You’re a motivated go-getter. Your alarm probably went off before the sun rose. You got up, got dressed and got to the gym before most people even began to finish their last REM cycle. You are already an empowered and amazing woman, but if you’re not doing strength training, you’re probably not as amazing as you could be.
Strength training can seem intimidating but in reality, it can benefit women in so many ways. No, it doesn’t make you “too big,” so set that worry aside. Before you start on your usual routine, here are nine reasons you should head toward the free weights instead of the elliptical.
1. Calorie Afterburn
When you add weight training to your routine, even if it’s only a couple of times per week, you’re adding the potential for your body to burn more calories even when you’re resting. You might see online that a pound of muscle burns some crazy number of calories, but the reality is that one pound of muscle burns somewhere between 6 and 13 calories a day while you do nothing.
2. Increase Flexibility
There’s still misinformation floating around in the competitive world that strength training will cause your body to become more inflexible over time. That “old wives tale” has been repeatedly proven wrong by research. Among many other examples, The University of North Dakota studied static stretches vs. strength training exercises and found those with a full-range of motion in resistance training workouts can help improve flexibility.
3. Beat Buddha Belly
It’s true what they say: you can’t spot reduce. There’s no magic way of targeting a certain area with strength training and weights to lose fat. Also, put down the pills that make promises that could also be delivered by eating right and working out. They’re a waste of money. According to Harvard Women’s Health Watch, “Core strength training can help reduce your waist circumference. Even if you don’t lose weight, you lose visceral fat and gain muscle mass.” Training the obliques and abdominal muscles with weighted core strength moves will result in getting rid of your buddha belly—eventually. There’s no quick fix, and seeing visible results in this particular area has every bit as much to do with how much weight you lift as it does with what food you put in your mouth.
4. Be Less Tired
The physical fatigue you get when you strength train has a really positive side effect: you should get better sleep! Most people who deadlift on a regular basis report having more restful sleep cycles, and average over seven hours of sleep per night. Between the ages of 26 and 62, you should try to get between seven and nine hours a night. Your body may not still be developing hormonally, but your fine motor skills and judgment rely on adequate rest.
5. Perform Better
The strength you gain from developing the large, visually defined muscles (biceps and triceps in your arms, for instance) is balanced by the control developed in the smaller muscles like the supraspinatus and subscapularis (two of the four muscles in the rotator cuff that keep your shoulder stabilized). The agility and capability increased by weightlifting can enhance your performance in every activity you do.
6. Happier Outlook
Elle Woods said it best in Legally Blonde: “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands; they just don’t.” It’s a comedy, but that’s also a completely true statement.Endorphins are the ‘feel-good’ chemicals that the brain releases for several reasons, one of which is during strenuous exercise. All jokes aside about spouses, having a happier outlook on life is what helps us weather the storms that inevitably come. The extra rainy day that makes the week feel too long, the spilled red wine, the baby that won’t sleep—these are all stressors that can be “the straw that broke the camels back” for a person without a positive outlook. Strength training, in a way, gives you emotional fortitude along with physical fortitude.
7. Feel Successful
Every time you work out with weights, you get a release of endorphins. You feel successful with each repeated muscle contraction. Completing a set of close grip bench press is a win. Walking to the shower sweaty from pushing through and finishing every set feels good. Success has many forms, but every single one of the times you’ve ever felt successful, your body gives you a reward in the form of a hit of dopamine. That tiny bit of euphoria you feel is dopamine, and seeking that feeling is what motivates us to succeed. Physical performance in the gym lets us build those feelings of success and the feelings of euphoria bleed over into the rest of our lives. Feeling successful becomes more of a natural state, giving us the confidence to set bigger and better goals.
8. Positive Body Image
Let’s face it: people who work out look good. One glance at the people around you and you can tell who takes care of themselves and who doesn’t. When you look in the mirror, you can see the same qualities in yourself. If you’re picking up heavy things and putting them back down again, you regularly give yourself the opportunity to feel strong and capable. That feeling is then reflected; by feeling strong and capable, the person you see in the mirror is strong and capable. Having a positive body image means you’re less likely to spend time mentally picking at flaws that only you can see.
9. Have Better Sex
Out of all the positive side effects received from hitting the free weights in the gym a few times a week, the best has got to be having a better sex life! First, having an orgasm releases more endorphins, which enhance that beautiful body image. Second, having sex causes the brain to release dopamine and oxytocin—the Love Hormone—that causes each person to feel happier, more attractive and to develop strong bonds with their partners.