It’s still a big misconception that lifting weights, heavy weights, will make you bulky or ‘manly’ which seems to be the main reason why most women avoid doing it. However, this is absolute nonsense! The images you see of ‘bulky’ women online…this DID NOT happen overnight or by mistake. These women will have been training HARD for years and years and be eating in such a calorific surplus in order to gain this extra muscle. People like you and me who go to the gym 4, 5 or even 6 times a week for an hour or two, WILL NOT end up looking like this!

According to the National Centre for Health Statistics, out of all the women who go to the gym, only 20% will practice lifting weights as a form of strength training because they don’t want to look big and muscly.

We think this is such a shame because lifting weights is an amazing way to loose fat, look lean and to get fitter and get stronger…for both men AND women. Who says women have to be these fragile little things who don’t belong in the free weights section at the gym?!

The Benefits
Weight lifting, or resistance training, will help you to build lean muscle mass which not only keeps you healthy, it also means you will speed up your metabolism which means you can eat a tonne more food and not get fat or put on weight! Who doesn’t want to be able to eat whatever they like and not gain an ounce of fat?? The reason many of these social media influencers can do the 10k calorie challenges on YouTube and not look much different is because they have been able to speed up their metabolisms by building so much muscle…not that we are condoning trying to EVER eat that much food.

Lifting weights also has many other health benefits which include – a decreased risk of osteoporosis, reduced back pain and enhanced mood. 

Here are some tips on how you can get going…

Wear the right shoes
When lifting weights, it’s important to wear the right kind of foot wear. Trainers with a flat sole are the best, especially on leg day when you need to be as stable as possible. You don’t have to spend a fortune on your trainers, just get something comfortable and flat with some support, especially around the ankles. The most popular trainers for weight lifters seems to be Adidas trainers as they offer comfort and support but the cheaper brands like Skechers also do a very comfortable range that are perfect for lifting in.

Invest in basic equipment
Some people might tell you that to be successful and to see progress when lifting, you need to have all the right gear to do so. However, this is NOT the case. The only 3 items will advise you get are…

Foam roller – this will help to prevent injury. It’s advised that you foam roll before and after, especially on leg days. The foam roller will help to get in to the deeper muscle tissue, stretching and massaging your muscles aiding in the prevention of post-workout soreness.

Resistance bands – Resistance bands are great to use for warming up to activate the muscle you are about to work but they are also a great tool to have in addition to the weights. For example, perhaps you want to use the Abductor machine to work your gluten but it’s super busy and you’re in a hurry. That’s OK, if you have your resistance bands with you, all you need to do is find a spot on the floor, bend your knees up to your chest, (heels not far from your bum, feet together), loop the resistance band around your thighs, just above your knees and while keeping your feet together, push your knees apart. You should feel this in the sides of your glutes, like a slight burning. This essentially does the same thing an Abductor machine would do.

Barbell Squat Pad – These are ESSENTIAL if you intend on doing any kind of barbell hip thrusts. It will save your hips from being badly bruised. You simply slip the pad over the bar where it will be resting on your hips (with the open side facing away from you) and you can get lifting.

Together, these items shouldn’t cost you more than about £20 and they are SO important, especially the foam roller – so if you can only afford one thing at a time, get the foam roller first as a must!

Start out light
When it comes to using the free weights, you want to start off by lifting a slightly lighter weight than you think you can do and see how it feels. It’s much better to start off lower and get the correct technique than it is to pick up a weight that’s too heavy for you and start doing a chest press that you’ve never done before! So, if you think you can do dumbbell curls with a 10kg weight, go for the 6kg instead and get a feel for the weight and how to move it correctly. Look in the mirror and watch your form, then when you feel comfortable with it, move up to the next and see how that feels. You want to be able to do about 8 reps with the weight but not be able to get to 12 reps. This would be about what is right for you. Then, when that weight feels easier or you can do 10 or more, up the weight…and keep on going!

Use the machines
Many people, especially those starting out, are intimidated by the machines and don’t want to ask some one to show them how to use it. The fact is, these machines are actually safer than using the free weights because you can’t drop the weights while your working out as they are all fixed in place and you can test the weight as you go knowing that if it’s too much, it won’t do you any damage. Also, bare in mind that most people in the gym started out where you are now once upon a time and would be more than happy to help you out if you were”t sure how something worked. That’s also why they have the staff there at the gyms to make sure the equipment is being used correctly.  

Plan ahead
Having a plan always makes thing easier, same goes for your workouts. You can either talk to a personal trainer at your gym to get a basic plan of action, focussing on the areas you want to target to begin with. Or, you can do your own research and put something together yourself. Just bare in mind that many people you see, especially on Instagram, either won’t post their entire workout or will only show you the shiny, pretty parts of the workout, so you might not be seeing the full picture. The best things to do when starting out is to take to a professional and maybe get one or two sessions booked in with a personal trainer so you know what you’re doing is correct and that you have the proper form.

Once you have your goals in mind ad have been shown how to do the exercises correctly, you can start to make your own plans or tweak them to suit you better. Many people will write down a plan of action before they go to the gym to avoid wasting time not knowing what to do next. Others, will make up a weekly or monthly plan and separate it into body parts they want to target each day. So perhaps Monday would be leg day, Tuesday would be chest and shoulders and Thursday would be back and arms. This way you are ensuring you are hitting each body part throughout the week and not overdoing one area or doing it on back to back days.

Avoid Injury
This might seem like a really obvious one but it’s so easy to do, especially when you start to lift heavier weights. You want to avoid making any jerking movements while holding/lifting weights as this is VERY likely to cause you to injure yourself…and perhaps others as well. Be aware of other people in the gym and their proximity to you. For example, look around before you start moving long barbells so you don’t clobber someone with it and definitely DO NOT swing weights around at any point! You could easily hurt some one or it might swing out of your hands and cause damage to the equipment.

We hope you found this article of interest.

Fitness Focus Team.