“We must train from the inside out. Using our strengths to attack and nullify any weaknesses. It’s not about denying a weakness may exist, but about denying its right to persist.” — Vince McConnell
People often express to me that they feel resistance training is unnecessary to achieving sustained weight loss and that it will make them bulky versus lean. I’ll address those two myths in this article. I’ll also outline the importance of toning your body to achieve the look you want.
Weight training was intimidating when I first began it. I didn’t see value in it and was afraid I might injure myself. But after taking a leap of faith, I felt and saw positive results within a few weeks in terms of weight loss, having more energy, and having a better shape to my physique.
Studies show that beginners working out with weights for four weeks can build three pounds of lean muscle and lose four pounds of fat. One pound of muscle typically results in your body (at rest) burning an average of 30 extra calories a day.
So, if a beginner builds four pounds of muscles in a month, they are burning an extra 840 calories a week (4 pounds times 30 calories times seven days) outside of the gym. Remember, in order to lose one pound of fat you have to burn 3,500 calories, so why not turn your body into a calorie-burning machine?
Cardiovascular activities such as running or walking are also a key part of a workout, but they will not change the shape of your body. Nor will cardio permanently increase your metabolism (how many calories your body burns naturally).
A woman told me the other day, “I don’t use weights. I don’t want to look like a bodybuilder.” Truthfully, most women can’t look like bodybuilders. Women lack the amount of testosterone (one of the main hormones responsible for increasing muscle size) to look that muscular. Women who achieve an extremely muscular physique (female bodybuilders) unfortunately are often using anabolic steroids (synthetic testosterone) along with other drugs to achieve that extreme muscular look.
In addition, muscular women who you may see in the gym don’t look that way by accident. They not only have an incredible work ethic and genetics, but they also spend hours in the gym lifting heavy weights. I personally am not looking for that extremely muscular look, so most days I work out with lighter weights for more repetitions.
Lastly, muscle is denser than fat, meaning one pound of muscle takes up less space than fat. So there’s no need to worry that building 10 pounds of muscle over the course of a year will bulk you up. It will, however, speed up your metabolism, change the shape of your body to your liking, and give you long-term health benefits.
The Mayo Clinic website provides some great pointers on the benefits of lifting weights. I’ve listed and expanded on them below. I added point #2 because it’s often overlooked by many.
1) Control your weight. As you gain muscle, your body becomes an “engine” to burn more calories, which can result in weight loss. The more toned your muscles, the easier it is to control your weight.
2) Reshape your body. Resistance training allows you to gradually customize the shape of your body. You can lift your glutes, permanently shrink your waist, or create the illusion of a smaller midsection by emphasizing your shoulders.
3) Manage chronic conditions. Strength training can reduce signs and symptoms of many chronic conditions, including arthritis, back pain, depression, diabetes and obesity.
4) Develop strong bones. Strength training increases bone density and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
5) Reduce risk of injury. Building muscle helps protect your joints from injury and also contributes to better balance and maintaining independence as you age.
6) Sharpen your focus. Research suggests that regular strength training helps improve mental focus and ability to deal with stress.
While cardio helps you burn fat and lose weight, strength training helps you sculpt your physique the way you desire. For example, like most, I initially started my fitness journey with cardio. But as I lost weight, I simply became a smaller version of myself. That was fine, but because I have a large chest, my posture was sometimes stooped.
By learning the correct exercises to strengthen my lower back, abdominals and upper back, I now have good posture, which is crucial for anyone seeking to look stunning! And let’s be honest: When you walk in a room, you want to command attention; a toned body will definitely get you there.
In my next column, I will talk more about specific exercises for specific looks, proper form for those exercises, and why those particular exercises are useful.
Mayo Clinic information available at www.mayoclinic.com/health/strength-training/HQ01710.
Latrice Marie welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit her at www.facebook.com/pages/Latrice-Marie/489150201109966.