Most women will confess they’re cardio queens when it comes to exercise. Lifting weights has that “manly” connotation, but ladies the benefits of strength training are incredible for our bodies. Set the bulking myths aside, step off the elliptical, and step into the weight room.
Strength training helps women reduce* body fat, increase* their resting metabolic rate (burning calories when not exercising sounds great to me), increase* bone mass (preventative measure for osteoporosis), decrease* muscle loss, helps reduce* chances of injuries, and helps to ward off heart disease and diabetes.
Men tend to prefer strength training as opposed to cardio. Lifting weights can actually raise the heart rate and have cardiovascular benefits. But it is true that the gym is typically divided with the women on the cardio machines and the men in the weight room.
Gender roles have changed and women are taking on a movement for their health. Twenty or so years ago, I certainly don’t remember my mother or grandmother ever going to workout. A walk around the neighborhood was activity for them and gym memberships were just sprouting besides Jazzercise for women.
Strength training involves working against a resistance. This can be performed with free weights like dumbbells or bands or by using machines.
Free weights are beneficial for a number of reasons. Using them, requires the body to use stabilization centering from the midsection (core) in order to coordinate movement patterns. The body is drawing efforts from multiple muscles simultaneously, leading to more body parts working at once.
As a trainer, most notably important is that clients can work through the full range of motion of movement patterns using free weights. A machine moves from point A to B, which is pre-determined. However, if I’m taller, wider, or more limber at certain joints, my range of motion is different from the person next to me. Dumbbells do not compromise form.
Adding to these benefits, there are so many different types of exercises involving free weights that one will rarely get bored or find their routine stagnant. Dumbbells are widely available and less expensive than machines, which means they are a great addition to a home gym.
When at a facility, there are also more dumbbells available for use, meaning less wait time to share. Adjustable weight dumbbells can also be found in some stores.
The challenge with free weights is that exercise technique can be compromised without proper instruction. I often times see clients perform an exercise and use their back for assistance or try to model something they have seen on T.V. or online, but don’t quite have it down right. It’s important to avoid injury to be sure to use the weights properly.
For best results, one truly needs a variety of free weights to use. This can become tricky because as get stronger and more fit, we should move up to the next weight selection. Legs require the use of heavier weights than arms do. The home gym soon requires more than originally anticipated.
Machines are easy to understand and use. Most have a picture on their surface, demonstrating what can be done. One can lift heavier on machines too. As a professional natural bodybuilder, I’m much safer using machines for heavy lifting.
For example, if I can do the Leg Press Machine versus putting free weights on a bar for Squats and trying to haul it over my head to place on my shoulders, I’m ultimately not using as much weight as I could with that bar because it is too heavy to lift. Having a “spotter” can be useful or a workout partner.
Machines are commonly used by physical therapists and I use them with my senior clients. They’re stable and don’t’ require balance or additional coordination. They build primary muscles and often times after an injury or with aging, these primaries need to be targeted.
Muscle atrophy occurs over time, so the machines can help progress someone to build the large muscle groups, rebuild*, strengthen, and repair, and then move on to other challenging compound movements.
On the other hand, as mentioned before, machines work in a pre-determined plane of motion. They are on a fixed axis. The body part pushes and pulls against the resistance. This become a challenge when trying to modify or accommodate for those who are able to perform an exercise but given the positioning of the machine it is too uncomfortable or painful to use.
The seats and backs of machines are adjustable but there certainly is not a “one size fits all” for everyone when they are manufactured.
Machines are pricey too. As a fitness studio owner, a machine in an investment. Payments are possible, and many who might buy a machine for home use do use payments. It’s the fancy infomercials that sell them and lure us in. Just remember not to use it as a clothes hanger in the future in your garage.
A combination of both free weight and machines is a great approach to strength training when taking into consideration one’s goals. Both have their pro’s and con’s and as we change, grow, and adapt to our bodies’ needs, we find what works best at that point in time.
Maybe life’s demands mean working out at home with free weights, maybe bodybuilding requires machines, maybe bands are best due to the travel schedule…. we have to be flexible in our approach but adamant about our goals.
Variety keeps my clients motivated and entertained, because monotony can be a deterrent especially when exercise is already not considered “fun” by all.
Whichever modality you choose, be sure to incorporate strength training at least 3 times per week targeting both the upper and lower body.
Nothing changes is nothing changes, and that is reality of doing cardio only. At some point you will plateau. You are worth becoming the BEST version of yourself, so step out of the cardio comfort zone and into a better, healthier you by lifting weights. Use resistance to resist poor health.
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Inpost Image Credit: shutterstock.com