Despite the huge increase in women leaving the cardio floor in the gym to pump iron and the trend around #strongnotskinny, there's still an undertone of anti-weights locker room chat. Truth is, adding weights and strength training to your fitness routine will make you stronger (well obviously), fitter and you will see the results in far less time. It’s a win-win situation.
We spoke to Ally Gray, founder of Limitless London personal training to get the low-down on why it’s time to squeeze the steel.
Common misconceptions around lifting weights, and particularly lifting heavy weights (we’re not talking pink dumbbells) are based around the comparison between men and women. Men often lift to get bigger. One of the key reasons women won't have the same physical response men is because of testosterone. This is the hormone responsible for large muscle growth, and with far less of it in our bodies (around 15-20 times less), we simply can’t build muscle in the same way.
Serious body builders also have a very different diet to the average gym-goer. You may have noticed the five-egg breakfasts, chicken breast "elevenses" and endless protein shakes that are needed to build a hulk-like appearance. It’s hard to create that kind of muscle and it only comes if you're comsuming more than you burn.
Building muscle is different to bulking up. Toning is what happens to women who lift and is essentially the replacement of fat with muscle. We can get on board with that…
Why are weights good for me then?
Lifting weights improves your bone density and reduces the risk of injury in your future life. Then of course there are the significant benefits of fat loss and feeling amazin
Ally suggests this very simple plan to begin your journey in the weights room. It’s an easy way to structure yours weights-based gym sessions starting with two sessions per week.
DAY 1: Push and Pull
Switch back and forward between these exercises for 3-5 sets with 60 second breaks (try doing a mobility exercise, like leg swings during this time). Choose a weight based on your level, then increase over time.
1. Push-ups X 5-20 from knees, from a bar or from your toes.
2. High plank - renegade row X 5-20 on each arm with a weight that will challenge you.
3. High plank w/ shoulder touches for 30secs.Taking one hand and touching the opposite shoulder – don’t let your feet of hips move.
4. Bicycle crunches for 30secs do as many as possible and count your reps.
DAY 2: Squat and press
Switch back and forward between these exercises for 3-5 sets with 60 second breaks (try doing a mobility exercise, like leg swings during this time).
Overhead Squat X 20 keep the hands over head
Push and Press X 5-20
Squat X 30secs as many as possible with your chosen weight, count your reps.
Sit ups X 30secs as many as possible, count your reps.