by Neghar Fonooni
It was the year 2006, and I was a brand new mom. Isaac was healthy and happy, and well, he was just…everything. I mean, everything. But me? Well, I was feeling like a whole lot of nothing, let me tell you. After gaining 50 pounds during my pregnancy, I was feeling tired, sluggish, and completely out of shape. I felt like a stranger in my own body.
As an athlete and a trainer, I’ve always been active, and in fact, I exercised throughout my entire pregnancy—mostly doing yoga, running, and using machines at the gym. I was always into fitness, but never really that serious about fitness. Cardio was my priority, and I’m embarrassed to say that even though I was a certified personal trainer, I would often pull workouts out of women’s fitness magazines for guidance. I’d never followed a well-written training program, nor had I ever lifted weights with any kind of intensity or regularity.
It’s important to note that cardio and yoga both have tremendous value, and in no way am I insinuating that either is a waste of time in the least bit. As an avid yogi, I maintain an advanced practice that benefits me in so many ways. I also believe strongly that when running is done correctly, it can be incredibly good for the soul. I’m not ripping on yoga and cardio here; I utilize both regularly and believe that if applied properly, they are invaluable tools.
The problem was that all I was doing was running and yoga, while neglecting strength training—and it wasn’t working. I didn’t feel as though I was in control of my body. I was exhausted from being up at night with the baby, and felt discouraged with my physique and my perceived lack of progress. I knew that if I continued on this path, that nothing would change. So, I set out to learn everything I could about strength training, from kettlebells to barbells, and more. I learned how to properly squat and deadlift, and started doing intervals instead of spending an hour or more on the elliptical machine.
And while I initially lifted weights with the intention of transforming my post-baby physique, I eventually had a mental transformation that was worth so much more. I realized that lifting was good for my soul. I was empowered, and felt truly capable of anything, for the first time in my life.
So how did it all turn out? Well, six months post-partum I’d lost all 50 pounds of baby weight. But what’s more impressive was how different my body looked and felt than it did pre-pregnancy. I was more muscular, athletic, lean, and strong, even though I weighed the same as I did before the baby. My body and mind had completely transformed, all through lifting weights.
While I currently practice yoga and do a variety of playful activities to stay fit, the heart of my program is lifting weights. In the hierarchy of fat loss and fitness, strength reigns supreme. Today I want to share with you a few of the reasons why I think all women should lift weights, and how it can help you transform your body and mind.
Metabolism, Muscle, and Body Composition
Put very simply, muscle helps develop an optimal metabolism because the more muscle your body has, the more calories it will burn at rest. In addition to increasing metabolism, lifting weights promotes natural growth hormone production, which in turn helps reduce insulin sensitivity. All of these hormonal optimizations will have a profound impact on fat loss.
Now, before you worry that muscle gain is going to make you look “bulky” let me make something very clear: there is no possible way you can “bulk up” without specifically trying to do so—and trying very hard at that.
When you lift weights, you’ll absolutely build muscle. But the truth is that most women do not have the hormonal makeup necessary to support rapid and extreme muscle growth. Genetics, nutrition, and training methodology all play a part in how your body will transform, but if you train to be strong, and eat to support that, you’ll end up with an athletic, feminine physique.
Lifting weights also gives you the most bang for your buck training wise. You can easily make use of just 20 minutes of weight training to maximize your time, by speeding up the rate increasing intensity and/or speed. By incorporating training styles such as Metabolic Resistance Training, Complexes, and Density Training, you’ll burn fat and build strength in shorter bouts of time.
You don’t have to spend hours doing cardio. Instead, you can save time and attack your fitness goals, all by choosing to prioritize weights. If done correctly, lifting weights will help turn your body into a fat loss machine—making the weight room one of the most important stops on your fitness journey.
Confidence, Empowerment, and Character
Progressing your performance at the gym is highly gratifying, and much more so than tracking the progress (or lack thereof) on the scale. It keeps you coming back for more, and creates a sense of purpose at the gym. I’ve trained so many women that were able to completely transform their physiques, simply by focusing on performance over weight loss.
What’s even more amazing is how strength in the gym translates to strength everywhere else in your life. When you crush it at the gym, you’ll crush it at life. The carryover is incredible! Shifting the focus to your abilities rather than your appearance will make you happier, stronger, and even leaner—without the constant stressful pursuit of leanness.
Lifting weights will increase confidence immensely, as I’ve seen firsthand in my time as a coach. I’ve witnessed physical strength help cultivate strength of character, and mental and emotional strength. I’ve seen women beam when they tell stories of how they moved furniture or lifted heavy boxes without help. I’ve watched strong moms effortlessly lift sleeping toddlers and set important examples for their children.
Bottom line—lifting weights is just too valuable not to incorporate into your life! From fat loss and strength, to confidence and empowerment, lifting weights will improve your life exponentially. To get you started (or inspire you to keep lifting!) I’ve included a killer metabolic resistance training circuit for you to try. It will help you blast fat and build strength in just 20-30 minutes.
SAMPLE METABOLIC RESISTANCE WORKOUT
Exercise Sets Reps Notes
A1) 1-Leg deadlift 3-5 8-10 R/L Perform A1-A5 with >15 seconds rest in between exercises, and roughly 45-60 seconds rest between rounds. Perform 3-5 rounds.
Hold a kettlebell or a dumbbell in two hands for the deadlift.
A2) Standing cable row (or inverted row) 3-5 8-10 R/L Use a cable machine (or a TRX).
A3) Step-up 3-5 8-10 R/L Make sure the step is high enough that you knee is higher than your hip when the leg is on the step. This will incorporate your glutes more.
A4) Push-up 3-5 8-10 If push-ups on the floor are too difficult, place your hands on a bench for an incline.
A5) Kettlebell swings 3-5 15-20 Be sure to move with the hips and never round the back.