By the end of 2015, I decided it was time to take my exercise plan to the next level; I started resistance training with heavy weights. I wanted something that would help me burn fat, build muscle and increase my ever-slowing metabolism. Even more importantly, I wanted to get ripped and be able to wear cut off sleeves without having to hide inside a long-sleeved sweater.
While I'm not Jessica Biel yet, lifting heavy weights has changed my body, my confidence and life in general. For the better.
Why I Lift
Resistance training on a regular basis will increase your lean muscle mass and help you burn more calories. It increases your body’s ability to burn fat during and even hours after exercise due to the body’s increased need for oxygen. More oxygen = more calorie burn = increased metabolic rate (yes please!). Your body also burns more calories post-workout while repairing the muscles you’ve worked.
As your body builds muscle, it also needs to burn more calories to maintain that muscle. The more muscle you gain, the better your body becomes at burning calories, even when sleeping. Resistance training also helps promote muscle and bone health – both of which can decline in women as they age (screw you menopause).
Have a flat booty? While weight lifting might not guarantee you a Kardashian backside, it can help improve upon the curves you do have. Muscle building can lift areas that might be sagging and tighten areas that have a little extra jiggle.
After lifting heavy weights for the last six months, I also feel stronger in general. Everyday tasks just seem easier and those stairs to my train platform don’t make my legs burn like they used to. I’ve also found weight lifting to be a great reliever of stress after a long day of work. I also fall asleep faster on the nights that I lift heavy.
You Will Not Get “Bulky”
The fear of getting bulky or too muscular is a common myth for most women. My husband even expressed this fear when the heavy dumbbells and kettlebells I ordered starting arriving at my door. I explained to him that he didn’t have to worry about being married to a female bodybuilder.
Women will not get Schwarzenegger-sized muscles from lifting heavy weights; we simply lack the required amount of testosterone to build super huge muscles. In truth, female bodybuilders have to work their ass off for their muscles by spending hours each day in a gym, carefully monitoring their diet and taking additional supplementation to boot. For most women, I’m pretty sure you would not get even remotely close to this type of muscle-building action. Genetics also play a role in your ability to build muscle and contributes to the shape of those muscles as well.
What does contribute to the “bulky” look? FAT. That’s right. It doesn’t matter how much muscle mass you carry, if it’s covered in a thick layer of fat, you’re not going to see the definition of those muscles. If you’re looking to get lean and ripped like Jessica Biel, you’ll need to get your body fat percentage to around 20% or less.
More Muscle = More Weight
I feel it important to mention that muscle weighs more than fat. Women starting a resistance training routine can expect to gain weight on the scale if they are successful at gaining muscle because of this principle. Don’t let this “weight” gain put you off from resistance training. Remember, you are gaining muscle, not fat. Focus on how your body looks and how your clothes fit instead.
I experienced three months of “no weight loss” with my scale when I started weight training in late 2015. But…I lost inches all over my body and finally fit into a pair of jeans that were previously skin-tight. I started to take measurements of my chest, waist and hips and monitored my results over time. My weight on the scale didn’t budge, but my body got smaller and I could slowly start to see some muscle definition peeking out from the fat folds.
I’m currently 9 pounds from my pre-pregnancy weight, but I’ve also gained a lot of muscle to boot. I’ve dropped from a size 10 to a size 7 pant size (my goal pants are a size 6, and I’m really close! They zip up now!). More importantly, I can see the results of my hard work in my muscle definition. I’m hoping to post a pic when I get back into my pre-preggo pants to celebrate reaching my goal.
While I still have fat to lose (I’m at around 28% body fat) my arms are slimmer and more toned, my butt has lifted and my legs are leaner. More importantly, I feel more confident in my body. After having a baby, I never thought I’d be able to feel comfortable in my body again, but I’m actually in better shape now than before baby!
Not only can I see, but I can feel the progress. When I get to a point where a move isn’t as difficult on the last 1-2 repetitions, I increase my weight. There are also certain moves (like lunges) that I had difficulty performing when I first started that I no longer dread. My balance, endurance and flexibility have all improved.
I plan to do a separate blog post on my weight training routine, how to pick the right weight and the online resources I use (because I have no intention of paying for a trainer). I also incorporate cardio and HIIT workouts to burn more fat and I track my calories to ensure I’m not overeating.
*Before starting any new exercise routine, please consult with your physician.