Why Women Should Lift Weights

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Magazines tell us how to look good by sculpting our shoulders. We are encouraged to lose weight and tone up, but are we really getting stronger? Physical strength is not only important, but also empowering for women. Here's how to get strong, and why you should:

4 Keys to Strength Training

1. High Intensity Intervals

These circuit exercises are short in duration (between five and 20 minutes) and usually involve more than one repetitive movement. You will be breathing hard and they may have you teetering on the edge of passing out.

Even though this type of training tends to be short, it increases your metabolism rate and burns calories even after you've finished. You may be sore for days.

2. Weight Lifting

Many women are convinced that lifting weights will transform them into fist-pounding, growling wrestling stars. I get it. No woman wants to look freakishly ripped. However, unless a woman is taking large doses of hormones and eating pounds of protein a day, she won't be able to look like a man.

Women don't have enough testosterone to get the big muscles. A program of whole body functional movements (lunges, dead lifts, squats, presses) with low repetitions of progressively heavier weights will make you stronger, not bigger. This is key.

3. Running and Cycling

Runs are usually high intensity intervals or some kind of speed work, fairly short in duration. For longer runs or bike rides, hit the trails for even greater benefits and to keep you engaged.

4. Mobility and Flexibility

Try rolling out your quads and calves. You can also hit the trigger points on your hips, knees, Achilles and glutes with a lacrosse ball. Do some hip flexor stretches. Aim to accumulate about 30 minutes of this work throughout the day, or wake up early to get it done. The benefits will be long-term.  

The Benefits

One of the biggest and most important benefits of strength training is that it can keep you injury-free. Here are an additional five benefits for women:

1. Strength training can help you lose weight.

Too many women focus on cardio workouts or diets alone for weight loss. In reality, our muscles are the "engines" that actually burn the calories we consume. If we don't use that engine and keep it progressively tuned, it can't burn the fuel. Strength training is a powerful tool to help you achieve your goal weight.

2. Strength training can help reduce stress.

If you're looking for something cathartic, try a good strength workout. There is nothing more stress-relieving than deadlifts, kettlebell swings or ball slamming. Heavy work raises the levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain. Most antidepressants work by doing the same thing. Strength work can give you a happy boost and calm you down as well.