Cardio is a fantastic form of exercise, but cardio alone is not the best way to lose fat and build lean muscle. If you’re looking to up your workout game, combining cardio with strength training will help you do just that.
Here are five reasons why you should try strength training, as well as how to incorporate this exercise into your workout routine.
As unfair as it may seem, women typically have more body fat than men. In fact, a healthy woman might have a body composition of 20 to 25% body fat, while a healthy man generally carries less than 15% body fat.
Because women biologically start with more fat, it can be challenging for them to lose it. But regular strength training can help, since building muscle burns fat! And the more muscle mass you have, the more calories and fat you’ll burn, no matter where it’s stored. That means you don’t have to “spot treat” a “problem area” when you’re focused on building muscle all over your body.
It turns out that women really don’t have to worry about gaining too much bulk, since testosterone has to be present for that to happen — and women have a lot less testosterone than men do.
Because you’re more likely to lose inches with regular strength training, you can slim down and tone up in the areas you’re looking to improve. You can further prevent “bulk” (while still toning your body) by combining weights with cardio, and by limiting your time on each muscle group.
Another perk of strength training is that it speeds up your metabolism, the rate at which your body processes food for energy and burns calories. Your metabolism works constantly to give your body the energy it needs to produce oxygen, circulate blood, grow and repair cells, and more — even while you’re resting.
Women usually have a lower metabolism than men, but regular strength training can increase your resting metabolic rate (RMR) by up to 7%. The higher your RMR, the more calories your body burns throughout the day, even when you’re not working out. Another great way to keep up your metabolism is to drink ice water and green tea before and after you work out.
30 minutes of high-intensity resistance training, just two times a week, will help you increase your bone density and, in turn, reduce your chances of developing osteoporosis. And muscle-strengthening activities will preserve or increase your muscle mass, which is necessary for overall bone and joint health.
Thin, postmenopausal women have the highest risk of osteoporosis, but you can incorporate resistance training into your workout routine at any age to fight off the disease. In addition to lifting weights and other strength-focused workouts, getting enough calcium and vitamin D will also help you build up and protect your bones.
Many women think of cardio when they want to focus on heart-healthy workouts, but strength training is also valuable in fighting off cardiovascular disease. Because weightlifting and resistance training increases lean muscle mass, it helps your cardiovascular system direct pumped blood throughout your body, which relieves pressure on your arteries.
With regular strength training, you can also lower your blood pressure, sleep better, and lower cholesterol — which are all great for heart health. Studies have even shown that weightlifting can lower your risk of a heart attack or stroke.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends resistance training at least twice a week. You should focus on a different muscle group each time you hit the weights or the mat, with at least two days of rest between strength-training workouts.
Try eight to 12 repetitions (reps) of an activity, or until you work your muscles to the point where it’s difficult to do another rep.
Make sure you’re using the correct form so you don’t injury yourself. A personal trainer can help you make sure you’re being safe and using the right technique.
If you’re new (or returning) to strength training, pick up a light weight that you can lift or push at least eight times before having to rest. Once it becomes easier to lift this, gradually increase your weights by about two to 10 percent.
Any weight-bearing exercises that use free weights, machines, or your body’s resistance are great options for strength training. You have plenty of options, including:
Plus, your local YMCA has socially distanced group fitness classes that incorporate strength training:
Now that you know why (and how) you should try strength training, all that’s left to do is find an exercise you love!
If you’re not sure where to start, or if you’d like some guidance while beginning your strength training routine, talk to a personal trainer. They’ll help you create a safe, effective workout plan so you can shred fat, gain strength, and live a healthier life.
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