How lifting weights helps women shed fat and gain health and confidence

A personal trainer has brought her Creative Curves programme to Hong Kong to encourage women to embrace weight and strength training. You won’t bulk up doing it, Alexa Towersey tells us

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 December, 2015, 8:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 December, 2015, 8:00am

If Alexa Towersey had it her way, the definition of a beautiful woman would include the words “strong” and ”muscular”.

A personal trainer, Towersey advocates women embracing strength training – the panacea, she believes, to women achieving their peak physical and mental health.

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“Weight training doesn’t just deliver a strong, healthy body and a beautiful aesthetic, it’s also very empowering,” explains the New Zealand native, who was recently in Hong Kong to deliver her Creating Curves programme, which helps women feel confident using weights at the gym.

“There is nothing more rewarding than watching a woman lifting heavy weights with confidence, and then watching how this translates into her attitude towards the rest of her life.”

For years, women have shunned weights for fear they will put on bulk, but Towersey disagrees. “Women assume by walking into the gym, they are going to build muscle, but they won’t unless they’re a genetic freak of nature.”

She explains that women typically don’t have the genetic or hormonal profile to enable them to build muscle like men in a short time frame. “Testosterone – the main sex hormone associated with the ability to gain lean muscle – is produced by both males and females, but women have less than 10 per cent of the amount of our masculine counterparts.”

In fact, rather thank bulking up, several studies have shown weight training’s effectiveness for weight loss. A study published in 2007 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition of 164 obese or overweight sedentary women found even minimal strength training caused significant and sustained weight loss. By simply implementing a twice-weekly strength training regimen for two years, women in the study lost up to four per cent body fat and saw significant changes in their intra-abdominal fat.

A more recent study has shown resistance training in women can help keep weight off once it’s lost. Published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise in September, the study found that women who lost weight via calorie-restriction and resistance training were likely to increase their amount of non-exercise activity thermogenesis (the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise).

Put simply, a stronger body is more inclined to move more.

While no one can “out-train a bad diet”, Towersey explains strength training can positively impact the way your body processes food.

“Women typically store fat around the hips and thighs, long associated with poor blood sugar management. Weight training has been scientifically proven to make the body more insulin sensitive – better at responding to sugar and carbohydrate intake – so it’s an effective way for women to train.”

Women actually have an advantage over men when it comes to hormones and weight loss, she explains. “Studies show women release a greater amount of human growth hormone during high-volume weight training than men, allowing them to gain lean muscle and burn fat.

“The most effective way for women to train to lose body fat is using moderate weights, higher total volume and lower rest – think circuit training style. Also leg training is more effective for overall fat loss because the muscles are bigger, therefore there is a higher metabolic demand.”

Testament to her message is client Renae Ayris, former Miss Australia and runner up of Miss Universe in 2012, who trains regularly with Towersey.

“When I first met Alexa and she suggested lifting weights, I thought, ‘No way, weights are going to make me too muscular.’ And then she explained they would just tone, so I decided to give it a try,” says Ayris.

“I’ve seen such a change in my body. Being a model, incorporating strength training into my programme makes me feel more confident in front of the camera. Now I can’t go a day without going for at least a power walk with a few strength exercises.”

Sticking to a regular routine, says Towersey, is key. “To get results, you need to be consistent and train correctly.”