A common story, especially for women, starts with purchasing a gym membership. They walk in, head to cardio or sign up for a class, maybe they do a little work on machines, but the free weight section is utterly foreign territory. Learning to weight lift is a daunting prospect, and in most cases teachers aren’t always readily available or within the budget. This situation happened to me, and I didn’t even realize it until I paid attention to my friend who is so cut she literally gets mistaken for Jillian Michaels, and noticed that the majority of her time at the gym is spent lifting free weights (I thought to add “with the boys,” but most of them can’t pretend to keep up with her.)
Perhaps the most important thing I can do in this post is introduce Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe, also known as The Gym Bible.
Bodybuilding.com has this to say about the book:
Extract yourself from the crazy claws of your favorite biceps curl machine and listen up. Starting Strength teaches you everything you need to know to properly program and perform full range of motion barbell exercises, which are the best functional expression of human skeletal and muscular anatomy under a load. Simply put, your favorite isolation exercise ain’t squat compared to the squat. If you’re not performing barbell compound exercises, you’re not getting the most from your strength workouts.
“Coach Rip,” as he is known, focuses heavily on how to do moves properly, and one important note is that the technique is no different weight lifting for women than it is for men. Deadlifts are deadlifts. Proper form is proper form. This book is very highly respected throughout all levels of the weight lifting community, from novices to professional bodybuilders and has a 4.8/5 average on Amazon.
Why Should I Lift Weights?
Lifting weights should be considered a cornerstone in your fitness routine, yes, even if you are a woman. Maybe especially if you are a woman! Prevention.com lists these 9 reasons women should lift weights, though many easily apply to both genders:
- Better metabolism
- Better fat burning
- Tighter body
- Fitting into skinny jeans
- Lowered risk of heart disease and diabetes (this should be reason number one)
- Possible improvement in blood pressure
- You can lift weight anywhere, anytime
- High calorie burning potential
- It’s good for your bones
I would like to add that, like Coach Rip says, many of the muscles built doing basic barbell training are useful on a practical level. You lower the risk of injuring yourself picking up a small child or a bag of groceries if you have built up your core strength with weight training. Planking is great. Barbell squats are better.
- Read Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe. I can’t recommend any book as strongly as this one, though I know there are many adaptations of Coach Rip’s work available online. If reading isn’t your thing, he has a DVD available as well as a YouTube channel.
- If you don’t have a gym membership, that’s okay. You can start by practicing the moves using bodyweight only, focusing on form above all else. If a gym isn’t an option, you could consider investing in a barbell set to keep at home.
- Pick a program. Rippetoe has several versions of his program, and really it’s up to you which path to take. Here on the Starting Strength Wiki they have detailed the different options for you depending on your goals and schedule.
- Practice practice practice! You can always tell who has used the Starting Strength program at the gym because they are lifting more weight than everyone else and they are doing it correctly.
The benefits of weight lifting are huge, both from a health perspective and for the contribution to “looking fit.” Just running or just doing spin classes will never get you mistaken for Jillian Michaels, so don’t waste any more of your precious fitness time and start incorporating weight lifting into your weekly rotation.