If you've ever felt intimidated by using heavy free weights at the gym, you're not alone. There's a wide misconception, especially among women, that doing high repetitions of light weights will get you "long, lean" muscles while lifting heavier weights will make you look bulky or get you injured. Celebrity trainer Ashley Borden, who has whipped stars such as Reese Witherspoon, Mandy Moore and Christina Aguilera into shape, wants you to throw that idea out the window.
If you're "lifting heavy," you should be out of breath after completing ten reps of bench presses. According to Borden, a key part of understanding the benefits of consistent strength training is the creation of the Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption, or EPOC, effect. It's what makes your body burn more calories after your workout is done—up to 38 hours after!
Read on for more pros of lifting and tips to get started.
How does "lifting heavy" differ in effectiveness from doing many reps with smaller weights?
"This exercise releases hormones—the growth hormone and testosterone—in a woman's body that produces lean muscle mass and attacks core belly fat and leans out the body. Endurance training like long runs or exercising with light to medium weight for high repetitions doesn’t give the same hormone release benefits."
How do you start weight training?
"Start with large muscle group movement patterns—squats, reverse lunges, chest press, lat pull down, pull ups—and focus on form! There is no shame in starting light and building your strength. If you have no idea how to lift weights at all you have a lot of options: Grab a friend and invest in five to ten sessions together with a qualified trainer to learn form and get some training programs for you both to follow. There are a lot of excellent free programs available online with great instruction. Nike.com and Womenshealthmag.com are just a couple sources with excellent written and video content from good trainers. Video is always a great way to understand a movement pattern, especially if you have no idea what you are doing."
What other advice would you give beginners?
"Body weight training is a fantastic way to build strength and connect to proper movement patterns. If your movements are terrible without holding any weight, it won’t magically get better when you start holding weight. Let your ego go, and work on perfecting your movements and feeling connected to your body."
How often would you suggest doing strength training in a week?
"I suggest at least three times a week of weight training, and taking a day off in between days."
Do you have any suggestions for pre- or post-workout snacks?
"Pre: almond butter on sprouted bread and cinnamon. Post: smoothie with almond butter, protein powder, greek yogurt, 1/2 banana, ice. Eat clean! Almonds are the definition of clean food. They're super portable and take up little space so you can bring them with you anywhere. The fiber, fat and protein ratio makes almonds satiating and easy on the stomach. Low cholesterol and low sodium make them a perfect fitness food in my book."
Now that you've got the basics down, try this workout from Borden to help you work your way up to weight training.