If you want to lose fat or change your body composition, one of the most important things you can do is lift weights. Diet and cardio are equally important, but when it comes to changing how your body looks, weight training is the way to go. Weight training, especially among women brings up the concern of “bulking up” or building too much muscle.
However, building muscle actually brings many benefits not only to men but women as well. Some of the benefits include but are not limited to:
- more muscle in the body means a faster metabolism and less body fat
- a more muscular body means a smaller size
- increases bone density important especially in women
- helps improve strength and avoid injuries
- increases self confidence, coordination and balance
Now the question is “how much should I lift”?
In order to build muscle you need to use more resistance than your muscle is used to – you need to “overload” the muscles in order to see results. This means that you need to lift enough weight that you can only complete the desired number of reps. So let’s use an example of someone who is looking to build endurance and tone the body. With that objective they will do 3 sets of 15 repetitions. During the 15 repetition set, their muscles should be so fatigued that the last 1-2 repetitions are hard to complete (with good form). So next time you head to the gym to do some weight training, experiment with different weights. See when doing specific exercise if you can find the weight that will be hard to lift for the entire set.
In addition, if you have been doing a similar routine for a while (6+weeks) it may be time to change things up in order to avoid plateaus and continue progress. Start changing things up…You can increase the weight that you are lifting, change the sets/reps, change the “tempo” (speed) at which you lift, etc.
Also very important is to “address” specifically the areas you are looking to improve. If you want to be a better runner you need to run (not bike, rollerblade etc). Muscle fibers get specifically recruited based on how we challenge them and train them.
Lastly, getting some rest between your workouts is also very important. Giving your body a chance to recover and rest between your “hard” workouts is important for achieving progress and to avoid injuries. While giving your body (the muscles that you have worked) a 48 hour chance to recover, you have time to change things up and work on something else: your running, core, or to take a yoga or Pilates class.
For best results always keep your body guessing!