By Ashley Nutt
Long gone are the days of women getting “bulky” from lifting weights!
You may have noticed on Instagram or TikTok – “muscle mommies” are everywhere! And for a good reason, and no, it’s not all for vanity.
But this isn’t a recent development. Over the last 5 years, I’ve noticed a change in the gym. More women are venturing away from the cardio section and into the weight room. More women are lifting weights, building muscles, and embracing their bodies – not spending hours on the hamster wheel treadmill.
I’ve been in the fitness industry for nearly a decade now. I’ve always encouraged women to take up space in the gym, specifically the weight room – it’s kind of my thing. It’s also my motto that the body you want most likely has more muscle on it than you believe.
But building muscle also has benefits for women’s hormones and long-term health. Let’s dive in!
Why lifting weights is important for women:
1. Lifting weights builds muscle. Muscle mass helps increase your metabolism.
When you are struggling with hormonal imbalances or even going into perimenopause, menopause, and post menopause, your metabolism naturally slows. If your metabolism is slower, it makes it more difficult for your body to detox and impacts your ability to lose weight and keep it off (if that’s your goal – shrinking our bodies is not mandatory). By focusing more on muscle building over cardio, women can build a healthy metabolism while supporting their hormones with low intensity workouts. When our body’s metabolism is functioning properly, we have more flexibility with our goals too – whether that’s weight loss, visible muscle, strength gain, or general health! And as a bonus, a higher metabolism and more muscle also makes it more forgiving if we want to have a couple margaritas and chips and guac. Your body won’t be holding onto that and have weight fluctuations!
2. Strength training lowers androgen levels.
You know those little black hairs on your face or maybe you have adult acne? Yeah, I’ve been there too, and it’s not fun, right? These symptoms are typically because of increased androgens for women with hormonal imbalances or changing hormones. Luckily, strength training decreases androgens and can reduce those pesky symptoms.
3. Strength training reduces insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance does have similar unwanted symptoms as higher androgen levels – excess hair, skin tags, and more – on my! But one annoying (and very stubborn) symptom is increased belly fat. If you are carrying extra weight around your midsection, you may want to lean into your insulin resistance levels. Most people believe cardio and a ton of sit ups will do the trick to reduce belly fat. However, cardio can do the opposition and increase belly fat, especially if you’re focused on higher intensity cardio that produces more cortisol. Instead of cardio, strength training can improve your insulin resistance and decrease belly fat.
Side note: I do care about your heart health. Cardio is important! But be strategic about how long you’re spending in your higher zone cardio, as that’s what triggers a cortisol response and can cause midsection weight gain. Lower zone cardio will burn more fat and support your muscle growth!
4. Finally, strength training can be used as a preventative method!
It’s no secret that as women age, we lose muscle mass and bone density much quicker. Guess what strength training does? Helps women maintain their muscle mass and bone density. It also helps prevent diseases, cancers, and diabetes. And for a fun bonus! Strength training does have an anti-aging effect on women too!
I do understand the fear that women will get “bulky” or “manly” if they lift weights. I’m here to tell you that I’ve been trying to get “bulky” for the last 10+ years, and I have yet to do it!
In all seriousness, it’s a valid fear. However, women do not have the hormones or genetics to get “bulky”. It would take steroids to do so, and that’s not what we are about! So please do not fear getting bulky.
But there’s a way for you to see amazing results, while feeling your very best, and supporting your hormones along the way: weightlifting!
If you want to talk more about weightlifting and your experience with it, I’d love to hear from you: [email protected].
If you want more resources on cardio and heart rate zones, check out this blog on my website: https://actionashleycoaching.com/blog/what-is-zone-training/