Patricia McCrudden PT FROM @GYMCOBELFAST: Why Women Should Lift Weights


Maybe you have thought about lifting weights; however often feel unsure, insecure and a little fearful. Just because you’re not vying for 20 inch biceps or thunderously strong thighs like the muscle head you see sometimes in the gym doesn’t mean you should shy away from the weights room. Lifting weights has numerous benefits, it gives you an edge over BELLY FAT (yes that’s right ladies – it helps to reduce body fat percentage), it helps relieve stress, helps reduce chances of heart disease and cancer and of course is the single most effective way to look hot in a bikini. Yet somehow women still stick to their comfort zone of the cardio suite of the gym, with only a fifth of women proven to lift weights two or more times per week. This win win situation is beyond me! Let me explain to you why.

Undoubtedly, you’ve heard the horror stories: lifting heavy weights makes women bulky, it’s dangerous and bad for your joints, and once you have muscle you can’t stop lifting or it will all turn into fat. It’s all bullshit, and it feeds into stereotypes that are keeping too many women from releasing the true benefits of lifting weights.

It’s time for women to put their fears aside and reap the benefits strength training can provide. The fact is that lifting weights does none of those awful things; however what it does do is help you to live in a healthier, stronger body.


First off, let me state that the core movements in any program of mine, or those of my clients are full body, functional, natural movement. Squats, deadlifts, bench press, pull ups, press ups, shoulder press, dips etc…. Not “tricep pull down” or “pec-deck” or “hammer curls”. While those isometric movements may manage to find their way into the programme of someone whose muscle requires some sculpting work, the crux of any programme I write always involves some form of movement which comprises of a high neuroendocrine response where the participant uses large compound movements with emphasis on working more than just one muscle group at once. Heavy load training, short rest between sets, high heart rate, high intensity training, short rest intervals, and the inclusion of compound multi joint, total body functional movements are all ways in which you can elicit that response- isolation movements don’t cut it.  Training with a barbell, dumbbells, incorporating high intensity movement and plyometrics, mastering control of your own bodyweight through gymnastics and calisthenics- these are all ways which set you up to get leaner without sending the body into a catabolic (muscle wasting state). This results in a dense, lean, trim and muscular physique, the goal body desired by most women I speak to.


What women need to realise is that there is no law saying that women must lift weights in a gym. Those who may be intimidated by the problems a conventional gym can present can easily undertake an intensive strength workout at home with little equipment. Through very little financial investment you can set up dumbbells or kettlebells, medicine balls, resistance bands or a barbell in your home. There are endless amounts of workouts that can be put together in your home to help you to achieve your goals. Use your own bodyweight, perhaps the best strength training tool of all through movements such as press ups, burpees, or bodyweight squats etc.

When you list your fitness objectives, you may be surprised to learn that strength training will not only help you reach those goals, but may help you reach them much quicker than you had originally anticipated. Don’t get me wrong, Yoga and the treadmill have their place however they just aren’t enough to be reaching out to women’s needs in order to look and feel confident within themselves.

Although many people consider lifting weights only a means to add size to their body; when contrasted head-to-head against cardiovascular exercise, resistance training comes out on top in the battle to burn calories. The massive advantage weight training has over cardiovascular training is its ability to continue to burn fat during and after exercise. Following strength training exercises our bodies continue to consume additional oxygen in the hours and days that follow that session. This is a process known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. The more oxygen your body uses, the greater your calorific expenditure becomes and therefore increases your metabolic rate (meaning burning body fat). The stronger a person therefore becomes, the increased amount of muscle contractions they will experience consequently burning more calories.

As noted above, resistance training causes an increase in energy expenditure hours after you train. A study published by the National Institute of Health suggests that the chronic increase in energy expenditure, even after a minimal resistance training session, may favourably effect energy balance and fat oxidation. So that’s right ladies – in my opinion women who do weight training have cleaner houses from all that extra energy they have (wee joke).

With the current number of those being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes constantly on the rise, it is important for everyone to take on board the benefits of weight training. Participating in strength training is proven to improve insulin sensitivity, improve glucose tolerance, help reduce body fat and lower your risk of gaining heart disease.

In scientific studies, strength training has been found to improve insulin sensitivity in people with diabetes to the same extent that aerobic exercise does. Extended periods of strength training improve blood sugar control. In fact for people with diabetes, strength training in combination with aerobic exercise may be even better.

As you age, you are at risk of losing both bone and muscle mass. Postmenopausal women are at a greater risk for osteoporosis because the body no longer secretes estrogen. Resistance training is an excellent way to combat loss of bone mass, and it decreases the risk of osteoporosis. A study conducted at McMaster University found that after a year of resistance training, postmenopausal women increased spinal bone mass by 9 percent.The earlier you begin weightlifting, the greater chance you have to maintain bone health later in life.

Having worked in the fitness industry over the past 15 years I have seen little change in the amount of women lifting weights. Please consider the benefits it can have upon your body and give it a go today. Give yourself a month to see the changes in your body and I guarantee you will be thanking me down the line.



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