I am a huge advocate of lifting weights and feel I have reaped the benefits of these sorts of programs in the last few years. I have become stronger, my body shape has changed drastically and it’s even helped with my speed in my indoor rowing.
For the individual who wants to change their body shape, get leaner, improve their strength, increase their bone strength and also help them move easier later in life once you start to slow down then lifting weights is what you should be doing.
Whether heavy or light they will give you a greater improvement in your overall fitness than just performing 3 cardio sessions a week. If you lift light then performing 12-15 reps puts you in the endurance phase this can help you build stamina, endurance and lean muscle. Lifting heavier weights and doing 8-12 reps then you will be building muscle, burning fat and changing your body shape, it really is that simple!
When I first started lifting weights I had just become a little bored with bodyweight exercises, don’t get me wrong there is a time and a place for bodyweight exercises, I include them in most of my clients programs but mainly when they first begin with me. I need to gauge what their strength and stamina is like, and also what their range of motion is like whilst doing them too. Mobility is sometimes an issue when someone first starts their fitness journey so I start off simpler and progression is always made without the increased risk of injury as bodyweight exercise movements are easier to follow.
So after I decided to start lifting I bought my own squat-rack second hand and all the weights. I had the Olympic barbell, the 150 kg weights - yes I had the gear but I also had some idea too! I looked at the compound exercises first so back squat, bench press etc. I watched hundreds of technique videos and also asked fb friends I knew who were experts in strength to critique my form. I Started off light and every week progression was made and when it wasn’t I was patient and got the pb the next week. I enjoyed the challenge of lifting a weight that was heavier than me and became stronger and more helpful to my husband whilst we were moving house too!
I think many women find the prospect of lifting a proper 20kg Olympic barbell intimidating. I agree yes it's a challenge to someone who has been going to ‘bodypump’ class the last 5 years lifting at best 10kg, but after persevering, feeling the burn and the DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) you will start to feel more confident, stronger, your body will start to look leaner and your shape will change. You may not lose weight as muscle weighs the same as fat BUT you will look different, your clothes size whether you are male or female will change and if you eat to fuel your workouts your body composition will change for the better helping your muscles repair and become stronger quicker.
You can do 2 or 3 weight sessions a week, personally I choose to do 2 a week with around 3 days in between, this works for me and fits in with my other cardio training. So if your running 2-3 times a week try and fit in sometime with the barbell or free weights, it will help you become stronger, build lean muscle and burn those all important calories even a day after you’ve finished your workout. It will also help decrease the risk of injury whilst running or performing any other cardio as the muscles will get stronger and be able to withstand more ‘pounding on the pavements’ or other rigorous activity.
Lifting the weights has other benefits such as improving the density of your bones which later in life is really important to us all but especially to women. So get ligting early and your body will see the difference when it starts ageing. After a woman goes through her menopause there is an increased risk of Osteoporosis if her bone strength is poor, to decrease this risk the answer is high-impact exercise such as running and strength training. So if like me you have decided against running due to joint problems then lifting weights is the way to go to avoid losing your bone strength. Performing strength exercises along side a low-impact cardio exercise is a perfect fit for an all-round healthy lifestyle.
Lifting had also been proved to help your mental health if you are suffering or have suffered from depression. For me rowing and strength exercises have helped improve my mental health immensely, they’ve also boosted my self esteem too. I think they make you feel good about yourself, build confidence and help you become a better, healthier version of you!
So come on and make the barbell your friend, please don’t feel intimidated by it. If your worried about the movements go and see a PT who will help you combat the moves safely using good form, in time you will see a difference physically and for me more importantly a difference mentally making your life feel less stressful and all-round easier to cope with.