Women can be hesitant to hit the gym and lift weights because they’re worried about bulking up. But women naturally have lower testosterone and growth hormone levels, so it’s difficult to build big muscles for most women unless they take supplements. The advantages of strength training are numerous and outweigh any concerns a woman could have about using machines or free weights.
When you use weightlifting machines or perform strength-training exercises with free weights, you’re forcing your muscles to take on more resistance than they’re used to. This stress causes your muscles to adapt and thus increase how much force they’re able to produce. As a result, you become stronger. Activities such as picking up a child, pushing heavy objects over your head and squatting to get something off the floor become significantly easier.
As women get older, our natural hormonal changes cause decreases in our bone density. They become more brittle and weak, and as a result are susceptible to breaking. This is even more of a concern for postmenopausal women. But weightlifting can increase a woman’s bone density. Your muscles are connected to your bones by tendons, and when your muscles contract and pull on your bones to create movement, that stress placed on your bones will stimulate bone production.
If you’re looking to lower your body fat, hitting the weights is going to be an important part of your regimen. Weightlifting increases how much muscle you have on your body, and your body has to work to maintain that muscle tissue’s structure and function. These processes require fuel, which comes in the form of calories. A greater percentage of muscle means that your body composition is lower and you burn a greater number of calories per day.
Machine Vs. Weights
Now that you’re likely motivated to hit the gym, you’ll need to determine whether you’re going to strength train on machines or use free weights such as barbells and dumbbells. Both have their advantages. Strength training on machines is a safer option for beginners who are learning the movements of the exercises and getting comfortable in the gym. Once you feel like you’re ready to advance, move onto free weights. Weight-training machines force you to move in a pathway that they determine. Lifting with free weights forces you to control and coordinate the movement. As a result, using free weights recruits a greater number of muscles that work to stabilize you and your limbs during exercises. Plus, lifting with free weights more closely mimics real-life activities, and because of this, the strength you develop in the gym will more effectively transfer to those real-life movements.
Kim Nunley has been screenwriting and working as an online health and fitness writer since 2005. She’s had multiple short screenplays produced and her feature scripts have placed at the Austin Film Festival. Prior to writing full-time, she worked as a strength coach, athletic coach and college instructor. She holds a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton.