Weight exercises have over the years been perceived as men’s workouts. Many women fear training with heavy dumbbells or 20kg kettlebells.
The misconception has been that if a woman lifts weights, she will look bulky and too masculine.
This has seen many women prefer cardio exercises as opposed to strength training oblivious of its numerous benefits.
Weights are good for a firm and perkier butt, toned legs and glutes, thigh and arms toning, stronger lower back and shoulders which are often neglected by many women, toned chest and core, for good posture and alleviating back pain. Daniel Godia, founder of Godia Fitness, a personal training studio in Nairobi’s Westlands explains that as much as aerobic training is important, weight training boosts strength and helps burn fat faster.
He points out that as a woman loses fats, she should strength-train to grow muscles to look leaner as well as tighten the loose skin left after shedding excess fat. Strength training also helps reduce cellulite which many women suffer from.
“For women, their main goal is to have a toned body and look feminine. Do low-intensity exercises of many reps using not-so-heavyweights,” explains the fitness trainer.
Godia dispels fears that if a woman lifts weights she can look masculine. Unlike men, he says, women typically do not gain size from strength training because they have low levels of testosterone compared to men.
As a result, women will only develop lean muscles and the body becomes more defined without bulking as men do. The only way a woman can look like a man, he explains, is if they use ergogenic aids or inject growth hormones into their bodies.
“Some female bodybuilders look like men because they use testosterone injections. This is what scares normal women from lifting weights,” says Godia.
The trainer explains that weight training also boosts the metabolism which in turn leads to the burning of calories and building of muscles.
“You gain lean muscle mass then achieve a balanced body composition. If someone used to be chubby then the fat percentage will go down as the muscle will take over,” he says.
Another benefit is maintaining a toned figure which in turn improves a woman’s self-confidence.
“You look good because clothes fit well. A well-toned body makes a woman look younger and strong,” he adds.
Weight training not only strengthens muscles but also increases bone density, adds Godia.
Losing bone mass is especially common in post-menopausal women due to decreased levels of oestrogen production. Strength training helps maintain bone density even in old age, reducing risks of bone diseases such as osteoporosis.
Weight training can help to improve cardiovascular health by lowering bad cholesterol and in turn, this will help to lower blood pressure.
Increased metabolism due to regular strength training leads to improved cholesterol levels and a decrease in blood pressure levels, reducing the risks of getting heart disease and diabetes.
“Exercises help release endorphins which improve mood, prevent pain, and fight depression.”
Some of the weight training workouts recommended by the trainer include deadlifts, lunges, chest press, rowing, and squats.
He explains that the deadlift targets the lower back and the legs.
Squats will work the core and the legs covering the quads, hamstrings, glutes and abdominal muscles leading to a toned butt, and sculpted thighs. Lunges also help in toning the thighs and the butt as well as the abdominal area.
To tone the hips, he says, do hip abduction and hip extension exercises incorporating weights.
For the arms, he advises bicep curls for the upper arms muscles and bench dips to work on the muscles at the back of the arms next to the shoulder, as well as hammer curl to tone the arms.
To work on the upper back, do rowing exercises using barbells or dumbbells or machine-assisted while for the chest area. Godia recommends chest presses using either dumbbells or barbells.
For the shoulder area, upright rowing, military press and bent-over lateral forward raises using a barbell or dumbbells are recommended.
To tone the abdominal area, do crunches, abdominal curls, oblique twists and side-bends.
Leg press and leg extension which involves pushing weight using the legs work the thighs by targeting the quad and hamstring muscles.