Regardless if you want to lean out, bulk up, increase athletic performance, increase overall strength or just for general health, weight training (strength or resistance training, whatever you may call it) is ABSOLUTELY necessary. These days, with multiple commercial/local/private gyms sprouting up everywhere, it is clearly evident that weight training has gained much deserved popularity and is proven to be very important for overall fitness. So much so that it has actually become an industry itself!
I believe that if someone who wants to get fitter, stronger or healthier, they should DEFINITELY begin with weight training or including some form of weight training in their routine, regardless if you're male or female.
Benefits of weight-training
1. Builds more muscle, which increases metabolism and burn more calories, even at REST! Each lb of lean muscle is estimated to burn an additional 30-50 calories per day
2. Helps to lose fat and get leaner due to increased metabolism and calorie-burning. Although you do burn calories during actual workout, most of the increased calorie burning comes from the post-workout increased metabolic rate.
3. Prevents metabolism from slowing down.
4. Prevents LBM loss as you age, which in turn prevents metabolism from slowing down.
5. Strengthens, tones and gives definition to your muscles, which gives your body a better shape and look good.
6. Makes you look and feel fitter, stronger and more confident.
7. Enables you to EAT MORE to support weight-training, increased metabolism, and feed your muscles for growth and recovery! Bottom-line, you can EAT MORE!
8. Increases muscular endurance.
9. Strengthens bones and joints, thus decreases risk of ostereoperosis and arthritis.
10. Broadens your upper body, which also makes you look leaner.
1. Won't I get bulky and look too big if I lift weights?
NO, YOU WON'T! It's a common misconception that most people, who have never lifted weights in their life, will have. You won't pick up a dumbbell and look like a huge bodybuilder in posters and magazines. Besides, it's NOT easy to go that big. It requires eating a LARGE amount of calories daily and a lot of supplements, coupled with high frequency and intensity training consistently for years to achieve that huge and bulky body. For average joes like you and me, we will just gain enough LBM to make us look fitter and stronger, not huge and bulky.
2. Why do females need to lift weights? Won't that make us look muscular like guys?
Again, a common question. If you want to tone up, lifting weights and doing cardio is the way to go. Both compliment each other and provide optimal results. You might get fitter and stronger, but you will not develop large muscles like guys do. This is because, to gain muscle mass, you need testosterone which exists very little in the female body. Therefore, weight training will help you TONE UP and get stronger, NOT get big like guys. You'd be surprised that some female bodybuilders actually get testosterone injections to get bigger and bulky!
3. How often should I train per week?
If you're just starting out, it's usually recommended to start with 3 times per week, on alternate days. Then, you can increase or maintain the same frequency or adjust your routine. The variations in routines are endless. The max frequency you should go is probably 5 times per week, and this are for more advanced trainees.
4. What sort of routine should I do?
For beginners (or even advanced trainees), you can begin with full/total-body training 3 times per week. For this, you should place priority on the largest muscle groups in your body; chest, shoulders, back and quad/hams (legs). The smaller muscle groups like biceps, triceps, calves and forearms can be worked as needed or left for the end of the session. Working out largest muscle groups with compound exercises gives you the best results and burns the MOST calories.
You can also do splits, which target a specific muscle group each day. For example, Monday; chest, Tuesday; shoulders/triceps, Wednesday; back/abs etc. The variations in routines are endless and its up to you on which suits you best to give the best results or suits your schedule.
For exercises and lifting methods, you can do some research online or just engage your local gym instructors to learn with correct exercises to target each muscle group and the correct form or technique to do it to avoid injuries.
5. I just need to lose fat, should I just do cardio only?
First, take care of your diet. Then, focus on your training. When beginning a fitness training program, I'd usually recommend starting out with weight training first, then adding cardio. People usually underestimate or are unaware of the effects that weight training has for improving your physique and outlook. Cardio IS a good way to burn a lot of calories (if done with enough frequency and intensity) and definitely important in weight management, but it does not help to build or maintain lean muscle. When dieting and training to lose fat, it's even more vital to include weight training to maintain or even slightly increase lean body mass (LBM). If you don't have much lean mass and are overweight, dieting and doing only cardio will burn both fat and whatever small amounts of muscle that you have, making you a weaker and smaller version of yourself, or possibly even becoming 'skinny fat'. Let's face it, looking small and thin with no lean muscle isn't very nice to look at, right? You'd just look emaciated and people around you will feel compelled to feed you!
The exception for this are people who are very overweight or obese, who need to start out slowly with mild cardio and then go into weight training when they've lost a lot of fat. This is because they are not in a good condition to start out with strenuous exercise, have A LOT more fat to burn off and their body will mostly target fat stores to burn. If you're an average joe with very small amounts of LBM and are slightly overweight, start training with weights first to increase metabolism and then add some cardio.
Remember, more muscle = higher metabolism = burn more calories!
6. I need to lose fat, so should I do high rep, light weights only?
Another common misconception. Just ask yourself this, which would help you burn more calories? Lifting 20 reps with 5 lbs weights, or lifting 8-12 reps with 30 lbs weights? I think it's obvious, right? Even if you're trying to lose fat, it's always best to lift with moderate or heavy weights for about 8-12 reps to optimize calorie-burning. You should choose a weight that's challenging and can maintain for 8-12 reps. Another reason for this is that your body will recognize a need to maintain muscle to sustain the physical workout and is less likely to burn it off, making you body target fat stores more.