When people ask for my fitness advice, I preach three guidelines:
- Stick to a clean diet. Eat real food, and more protein/veggies, fewer sugars/carbs.
- HIIT (High intensity interval training) cardio.
- Lift heavy weights and strength train.
But every time a woman asks me for advice, she shies away from #3. Or, God forbid, she says that she wants to exercise with “less weight, more reps” because she “just wants to tone up” (don’t get me started on “toning” – I’ll save that for another blog).
The next thing I’ll say to her, in the interest of time, is to look at me.
I lift heavy. No, I’m talking heavy. On a weekly basis I max out (hundreds of pounds) on squats, lunges, deadlifts, bench press, pull-ups, dips, etc. If I’m not failing on the second or third rep, I’m not going heavy enough. Of course I switch up the weight and intensity, but super-heavy sets of 3-5 repetitions are an integral part of my training.
And I am not big. I am slender and strong with a body-fat percentage hovering around 14-17%. I am not bulky. Every person’s body is different, but the principles are the same. I don’t have a body fat percentage of 16% because I do cardio, and it’s not by accident.
Don’t believe me? Here are four reasons you need to go pick up a heavy barbell – right now.
1) Let’s talk about efficiency
Cardio burns fat and calories during exercise (1 hour). Weight training causes Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). This means that your metabolism is revving for up to 38 hours after your workout. And listen up ladies: the heavier the weight – the more EPOC. (Norwegian University of Sport and Physical Education, Oslo, Norway)
2) Muscle burns fat
Muscles are the primary energy consumers in the body. More muscles = more fat burned. (Mehmet Oz, MD, Cardiology)
3) You will NOT get big and bulky
Women have far less testosterone than men – making it extremely difficult to get large without the use of drugs. You can work your booty off and still only build a fraction of the muscle that men do. (Muscle and Health)
Plus, do you think it’s easy for guys to get huge? Trust me, you’re not going to “accidentally” get big.
4) Outside of fat loss, you need to do strength training for your overall health
Don’t believe me? Strength training will:
- Boost energy
- Protect joints from injury
- Reduce depression
- Fight osteoporosis
- Lower diabetes risk
- Better heart health
- Blood sugar control
- Back pain prevention
- Improved balance
- Better sex
- Reduce stress
- Sharpen memory
If we’re being honest – there are other factors that play into the female stigma against lifting weights. All too often I see women let their misinformed fears about bulking up keep them out of the weight room. This makes the weight room a scary place for the women who understand the importance of lifting heavy. But we can change this, and do the men a favor, by getting in there.
Ladies: please lift heavy. You’ll look better, you’ll feel better, and you’ll be better. Get after it.