Training Routine Still Doesn’t Involve a Dumbbell? You’re Missing Some Major Benefits - Women's Health

Training Routine Still Doesn’t Involve a Dumbbell? You’re Missing Some Major Benefits

Here are some of the top gains you’ll make.

Felicia Oreb (pictured left) and Diana Johnson (right), the sisters behind female-focused weight training program Base Body Babes. Photography: Steve Baccon. Words: Lauren Williamson.

No shade to crushing cardio and getting bendy in bridge pose but if your training routine still doesn’t involve a dumbbell, you’re missing some major wellbeing benefits.

Humans have been lifting heavy things and putting them back down since the dawn of time. But data shows that less than half of Australian adults do it enough these days, with women even less likely to get the recommended amount of muscle-strengthening activity. The goal is to do strength or resistance training at least two days per week. So, what gives, gals? 

Felicia Oreb (pictured left) and Diana Johnson (right), the sisters behind female-focused weight training program Base Body Babes, say many of us just don’t know where to start. “Running, walking and aerobics classes are simple to do, don’t require much equipment and are easy to access… [so they’re the] more popular options,” Johnson says. On the other hand, “strength training requires some equipment and guidance to get going, but not as much as you think.”

We also haven’t quite shaken the myth that lifting weights = bulky physique = bad. “It’s only recently that fit, strong and curvy bodies are gaining more positive attention,” Oreb says. “Attitudes are shifting, and more women are seeing muscle as something that’s positive and empowering.” 

Australian research lead by accredited exercise scientist Dr Mandy Hagstrom found women who trained three times per week over 15 weeks developed an average of 1.5kg of muscle mass. “You will gain some lean muscle, which has all sorts of health benefits, but you’ll lose fat mass as well,” Hagstrom says. “Your actual body mass or body size won’t get significantly bigger.” 

Oreb says strength training’s popularity among men has also fed the misconception. “A lot of men do it with the goal of becoming big and bulky, this gave the impression it’s all strength training is good for, but this isn’t true.”

If you’ve been intimidated by the testosterone around the squat rack, times are changing. “When we both started training almost 20 years ago, the weights room was not a very ‘female friendly’ environment,” Johnson says. “We’re so glad to see how much this has changed, and to see women from all walks of life fall in love with getting stronger and all the other benefits it brings.”

Not sure how much weight your supposed to be lifting? Hagstrom says to ask yourself this: “How hard are you working at eight reps? Were you able to do another eight? Because if so, that probably wasn’t [heavy] enough, but if you’ve done the eight reps and you’re like, ‘Oh, maybe I could have only done one or two more,’ then you’re probably working at a good kind of intensity.”

Weights gains

Better sleep, stronger joints, improved posture, pain management – the benefits of lifting make for a lengthy list but here are some of the top gains you’ll make:

1. Better your bone health

“We’re at risk of osteoporosis as we age and strength training is the gold standard way of preventing that,” Hagstrom says. And it’s never too late to start – with one study showing that post-menopausal women who followed a strength training program for a year saw significant increases in their bone density. 

2. Help your heart

Research has found that women who strength train are 17 per cent less likely to develop heart disease. Also, less than an hour a week of lifting weights can reduce your risk of heart attack by 40 to 70 per cent.

3. Improve your mood

Research published in JAMA Psychiatry found that those who did resistance training two or more days per week saw reductions in
their depressive symptoms. “Our clients are most surprised by the mental boost strength training gives them,” Oreb says. 


Recommended to you

More From