I’ve seen many women look at lifting weights to only make you bulky and cause destruction to your body. Although this may be true in some cases, lifting weights has the ability to shape your body like no other. It has the ability to create the body your looking for that other people will envy. So this idea of “lifting can make you look like a monster”, is not common at all when you are training naturally. However if you are wanting to grow big, clear muscles, that is totally achievable if that is what you are going for, you see, weight training has a wide variety of outcomes, it’s all about how you train and eat, this combination is what creates results. Many women reside to aerobic exercises and they believe that cardio is optimal for transforming their body and losing fat. Evidence proves the following.
However, take a look at this next graph.
As you can see, aerobic training may have induced more fat loss, but there was a decrease in lean body mass. This implies that if you only do aerobic training you will lose mostly fat and some muscle, therefore your body has lost structure and you may go from fat to skinny fat, which is when one looks skinny but is out of shape because of low lean body mass, and still holds fat around typical areas of the body such as love handles, arms, and chest. This will not be optimal for creating a structured and curvy body that you may be trying to reach.
On the other hand, resistance training and aerobics created the most change in fat mass, while lean mass was produced, as well as fat being burned, so this duo of training has the potential to transform your body most effectively. What is proven to be optimal to gaining structure and losing weight is to start a strength training/hypertrophy program, otherwise known as a “powerbuilding” type program, that will include low volume, high intensity multi joint exercises, such as squats, bench, rows, deadlift, and overhead press to help bone density and creating a healthy, strong body. As well as low intensity, with prolonged TUT (Time Under Tension) accessory movements, such as isolation movements (curls, leg extension, face pulls), bodyweight exercises (dips, pull up, plank), this will allow you to focus on the contraction of the muscles and creating that mind-muscle connection that will spark muscle growth. Then, add in some type of aerobic exercise, such as walking, biking, swimming, to create results that will shape you, as well as make you look slimmer. Keep in mind lifting weights does take up a sufficient amount of energy, so aerobic exercises do not need to be too intense as it could be detrimental for your body and the recovery process, unless you are involving proper nutrition and recovery time for the intense aerobics.
This bring me to the importance of diet for creating desired results, because without a proper diet you will get slower to no results. Through the combination of training and dieting is when your results will come faster and more noticeably. If you are looking to lose weight, then a caloric deficit will achieve this goal (I recommend an Intermittent Fasting diet plan for losing weight). In terms of how much of a deficit you should be on, I would suggest no more or less than 200-400 cut in calories from the maintenance calorie count, according to the little/no exercise level in this daily calorie calculator, but this can vary from person to person. On the other hand, if you are looking to gain weight, strength training and a surplus in maintainence calories is the way to go, as it will fill your body out with mostly lean mass. Most importantly, in order to recover properly after training you must get in a sufficient amount of protein (Check how much protein you need here) and glycogen to repair and refuel your muscles. This will allow for maximized results and better workouts in gym, rather than being fatigued and weak in the gym. Also gut health is a huge contribution in how your food is taken in, if you have bad gut health (don’t digest food well/diarrhea/constipation/gassiness) please think about investing in a probiotic, apple cider vinegar (helps body create HCl, which is a helpful belly acid to digest macro nutrients) , or eat foods with good bacteria such as fruits, vegetable, animal protein, and yogurt to help digest food properly.
Now, let me tell you some good news, the combination of strength and aerobic exercises takes up a significant amount of energy and will allow you to consume more calories! It is a well known fact that gaining muscle and strength makes the body use up calories more efficiently, and weight training in general can cause you to burn calories during and even after the workout, while aerobic only allows for calories burned during the exercise. So if you add the two types of exercise together you will experience more calories being burned, even while lean mass is being created. You can include more calories into your diet by gauging how many more calories you feel like you need to recover properly after your lifting routine and adding calories expended during aerobic exercise.
Benefits of lifting weights consist of an increase in the body’s mobility and balance, strength, more calorie consumption, more lean body mass, bone health, sleep quality, heart health, and a decrease in stress.
Benefits of aerobic exercise include strengthening of the heart, increased stamina, reduced stress/promotes good mood, and helps with losing weight.
Now combine the two and get the best of both worlds!
If you are clueless on how to start lifting in the gym I have created a full body split program revolved around the idea of “powerbuilding” that was previously stated.
Add weights to exercises at your own pace, but remember the weights you use should be manageable and not too heavy where you are grinding out reps during the middle of the sets, since that will make gaining strength more difficult and not as efficient. Feel free to change the programming to what works best for you and what specific goals you are training for, but this will be a great premise to starting your journey in the gym to recreate your body and mind.
Aerobic exercises should be incorporated after lifting sessions or during off days. Pre-workout cardio is not suggested, as intensive cardio depletes glycogen easily and can make you feel weaker than usual if you start lifting after a prolonged cardio session.