If you’ve ever passed up the elliptical for free weights, you need no introduction to the growing squad of strong AF ladies out there. And with campaigns like “Run Like a Girl” and “My Beauty, My Say,” the idea of mainstream beauty has evolved to include images of women with chiseled arms and thighs — owning every inch of them.
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But the benefits of strength training for women go well beyond the surface. Swinging kettlebells and beasting barbell squats can have a big impact on your basal metabolic rate — aka how many calories you burn at rest, says Lacey Stone, fitness expert and celebrity trainer. Hitting the weights can also help improve your mood, relieve stress and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Astrid Swan, fitness instructor at Barry’s Bootcamp, explains, “As you lift weights, particularly heavy dumbbells, you are improving your metabolic rate, increasing endurance and strengthening bone density.”
To prove the weight room is no longer a man’s world, we tapped Stone and Swan to break down a few of the biggest benefits for strong ladies.
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The Top 6 Reasons Ladies Should Lift
1. You’ll strengthen your joints.
As women get older, their risk of osteoporosis increases as their estrogen levels — the hormone that protects bones — decreases. But adding weightlifting to your workout routine in your 20s and 30s can help protect your joints down the line. Stone says, “When you lift weights, you’re actually causing tiny tears (known as micro-tears) in the bones, which the body then repairs and adapts to better handle stimulus and build bone density.” Another reason you shouldn’t shy away from a heavier load? Swan says lifting weights can help improve your balance and stability. “The more you engage in regular strength training, the more stable your joints will be,” Swan explains.
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2. You’ll power your performance.
Weightlifting has some big booty benefits, too. As the largest muscle group in your body, strengthening your glutes is the key to improving everything from your posture to your sports performance. “Focusing on your glutes and legs keeps your posture upright, which helps keep your spine aligned properly, and moving as it should,” Swan explains. Picking up a pair of dumbbells for lunges, squats and deadlifts can also make you a stronger runner — and keep injuries at bay. “The stronger your glutes, hamstrings, quads and core, the stronger you will become as a runner,” Swan says.
3. You’ll avoid back pain.
Booty goals aside, building strength further up the posterior chain is really important, too. Women are more prone to back and neck pain than men due to genetics, hormonal changes and pregnancy. They also tend to have a smaller ratio of muscle to fat. “Weightlifting helps reduce back pain by developing strength in your back, shoulders and core,” Swan says. Rows, push-ups and superman holds are some great exercises that Swan recommends for women.
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4. You’ll test your limits.
Instead of lighter weights, Stone recommends women pick up something heavier than 10 pounds. “Women believe lifting weights is when they can do exercises for 15 to 20 reps. But there’s no way to build muscle with that high of a repetition,” Stone says. Instead, grab a heavier pair that’ll put you in the 8 to 12 rep range, she suggests. If those last few reps seem impossible, then you’ve found your sweet spot. “The third set should always feel like it may not be possible to complete.” You might surprise yourself, but you’ll never know until you try it!
5. You’ll curb hunger.
Studies have shown that weight training can help women maintain weight loss and even reduce belly fat. “Weightlifting is more effective than cardio for sculpting belly fat and toning arms because it will build muscle and continue to burn calories even when you are done with your workout,” Swan says. “The more muscle you have in the body, the more calories you burn.”
6. You’ll find new confidence.
“When you feel strong from the inside out, you look and feel sexier,” Stone says. “I love lifting weights because it makes me feel like a super hero. I feel at peace knowing that I’m giving my body everything it needs to succeed.”. If you’re too intimidated to step into the weight room, Stone recommends hiring a trainer to guide you through the space or enlisting a good friend who knows the ropes. “Don’t be afraid of the weight room! All are welcome. Start slowly and get comfortable with your form,” Swan says.