When you work out, are you thinking about weight? We’re not talking about dieting — we want your workout goals to be about getting stronger, faster and feeling better mentally and physically for life. If you’re looking to up your typical fitness regimen (or you just can’t take another minute of HIIT cardio), it’s time to check out what workout fit women are obsessed with and give weight training a try. We got some tips on the benefits of lifting, nailing proper technique and overcoming gym jitters from weight room superstar Holly Perkins.
In addition to being a #fitspo Instagram legend, Holly is a trainer, the author of Lift to Get Lean and a contributing health writer for Women’s Health, Prevention, SELF, Shape and more. And in 2015, she launched the Women’s Strength Nation movement, which helps women find internal strength by getting physically stronger. We couldn’t think of a more perfect person to advise you on your journey to getting jacked (or just fitter and stronger) than Holly.
B+C: What are some reasons that women should get into lifting?
HP: Strength training is the only tool that allows you complete control over redesigning your body. At some point, cardio and toning efforts won’t change your shape or metabolism, but lifting weights will. Muscle *is* your metabolism and is the gatekeeper to body fat. Diet and cardio are important in decreasing body fat, but strength training is the driver. Beyond that, strength training improves your bone mass, helps to balance hormones and gives you a major boost of confidence and self-reliance. Numerous research studies now show that strength training is a powerful tool in fighting stroke, heart disease and diabetes.
B+C: What are some basic form and safety tips you would give to first-time lifters?
HP: First and foremost, commit to learning excellent technique. (Check out my Women’s Strength Nation website for free workouts and video tutorials.) This allows you to build your body the exact way that you want. Slow down and pause at the point of the move where it’s hardest to stop and hold. For example, if you are performing a squat, the bottom position would be very hard to pause at, right? Pause there for two seconds and continue each rep. This helps to ensure muscle activation, great technique and strength building. Mirrors are in gyms so that you can observe your technique. USE THEM! Observe yourself and watch to make sure you’re using the right and left sides of your body equally. And don’t be afraid to approach someone to help give you some pointers or for feedback on your technique.
B+C: What are some good types of lifts you like beginners to start with?
HP: When starting out, I am a big fan of using single-joint moves, so that you can learn to activate the right muscle groups. I LOVE leg extensions for quads, leg curls for hamstrings, the leg press for quads, hamstrings and glutes, the cable lat pull down for the back, the seated chest press for the chest muscles and the seated overhead press for shoulders.
B+C: The weight room can be full of big, burly dudes. What advice would you give to someone who feels nervous or intimidated going into the weight room at their gym?
HP: The most important thing to remember is that nearly everyone is a bit unsure in the gym — even men! Think of the gym like a playground. Go in with the intention to play and learn. It helps to have a program to follow too, which is another area where Women’s Strength Nation can help. Also, see if you can find a friend to join you to help disperse your nervousness. Remember, this is YOUR life, fitness and health. You can’t allow a bit of intimidation to keep you from being the best and brightest you. Even one trip to the gym will give you tons of new confidence. Just think how you’d feel if you went three times per week for two weeks!
B+C: Do you have any recommendations for home exercises or equipment for someone who wants to lift, but doesn’t belong to a gym and can’t afford to buy their own weights or machines?
HP: You can get a great workout at home with little to no equipment. At a minimum, you’ll want one to two sets of dumbbells ranging from five to 15 pounds. You’ll also want one or two resistance bands. That’s all you really need to get an effective workout. You can do dumbbell squats, lunges, deadlifts, bicep curls, overhead presses and tons more moves. Check out this workout on my site to get started at home.