Image: Creative Commons
[Georgia Porter | Contributing Writer]
We know it can seem intimidating walking into the weight section when you’re not a gym junkie modelling twenty-inch biceps, but this doesn’t mean that women should be dismissing the use of weights in their workout.
This Girl Can is a national campaign developed by Sport England and a wide range of partnership organisations, to celebrate active women up and down the country who are doing their thing no matter what anybody else thinks, how they look or how red their faces get.
It is time for women to forget the myth that using weights in their workout will turn them into an Arnold Schwarzenegger look-alike. It is time to start supporting This Girl Can and listening to the scientific facts.
Firstly, females have considerably less testosterone in their bodies than males therefore, it is a lot harder for them to gain muscle. In fact, a total-body weight training programme using light to medium weights is an effective way to strip fat that is covering muscle; giving that ‘toned’ body that most women desire.
In a recent poll, 72 per cent of female students questioned said that they include weight training in their weekly workouts. It’s time the remaining 28 per cent join the rest and reap the benefits of the This Girl Can philosophy!
Penn State researchers put the benefits of weight lifting to the test by placing dieters into three groups: no exercise, cardio exercise only, and cardio exercise and weight training. All lost twenty-one Ibs, except the lifters, who lost six more lbs. This was because the group that carried out weight training lost almost pure fat whilst the others lost a mixture of fat and muscle.
Muscle loss may improve your scale weight, but it doesn’t alter your reflection in the mirror as quickly. In reality, those who don’t weight train are more likely to put the weight back on.
We spoke to a variety of gym goers about their opinion on female weight training; here are some of their comments:
Heidi Olsen, 22, BA (Hons) Graphic Design student: “I don’t use weights when I go to the gym because I like to focus on my fitness. I like to think that I am strong enough and I feel more feminine with less muscles.”
Aimone Sharif, 20, Active Students leader: “I use weights to rehabilitate my knee and strengthen my muscles. However I am quite a small person so using weights does scare me because I don’t want to be super muscly. I remember seeing the weights area in de Havilland Sports Village and thinking I would never go in there! When I did, it was actually okay. Guys are not used to seeing girls there and that is why they stare! Weights are stereotypically associated with masculinity, but once I saw the science behind female weight training, I used them without thinking!”
If you would like to start incorporating weights into your workout, or want to try varying exercises in your weight training programme, here are a few to try:
Curl and press – biceps, triceps, shoulders
– Hold a 2, 3 or 4kg dumbbell in each hand, by your sides.
– Keeping you upper arms close your body, curl the dumbbells up to your shoulders.
– Extend your arms to push the dumbbells towards the ceiling whilst rotating your hands.
– Reverse the movement to lower back, to the start, and then repeat.
Weighted squat – bottom, thighs, back
– Standing, place a 10-15kg barbell over your head so that it rests on the back of your neck and shoulders. Hold it there.
– Spread your feet to roughly a shoulder’s width apart.
– Slowly bend your knees to as low as you can go and then slowly come back to a standing position.
– Make sure your heels do not come off the floor. Your chest should be proud and there should be a slight arch in your lower back.
– Try and complete 3 sets of 12 reps.
3 point Russian twist – stomach, core, sides
– Sit on the floor with your upper body slightly reclined holding a 2, 4 or 6kg medicine ball.
– Twist your upper body to the left, bringing the medicine ball towards the floor, then do the same on the right side.
– Now, extend your body without letting your arms or legs touch the floor, taking the medicine ball overhead as you do.
– Return to the start position and do 3 sets of 15 reps.