By Betty Murray
Do you avoid the weight room at the gym because you fear “bulking up”?
Contrary to popular believe, women: lifting weights won’t make you look like The Hulk.
Yes, it is possible to add muscle bulk through weight lifting — as seen in body builders and in many men — but adding bulk doesn’t happen just by lifting weights. It requires a detailed plan for diet and training to build that kind of muscle.
What you may not know is that weight lifting is the secret to a slim, toned body. Muscle burns fat, so the more muscle you have, the more fat your body will burn. One study found that lifting weights can boost fat burn by as much as 44 percent!
Subjects of that particular study were divided into three groups: diet only; diet and aerobic exercise; and diet, aerobic exercise, and weight lifting. Researchers found that over the course of 12 weeks, those in the diet, aerobic exercise, and weight lifting group lost an average of 21.1 pounds, whereas the diet only and diet and aerobic exercise groups lost just 14.6 and 15.6 pounds, respectively.
You may not burn as many calories during a 30-minute weight lifting workout as you would during a 30-minuted cardio workout, but the after burn from weight lifting is far more than that of a cardio workout, meaning your body will continue burning fat, even after you leave the gym. By replacing 10 pounds of body fat with 1-10 pounds of muscle, your body will burn an extra 25 to 50 calories per day.
One other important note for women: muscle weighs more than fat, so although you may not notice a change in the number on the scale, regular weight lifting will result in a leaner body and after some time, you should notice a difference in how your clothes fit.
To get the most out of your weight lifting routine, focus on exercises that work more than one muscle group at a time. For example, while a squat and a leg lift both work the legs, the squat works more muscles on both the front and the back of the legs, while a leg lift targets a singular muscle group.
In order to prevent injury, start out working with a professional fitness trainer to ensure you are using the correct form with each lift. It is also important that you build strength in your entire body, focusing on your core. Balance and symmetry is key — if one side of your body is stronger than the other, or if certain muscle groups get more attention than others, your body is more prone to injury.
You don’t have to have access to weights to get in a good strength-training workout. Try body weight workouts such as squats, pushups, box jumps, and burpees (to name a few). Each of these exercises uses your own body weight as the “weights,” so you’ll continue to strengthen your muscles even without holding a weight in your hands.
Ladies: Don’t avoid the weight room. Instead, mix weight lifting with your regular cardio routine to increase your metabolism and continue fat burn even after you leave the gym.
Betty Murray, CN, HHC, RYT is a Certified Nutritionist & Holistic Health Counselor, founder of the Dallas-based integrative medical center, Wellness and founder of the Metabolic Blueprint wellness program. Betty’s nutrition counseling practice specializes in metabolic and digestive disorders and weight loss resistance. A master of the biochemistry of the body, Betty teaches her clients how to utilize nutritional interventions to improve their health. Betty is a member of the Institute of Functional Medicine and the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.