I used to be envious – and curious – about the women I saw using the free weights in the weight room at the gym. Envious because they seemed so confident, so sure of what they were doing. Curious because I wondered if – and how – I could be like them.
I was working with a personal trainer at the time, a woman, and when I suggested she show me some exercises with the weights, she discouraged me.
“No, I want to make sure you know how to use the machines first. If you don’t do the exercises properly you could hurt yourself. The machines are better.”
Well, I didn’t stick with her much longer. I wanted someone who would work with me and help me get to the next level. Besides, I wasn’t always going to have a gym around. I wanted to learn to use the free weights so I would be free from a gym membership.
The next personal trainer I hired there did expand my exercise options. We worked out mainly in the weight room, working with dumb bells and bar bells.
I wasn’t afraid of “bulking up.” I’d read enough to know that wasn’t going to happen.
It’s impossible for us to bulk up like the guys do because we don’t have the testosterone levels they do. It just ain’t gonna happen unless you are a serious bodybuilder and even then, you can’t compare to the guys because our genetic makeup is different.
No, I wanted to use the weights to get stronger. I’d seen older folks around me become more weak and flaccid as they aged and neglected their health. I didn’t want to be like that.
One thing I’ve learned over the past five or six years of consistently working out is that you can’t stay with a low weight or you aren’t going to make any progress. Women tend to pick lighter weights and do more reps. That’s ok for toning but if you want to get stronger, you have to go heavy.
How heavy? Most people should train at 65% to 85% of their “1 Rep Max.” A 1 Rep Max is the heaviest weight you can lift one time. So if you can lift a 40-pound dumb bell once in an overhead press, then 85% of that would be 34 pounds. If you’re just starting out, try 65% of your 1 RM. In this case, it would be 26 pounds.
There are other benefits of strength training:
• You feel stronger and have more confidence
• Your “after burn” lasts longer. Muscle is metabolically active so it’s going to continue to burn calories even after you’ve left the gym
• Increases bone density which strengthens them and helps prevent osteoporosis
One thing to remember though. Numbers on a scale can be deceiving. Muscle weighs more than fat so as you lose the fat and gain muscle, your scale isn’t going to reflect how healthy you are. I haven’t owned a scale in years and go by how my clothes are fitting.
Women tend to be intimidated by the weight room – the grunting men, the barbells, how heavy of a weight should they use and what if they injure themselves.
The next time you’re at the gym, don’t be shy. Go in, take a peek inside, ask some questions.
Step into the weight room and step up your workout for a stronger, leaner you!