Weight lifting can be a little intimidating for women since most think they will get big muscles if they lift weights. Fact is, very few women will get big muscles from lifting weights because they lack the main hormone called testosterone. Without testosterone you won’t build big muscles, and this goes for both men and women.
You may ask why men? Well, if you’re sedentary and eat a junk food diet your testosterone levels can plummet. Not only that, but as you get older your levels of testosterone naturally decline, especially if you’re not active and eating properly. This is why you see so many men with a lot of fat around their waistline and their once muscular chest is now nothing more than man boobs.
As men age their testosterone levels drop and their estrogen levels increase. Estrogen is not only a female hormone as men have some as well.
A good rule of thumb for males is to have a testosterone level 30-50 times higher than your estrogen levels. For example, if your total testosterone levels are 700 ng/dL, then your estrogen levels should fall somewhere between 14 pg/mL and 33 pg/mL.
Okay, so back to weight lifting. Now that we know that most women lack the testosterone to build big muscle, we can focus on why all men and women who are interested in losing weight should be lifting weights in combination with cardio exercise for optimal weight loss results.
The type of weight lifting you do really depends on your body type shape, current physical condition, exercise experience, and so on.
As a general rule of thumb, if your goals are to lose weight and tone up you will need to incorporate resistance training into your weight loss program. As a matter of fact, doing both resistance training followed by aerobic exercise can result in a significant amount of fat loss when compared to doing only resistance training or cardio exercise by itself.
Starting out it’s best to use weight machines until you become familiar with the exercises and lifting techniques to build your strength and then you can progress at some point to incorporate using free weights as well.
The idea is to start out on a circuit. Most all gyms have a circuit of exercise machines that work all parts of the body. Starting out, you may want to concentrate on just your upper body one day and then lower body the next. If you are in fairly good shape and already have been working out, then you can try and do a full circuit of exercises that work both the upper and lower body all in one session.
To get the full benefit of this type of workout, you should use a weight light enough so you are able to perform between 12-15 repetitions per exercise. Once you complete one exercise you would rest for 30 seconds and then proceed to the next. Since every person is different you may need longer or shorter rest times between the exercises. The key is to rest just long enough to regain your breath and allow your heart rate to return within 20 beats of your resting heart rate.
I like to use a chest strap heart rate monitor with all my clients so I can gauge their recovery. For example, if before starting the exercise program you have a resting heart rate of 80 beats per minute, you would rest between exercises until your heart rate recovered to within 20 beats per minute. So, let’s say your heart rate got up to 120 beats per minute after doing the first exercise. You’d simply rest long enough to allow your heart rate to decrease to 100 beats per minute.
If you’re more advanced, you may not want to rest as long and keep your heart rate up the entire time. This is okay as well and is very good for developing more stamina.
If you’re already familiar with lifting weights and have some exercise experience, you can do a HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout using the exercise machines exercising your upper and lower body all in one day. However, I only recommend this to people who have experience lifting weights because this type of training can cause injury.
You basically do one full round on the exercise circuit working both upper and lower body doing only 10 repetitions per exercise using a very light weight to warm up the muscles. You would then stretch your muscles for 5-10 minutes and then you are ready to start the HIIT circuit.
Start out with any machine you like as it doesn’t matter. For example, you may start out working shoulders on one day, then on your next workout session, you start out with leg extensions.
Start the exercise using a weight light enough that you can perform at least 15 repetitions with ease. The idea is to do the exercise as fast as you can while maintaining a controlled rhythm. Never jerk the weight or your body during the exercise or you risk injury. You should easily be able to perform 15 repetitions. I say easy because if the weight starts to get heavy you will slow down and then try to compensate by jerking your body which would risk injury.
Using light weight doing fast repetitions is the key here. After you complete the exercise take a look at your heart rate monitor. If you’re at an advanced level of exercise your heart rate should be 90% of it’s maximum. For example, if you are 30 years of age, your maximum heart rate would be 220 minus your age which in this case would be 190 beats per minute. That means your heart rate should have reached upwards of 171bpm after completing the exercise. If not, then either do more repetitions or immediately proceed to the next exercise.
Once you achieve 171bpm, you can rest until your heart rate decreases 30-40 beats and then proceed to the next exercise. Do the entire circuit working both upper and lower body.
Now you may wonder how many exercise machines you should use? Well, that is a good question since an exercise circuit could consist of 8 machines at one gym or 20 at another. The main thing to remember is to use machines that will exercise all of your major muscle groups. Your legs, calves, chest, back, arms, shoulders, and abdominal muscles. As a matter of fact you can skip the abdominal muscles if you like and work them at another time when you’re not doing the HIIT workout.
A word of caution here. Always perform each and every exercise controlling the weight the entire time. Never jerk the weight or relax your muscles during the entire movement or you risk injury.
Another thing you are probably wondering is how many sets or rounds you should do on the circuit? Well, it really depends on your current level of fitness. Some people will be exhausted after doing one round of working their entire body, while others may be able to repeat the process and go for round 2 or even round 3. In any case HIIT workouts are intensive and there really is no reason to work yourself to complete exhaustion as this could stress your body and cause your cortisol levels to spike or even cause injury. I recommend no more than about 20 minutes of total time on the exercise circuit from start to finish if you’re doing a HIIT style workout no matter how advanced your level of fitness may be.
Anyone can do HIIT workouts if they are physically healthy enough to do so. However, when attempting to do a HIIT workout on an exercise circuit using weighted machines, I recommend you have weight lifting experience to avoid injury.
This type of HIIT training does two things. It increases HGH (human growth hormone) and it decreases insulin levels. This makes for a perfect recipe of putting your body into the ultimate fat burning mode.
So, to take advantage of this fat burning mode your body is in, I highly recommend you immediately start an aerobic cardio session using a treadmill or stationary bike and do 20-45 minutes at a steady pace keeping your heart rate at 70% to 75% of its maximum once you complete the HIIT workout.
The more body fat you have the better results you will see. What’s good about this type of HIIT workout is it also targets stubborn body fat so your hard to lose areas will shrink down faster than ever before.
Another advantage of doing this type of exercise is during the recovery phase your body will use fatty acids that were released from stored fat during the HIIT workout to replenish lost glycogen stores in the muscles and liver. This is referred to as EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) and your body can continue to burn fat for up to 48 hours after this type of workout according to some studies.
How often can you lift weights?
If your primary goal is weight loss you can lift weights up to 5 consecutive days per week working the same body part if you are using light weights, doing no more than 2 sets per body part, and not doing the HIIT workout. After you complete your weight lifting session head over to the treadmill or stationary bike if you want to burn some fat for 20-45 minutes.
Here’s a good outline to follow
1. Warm up on treadmill for 5-10 minutes
2. Complete 1 round on a circuit at a normal pace to warm up the muscles you will be exercising
3. Stretch for 5-10 minutes
4. Begin the circuit at a normal pace or by doing a HIIT style circuit workout if you already have experience with lifting weights
5. Aerobic exercise using a treadmill or stationary bike for 20-45 minutes
6. Cool down for 5-10 minutes
7. Stretch for 5-10 minutes
The above workout is the proper way to complete everything from start to finish if you want to incorporate weight lifting in your weight loss program. However, as you can see it may easily take an hour or more to complete it all if you want to take full advantage of the fat burning mode your body is in by walking a treadmill or riding a stationary bike.
There are many other forms of weight lifting you can do besides using machines. I am in the process of writing an article on this and will have it available within a day or two, so bookmark this page and come back soon to learn more valuable information when it comes to weight lifting and improving your physique.