Updated: Feb 15
So you’ve been on this health kick, and you’ve lost some weight. You’ve been focusing on eating right (yay!!), doing various cardio and things have been going pretty well. You’re feeling great, have lots of energy and your clothes are fitting really well. You’re keeping up with your kids during yard games, and can even out-muscle them while arm wrestling. This is all spectacular and I am so happy for you! I’m going to highlight for you what ELSE you might do for yourself: Add some weights. Lifting weights in an amazing addition to any physical wellness program, not only because you’ll boost your metabolic rate even more than with cardio exercise alone, but also because it will be good for so many of your internal systems AND it will make you look amazing and feel great. Really.
Weight lifting isn’t just for those trying to lose weight, either. Adding weight lifting exercises is good for every body, and is appropriate for almost every age group. Clearly, the amount of weight you lift will change depending on your abilities and your intended outcome, but with few exceptions, these are good exercises to add to your repertoire. In fact, studies have shown that lifting weights goes hand-in-hand with weight-bearing exercises, and can help prevent bone loss and reduce the risk of fractures and even osteoporosis.
1. First, know that one of the downsides to any ‘diet’ regime (read: the kind where you are trying to lose weight): your body is smarter than you think it is. While you are cutting calories, trying to find that balance between calorie deficit and not having a growling stomach all day and hangriness, your body is responding with lowering your metabolic rate in an attempt to ‘hold’ onto the calories. This is totally normal; your body LOVES homeostatis and will do what it can to stay at your ‘normal’. Don’t get too frustrated; you can outsmart your body. How? Build your muscle mass. Muscle is more metabolically active than fat. It actively burns more calories just sitting there, than does fat. So … you can rev up your metabolism again, even with the caloric reduction.
2. Muscle takes up less space. Okay, yes it weighs more, but it is more compact than would be, say, fat. So on the surface, this means your clothes will fit better. This is also another reason why that number on the scale is not at all an accurate indication of ‘weight loss’, per se.
3. Lifting will help you have more muscles, sure, but if you’re a female, then likely instead you’ll just look more defined. If you’re male, sure, your muscles will get bigger, thanks to the testosterone you have floating around in your system. Generally, women don’t have the hormone make-up to support the development of said hulking musculature. What it will do is make you visibly more tone and with defined muscles. Even men don’t always have the ability to get big and bulky muscles; honestly, that sort of mass building requires a lot of time and effort ... anyone lifting lighter weights with more repetitions will end up with toned and sculpted muscles and not at all hulk-like. Adding weight training to your weekly schedule two or three times a week is a great way to build beautiful strong muscles.
4. Lifting weights not only strengthens your muscles (yay!) but it also strengthens your bones. Creating (good) stress on your bones helps them to create extra tissues to strengthen and toughen up. Probably as a self-defense mechanism, sure, but as you stress your muscles and bones, they react by getting stronger. Stronger bones mean fewer frame problems like fractures or even osteoporosis; avoiding broken bones is always a good thing!
5. You can do more. Why? Because you’re stronger, and you have more muscle cells to use for increased energy output. You’ll be able to move easier – all moves from getting out of a car to lifting a box – and you will be able to do things out of your ‘normal’ day like go for 15 mile hike or a weekend bike trip.
6. This one is hard to measure, but you will gain body confidence. Why? Your clothes will fit better, you’ll have more energy. You’ll be capable of greater physical feats (not/not leaping off a tall building in a single bound, please!). As these physical abilities increase, you will feel better about yourself and your abilities. Really. Your posture, as well, will improve as a result of your increased muscle tone. Voila: a more confident you! You’re becoming the superhero version of yourself! That’s awesome!
7. Weight lifting keeps you healthier: lowers your diabetes risk, gives you better blood sugar control, reduces the likelihood you’ll smoke, improves your heart health, and reduces your risk of depression. And you’ll be happier (yay, endorphins!). So, too, those endorphins also enhance your mood. (yay, endorphins!)
8. Weight lifting improves your balance. Toned muscles help you stabilize your body, keep you (literally) on your toes. How? By strengthening those little supportive muscles, too, that keep you upright and balanced. Every part of your body increases in strength and abilities, not just the ‘biggies’ like your quadriceps and biceps. The little supportive muscles that keep your upright and, literally, on your feet also respond positively to the stresses you give them.
9. Weight lifting will make you mentally stronger. Lifting weights is hard, challenging work; regularly pushing yourself to complete your sets helps you to develop your stress-response skills. In addition, this sort of focused training will increase your ability to focus in the rest of your life as well.
10. Weight lifting will help you sleep better. Again, weight lifting is hard work, and part of the response to the additional stress is to rebuild. While your body is repairing itself, it needs rest. This is a great time to listen to your body, and go to bed on time (or early, even) after a lifting day. Give the body the time it needs to regroup and ready itself for the next day.
There are so many good-for-you stories out there about weight lifting. It really is an amazing addition to an exercise regimen. The biggest problem with it might be that it can be intimidating to start. Especially if you opt for weight machines at a gym, those large cumbersome metal constructions seem really … ominous. Don’t let this discourage you! You can opt for something at home (e.g. free weights, kettle bells, resistance tubes, even a TRX… or water bottles and cans of beans. It doesn’t have to be fancy!), you can use the free weights at the gym or (and?) you can consider hiring a trainer for a few sessions to familiarize yourself with the different machines and the benefits they can offer. A trainer can even come up with a personalized routine that would focus on the areas you’d most like to target, or a full-body routine that incorporates the machines you are most comfortable with. Don’t be afraid to be a beginner; weight training is not that complicated. The important thing to remember is that the point of ADDING weight training to your cardio routine is that they complement each other; each one builds your strength in different ways.
Remember this: Neither having hulky muscles that are gym-strong or being solely cardio fit is not the same thing has having strength to deal with any task life will throw at you. And, in that same light, I am a huge fan of compound movements (movements that work multiple body parts at once). When you weight train, remember that your body is not just made up of separate body parts, but rather systems, and training them as systems helps them to function (and to look) better as one complete unit. You don’t want to just look like a bunch of bulky body parts pasted together.
Please excuse the plethora of links I am including here. I got so interested in all of the information that is out there apropos weight training. Suffice it to say, adding a few days of weight training to your exercise routine is a good thing. As they say, with weight training (and maybe with all exercise) the discomfort you feel today is the strength you’ll feel tomorrow. “Your body can stand almost anything. It’s your mind that you have to convince.”
For further reading:
One to try might be https://www.sport-fitness-advisor.com/workout-routines.html which offers solid strength-training exercises advice from an Olympian. Arguably, weight-training can be intimidating for newbies, but the benefits it can bring to your fitness are immeasurable.