Growing up as an athlete, I thrived on my athletic ability and my high level of endurance. It shaped me into achieving the fitness level I have today…with the help of some other factors. After sustaining serious leg injuries my senior year of high school, I had to adapt to my new limitations and physical restrictions. Not only did I have to take a break from sports and working out, but I literally had to learn how to walk again. Physical therapy involved rebuilding the muscle mass and strength that I had lost, while allowing my injuries to fully heal. Although it was a long and challenging process, I learned how to use weight training in my workout regimen, and the benefits were great for me. Over the years following, I relied heavily on weight training, as running/jogging were no longer an option. And I fell in love with it and the way it has changed my body, and provided me with greater strength and stability.
Now, it’s a common misconception (in females especially) that “lifting” will cause you to “bulk up” – which isn’t really the look women are usually looking for. Personally, I’ve found it to do the opposite. While I have noticeable muscle definition, I am more lean and toned. The lack of testosterone in women (comparable to men) prevents our muscles from developing too largely. Men generally have a higher caloric intake as well, which is needed to develop larger muscles (on top of having all that testosterone!) Unless you’re a body-building fitness competitor, a normal diet and workout routine will not cause you to become a beast. But….if you want to be a beast you may need to read a different blog. I don’t have the same dedication those people have!
So what are the benefits of weight training/lifting?
Tones you up – Like I said earlier, I’ve noticed my body to be more toned as a result from lifting weights. Lifting heavier weight reshapes your muscle and fires more muscle fibers – which gives you a more toned look (which is better than skinny-fat, by the way). So the more toned and shapely you want your muscles to become, the heavier you should lift. If you stick to strict cardio, you may be burning fat – but you’re also burning muscle and not building it.
Increases metabolic rate – The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. Not only do you burn calories more effectively during your workout, but you continue to burn calories post-workout — for up to 24 hours! This is because your muscle fibers are still firing and recovering after weight lifting, which also burns calories. Bottom line – the higher your metabolic rate the more calories you will burn (and can intake).
Improve stability and strength – Increasing your strength from weight training is a no-brainer, but I’ve found to have more stability and functionality also. Having a strong muscle base helps with everyday activities, which can in turn prevent injury and fatigue. Stronger muscles help support the joints and help in preventing arthritis as we age. Having osteoarthritis and scar tissue in my legs, I’ve found that strengthening my leg muscles with weight training significantly helps reduces discomfort and swelling, and improves my stability.
Here’s a nice diagram that explains the benefits to weight lifting compared to running. (hopefully you can read it)