bulky is often not a realistic expectation. Instead, when females participate in heavy weight training, their bodies actually become smaller due to more muscle and less fat. Females actually become leaner and curvier, which often leads to an increase in body image and self-confidence. 
  • Gain confidence. I believe a strong reason many females would rather do cardio instead of weightlifting may be due to their lack of confidence. If the treadmill or the elliptical has always been your best friend, you may find it hard to step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself with a heavy weight-training program. However, what many females come to find out is once weightlifting barriers have been torn down, confidence levels rise. I have heard many women in the gym say there is nothing more satisfying than when they are finally able to lift a weight that they could not lift previously. It not only reassures you that with some hard work and consistency you can push your body to new levels, but it also confirms that women do, in fact, belong in the weight room lifting heavy weight.

The Question Again: Should You Add Weight Training?

I will raise my question again: should Judy repeat her routine this year, or should she incorporate heavy resistance training into her program for different results? Sure doing 4 miles a day may get Judy to her ultimate weight-loss goal, but how much of her weight loss will be due to actual fat loss instead of muscle loss? Typically when cardio is a large portion of the workout routine, you tend to lose muscle, whereas when resistance training makes up a large portion of the workout routine, you tend to gain muscle. Remember, the more muscle in the body, the higher the metabolism, and the higher the rate of caloric burn—and the more weight you lose.

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This blog was written by Darius Felix, Health Fitness Specialist. For more on the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: cardio weight loss calories weightlifting women toning

Thomas's Corner: Is Spot Reduction a Fitness Myth?

From the beginning, fitness and working out (generally speaking) has been a constant struggle of good versus evil. Of course, good refers to the ideal body type that we strive for and what makes us feel good about ourselves, and bad refers to the undesired body types and feelings that come from being a less-conditioned individual.

Focusing on a Specific Body Part

ThinkstockPhotos-450797505We use fitness for many reasons, sometimes for stress, weight loss, or performance. Relatively speaking, the role of the Fitness Specialist has not been around as long as most professions, but it has had some very drastic and conflicting concepts and theory clashes, contradictions and discrepancies. These concepts and theories are ever changing and evolving to meet the criteria and need of scientific research, human nature and what actually works. Of note, one such theory that needs to be put to bed is the idea that we can “spot reduce” by simply focusing on a specific body part. 

Examples of spot reduction can be seen in many workout programs that we see today, even if we do not realize that’s the case. Doing 300 sit ups to make your stomach go away, doing triceps extensions until your arms fall off to get rid of the behind-the-arm jiggles and doing seated adduction/abduction leg exercises to get track star thighs are all examples of spot-reduction techniques that seem to be good in intention, but miss the mark. 

Busting the Myths

In a previous NIFS blog, Health Fitness Specialist Mistie Hayhow reminded us that there are many fitness myths that get the better of us. Hayhow goes on to state that while exercise builds our muscle, it’s burning the layer of fat off the outside that makes our muscles appear more defined. If we think about how weight loss works, we know that nutrition plays a huge role in what actually works and what does not. 

Also, we must factor in that when we work out, muscles develop. If we have muscle developing under a layer of fat, we are presuming to be reducing size, but the effect is that we will appear to be bigger because we did not address the fat loss first. 

For some athletes, it would make sense that a specific arm/leg dominant event would create enough physical imbalance to amount to visible difference, but a study at the University of California Irvine, in which tennis players were subjected to several years of subcutaneous fat measurements, yielded inconclusive data and put yet another blemish on the concept (Perry, 2011).

The fact is this: Spot reduction is a myth.

Fitness Keeps Evolving

We have plenty of information and examples to back up the claim that spot reduction is a myth, so why are we still doing it? As I mentioned before, fitness is ever changing and evolving, and it’s only getting better. Trust that your Fitness Specialist has your best intentions in mind (as they did 20 years ago when the ideas and concepts were quite diverse), but theories change. To keep up to date, I suggest meeting with an HFS at NIFS to ensure your needs are being met and that your questions are being answered.

Rejoice and Evolve,

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, Health Fitness Instructor at NIFS. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.

Topics: Thomas' Corner muscles fitness trends muscle building toning