Some people aspire to be skinny while others aspire to be muscular. Typically, it’s girls who wish to drop 10 pounds and guys who wish to gain 10 pounds of muscle mass. This stereotypical idea of weight transfer is evident in American media and in the ways by which men and women work out. In any facility, you will find the majority of women on the treadmills, ellipticals, Stairmasters, and other cardio fitness equipment while the men typically will be lifting in the weight room. Also, you will find more women in fitness classes related to cardio, and more men when the focus in on strengthening a specific area, such as classes for the core.
Why is it that men don’t do more cardio and women don’t do more lifting? I think the answer lies in the years of myths and misinformation surrounding both. Our perceptions of what each form of exercise does for our body is skewed, and because of this we often miss out on a great physique and optimal workouts by not incorporating both. I frequently have women ask if they lift weight in my class on a regular basis, if there arms will start to look “like a guys” or “too big” or “too defined”. Then I also have women who complain of flab around the arm & of wanting their arms to be “tank top ready”. Well, girls, here’s the deal, if you want defined arms; you’ve got to start lifting weights.
There is a difference between lifting for weight loss, muscle definition, and overall toning as compared to lifting to gain muscle mass and strength. When women hit the arm weights, they should stick to a weight at which they can comfortably do 12 – 16 reps with. Doing a large number of reps with light weight serves to tone muscles, which increases your metabolism for the rest of the day and helps you gain muscle definition for that toned look.
So now that we’re clear on the multiple benefits of weight lifting for weight loss and calories burn, how to start? Many women have never picked up anything more than a backpack, preferring instead to stick to cardio. When starting in the weight room, it is okay to start out with 3 to 5 pound weights. Women can start with basic exercises, such as a bicep curl (weights at your sides, palms facing away from you, hinging from the elbow to lift the weight up to shoulder height, then returning to the start position). Or triceps pushbacks (palms facing inward, pull your elbows straight back and extend the weight until the elbow is straight back behind you). Why not even start with the simple push up? Make it a goal to complete 10 pushups in a row on your knees, then progress to your toes. (see above for examples) Guarantee that your arms and shoulders will get stronger while also strengthening your core.
A major reason women don’t do strength exercises is because they never have before, no one who they know does, and they’re not sure how. Ladies, more great news: many arm exercises are fairly simple to execute. You can do several with just 2 hand weights. Get into the weight room or try some out at home, there’s no more excuses. And guys, same for you. It’s time to start doing some cardio if you want to be in the best shape you can be. Muscles won’t prove too much if you can’t last using them for more than a set of 10 reps. Hit the track or take your cardio outdoors today.