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'Gains' are more than muscle for women lifting weights

Many of these women who lift weights see the biggest gains in their mental health and feel empowered

ST. LOUIS — The sharp clang of metal on metal was once an alarm for Nicole Bailey. For most of her life, Bailey feared that lifting heavy weights would injure her back or make her bulky.

“If you would have asked us 5 or 6 years ago, we were cardio queens,” she said.

If anyone tried to get her into the weight room, Bailey refused.

It wasn’t until she met Scott Siddens, a personal trainer at Wellbridge Athletic Club, that she stepped out of her comfort zone and up to a squat rack.

“The goal is to look better, feel better, and put yourself in the position to not injure yourself,” said Siddens. “Strength training is the key facet to that.”

Siddens says he has seen an increase in clients like Bailey who are transitioning from cardio equipment to metal weights. This comes after more research has come out on the biological benefits of lifting heavy.

“I think it’s like anything. The information is out there, you can’t argue the science,” said Siddens.

Science says strength training can build lean muscle if done properly, while studies from Harvard University point toward internal benefits. A 2018 Harvard study connected strong muscles to strong bones, while 2019 research from the university established a correlation between weight training and lower risk of heart attack or stroke.

“You can burn fat and build muscle to look better, and strengthen your joints so you don’t injure yourself – that’s the optimal situation,” said Siddens.

Siddens says a few strength-training sessions a week, each 45-60 minutes long, can yield significant results. Many of his female clients are looking for ways to get a complete workout without spending an excessive amount of time in the gym.

However, many of these women who lift weights see the biggest gains in their mental health and feel empowered.

Bailey says her proudest achievement is being able to dead-lift more than her current weight.

“There’s no way I would have thought I could lift that. It’s crazy,” she said. “Five years ago, I was afraid to lift and lift anything. Now it’s like, what can I do next?”

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