Introducing weights into my fitness regime changed my shape, my yoga practice, my body composition, my confidence and my headspace – I guess it changed my life.
While there are certainly plenty of incredible bodies out there that train without weights, including gymnasts and dancers who usually only train using their body weight, I believe that lifting weights is a really efficient way to get both the body and the body confidence you want.
I want you to fall in LOVE with training and the empowerment it can liberate from within you. Strengthening your body gives you that Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive kind of spring in your step (if you’re too young for a Bee Gees reference, think Beyoncé-level swag). Being strong physically is a confidence booster like nothing else.
Firstly, before I bust this myth, I actually want to say that I do understand what you mean when you say ‘bulky’. A lot of women don’t like the look of mountainous trapezius muscles sitting atop their shoulders. In addition to this, lots of women don’t want big quadzilla thighs or hulking pecs, because they feel as though those sorts of muscles are associated with a more masculine physique and, ultimately, ‘bulkiness’.
However, I want to assert to you that you can grow the ‘right’ type of muscle to develop your ‘right’ kind of shape. In the Vertue Method I focus on activating your glutes (rather than relying on the quads), working your triceps (rather than your pecs) and maintaining flexibility and awareness of posture to ensure that you develop the shape that you desire.
THINK HEAVY, GET LEAN
A little side note for the womenhere: nothing peeves me off more than exercise methods that encourage women to lift no heavier than 1.5kg. Not only is it completely impractical – most things that women need to lift on a daily basis weigh more than 1.5kg – but it’s also anti-feminist and kind of demeaning! Put down the pink 1lb (500g) dumb-bell and get ready to reap the benefits of picking up a 10kg, cast iron kettlebell. No, you will not become bulky, you will become femininely badass.
MY TOP TEN REASONS TO LIFT MORE WEIGHT
1. Reduced fat – Resistance training isn’t just about building muscle. It can also aid in fat loss. There are many studies out there that highlight the benefits that resistance training can have on improving metabolic function and improving fat loss rate1. Cardio is still an effective form of fat loss. However, it doesn’t do a great job of preserving muscle. By training weights, you also avoid the potential of being just skinny without supporting musculature. Saggy bums are sad bums.
2. Reduced pain – Yes please! I mean, what’s not to love about that? Weight lifting has been shown to create profound improvements to the musculoskeletal system, including reduced lower back pain, and prevention of osteoporosis and sarcopenia (muscle loss as a result of ageing).
3. Strong curves and a sexy shape – A good weight-training programme (coupled with the right nutrition) will increase muscle mass, which not only helps us to become stronger (and therefore feel more powerful), but also helps to develop a more defined and athletic shape. Weights create the shape – the right diet will reveal it.
4. To be the boss of glucose – Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic condition in which the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or the body doesn’t react to the insulin produced, leading to the unhealthy rise of blood sugar levels. There have been numerous studies to highlight the benefits of progressive resistance training in those with Type 2 diabetes, including the reduction of blood sugar levels and an increase in muscle glycogen stores – the more that muscle stores glycogen, the less glucose there will be floating around in the blood potentially creating all kinds of havoc.
5. Fitter faster – More efficient results. In my experience both as a trainer and trainee, weight training just speeds up the process. As a gymnast I trained using explosive movements and with only my body weight for resistance and I was super strong. However, I trained for 20 hours a week. That’s almost a full-time job! Weight lifting has helped me to develop a strong body in a quarter of the time.
6. Feel GOOD! – You don’t have to just take my word for it, there are studies (in both the young and elderly) that show the potential psychological benefits of resistance training too, including reduced anxiety, somatisation, depression and hostility.
7. Improved flexibility and yoga practices – Yep! This one was probably unexpected, but it’s one of my favourite reasons to lift weights. The movements within the Vertue Method plan encourage a full range of movement throughout the joints, while still under load. This actually helps to build flexibility and mobility, without losing strength and stability.
8. Tone – I’m here to break it to you that when you use the word ‘toning’ you are referring to dropping body fat and increasing muscle mass (slightly). Correct weight training can do both.
9. Healthy goals – We all want to achieve goals and see the results of those goals; it’s one of the most motivating factors of exercising. What I love about weight training is that it can help to shift the focus of your goals towards achieving a skill, rather than just simply ‘looking better’.
We have to accept the reality that, as humans, the way we look is always going to fluctuate and change. Menstrual cycles, work, break-ups, stress, etc. all affect our weight and our appearance. The best thing about focusing your training goals towards a skill is that it’s rarely affected by these events. Gaining a few extra pounds because you’ve been a little stressed at work is not going to affect your motivation to nail that push-up or pull-up. If you focus on lifting a little heavier each week, you will always feel motivated to train because it’s not about how you look, but instead how badass you feel. A weighted dead lift will help you to feel pretty superhero-esque.
10. A better butt – Look, of course there are plenty of ways to develop wonderful glutes, and genetics will often play a part, but I’m going to let you in on a secret. I had the FLATTEST BUTT ever! Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, improved my booty the way that weight training did. The Vertue Method puts a lot of emphasis on developing
and sculpting strong and sexy gluteals – more on that later!