Lifting weights is no walk in the park, but the benefits of this exercise reach far beyond the prototypical muscle tone and strength — and you don’t need to be an Olympic lifter or tote around a tub of protein powder to reap those rewards. So for any potential female weight lifters out there who are intimidated by the weight room man’s world, take it from these four fantastic experts: this form of fitness so unbeatable regardless of gender.
1. The goal of weight lifting is to improve performance, so set long-term goals. When you repeat a workout you’re comfortable with, try to improve on your last experience in some way. That can mean doing one more rep than last time, adding a bit more weight, or decreasing the rest periods between sets, says Nia Shanks, founder of the Lift Like a Girl fitness program. (Interested in dead lifting? You might want to check out Power Hungry: Why Power Training is More Important Than You Think).
2. Women’s fitness coach and NBC Fitness Expert Ali McWilliams tells us that as you lift weights and get physically stronger, you will improve your mental and emotional strength as well. “Additionally, your self-confidence will increase,” says McWilliams. “That’s a side benefit most people don’t realize.”
3. When in doubt, butt out. Back injuries are all too common in lifting. Protect your lower back by keeping an erect spine instead of rounding your back and shoulders forward. Don’t even think about hunching over while re-racking those weights!
4. Lift heavy weights. You build tight, strong, dense muscle by lifting heavy weights. More muscle burns more calories, says McWilliams. Need we say more?
5. Eventually, you might hit a strength ceiling due to genetics and time under the bar, but weight training is much more than just getting stronger over time, says fitness coach JC Deen. As long as you can see yourself improving, it doesn’t matter how much or how little people around you can lift—it’s all about growth.
6. Change it up. Continuing to do the same exercises month after month will not help you. “I recommend changing your workout routine every four weeks to keep it fresh and challenge your muscles in new ways,” says Julie Lohre, who provides women with online personal training.
7. “No one tells you, as a woman, how powerful you will feel after a weight training session,” Lohre explains. “The focus and determination needed to accomplish a really good workout not only increase your physical power, but mentally and emotionally it gives you confidence and makes you feel unstoppable. (Ok, if you find super strong, super awesome women inspiring, Beauty and the Bench Press: Dieting Sucks is totally for you).
8. Older women should be lifting weights! “Lifting weights keeps you young…not only physically looking younger, but mentally as well. It helps preserve bone density while improving muscle mass, strength, and balance, especially for postmenopausal women,” McWilliams tells us.
9. You will get callouses. Yes, weight-lifting callouses are a thing. If that doesn’t appeal to you as a badge of honor, toss on a pair of lifting gloves to keep your hands soft and protected.
10. As you get stronger, look for changes in your shape, not bodyweight. “The number on the scale might not go down much, but your body composition can change as a result of adding more muscle, and losing body fat,” says Deen.
Clearly, lifting weights benefits more than just the body; it also strengthens the mind, and that’s something everyone can get onboard with. So go get yourself to the weight room!
Inspired yet? Read on…