Lifting heavy weights burns more calories than light weights—so put your fears aside and lift, lift, lift.
Following the lethargy and overeating during the holidays, a large number of women will be on a mission to lose weight and get fit this year.
Many women admire the toned bodies of the fitness models in the glossy magazines, and assume they do lots of cardio to achieve it—so they tend to start jogging, or going to exercise to music classes in order to lose those few pounds.
When it comes to lifting weights, women are frequently told to use small weights, and do hundreds of reps in order to get toned.
I’m going to break both of those myths, and open your eyes as to why every woman should be lifting weights, or doing some other kind of resistance training, in order to achieve the body they want and improve their health.
1. Be Your Fitness Model
Most people are completely unaware that the vast majority of those female fitness models in the magazine got there by competing on stage in bikini competitions. These are prestigious competitions, so these athletes take their training just as seriously.
To build a gravity defying button butt, firm waist and wider shoulders for a more hourglass figure, then the only way is to lift weights—that’s the number one tool used by all professional bikini competitors.
As a Personal Trainer, I’m always disappointed when I see women lifting a 2 kg dumbbell. Something so light will make no difference to the shape of your body. Women need to lift heavy.
But how much weight is heavy? When I interviewed fitness model Anna Churakova about her gravity defying glutes, she told me that she usually started her workouts with a compound exercise such as squats, using 70 kg (she only weighs 54 kg). After that, she does some isolation exercises with lighter weights, and slightly higher reps.
2. It’s Empowering!
Whenever I’ve started training a new female client, most of them described themselves as “weak.”
Lifting weights and challenging them to lift heavier, grows their confidence. As one of my clients Jessie told me, “I am really noticing the changes to my body and increased strength. Thanks George, I feel proud and empowered.”
Becoming stronger will also help you perform better in other activities in daily life, such as sport, carrying your weekly shopping, rearranging your furniture, or playing more actively with your children. Just make sure you use the good technique taught to you by your trainer—deadlifting a sofa is the same as deadlifting a barbell.
I’ve trained many of my female clients to do full push-ups, clapping push-ups, hip thrusts with 65kg and regularly use 24kg for kettlebell swings. Many can also do inverted exercises on gymnastic rings, which requires a lot of stability and strength.
These mothers, housewives and professionals never dreamed they could achieve such feats, before they started. Some are now stronger than their husbands, but still look very feminine.
3. To Blast Belly Fat
In a study of overweight and obese women, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, they found that 2 sessions of lifting weights in strength training, significantly reduced belly fat over 16 weeks, without any change to their diet.1
In a different study comparing the effect of weight training, versus moderate-to-vigorous aerobic activity, the researchers concluded that weight training had a more significant effect on reducing waist circumference.2
You can get even better results by combining lifting reasonably heavy weights, with short rest periods. In a 12-week study, subjects exercised 3 times a week, and their percent body fat decreased by 16%. That’s why I created a heavy weighted circuit training class for my female clients in Oxted—there don’t seem to be many of these, so you’ll need to do a little research to find one in your local area.
4. It Decreases The Risk Of Osteoporosis In Postmenopausal women
Menopause typically occurs around age 51, but can start as young as 45 years. Women’s oestrogen (estrogen) levels reduce, and with it oestrogen’s protective effect on bones—which become fragile and are more likely to fracture during a simple fall.
Bone loss is rapid during the early years of menopause. Whilst cardio can be useful to exercise the heart, you need weight bearing exercise to strengthen bones. Strength training over time can help prevent bone loss, and may even help to build new bone.
But how often should you lift to protect your health? The American College of Sports Medicine recommends women lift weights 2-3 times per week, to preserve bone health.
5. You Won’t Get Bulky
It’s a popular myth that women who lift weights will bulk up. As my fitness model friend Anna says, “Lifting weights won’t make you bulky…cupcakes will!”
Women’s testosterone levels are only 1/15 that of a man, so it’s very difficult for a woman to grow muscles (unless taking anabolic steroids). You’ve probably also heard that muscle can “turn into fat.” That’s impossible!
One final tip, if you’re short on time and looking for only one exercise which is a combination of resistance and cardio, then the kettlebell swing is my favourite choice. Just four minutes of high intensity swings provides tremendous benefits. Unlike a treadmill, you can easily store a kettlebell in a cupboard…or use it as a doorstop.
George D. Choy is a Personal Trainer at Gymnacity Fitness in Oxted, Surrey, and writes the fitness blog www.BusyParentFitness.com
 Schmitz KH1, Hannan PJ, Stovitz SD, Bryan CJ, Warren M, Jensen MD. Strength training and adiposity in premenopausal women: strong, healthy, and empowered study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Sep;86(3):566-72. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17823418
 Mekary RA, Grøntved A, Despres J-P, et al. Weight training, aerobic physical activities, and long-term waist circumference change in men. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2015 Feb; 23(2): 461–467. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4310793/
 Hunter GR, Wetzstein CJ, Fields DA, Brown A, Bamman MM Resistance training increases total energy expenditure and free-living physical activity in older adults. Journal of Applied Physiology Published 1 September 2000 Vol. 89 no. 3, 977-984. http://jap.physiology.org/content/89/3/977.long
 Takeshima N, Rogers ME, Islam MM, Yamauchi T, Watanabe E, Okada A. Effect of concurrent aerobic and resistance circuit exercise training on fitness in older adults. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2004;93(1–2):173–182.