Strength Training for Women
The association between strength training and bodybuilding seems to be a correlation that isn’t going away anytime soon. However, I’m hoping by the end of this article maybe a few women will run over to their health club and start picking things up and putting them back down.
One of the most common phrases that unfortunately most of us still hear in and around the health and fitness industry from women (who tend to shy away from strength training) is: “If I lift weights I’m going to bulk up…” Now, close your eyes and imagine me shaking my fists vigorously over my head and screaming at the top of my lunges. This is what I do in my head every time I hear something like this.
Let’s simply start with this undeniable fact: women simply don’t have enough of the predominantly male hormone, “testosterone”, to build Arnold Schwarzenegger or Lou Ferrigno size muscles. Not to mention that the development of muscle mass in women naturally occurs much slower than it does in men, according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Women have a smaller amount of muscle cells, mainly in their arms and shoulders. So, when “WE” (meaning a woman or a man) work out, the muscle cells grow larger, but don’t multiply. This is a very common misconception about strength training and it can end up holding you back from reaching your fitness goals and reaping all the important health benefits that come with a proper strength training program
In one study, researchers followed 24 women who did a high-intensity, high-resistance, lower-body workout for 20 weeks. “Although the women’s muscle mass increased significantly, there was no change in their measurements,” says Bob Staron, Ph.D., associate professor of anatomy at Ohio University in Athens.
“Bodybuilders look the way they do after years and years of lifting,” he adds. “They also do a lot of diet manipulation and are intensely dedicated, working out five to six days a week, sometimes twice a day.”
Most fitness professionals will agree that strength training is flat out one of the healthiest and most beneficial things our clients can do, especially women. I could continue with this rant and list all the benefits: Improve posture, increases lean muscle tissue, strengthens your bones reducing your risk of developing osteoporosis and reduces your risk of many other conditions including diabetes and some forms of cancer.
However, let’s just be honest with one another, because I don’t like to sugar coat things to my clients. When you really get down to it, many of us want to know the fastest way to look and feel better. Well, how about another well known fact: adding strength training into your weekly regimen will increase your ability to produce power or burn calories, not just when working out but all day long!
Let’s cover one other unavoidable wellness hurdles that many fitness professionals agree is never going away. The dreaded “SCALE”… Unfortunately, I will have to say that when adding in strength training to your current workout regimen, the likelihood of a person’s weight staying the same or possibly going up is high. So, please remember to concentrate more on how your clothes fit, how you feel and/or how you energy level is. Also, look at improvements in other aspects of your training (especially if you’re an athlete).
“Don’t worry about that number on a scale if it is not moving. SCALES ARE FOR FISH!!!! In fact, make sure you don’t hit anyone but take your scale throw it out the window. It is not a good indication of you becoming more fit. When you add muscle, that helps you decrease your body fat percentage, which means you’ll be leaner and more defined. This will make reaching your fitness goals easier.”
Still aren’t convinced? Then, with the help of the National Academy of Sports Medicine, I’m going to get scientific on you! Loss of muscle mass, also known as Sarcopenia, occurs as a result of aging. After age 35 you will lose between .5 -1 percent of your muscle mass annually unless you engage in regular physical activity to prevent it. By engaging in regular resistance training and following a sound diet that includes adequate amounts of protein, you can prevent most of the muscle loss associated with age. Health experts recommend that you engage in some of the resistance training that focuses on all major muscle groups a minimum of 2 times per week and up to 5 times per week depending upon your goals.
If the weight room and lifting scene still is a little too over whelming, then ask one of the trainers at your health club to show you a few exercises using the TRX Suspension Trainer (Preferably with a fitness professional that has taken the necessary TRX Suspension Training educational course). The TRX Suspension Trainer is the workout system that leverages gravity and your bodyweight to perform hundreds of exercises. One of the many great aspects of the TRX Suspension Trainer is that you’re in control of how much you want to challenge yourself on each exercise, because you can simply adjust your body position to add or decrease resistance. I’m going to start teaching a small group TRX program here at The Clubs at Charles River Park if you’re interested.
Long story short (I know… too late), once there has been a negative connection or link established by our wonderful but often mislead society, the uphill battle will continue for many of us. Good thing that many of us are crazy health and fitness maniacs who enjoy doing hills!