In a world where everyone obsesses about slimming down, the fear of “bulking up” keeps many – especially women – away from the gym.
But a good strength training program can help women of all ages stay fit and healthy, says Holly Perkins, founder of Women’s Strength Nation and author of “Lift to Get Lean.”
Training with weights can boost a woman’s energy level. It also helps her to reduce body fat and curb food cravings that are dangerous to her long-term health, Perkins says.
Best of all, there is almost no risk of bulking up if you do it right.
“If you start gently and if you build gradually and you take your time and learn good technique, you’re not going to accidentally get big and bulky,” Perkins says.
Why women should lift weights
Many people do not understand the importance of lifting weights, particularly as we get older.
“Our body is held up in space because of our musculature,” Perkins says.
As we age, our bodies lose muscle through a process called age-related sarcopenia.
“That has profound implications on how we hold our body up energetically in space,” Perkins says. “Strength training is the only way – legitimately the only way – that you’re able to improve the balance of your body and how you hold yourself up in space.”
Strength training can boost your energy level and stamina throughout the day, she adds.
In addition, improving lean muscle mass allows you to optimize your natural hormonal balance, Perkins says. In this way, strength training helps:
- Optimize inherent levels of testosterone
- Reduce overproduction of estrogen
- Improve lean muscle mass, which also helps you reduce and manage body fat
“Strength training is one of the best ways that you can actually improve how your body is managing the carbohydrates that you’re eating,” Perkins says.
Obstacles women and face – and how to overcome them
Traditionally, the field of weight training has been focused on – and dominated by – men. Perkins says this fact can pose an obstacle for women.
“A woman’s body physiologically and biomechanically is radically different than a man’s,” she says.
In fact, women often do not get the best advice when they seek out guidance from a male source.
“A lot of male experts talk from personal experience,” Perkins says. “They are men, not women – they don’t have any idea what it’s like to live inside a woman’s body.”
In addition, much of the research that has been published on strength training is focused on college-age men. “That science isn’t relevant to a woman who is 32,” Perkins says.
For these reasons, women need to seek out sources that are tailored to their own strength-training needs, she says.
“For years and years and years, I learned by male experts,” Perkins says. “And it wasn’t working.”
Choosing the right strength-training program
Perkins says women who want to begin lifting weights should not try to figure out how to do so on their own.
“There are so many free resources and low-cost resources,” she says. “Get your hands on a strength-training program that is designed for your specific goal.”
When looking for the right program, make sure it is designed by a “vetted, bona fide, educated and credentialed expert,” Perkins says.
“Don’t buy a strength plan from the sexy girl on Instagram who has a great body,” Perkins says. “Buy it from someone who has the education, who is a certified personal trainer.”
Perkins offers her own free six-week strength training program at her website. But she says other options abound.
“There are so many people like me out there who are creating free resources for people,” she says.
The key is to look for an expert who “has worked with people, who really and legitimately knows the science of strength-training,” Perkins says.