It’s true that fashion modelling means staying slim. Not bulky and muscly – slim. And yet I believe that as part of my fitness regime, it is really important to lift weights.
A lot of people are surprised to hear that I do this – they wonder if I worry that I might ‘bulk up’ as a result. I think this article, which first appeared in Eluxe Magazine, explains perfectly why it’s important for women, even those who wish to say slim and slender, lift heavy weights.
There’s a myth floating around practically since the time gyms were invented that if women lift weights, they’re going to bulk up like Schwarzenegger. Yes, we’ve all seen those kind of scary pics of female bodybuilders, whose bulging delts, triceps and biceps give them a rather frightening appearance. But those women are in the gym all day, every day, and manipulate their diets to include mainly protein, and when permitted, some growth hormones – in some cases, they even use steroids!
But the truth is, the average woman just doesn’t have the hormones (or time to spend in the gym) to build huge muscles, and in fact, a bit of lifting heavy weights has multiple health benefits that women are often missing out on.
Many women focus mainly on cardio in the gym. And yes, cardio should be part of your fitness routine. But many women also have incredibly weak upper bodies – especially some models who want stick-thin arms – and this is often down to the fact that once they get off the treadmill, their workout ends.
Reasons women should lift heavy
1. Fat loss
The number one reason women head down to the gym to spend hours slaving away on treadmills is fat loss. Those hours of cardio are great, no-one’s saying they’re not. However, when steady state cardio is done, so is your calorie burning. Weight lifting – the heavy kind, has an incredible afterburn effect. In fancy terms, this is referred to as the EPOC effect, which stands for Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption, this means after training your body continues to need oxygen at a higher rate and so you use more energy aka. calories.
2. Burn more calories – doing nothing
Muscle burns more calories than fat. It’s really as simple as that. When you weight train, you cause teeny tiny micro tears within your muscles, these then repair and grow stronger and your body needs more energy to maintain this new muscle. Whilst there is a lot of waffle out there telling you this can be up to 50 calories per pound of fat, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s just not true. There IS an increased calorie burn, but it’s just not quite so high a figure, but don’t let that dishearten you, every little helps!
3. Curvier curves
Muscles + curves = ‘murves’ as I like to call them. Lifting weights will seriously change your physique. Whilst cardio will help you lose weight, the weight lost will be from both muscle and fat – and we need to hang onto that muscle, especially as we age! Lifting weights will add curves to your body in all the right places and who doesn’t want a pert *ahem* behind to show off in their gym tights?
4. Ease joint pain
Lifting weights can stop you going weak at the knees. Typical injury zones such as the knee joint can be strengthened with weight bearing exercises. Lifting heavy with proper form will increase the health of your joints by strengthening the muscles & ligaments that hold them together.
5. Have a healthier heart
Despite not being cardio, lifting weights can increase your cardiovascular health. In a study by Appalachian State University, people who performed 45 minutes of moderate-intensity lifting lowered their blood pressure by 20 percent! That’s a seriously important reason why ladies should lift heavy – your heart health will definitely improve.
And if you have any doubt – take a look at my pictures. I always include weightlifting in my routine, and I don’t think anybody would accuse me of having biceps like the Hulk, right?
Photography: Paolo Montuori
Model: Daniela Christiansson