Stepping on a lifting floor for the first time can be quite intimidating for most women. You look around and see huge dudes grunting and throwing around more weight than you possess in your entire body and you seriously consider turning around and b-lining to the cardio equipment.
Stop! Don’t join the herds of people camping out for hours on end on the elliptical machines. In my opinion, they resemble gerbils running in a wheel - mindlessly moving, but not really getting anywhere. Whatever your fitness goals may be - to lose weight, tone up, get healthier, etc. lifting can help you achieve those goals more efficiently.
Did you know that muscle burns more calories than fat? Therefore, the more muscle you have, the more efficient your body becomes at fat burning. Cardio and lifting together, is a much more efficient route to fat loss than hours of cardio alone. It’s true!
I know what you are thinking - “but won’t lifting make me all muscular?” That is the most common question or concern I get from women when I suggest lifting as part of their workout regimen. The answer is a resounding no! Many women fear that picking up a 10 lb dumbbell and doing a few sets of bicep curls will turn them into Arnold Schwarzenegger. If they only realized the amount of dedicated lifting and the amount of food it takes to put on any significant amount of muscle mass, they would never ask me this question. The truth is, the level of intensity that most women lift at will result in, at most, a tight and toned body. And I’ve never heard anyone complain about that!
One of the many great things about lifting is that you can tailor it to your specific goals. If you want to add muscle mass, you would lift heavy for fewer reps. If your goal is to burn fat and tone up, you would lift a moderate amount of weight for higher reps along with your cardio routine.
Now that your concern has been addressed, what are you waiting for?! Here are some simple tips to get you in the gym and keep you going:
1. Do your research - Pick up a couple of women’s lifting magazines and check out their websites. They often have great lifting programs you can follow along with form and technique guidelines and advice for beginners. Watch some videos on the more difficult lifts. Form and technique is of utmost importance to prevent injury and to get the most out of your lift.
2. Hire a trainer - As a newbie, it would definitely benefit you to work with a trainer for at least the first few times you attempt some of these lifts. A trainer will be able to critique your form and make suggestions on how to achieve and maintain perfect form.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help - Once you commit to a routine, you’ll notice that there are some “regulars” that are always at the gym the same time that you are. Don’t be afraid to ask them to spot you or check your form. They won’t mind. In fact, they’ll probably be flattered you asked. Most of us would rather spot a friend than sit there and stare the clock during our rest periods.
4. Use the mirrors - Believe it or not, those mirrors aren’t there just so you can check yourself out in your fancy new workout duds. They are there for you to check your form. Glance at the mirrors right in front of you, and if there is one on the side, take a glance there as well. Make sure your form is correct.
5. Get a buddy - Once you make it up to some of the harder lifts, you’ll definitely want a spotter for safety. Invite a friend to come along with you and introduce them to lifting.
6. Drink water! - Always have water on hand. You’re working your muscles hard and they need water to recuperate. Don’t stop after your workout, either. Keep guzzling that water all day long!
7. Stretch - After a good lift, take some time to stretch. Hold each stretch for at least 20-30 seconds. Make sure to also stretch several times a day. This will keep your muscles loose and help with muscle soreness.
8. Set a benchmark and goal - Sign up for a fitness competition, book a photo shoot - whatever it takes to hold yourself accountable. People are more likely to achieve goals with a set timeline.
9. Eat for your goals - Many people think that you can eat whatever you want if you work out hard. That is simply not true! Think about it this way - you are putting in so much effort at the gym, don’t waste it by eating horribly. Serious results from lifting will not show through until you eat healthy! You are wasting your true potential and all that energy if you are eating poorly. Make a commitment to your fitness goals! Eat healthy and lift hard and you will have jaw-dropping results in no time!
10. Motivation & Inspiration - Have a reason you want to do this and keep that reason in the front of your mind when you’re considering skipping a lift or going on a junk food binge. Find someone who inspires you - a mother of 4 who has a 6 pack? A formerly obese person who lost a great amount of weight and has since maintained a healthy lifestyle? Whoever it is - contact that person for advice and/or words of wisdom, bookmark their website or profile, print out their picture or story and tape it to your alarm clock to get your butt to the gym or your fridge and grocery list to remind you to make healthy choices - whatever it takes!
Last, but not least, just get out there! Don’t wait for the perfect weather, till you’ve lost some weight, till you have the perfect lifting wardrobe, a lunar eclipse - or you’ll never go. Stop thinking about it and get in there and give it a go. Don’t worry about looking silly or what the other people around you are thinking. Chances are, they are focusing on their own lift and not wasting any time critiquing yours. Be healthy, be strong, go get ‘em!
Great article. How do you suggest I lift if I am 19, I was an athlete in high school, and I've been working out at a gym for about 5 years. I need to change up my workout and I've trying to do some research to figure out which type of workout and schedule would be best for me. Does working opposing muscle groups on the same day help and make it more beneficial? Also, how many sets and reps is a good number for each lift?